PolitiFact - Rulingshttp://www.politifact.com/The latest factchecks PolitiFact.com has revieweden-usThu, 17 Aug 2023 20:44:16 +0000https://static.politifact.com/img/pf_rss_logo.png<![CDATA[Social Media - Book is not proof Maui wildfires were planned]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/17/social-media/book-is-not-proof-maui-wildfires-were-planned/Social Media - Book is not proof Maui wildfires were plannedThu, 17 Aug 2023 20:44:16 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/17/social-media/book-is-not-proof-maui-wildfires-were-planned/

Social media users sounded alarms about the Aug. 10 publication of a book about the Maui wildfires that started Aug. 8, baselessly claiming the island may have been intentionally set on fire as part of a conspiracy.

"You guys wanna think that this is all an accident? OK. You wanna think that our government wasn’t involved? OK… But this, this is bugging me," a woman said in an Aug. 15 TikTok video. "How in the actual F did they write and release a book about the fires in Maui?"

Another man in an Aug. 15 Instagram post said, "Anyone else find this weird? So the Maui fire started on Aug. 8. Yet there’s a book about it already. Even in the description of the book, the book chronicles the events from Aug. 8 to Aug. 11 of 2023, the Maui fires. But the publication of the book was Aug. 10, so how did you chronicle the events of Aug. 11 when the book was published on Aug. 10?"

The Instagram post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.) 

The book, titled, "Fire and Fury: The Story of the 2023 Maui Fire and its Implications for Climate Change," was released on Amazon

But the existence of a book that was independently published — by an author whose name appears to be a pseudonym and who includes no identifying details — is not proof that the wildfires were planned. A person using the same pseudonym published at least 15 other books within a three-month period, including one the day after the Maui book was published. 

Other social media users speculated that the books might have been produced using artificial intelligence, which draws from information already available online. There has been an increase of AI-written e-books on Amazon because tools such as ChatGPT allow users to create books in a matter of hours. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service allows authors to publish books on their own, without requiring literary agents or publishing houses. 

Details in the book’s summary — that the fire was fueled by drought, heat and hurricane winds; experiences of people who lived through the fire; and the efforts of firefighters and rescuers — have been reported by the media and local government. In fact, the summary said that the book draws on "scientific research, eyewitness accounts, official reports and media coverage," all of which are publicly available.

The book’s author is identified as "Dr Miles Stones," whose author bio on Amazon reads, "I’d rather not say." 

The introduction of the "Fire & Fury," which can be viewed on Amazon as a sample, said the fire "took the lives of six individuals" and "decimated over 270 structures." Maui County had provided this information in press releases published Aug. 9.

According to the Maui Police Department, the death toll has risen to 106 as of Aug. 15.

Officials have not identified the cause of wildfires, but dry conditions, low humidity and high winds were factors. Evidence also pointed to power lines as a likely source.

PolitiFact has debunked other posts that falsely suggested the fires in Maui were intentionally ignited.

We rate the claim that a book published Aug. 10 on Amazon about the Maui wildfires is proof the wildfires were planned False.

Loreben Tuquero
<![CDATA[Joe Biden - Joe Biden says he declared a national climate emergency, but he hasn’t]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/17/joe-biden/joe-biden-incorrectly-says-he-declared-a-national/Joe Biden - Joe Biden says he declared a national climate emergency, but he hasn’tThu, 17 Aug 2023 19:25:34 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/17/joe-biden/joe-biden-incorrectly-says-he-declared-a-national/

President Joe Biden touted his efforts to stem climate change on a trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

In an Aug. 9 interview, Stephanie Abrams, a Weather Channel’s meteorologist, told Biden that the World Health Organization projects climate change will cause an additional quarter million deaths a year starting in 2030. 

"Are you prepared to declare a national emergency with respect to climate change?" Abrams asked.

Biden responded, "I’ve already done that. … We’ve conserved more land. We’ve … rejoined the Paris climate accord. … We’re moving. It is the existential threat to humanity."

Abrams then asked Biden again whether he had declared a national climate emergency.

After swatting a bug off Abrams’ shirt, Biden responded, "Practically speaking, yes."

Many environmentalists have applauded Biden’s policies on climate change, including the clean infrastructure funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Biden was visiting Arizona to announce the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni/Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, which conserves 1 million acres of land near the Grand Canyon that Indigenous people consider sacred.

But he has not declared a national climate emergency.

What would a national climate emergency do?

Environmental groups have been urging Biden to take this step. The March to End Fossil Fuels, a coalition of dozens of environmental and other progressive groups, listed a national emergency declaration as one of several demands of Biden, hoping it would halt fossil fuel exports and lead to more renewable energy.

Our children deserve a safe climate future to grow up in. Fossil fuels harm our health, our families, and our lives. @POTUS it's time to declare a climate emergency.

📢 @ClimateFamsNYC pic.twitter.com/G9NhIBCCzo

— People vs. Fossil Fuels (@FightFossils) August 15, 2023

Legislation is pending in Congress to urge Biden to declare a national climate emergency. The House version, offered by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., has 79 co-sponsors, all Democrats. The Senate version, offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has six Democratic co-sponsors. A similar effort during the previous Congress failed, and the odds are considered long in the current Congress, too. In any case, the resolution would be nonbinding.

Environmental reform supporters in Congress and the environmental movement say that as president, Biden could implement powers granted under three laws to respond more forcefully to climate change: the National Emergencies Act, the Defense Production Act, and the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

Using the National Emergencies Act, Biden can reinstate a ban on crude oil exports that Congress lifted in 2015, said Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups urging Biden to act.

Biden can reinstate the crude oil export ban on a year-by-year basis, Siegel said. "The only prerequisite is the national emergency declaration," she said.

Biden could also invoke the Stafford Act to deem heat a major disaster event. (The act lets presidents access money and disaster relief assistance set aside by Congress.) 

"This will allow states to access more heat-relief funds for things like cooling and water centers in areas accessible to those most affected by heat, including poor and unhoused people, as well as agricultural and other workers." Siegel said. "These funds could also be used to build out resilient clean energy systems."

Using the Defense Production Act, Biden has already sought to leverage federal procurement to manufacture renewable energy and clean transportation technologies, citing "U.S. national and climate security" concerns. But this did not require invoking a climate emergency. 

Siegel’s group also believes Biden could use disaster powers to suspend oil and gas drilling in the outer continental shelf and restrict international trade and private investment in fossil fuels. It urged him to do so as early as December 2020, shortly after he was elected.

Although some of the biggest environmental groups have backed the push for a climate emergency declaration by partnering with the March to End Fossil Fuels, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, others have not, including Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, the National Audubon Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Nature Conservancy.

Legal experts say a climate disaster declaration might not withstand scrutiny at the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is increasingly critical of efforts to extend presidential authority in cases that are not explicitly authorized by Congress.

"I think that makes it iffy whether the Supreme Court really would allow sweeping use of any of these emergency powers in a climate emergency," Dan Farber, an environmental law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, recently told the environmental publication Grist.

Asked for evidence to back Biden’s claim, the White House press office focused on the other policies Biden has implemented on climate change, including returning the U.S. to the Paris climate accords, the climate-related provisions of the infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, and his use of the Defense Production Act for renewable energy technologies.

Our ruling

Biden said he has "already" declared a national climate emergency.

Biden has not signed a formal emergency declaration, a step that many environmental groups and some lawmakers have been urging him to take.

We rate the statement False.

Louis Jacobson
<![CDATA[Maria Bartiromo - The FDA didn’t reverse course. Ivermectin is still not approved as a COVID-19 treatment.]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/17/maria-bartiromo/the-fda-didnt-reverse-course-ivermectin-is-still-n/Maria Bartiromo - The FDA didn’t reverse course. Ivermectin is still not approved as a COVID-19 treatment.Thu, 17 Aug 2023 16:11:33 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/17/maria-bartiromo/the-fda-didnt-reverse-course-ivermectin-is-still-n/

Conservative pundits, politicians and social media users are claiming that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently reversed its guidance on the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.

"We learned this morning that the FDA is now saying that it’s OK to take ivermectin if you have COVID," said Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on an Aug. 11 "Mornings with Maria" segment with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

In response, Johnson pushed baseless conspiracy theories about COVID-19, claiming the pandemic was "preplanned" by unnamed elites. After the segment, Johnson posted on X, formerly Twitter, "Now the FDA quietly approves ivermectin’s use? What’s going on?"

PolitiFact reached out to Bartiromo for comment, but did not receive a reply before publication.

The Bartiromo-Johnson exchange prompted misleading claims about the FDA’s ivermectin guidance to go viral on social media.

Conservative commentator Charlie Kirk shared the Fox Business clip on X and said, "The FDA has now endorsed treating COVID with Ivermectin!"

These posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

But the claims misrepresent an FDA attorney’s recent remarks about ivermectin.

The agency has not changed its guidance on the drug. A spokesperson told PolitiFact that the FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin for use in preventing or treating COVID-19.

The ivermectin debate has persisted since the start of the pandemic, but there’s no conclusive evidence that the drug is effective in treating COVID-19. And the FDA says that in large doses, it can be dangerous.

The federal agency has approved the use of ivermectin to treat humans with certain parasitic infections, such as pediculosis caused by head or body lice, or skin conditions, such as rosacea. The FDA urges people to take ivermectin only as prescribed by a health care provider.

The claims follow recent testimony in a federal court case involving the FDA and ivermectin proponents.

In June 2022, three doctors who support using ivermectin to treat COVID-19 filed a federal lawsuit in Texas, claiming the FDA exceeded its authority and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs federal agencies’ process of developing and issuing regulations, by interfering with their practice of medicine.

A judge at the Texas district court dismissed the case in December 2022, and the plaintiffs appealed to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A panel of three judges heard oral arguments Aug. 8.

Jared Kelson, the plaintiffs’ attorney, argued the FDA lacks the authority to influence or interfere with how physicians prescribe ivermectin, even if it is for purposes different than what the FDA has approved.

Ashley Cheung Honold, a Justice Department attorney representing the FDA, argued the agency has the authority to provide guidance on drugs and convey that information to the public, and the FDA was doing so with its statements on ivermectin. Honold said these statements were not regulations and carry no legal consequences.

When the FDA approves a medication, it means the drug is safe and effective for its intended use, according to the agency’s website.

Honold was not saying that the FDA recommends using ivermectin to treat COVID-19; she was arguing that the agency’s guidelines about how to use ivermectin do not prevent doctors from prescribing the drug off-label, or for different uses than what the FDA has approved.

Here is Honold’s full quote, which is about 22 minutes into the oral arguments: "Your Honor, the FDA has multiple overlapping sources of authority that I'm happy to walk through that gives the FDA authority to convey information to the public, but here the FDA is not regulating the off-label use of drugs. These statements are not regulations, they have no legal consequences.

"They don't prohibit doctors from prescribing ivermectin to treat COVID or for any other purpose."

Our ruling

Bartiromo claimed that "the FDA is now saying that it’s OK to take ivermectin if you have COVID."

Bartiromo and social media users took out-of-context remarks made during federal court proceedings involving the FDA. The attorney representing the FDA said the agency’s ivermectin guidelines do not prevent doctors from prescribing the drug off-label, or for uses different from what the FDA has approved.

The attorney did not say ivermectin is approved by the FDA as a treatment for COVID-19.

The FDA has not changed its guidance on ivermectin. The agency has not authorized the drug for use in treating or preventing COVID-19.

We rate this claim False.

Sara Swann
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - US did not issue a ‘food shortage emergency’ declaration]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/16/facebook-posts/us-did-not-issue-a-food-shortage-emergency-declara/ Facebook posts - US did not issue a ‘food shortage emergency’ declarationWed, 16 Aug 2023 22:00:40 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/16/facebook-posts/us-did-not-issue-a-food-shortage-emergency-declara/

A man inside a vehicle began a 22-minute video by claiming that the U.S. declared a "food emergency" and imploring viewers to stock up on canned goods.

"The federal government has just declared a major food shortage emergency in multiple states," he said in the video, shared Aug. 8 on Facebook. "Major emergency, 40% reduction is what we are dealing with right now, at least 40%, and this has been declared in six different states that I can find so far."

The video was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The video was made by a YouTuber who goes by Patrick Humphrey and has more than 90,000 subscribers. First posted Aug. 7 on YouTube, it represents a larger theme on Humphrey’s channel: He regularly posts videos about alleged emergencies and warnings from federal officials.

But two federal agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told PolitiFact they had made no such food shortage declaration. 

"This is absolutely false," FEMA said in an email.

About eight minutes into the video, the narrator claimed that the Agriculture Department made the declaration for Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Maine. He displayed an image that included headlines from an Aug. 3 news article from the Storm Lake Times Pilot in Iowa and another from the same newspaper a year earlier. 

Both articles said the Agriculture Department had allowed for "emergency grazing and haying" in parts of Iowa due to drought conditions. 

The USDA declaration is part of a federal program that allows farmers to temporarily take hay from, or have livestock graze on, land that is usually restricted.

We found similar news stories in July and August 2023 for federal "grazing and haying" declarations in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. A news story said Maine made a similar declaration because of excessive rain.

The additional grazing or haying is allowed when there is at least 40% loss in production of forage, such as hay, according to the Agriculture Department. Forage is a plant, such as hay, eaten by livestock. 

Humphrey has made similar claims that PolitiFact has debunked, including one about "massive explosions" and one about a poison emergency.  

There was no federal declaration of a food shortage emergency. We rate the Facebook post False.

PolitiFact staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Tom Kertscher
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - Shortened video distorts Hawaii governor’s comments about preserving Lahaina]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/16/instagram-posts/shortened-video-distorts-hawaii-governors-comments/ Instagram posts - Shortened video distorts Hawaii governor’s comments about preserving LahainaWed, 16 Aug 2023 21:24:51 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/16/instagram-posts/shortened-video-distorts-hawaii-governors-comments/

Some Maui residents displaced by wildfires said that developers are approaching them to buy their properties, leading to concerns among locals about an outsider-led land grab.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green addressed those concerns in a recent interview, suggesting that the state could buy some land in the historic city of Lahaina to preserve it and protect it from outside developers. 

Now, some social media users are presenting a shortened clip of his comments to falsely claim his comments show a state plan to usher in smart cities.

Sticker text on an Aug. 15 Instagram video read, "Governor (Josh) Green wants to turn Lahaina Maui into state lands. All planned for smart city.

The video played an Aug. 12 clip from local TV news station KHON showing Green talking to reporters in Lahaina. 

"I’m already thinking about ways for the state to acquire that land, so that we can put it into workforce housing," he said in the clip. The Instagram video then cut to a man speaking in a TikTok video.

"Let me get this straight," he said. "The houses burned down. Most of the trees are fine. The governor’s talking about how to acquire the land and turn it into smart homes. Am I understanding correctly?"

We found multiple examples of social media users sharing the video and making similar claims about smart cities.

This Instagram post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

But this video distorted Green’s comments by cutting them short and sharing them out of context.

A full KHON report shows Green’s full comments:

"I’m already thinking about ways for the state to acquire that land, so that we can put it into workforce housing, to put it back into families, or to make it open spaces in perpetuity as a memorial to people who were lost. We want this to be something that we remember, after the pain passes, as a magic place. And Lahaina will rebuild. The tragedy right now is the loss of life. The buildings can be rebuilt over time; even the Banyan tree may survive.

"But we don’t want this to become a clear space where then, yes, people from overseas come and decide they’re going to take it. The state will take it and preserve it first."

Green mentioned neither smart cities nor smart homes in his response.

The term "smart cities" generally refers to cities that use technology to collect data to help them run more efficiently, such as by improving transportation or electric grids. Instituting smart city technologies in a city would not require destroying existing properties or taking them over.

The concept has become a common target for conspiracy theorists who falsely claim it’s a government plan to track residents or limit their freedom. PolitiFact recently debunked a similar claim that the Maui fires were intentionally set by the government to clear the way for transitioning to smart cities.

In an Aug. 14 news conference, Green made similar comments about preserving land in Lahaina when asked about what’s being done to keep "generational property" local amid concerns from residents about predatory real estate agents. 

Green responded by saying, "That’s very important to us." 

"I actually reached out to our attorney general to explore options to do a moratorium on any sales of properties that have been damaged or destroyed," said Green, cautioning that it will be a long time before anything can be rebuilt. "You will be pretty poorly informed if you try to steal land from our people and then build here."

Green said he hopes to create a memorial in the town and "invest state resources to preserve and protect this land for our people, not for any development."

Again, he did not mention smart cities in his response.

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that video showed that Green "wants to turn Lahaina Maui into state lands. All planned for smart city."

A look at Green’s full comments shows the Hawaii governor said he was thinking about ways the state could buy land to preserve it and prevent people from overseas moving in to buy property.

Green has since spoken about the state preserving land for locals and talked of a possible moratorium on property sales to protect against predatory real estate agents.

We rate the claim False.

Jeff Cercone
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - No proof that the Marines ‘captured’ Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/16/instagram-posts/no-proof-that-the-marines-captured-pfizer-ceo-albe/ Instagram posts - No proof that the Marines ‘captured’ Pfizer CEO Albert BourlaWed, 16 Aug 2023 14:53:04 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/16/instagram-posts/no-proof-that-the-marines-captured-pfizer-ceo-albe/

If you see a headline proclaiming that a notable personality has been suddenly arrested, there’s a strong chance it might have come from Real Raw News, a website notorious for fabricating such sensational stories.

In a recent instance, an Aug. 15 Instagram video showed a screenshot of an Aug. 9 article with the headline, "Military Arrests Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla."

The article said the U.S. Marine Corps arrested Bourla and killed two bodyguards during a military-sanctioned operation, citing a source from the office of Gen. Eric M. Smith, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant. 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

In an email to PolitiFact, Pfizer’s media relations team described the claims as false.

If Bourla had been arrested or captured by the military, it would surely make news. But we found no such news reports or press releases. Bourla’s name is not listed among federal prison inmates. And though the article said Bourla was captured in Newport Beach, his name was not listed among the inmates of Orange County, California, either.

This is no surprise as the claim originated on Real Raw News, a website with a disclaimer that says it "contains humor, parody and satire." PolitiFact has debunked dozens of claims from the website, which often involve claims that politicians and other personalities have been arrested. 

The site is operated by Michael Tuffin, who previously ran at least three other sites and associated YouTube channels that promoted conspiracy theories, a PolitiFact investigation showed.

Bourla’s latest tweet was Aug. 14, five days after the claim was posted.

PolitiFact asked the U.S. Marines for a comment on this claim but received no response.

We rate the claim that the Marines arrested Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla Pants on Fire!

Loreben Tuquero
<![CDATA[Mike Pence - Mike Pence oversells U.S. ‘energy independence’ under Donald Trump]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/16/mike-pence/mike-pence-oversells-us-energy-independence-under/Mike Pence - Mike Pence oversells U.S. ‘energy independence’ under Donald TrumpWed, 16 Aug 2023 14:30:48 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/16/mike-pence/mike-pence-oversells-us-energy-independence-under/

Former Vice President Mike Pence, one of the Republicans seeking the presidential nomination, blamed President Joe Biden for undoing energy policies instituted by former President Donald Trump, with whom Pence served.

On NBC’s "Meet the Press" on Aug. 13, Pence said, "In three short years, we achieved energy independence." Pence also said, "Joe Biden launched a war on energy on Day One. … (I) believe not only can we achieve American energy independence again, but I believe with the right policies going forward, we can reclaim our role as the leading producer of energy in the world."

Pence’s comments echoed statements he made Aug. 10, when he unveiled an energy plan, and Aug. 6 on CNN’s "State of the Union." 

Did the Trump administration achieve energy independence? Did Biden’s administration squander it? And what does "energy independence" actually mean?

The Pence campaign did not respond to an inquiry for this article. But energy experts told PolitiFact that Pence’s statement is an oversimplification.

Some definitions of "energy independence" have been met

In recent years, the United States has provided for more of its own energy needs. Experts credit the growth in shale oil and shale gas production, increases in renewable energies such as solar and wind and improvements in efficiency.

This has led some politicians to describe the United States as having achieved "energy independence." But there is no single definition of what that means.

One measure is a country exporting more energy than it imports. By this standard, the U.S. did achieve energy independence under Trump, said Hugh Daigle, an associate professor of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Energy Information Administration, a federal office that tracks energy statistics, found that in 2019 — when Trump was president and Pence was vice president — the United States became a net exporter of energy for the first time since 1952. "Energy" in this context includes all types, from heating oil to gasoline to sources used to generate electricity such as coal, natural gas and renewables.

And in 2020, the U.S. became a net exporter of petroleum for the first time since at least 1949.

Another way to measure energy independence is when domestic production exceeds domestic consumption.

In 2019 and 2020, when Trump was president, the U.S. made more energy than it consumed.

However, this didn’t end when Trump left office.

Energy production also outpaced consumption under Biden in 2021, and the U.S. has remained a net exporter of both energy overall and petroleum specifically under Biden. This undercuts Pence’s argument that Biden squandered energy independence.

Also, Pence’s framing of this development as occurring in "three short years" underplays more than a decade of progress toward the goal. U.S. energy production has risen consistently for more than a decade, under presidents of both parties.

Other definitions of energy independence have not been met

"Energy independence" includes all forms of energy. However, the data for crude oil — which is used to manufacture gasoline, which for many consumers is most important — did not follow the same pattern as energy overall.

For crude oil, imports outpaced exports in each of the four years Trump was president, as well as in Biden’s first two years in office. (Crude oil and petroleum are different; the U.S. is a net exporter of petroleum, a finished product, but a net importer of crude oil, a raw product used to make petroleum and petroleum products.)

There’s a reason for the imbalance in crude oil imports and exports. 

Although the U.S. theoretically produces enough crude oil to satisfy its consumption, the U.S. is unable to refine all of the crude oil it produces, experts say. 

Crude is graded by its weight and its "sweetness," which is a measure of the oil’s sulfur content. Most U.S.-produced oil is "light" and "sweet," and although some U.S. refineries are able to process it, many cannot. 

Instead, these refineries are built to process heavier, less sweet crude (also called heavy, sour crude) from the Middle East and other overseas suppliers. That’s a holdover from past decades, when the U.S. was primarily importing its crude.

This mismatch keeps the U.S. from simply using its own crude production to serve domestic needs. Changing the mix of refineries to accommodate U.S.-produced crude oil would be expensive and would take years to complete.

This means the U.S. is exporting a lot of its domestically produced crude on the international market. This also means the U.S. is still importing a substantial amount of oil for domestic use.

As a result, the "energy independence" touted by Pence glosses over the reality that the U.S. still imports a lot of crude oil. 

"Gasoline refineries ship much of their product overseas, while we rely on imported gasoline to satisfy domestic demand," Daigle said. "As long as we are still relying on imports to satisfy domestic demand for oil, gas, and especially refined products, I would argue that we have not really achieved energy independence."

For instance, Daigle said, much of New England relies on foreign imports of oil and natural gas because the region lacks pipeline capacity and because of laws that regulate domestic shipping.

Although presidents have long chased energy independence, none have achieved it, said Frank A. Verrastro, senior vice president of energy, national security and foreign policy for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

"Even as we export certain refined products and light oil, we continue to need heavier oil and certain products due to our domestic refinery configuration and consumer demand, weather-related incidents like hurricanes and more recently heat waves, and transport logistics," he said.

This means that even in a period of greater energy independence for the U.S., its supply is still sensitive to international events, said Mark Finley, a fellow in energy and global oil at Rice University’s Center for Energy Studies. Even in April 2020 — a period that Pence’s statement suggests was defined by U.S. energy independence — Trump was in high-stakes negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over oil production. 

"While the U.S. produces more energy than it consumes, it remains closely connected to — and dependent on — global developments," Finley said.

Our ruling

Pence said, "In three short years, we achieved energy independence."

Although there are various interpretations of "energy independence," Pence has a point that on Trump’s watch, the U.S. became a net energy exporter and began producing more energy than it consumed and exporting more than it imports. Both were achievements the U.S. hadn’t seen in decades.

However, this didn’t happen "in three short years" — it built on more than a decade of improvements in shale oil and gas production, as well as renewables. The U.S. also did not achieve net exporter status for crude oil, which produces the most closely watched type of energy for many consumers: gasoline.

Finally, the United States’ improved record on energy independence does not isolate the country from global developments. Because many U.S. refineries are unable to process the type of crude oil produced in the U.S., they need to import a different type of oil from overseas to serve the domestic market

We rate Pence’s claim Half True.

Matthew Crowley
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Sometimes trees stay standing after wildfires. That’s because of how the fire typically spreads.]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/15/facebook-posts/sometimes-trees-stay-standing-after-wildfires-that/ Facebook posts - Sometimes trees stay standing after wildfires. That’s because of how the fire typically spreads.Tue, 15 Aug 2023 21:41:26 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/15/facebook-posts/sometimes-trees-stay-standing-after-wildfires-that/

Deadly wildfires blazed a path of destruction across parts of Hawaii’s Maui, killing nearly 100 people and burning more than 2,000 acres. 

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green likened the charred-out scenes of disaster in coastal Lahaina to the aftermath of a bombing.

But online conspiracy theorists are going even further with the visuals — claiming the destruction was not complete enough to have been caused by a wildfire.

"This was no wildfire," an unidentified narrator said in an Aug. 11 Facebook post. "A wildfire that demolishes buildings, leaving trees standing? Leaving restaurant umbrellas and trees untouched?"

Images flash showing blackened rubble and hazy smoke. A burned boat floats on the water.  Paint-stripped and windowless vehicles line streets and parking lots.

"What we are seeing here is definitely no wildfire," the video narrator said. "Wildfires do not completely burn out cars, glass and all, yet leaving nearby trees and utility poles still standing upright."

This post and others like it were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.) 

But wildfire experts said that claim is wrong. Numerous factors influence how and whether objects burn.

@politifact Replying to @Kitty Kat xo Is it unusual that trees remained standing after the deadly Hawaii wildfires destroyed parts of Maui? No, experts told us it’s actually common. #Maui #Hawaii #HawaiiFire #Wildfire #fyp #learnontiktok ♬ Hip Hop with impressive piano sound(793766) - Dusty Sky

It is common for trees, utility poles and more isolated features to remain standing even as wildfires destroy other structures in the same area, experts told PolitiFact.

People walk along Main Street past wildfire damage on Aug. 11, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP)

"Cars have gasoline in fuel tanks and an enclosed space that retains heat, and buildings have enclosed spaces that allow heat to accumulate inside, leading to intense burnouts that last a long time," said Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology. "Also, if a window is broken or otherwise open, oxygen can flow into a hollow object like the inside of a car or building, supporting the fire."

Fires spread three ways, through flame contact, radiation and firebrands, or flying hot embers, said Arnaud Trouvé, a University of Maryland professor and chair of the department of fire protection engineering. Fires that spread in the wildland urban interface — areas where structures and other human developments meet wildlands and vegetation — are often spread by firebrands. 

"Under those conditions, you can find patches of unburnt vegetation and structures," Trouvé said. "When the fire spreads due to firebrands, fuel sources that are most vulnerable are structures, decks, fences, etc., that allow the accumulation of hot firebrands in their vicinity. Trees or poles are less vulnerable because the wind would blow the firebrands past them."

Frelich said that structures such as trees and utility poles are less likely to be consumed by wildfire flames because heat can escape to the atmosphere, they are exposed to flames for less time than things in an enclosed space, and oxygen, which is needed for combustion, can reach only the outside of a solid wood object. 

"Most of the wood in trunks of standing trees — usually more than 90% — remains after even the most intense forest fires," he said.

Destroyed homes and vehicles are seen in a neighborhood Aug. 13, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii, following a deadly wildfire that caused heavy damage days earlier. (AP)

When there is sufficient separation between a burning structure and vegetation, it is "very common" for the vegetation not to ignite, said Michael Gollner, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies fire dynamics and wildland fires. 

"While flames can lick up to the side of a home or radiation can heat and ignite siding, 50% or more of the destruction is caused by flying embers," Gollner said. "This makes it vitally important that you not only maintain vegetation around your home, but also that you ‘harden’ the exterior of your home with fire retardant siding, roofing, double-paned windows, fine mesh over vents, etc."

Gollner also advised clearing flammable materials away from the first few feet around a home to reduce the risk of loss.

Frelich and Gollner said that the wildfire destruction on Maui resembled that of the 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California. 

"Most of the pines that sheltered this community still had their canopies intact," the Los Angeles Times reported in that fire’s aftermath. "The needles, yellowed from the intense heat, were not burned — evidence that the winds that morning had pushed the fire along so fast it never had a chance to rise into the trees. But as a surface fire, it lit up the homes that lay in its path."

A sign stands at a community destroyed by the Camp fire in Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2018. Most homes are gone, as are hundreds of shops and other buildings. (AP)

None of the wildfire experts PolitiFact consulted said they believed the damage in Hawaii was caused by anything other than a wildfire. 

Researchers are still working to identify what caused the wildfire in Hawaii, which often takes time when the fire continues to burn, said Joseph Wilkins, a Howard University professor of atmospheric science who researches wildland fires. It is likely "a standard case of too many invasive or non-native species of plants on the landscape, rising temperatures, and dry conditions."

July 13, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources noted that much of Maui has experienced drought or has been abnormally dry.

Nearly 85% of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by humans, according to Wildland Fire Management Information.

Our ruling

A Facebook video claimed, "Wildfires do not completely burn out cars, glass and all, yet leaving nearby trees and utility poles still standing upright."

Wildfire experts told PolitiFact it is common for trees, utility poles and more isolated features to remain standing even as wildfires destroy other structures in the same area.

We rate this claim False.

RELATED: Photo used to claim ‘direct energy assault’ started Hawaii wildfires has circulated since 2018

RELATED: No, Hawaii fires weren’t set intentionally to turn Maui into a ‘smart island’

Madison Czopek
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - A Mexican lawmaker spoke nearly naked, but didn’t make statement attributed to him on social media]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/15/instagram-posts/a-mexican-lawmaker-spoke-nearly-naked-but-didnt-ma/ Instagram posts - A Mexican lawmaker spoke nearly naked, but didn’t make statement attributed to him on social mediaTue, 15 Aug 2023 19:05:44 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/15/instagram-posts/a-mexican-lawmaker-spoke-nearly-naked-but-didnt-ma/

An old image of a Mexican politician standing in front of a lectern wearing only his underwear is drawing social media attention — but it is getting one essential fact wrong: what he said when he did it. 

"In Mexico, a congressman removes all his clothes during Congressional debate," an Aug. 12 Instagram post says. "‘You are ashamed to see me naked, but you are not ashamed to see your people in the streets naked, barefooted, desperate, jobless and hungry after you have stolen all their money and wealth’.........he told the parliament."

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The photo is real, but we found no evidence that the quote is authentic. 

The politician, Antonio García Conejo of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party, made headlines in 2013 by stripping during debate in congress to protest against legislation opening the state-controlled oil sector to foreign investment, BBC News reported.

We listened to Conejo’s speech as he removed his clothes and didn’t hear the statement mentioned in the Instagram post. 

We also found no news reports or other credible sources quoting him as saying that. 

"This is how you’re stripping the nation," BBC News quoted Conejo saying. "Where is the benefit? I’m not ashamed, what you’re doing is a shame." 

Conejo’s disrobing didn’t work. The Mexican congress still voted to allow private and foreign exploration and drilling for the country’s oil and gas.

Although Conejo removed most of his clothes during his speech, he did not do so to protest "people in the streets naked, barefooted, desperate, jobless and hungry after you have stolen all their money and wealth," as the Instagram post claimed. We rate this post Mostly False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - No, Hawaii fires weren’t set intentionally to turn Maui into a ‘smart island’]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/instagram-posts/no-hawaii-fires-werent-set-intentionally-to-turn-m/ Instagram posts - No, Hawaii fires weren’t set intentionally to turn Maui into a ‘smart island’Mon, 14 Aug 2023 22:04:11 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/instagram-posts/no-hawaii-fires-werent-set-intentionally-to-turn-m/

The wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, had killed 96 people as of Aug. 14, making it the deadliest U.S. blaze in the past 100 years.

Many social media users are spreading baseless conspiracy theories about the origin of the fires, which began Aug. 8, saying they were set intentionally by the government for nefarious reasons. 

The narrator in one Aug. 11 Instagram video speculated about what started the fire, saying  the island looked like a bomb went off. He tried to tie the fires to other common subjects about conspiracy theories: smart cities, electric vehicles and artificial intelligence.

"The governor did say this is climate change doing this. Interesting. What they don’t talk about is in January how they had in Maui a smart city conference to turn Maui into an entire smart island, changing everything to electric, renewables, solar panels and pushing everybody into electric vehicles — 15-minute smart cities," he said.

"So, now what’s also interesting is next month in September, Hawaii is hosting the digital government summit, utilizing AI to govern the island. Hm … It’s almost like they’re resetting something to start rebuilding for this."

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

PolitiFact recently debunked an Instagram post featuring a video by the same speaker, who used a 2018 fire photo to falsely claim the Hawaii fires were started by the government using a direct energy weapon.

This video uses several real or planned events to baselessly suggest the Hawaii fires were purposely set so the government can remake the island. We found other social media posts making similar claims about the fires and smart cities.

Officials have not yet determined the Hawaii fires’ cause, but officials have said extremely dry conditions and strong winds hastened their spread. The power company Hawaiian Electric is facing two lawsuits alleging that its downed power lines started the blaze, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported

Officials have not suggested that foul play is involved in the fires.

First, what are 15-minute smart cities?

The video referred to"15-minute smart cities," but those are two distinct urban planning concepts.

There is no universal definition of a smart city, but the concept generally refers to cities that use technology to collect information to help cities run more efficiently, such as improving traffic flow, tracking gunshots to help fight crime or tracking air quality.

The 15-minute city is a separate urban planning concept that proposes that cities should be designed so that residents’ basic needs can be met within a short walk or bike ride from their homes. Some proponents use the same concept but refer to it as a 20-minute city.

Both concepts have been the target of conspiracy theories that falsely allege they are government plots to control citizens by limiting their travel or tracking their movements or habits.

A smart city conference?

No, there wasn’t a "smart city conference" in Maui, though the concept was among many topics discussed at a conference there in January. 

The post shares a screenshot of a 2022 call for papers for the 2023 Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. The conference has been held annually in the state since 1968. Scholars from more than 60 countries meet there to exchange ideas on a wide variety of topics in information technology management

The conference featured sessions — described as "tracks" and "minitracks" — on various technology subjects, including smart cities.

Tung Bui, the chair of the Information Technology Management Department at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, and the chair of the annual conference, told PolitiFact there was nothing unusual about the discussion and he rebuked the notion that this somehow laid the groundwork for a master plan to destroy Maui.

"The concept of smart cities has been a subject of inquiry for at least three decades, coinciding with the emergence of government utilization of databases and other technological tools to augment public services encompassing transportation, public health, and more," Bui said.

Bui said of the more than 2,000 researchers who present work at the annual conference, there are a core that work on e-government, and a few on smart cities. At the January conference, "we did not have any specific discussion to turn Maui into a smart city."

"The idea of resorting to destructive measures, causing harm to a historic landmark and resulting in numerous fatalities, all in an attempt to transform Maui into a smart island, stretches the boundaries of my imagination," said Bui.

The screenshot featured in the video shows a call for papers for a digital government track, which included a minitrack titled "Smart and Connected Cities and Communities." 

Smart cities were one of eight minitracks in the research area of digital government. Other larger topics of focus at the conference included "information technology in health care" and "internet and the digital economy."

There were four papers and an introduction about smart cities published in connection with the event, but none were about turning Maui into a smart island. 

The Instagram video also misleadingly used a screenshot from a 2017 report showing two graphics from a case study about JUMPSmartMaui, a collaboration among Japan, Hawaii and Maui that tried to show how smart grid technology, renewable energy and electric vehicles could work together in Maui’s electrical grid. A smart grid is an electricity network that uses technologies to manage supply and demand.

The graphics and project have no connection to the January Maui conference.

What about AI governing Hawaii? 

The video shows a screenshot of a webpage for a Digital Government Summit scheduled for Sept. 25 in Honolulu and said there’s a plan for artificial intelligence to govern the state.

Although the event is in Hawaii, it’s not specific to the state. The summit’s website says its goal is to bring "together technology focused public-sector professionals with leading industry partners to connect on innovative approaches, get inspired and discover new technologies." 

There are numerous speakers scheduled, but the only mention of AI on the agenda came in a description of a featured talk called "Digital Transformation for Government: The Future is Now."

"The world of government technology is shifting by the day," the description read. "The need for Dynamic Digital Transformation and unlocking the power of emerging technologies like AI and (the Internet of Things) is the future." 

Although it suggests governments can use AI to "improve outcomes for your constituents," it does not say it should be used to govern, nor does it mention Hawaii or Maui.

Our ruling

An Instagram video claimed the fires in Hawaii may have been intentionally set to make way to turn Maui into a "smart island." As evidence the video cites a "smart city" conference in January.

Smart cities is a concept that suggests using technology to enhance government services, and residents’ lives. It wouldn’t require the destruction of a city to enact. The concept of smart cities was among many topics researchers broached at a January conference in Maui, but the research was not specific to Maui.

Although an official cause of the fire has yet to be determined, officials have not said foul play is suspected. We rate the claim False.

Jeff Cercone
<![CDATA[Steve Kirsch - Activist misuses federal data to make Pants on Fire claim that COVID-19 vaccines killed 676,000]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/steve-kirsch/activist-misuses-federal-data-to-make-pants-on-fir/Steve Kirsch - Activist misuses federal data to make Pants on Fire claim that COVID-19 vaccines killed 676,000Mon, 14 Aug 2023 21:24:13 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/steve-kirsch/activist-misuses-federal-data-to-make-pants-on-fir/

A blog post shared on Facebook claimed that COVID-19 vaccines have killed some 676,000 people in the U.S.

The post was written by anti-vaccine activist Steve Kirsch, who has made other vaccine claims debunked by PolitiFact and other fact-checkers

Kirsch’s Aug. 6 post referred to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a federal database

"VAERS data is crystal clear," the headline read. "The COVID vaccines are killing an estimated 1 person per 1,000 doses (676,000 dead Americans)."

The blog post was shared on social media and flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The data Kirsch used is from an anti-vaccine group’s alternative gateway to VAERS. VAERS, which includes unverified reports, cannot be used to determine whether a vaccine caused death. Kirsch did not reply to our request for information.

"Statements that imply that reports of deaths to VAERS following vaccination equate to deaths caused by vaccination are scientifically inaccurate, misleading and irresponsible," the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told PolitiFact.

The CDC added that it "has not detected any unusual or unexpected patterns for deaths following immunization that would indicate that COVID vaccines are causing or contributing to deaths, outside of the nine confirmed" thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, deaths following the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, which is longer offered in the U.S.

TTS, which causes blood clots, has occurred in approximately four cases per 1 million doses administered, according to the CDC. 

VAERS is run by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration. It helps researchers collect data on vaccine aftereffects and to detect patterns that may warrant a closer look.

The CDC cautions that VAERS results, which come from unverified reports that anyone can make, are not enough to determine whether a vaccine causes a particular adverse event. 

For the COVID-19 vaccines, VAERS has received a flood of reports, and they have become especially potent fuel for misinformation.

Kirsch made his claim not using VAERS directly, but with an alternative gateway to VAERS from the anti-vaccine National Vaccine Information Center. 

That website draws on raw and limited VAERS reports, which can include information that is incomplete or inaccurate. These reports do not provide enough information to determine  whether a vaccine caused a particular adverse event.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have killed people in the U.S. in large numbers, let alone 676,000. We rate the claim Pants on Fire!

RELATED: Federal VAERS database is a critical tool for researchers, but a breeding ground for misinformation

RELATED: How an alternative gateway to VAERS data helps fuel vaccine misinformation

Tom Kertscher
<![CDATA[The Gateway Pundit - No, suspected voter registration irregularities in Michigan did not result in 2020 election fraud]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/gateway-pundit/suspected-voter-registration-irregularities-in-mic/The Gateway Pundit - No, suspected voter registration irregularities in Michigan did not result in 2020 election fraudMon, 14 Aug 2023 20:19:36 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/gateway-pundit/suspected-voter-registration-irregularities-in-mic/

Nearly three years after the 2020 presidential election, the conservative news site The Gateway Pundit recently declared it had new evidence that the election was fraudulent.

"NOW WE HAVE PROOF!" read its headline on the Aug. 8 article. "Massive 2020 Voter Fraud Uncovered in Michigan."

The article claims a 2020 Michigan State Police report, which Gateway Pundit obtained through a public records request, "exposes criminal election fraud involving thousands of fraudulent ballots" in Muskegon, Michigan, a city of about 38,000 people in West Michigan.

Several Facebook and Instagram posts also shared this claim. These posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

According to the police report obtained by Gateway Pundit, in mid-October 2020, Muskegon City Clerk Ann Meish alerted local police after noticing irregularities on some of the roughly 8,000 completed voter registration applications that a canvasser had dropped off earlier that month.

The same canvasser submitted another batch of 2,500 completed voter registration forms Oct. 20, 2020, the last day before the 2020 election to turn in that paperwork, the report said.

The Muskegon Police Department, along with Michigan State Police and the state attorney general, investigated these alleged voter registration irregularities, as well as the canvasser’s employer, GBI Strategies, a national company that conducts political field work, including voter registration drives. In late October 2020, this investigation was referred to the FBI because GBI Strategies was operating in multiple states.

Muskegon Police Capt. Tim Bahorski declined to answer PolitiFact’s questions about the incident, saying that it’s possible federal authorities could still be investigating.

The Gateway Pundit claimed these suspected irregularities in the voter registration forms are evidence of election fraud, but the state police report did not conclude voter fraud crimes were committed in 2020.

Danny Wimmer, press secretary for Michigan’s attorney general, told PolitiFact that the batch of voter registration forms dropped off at the city clerk’s office contained some fraudulent applications intermixed with legitimate voter registrations. The investigation determined this fraud came from "the lowest levels of the company," he said.

"The leading internal indication was that fraud was being perpetrated against GBI Strategies by its employees to fabricate work product without conducting the work expected of them, and not in explicit pursuit of defrauding the election infrastructure of the state," Wimmer said.

This "attempted fraud" was caught and did not affect the 2020 election "because the system worked," Wimmer said.

"The City Clerk in Muskegon detected the fraudulent material provided and alerted the proper authorities. A thorough investigation was conducted by multiple agencies within the state and no successful fraud was perpetrated upon the state’s election process or qualified voter file," Wimmer said.

Michigan’s secretary of state’s office also said the proper procedure was followed to prevent voting malfeasance.

"There is no evidence that any of the invalid voter registration applications in question resulted in people getting registered to vote, receiving absentee ballots, casting absentee ballots, or voting in person in any election," said Angela Benander, spokesperson for the secretary of state.

In 2020, local news outlets reported that Meish, Muskegon’s city clerk, said no ballots were issued to voters associated with potentially fraudulent registration forms. If applications contained information that neither the city clerk nor the secretary of state’s office were able to verify, the voter registration files were removed.

Michigan State Police also confirmed to reporters at the time that "none of the alleged fraudulent voter registrations resulted in voters receiving absentee ballot applications or ballots, any resulting registrations have been voided, and there is no expected impact on any election."

We rate the claim that a police report shows "massive 2020 voter fraud uncovered in Michigan" False.

Sara Swann
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945, despite conspiracy theories]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/facebook-posts/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-were-bombed-in-1945-despite/ Facebook posts - Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945, despite conspiracy theoriesMon, 14 Aug 2023 20:04:00 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/facebook-posts/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-were-bombed-in-1945-despite/

"Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never nuked," reads the caption of a recent Facebook video that suggests both Japanese cities would be uninhabited if they had been bombed because of the half-life of the chemicals used in the weapons. 

"Hiroshima is a bustling city with a population of over 2 million people," the video’s narrator says. "In the smaller city of Nagasaki, almost 400,000 people. Are these two cities thriving in a nuclear wasteland or"; the video then loops back to the start. 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The United States bombed Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, "killing tens of thousands of people" and "obliterating cities," by the U.S. government’s own admission

More died in the attacks’ wake "because of the lingering effects of radioactive fallout."

But for all practical purposes, neither city is still radioactive, according to the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, a cooperative research effort between the United States and Japan.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs exploded at altitudes of 600 and 503 meters, respectively, forming huge fireballs that rose with air currents, according to the foundation. About 10% of the nuclear material in the bombs underwent fission — one of two ways residual radioactivity is produced from an atomic blast — and contaminated the ground. 

About 90% of the nuclear material rose in the stratosphere with the fireballs, and some of it fell with rain as the material cooled down, "but probably most of the remaining uranium or plutonium was dispersed widely in the atmosphere," according to the foundation. 

Today, the radioactivity is so minuscule that it’s difficult to distinguish from trace amounts of radioactivity caused by fallout from atmospheric atomic bomb tests conducted around the world in past decades, the foundation says. 

The city of Hiroshima says on its website that the radiation present in both cities "has no effect on human bodies."

We rate claims that neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki were attacked with atomic bombs Pants on Fire!

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - This Bud Light ‘crybabies’ billboard is fabricated.]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/instagram-posts/this-bud-light-crybabies-billboard-is-fabricated/ Instagram posts - This Bud Light ‘crybabies’ billboard is fabricated.Mon, 14 Aug 2023 19:55:36 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/instagram-posts/this-bud-light-crybabies-billboard-is-fabricated/

Bud Light owner Anheuser-Busch InBev faced backlash on social media after partnering in April with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

But did Bud Light respond by insulting its critics? That’s what an Instagram video suggests, showing a billboard of a Bud Light beer can with the message, "lol CRYBABIES," next to it.

"This just went from bad to Worse," reads text across the video. "Bud Light fires back."

The post, which was made May 16 but was generating engagement as recently as Aug. 14, was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

But don’t believe everything you see.

(Screengrab from Instagram)

The "crybabies" video appears to have been created by the TikTok account @jamisonlightfoot. The creator later deleted the original post but published a video April 27 explaining that he altered a Disney+ billboard to look like a Bud Light sign, using Adobe After Effects.  

The actual billboard is in Toronto and, in the lower-right corner displayed the name of an advertising company called Branded Cities. PolitiFact asked the advertising company for comment, but did not hear back. However, The Associated Press in April reported that an executive there told them the Bud Light billboard was fabricated.

We rate the video that shows a Bud Light billboard that says "lol CRYBABIES" False.

Maria Briceño
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Photos of hooded shoppers taken in California and Colorado, not Vasser’s Mini-Mart in Selma, Alabama]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/facebook-posts/photos-of-hooded-shoppers-taken-in-california-and/ Facebook posts - Photos of hooded shoppers taken in California and Colorado, not Vasser’s Mini-Mart in Selma, AlabamaMon, 14 Aug 2023 18:59:22 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/facebook-posts/photos-of-hooded-shoppers-taken-in-california-and/

Some protesters have called on people to boycott Vasser’s Mini-Mart in Selma, Alabama, after its owner, Zachery Chase Shipman, was allegedly involved in a recent brawl on the riverfront in Montgomery, Alabama, the Selma Times-Journal reported. Shipman later turned himself in and was charged with misdemeanor assault.

But social media claims that photos show people at Shipman’s store wearing what look like Ku Klux Klan hoods aren’t accurate.

"That is an authentic Klans mask," one man said in a TikTok video posted Aug. 9 on Facebook  as a photo shows someone standing in front of a produce stand wearing a white hood. "They own this mini-mart, and they’re doing this. Which means they’re active Klan members." 

Another photo shows someone in a white hood standing in front of a refrigerated section. 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

On Aug. 5, several white boaters were captured on video assaulting a Black riverboat co-captain, prompting national conversations about the role race played in the melee. 

But the photos in the social media post aren’t connected to one of the white brawl suspects. 

The first photo was taken in California in 2020, when a man went grocery shopping in a KKK hood to protest pandemic mask mandates.

The second photo was also taken in 2020 in Dillon, Colorado, about 70 miles west of Denver. 

We rate claims the photo was taken at Vasser’s Mini-Mart False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[Ron DeSantis - DeSantis says he removed critical race theory from K-12 schools, but districts say it wasn’t taught]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/ron-desantis/desantis-says-he-removed-critical-race-theory-from/Ron DeSantis - DeSantis says he removed critical race theory from K-12 schools, but districts say it wasn’t taughtMon, 14 Aug 2023 18:25:19 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/14/ron-desantis/desantis-says-he-removed-critical-race-theory-from/

As he campaigns for president, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., often touts his crusade against critical race theory in Florida schools.

"We've eliminated critical race theory in our K through 12 schools," DeSantis said Aug. 4 at a New Hampshire town hall.

DeSantis also described how he "rooted out" critical race theory in a recent letter to Vice President Kamala Harris, and told NBC News he "eliminated" the theory "because it’s ideology, and we want education, not indoctrination." 

Critical race theory, or CRT, is a broad set of ideas about racism being woven into American systems that’s rooted in legal academia. Experts said the theory is more common in higher education, typically in law or graduate school courses.

Educators, school officials and several Florida public school districts said critical race theory wasn’t taught in Florida’s elementary, middle or high schools. 

Orange County Public Schools "teaches and creates curriculum resource materials that align with the BEST standards, previously known as the Florida Standards," wrote Renée Burke, the school district’s public information officer. "CRT is not, and has never been, taught in K-12." (BEST stands for benchmarks for excellent student thinking.)

PolitiFact reached out to DeSantis’ campaign for this fact-check but did not hear back. The Florida Department of Education initially told PolitiFact it was working on a response but did not provide one by deadline.

DeSantis’ "Stop WOKE Act"

In 2022, DeSantis signed into law a prohibition of subjects related to critical race theory in Florida’s workplaces and schools. The law, HB 7, also known as the Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act (Stop W.O.K.E. Act), bans teaching that anyone "must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress" based on their race as a result of actions by others in the past. 

Although a judge blocked it from taking effect at state colleges and universities, the law  —  along with the heightened attention on CRT — has had a chilling effect on courses at these institutions. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging HB 7 are from higher education institutions and include several law and history professors. 

Critical race theory isn’t one clear-cut philosophy, but more of a changing package of ideas. It has existed in higher education for decades and holds that racism is part of a broader pattern in America: It’s woven into laws, and it shows up in who gets a job interview, the sorts of home loans people are offered, how they’re treated by police and other facets of daily life. More than a dozen states have recently banned critical race theory in public schools. 

Florida teachers and state education officials say that the issue has been blown out of proportion.

CRT was never a standard in Florida K-12 schools

Absent examples from DeSantis and the state, we scoured news clips for mentions of CRT in Florida classrooms and interviewed school district representatives and teachers.

We found a few examples of state education officials objecting to textbooks and courses they said  contained CRT teaching. They show the state’s objections to prospective teaching materials, and its success in preventing content that it deemed to be CRT-related. But questions remain about the state’s rationale in several cases and its broad definition of CRT and other prohibited topics.

For example, the state’s Department of Education rejected 42 math textbooks in April 2022 it said included CRT and other "indoctrination." After initially not providing examples, the agency released four textbook pages showing content to which it objected. Two showed bar graphs and equations that measured racial prejudice among different age groups and political affiliations. The others referred to social-emotional learning, an approach that combines lessons with opportunities to address children’s self-awareness and other interpersonal skills.

Most educators and math professors who reviewed the textbooks, however, found nothing objectionable, with three of about 70 reviewers raising concerns about CRT.  (One was a member of the conservative Moms for Liberty group; the other two were affiliated with Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school in Michigan.)

The New York Times reviewed 21 of the rejected books and found that most had "little that touched on race, never mind an academic framework like critical race theory."

In January, the state said it wouldn’t offer the AP College Board’s African American studies course, citing subjects like Black queer studies, the reparations movement and intersectionality. The state said intersectionality — the way different forms of inequality overlap and build on one another — is a foundation of CRT. 

In May, Florida rejected dozens of social studies textbooks over passages that included references to the Black Lives Matter movement, socialism and why some citizens kneel during the national anthem.

Nine Florida public school districts reached by PolitiFact — Broward, Collier, Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole and St. Lucie counties — confirmed that CRT was not in the curriculum. 

Several school districts replied with one word: No.

"Our traditional public schools have not taught, were not teaching, and do not teach critical race theory — it is not a part of the K-12 state standards," Kelsey Whealy, a Sarasota County Schools spokesperson, wrote in an email.

"No, Critical Race Theory (CRT) was never included in any K-12 curriculum in Seminole County Public Schools," wrote communications officer Katherine Crnkovich.

Though the theory is more common in higher education, many of those courses have been canceled or scaled back following anti-CRT legislation.

"CRT is a law-school concept, and teachers have been saying all along, it isn’t taught in K-12 here and never was," Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, wrote in an email. 

Our ruling

DeSantis claimed that his administration "eliminated" critical race theory from Florida’s K-12 schools.

Educators, school officials and several Florida public school districts said the theory has never been part of Florida’s K-12 curriculums. It has been taught primarily at the university level, often appearing in law and graduate courses.

The state has rejected prospective teaching materials in recent years that it claimed was related to CRT. But questions remain about its rationale in several cases and its broad definition of the theory and other prohibited topics.

DeSantis’ claim contains an element of truth but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False. 

RELATED: What is critical race theory, and why are conservatives blocking it? 

RELATED: Do Florida school standards say ‘enslaved people benefited from slavery,’ as Kamala Harris said?

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Samantha Putterman
<![CDATA[Ron DeSantis - Illinois law expanding police eligibility to some immigrants is narrower than critics say]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/11/ron-desantis/illinois-law-expanding-police-eligibility-to-some/Ron DeSantis - Illinois law expanding police eligibility to some immigrants is narrower than critics sayFri, 11 Aug 2023 21:57:06 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/11/ron-desantis/illinois-law-expanding-police-eligibility-to-some/

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, joined an outcry of criticism after Illinois enacted a law allowing some immigrants to become police officers.

"To the Left, citizenship is meaningless," DeSantis said July 30 on X, formerly Twitter. "Illinois is now letting illegal aliens become police officers." 

Social media posts echoed his claim. 

"Breaking News: Far-Left Woke Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill allowing illegal immigrants to become police officers," said an Aug. 7 Facebook post from Secure America Now, a conservative nonprofit.

But these comments ignore critical facts. 

The new law expands eligibility to people who are allowed to both legally work in the U.S. and own a firearm. The firearm requirement makes immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally ineligible.

DeSantis didn't clarify what he meant by "illegal aliens." The governor's office directed PolitiFact’s request for comment to his campaign, but it did not respond. 

However, DeSantis likely was referring to immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, who are included in the Illinois law. Those immigrants — beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, aka DACA — have temporary lawful presence in the U.S. because an Obama-era program prevents their deportation. But they do not have a lawful status. Federal law says people without lawful status cannot own firearms

State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, the Aurora Democrat who sponsored the bill, told PolitiFact that the portion of the law that allows DACA recipients to become police officers "is symbolic only until the federal government allows them to carry guns."

One expert told PolitiFact there is an exception in federal law that may allow police departments to purchase weapons that DACA recipients could use only while on duty. But the expert said he hasn’t seen the statute used in cases involving immigration status. 

Illinois’ new law comes as police departments nationwide seek to diversify staff and combat employee shortages. Other states, such as California and Colorado, have passed similar laws. 

Illinois’ governor, Hernandez and a co-sponsor of the bill all rebutted the claims about immigrants in the country illegally becoming police officers or deputy sheriffs.

"Undocumented immigrants are not allowed to become police officers in the state of Illinois," said Pritzker, a Democrat, in a July 31 press conference.

Hernandez said permanent residents will be able to apply to work as police, but "there will be no ‘illegal aliens’ working as police officers." 

State Rep. Juan Cabello, a Republican from Machesney Park who co-sponsored the bill and who is a detective with the Rockford Police Department, said DeSantis "is absolutely, positively wrong." 

Cabello didn’t give his support to Hernandez’ bill until she "agreed to add language about how aspiring DACA police officers were ‘subject to federal approval’ with regard to when they can carry guns," the Chicago Tribune reported in April.​

New law expands police officer eligibility 

Previously, only U.S. citizens could apply to become police officers. Under the new Illinois law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2024, eligibility includes:

  • U.S. citizens.

  • People who are legally authorized to work in the U.S. and are allowed under "federal law to obtain, carry, or purchase or otherwise possess a firearm."

  • DACA beneficiaries who are allowed under "federal law to obtain, carry, or purchase or otherwise possess a firearm."

Becoming a police officer in Illinois requires federal work authorization 

To work legally in the U.S., noncitizens must have work permits. People can get employment authorization in a variety of ways, including having a work visa, becoming a legal permanent resident or being a refugee. 

But getting work authorization is complicated and takes time, immigration lawyer Sui Chung said.

"You can't just apply for work authorization and get it, you have to fit under a specific category of eligibility," Chung said. "If you cross the border next week, you can't get work authorization just by being present in the U.S."

Asylum seekers, DACA recipients and people with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, may apply for work permits after meeting certain requirements, even if they entered the U.S. illegally. (Temporary Protected Status is a program that grants immigrants whose home countries are considered unsafe the right to live and work in the U.S. for a temporary period.) 

People in those groups must renew their work authorizations every two years. 

The U.S. also provides work visas to temporary agricultural workers, and certain investors and members of the press. In most of these cases, people must have a job offer before coming to the U.S. and must stay in that job to keep the visa.

"They’re here for a specific purpose, so their status would not allow them to become police officers," Chung said.

Another factor: Immigrants in the U.S. illegally are not allowed to possess firearms

To become a police officer or deputy sheriff in Illinois under the new law, people must be able "to obtain, carry or purchase or otherwise possess a firearm." Under federal law, legal permanent residents are allowed to purchase firearms, but people who enter the U.S. illegally are not.

This presents a complication for DACA beneficiaries who are federally authorized to work in the U.S. but aren’t eligible to own guns, said Lauren Aronson, director of the University of Illinois Immigration Law Clinic.

Most courts have ruled that deferred action recipients cannot own guns. But one court dismissed a 2019 case about a DACA recipient's gun possession, saying federal law "is grievously ambiguous regarding whether the phrase ‘illegally or unlawfully in the United States’ refers to either presence or status."

So where does that leave deferred action recipients in Illinois who want to become police officers?

"The Illinois statute is aspirational; in the event something changes about the federal gun statute or its interpretation, only THEN would DACA recipients be eligible to serve in law enforcement here," Aronson said in an email. "This is part of what makes the social media response lashing out and claiming ‘illegal’ immigrants can arrest citizens so completely wrong."

However, there is a possible exception to this prohibition if the firearm is purchased by or for use in a federal or state department or agency, said Adam Davidson, a University of Chicago law professor.

"This is how people otherwise prohibited from having a firearm can serve in the military or work as corrections officers, for example," Davidson said. "And presumably it would allow DACA recipients to possess firearms in their official capacity as police officers."

But Davidson said the cases he’s familiar with do not involve immigration status; he cited cases of people who were involuntarily committed to mental institutions, which prohibits them from owning a gun, but were later allowed to serve in the military or police departments. 

Decisions over whether DACA recipients in Illinois can own a gun and therefore be eligible to become police officers would have to be settled by courts, Davidson said.

The Illinois law does not go into effect until 2024, but one police department in Illinois already hired DACA recipients even before the bill passed, according to news reports. Blue Island Police Department did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment. 

But its police chief told Factchequeado, a PolitiFact partner, that the department used what it considers to be an exception in state law to purchase weapons that the department gives employees. The weapon remains under the department's control unless the employee is working, the chief said.

Hernandez also told PolitiFact that she believes the Blue Island Police Department purchased weapons and allows DACA officers to carry them only while on duty. 

Our ruling 

DeSantis said, "Illinois is now letting illegal aliens become police officers." 

The statement ignores critical facts. 

Illinois’ new law makes people eligible to become police officers if they have federal work authorization and are legally authorized to possess firearms. That includes permanent residents.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients who came to the U.S. illegally as children are included in the Illinois law, and they may apply for work permits after meeting certain requirements. But though they have temporary lawful presence in the U.S., they do not have a lawful status. Most courts have ruled that deferred action recipients cannot own guns, because federal law bars people without lawful status from owning firearms. 

However, one expert said there’s a possible exception if immigrants are using weapons owned by the police departments only while on duty. 

The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Nuria Diaz Muñoz
<![CDATA[ Citizens Against Government Waste - TV ad targeting U.S. Sen. Ted Budd misleads North Carolinians about health bill]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/11/citizens-against-government-waste/tv-ad-targeting-us-sen-ted-budd-misleads-north-car/ Citizens Against Government Waste - TV ad targeting U.S. Sen. Ted Budd misleads North Carolinians about health billFri, 11 Aug 2023 20:58:48 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/11/citizens-against-government-waste/tv-ad-targeting-us-sen-ted-budd-misleads-north-car/

A new political advertisement warns North Carolinians about legislation that could increase regulation on the health care industry. But the ad exaggerates the bill’s likely effects and omits key details that might give voters a different impression of it.

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the lobbying arm of a nonpartisan group devoted to reducing government spending, paid for the ad about the "Pharmacy Benefit Manager Reform Act," a bill (S. 1339) filed in the U.S. Senate in April. 

Citizens Against Government Waste’s focus tends to align with Republican policies, PolitiFact has reported.

The ad’s narrator says:

"This is a conservative voter alert: Bernie Sanders is at it again — this time with a radical plan to increase government control of your pharmacy benefits.

"Even worse? Some Republicans are supporting it.

"Sanders’ socialist plan is not just an attack on your health benefits, it’s his next step toward government-run health care — shattering your pharmacy benefits, increasing drug costs and threatening private health insurance.

"Call Ted Budd and tell him to oppose Bernie’s radical health care takeover."

The ad’s final frame features text referring to the bill, which U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced in April. Budd, R-N.C., was among the senators who supported the bill in an 18-3 vote during a May committee meeting. 

If enacted, the bill would introduce more government oversight of pharmacy benefit managers. But health care analysts say the ad greatly exaggerates the bill’s likely effects — both on consumers and on the health care industry. 

"The ad seemed incredibly overwrought to me," said Matthew Fiedler, a senior fellow with the Brookings Schaeffer Initiative on Health Policy. "Whatever one thinks of the merits of these proposals, it's not a radical change in U.S. health policy,"

Tom Schatz, president of the group that paid for the ad, defended the ad in a statement to PolitiFact. Sanders "is once again leading an attack on private health care to achieve his stated goal of nationalized health care," Schatz said. "No conservative lawmaker should support any bill that gives the government more control over health care, particularly his legislation, which will increase costs for patients and reduce choices for small businesses."

Budd’s office defended his vote in a statement to PolitiFact. "Senator Budd voted for the bipartisan PBM Reform Act in committee because it would increase transparency and lower out of pocket costs for patients," the statement says. "He will always support conservative solutions that give patients more access to lower cost medications. Senator Budd’s conservative bona fides are best defended by his lifetime rating from [the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste] itself, of 99%."

About the bill

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, are third-party intermediaries that manage prescription drug benefits for health insurance companies and Medicare Part D drug plans. They can influence consumer costs because they help insurance companies determine which prescription drugs to cover (or, which to consider in-network). They also negotiate prices with drugmakers and work directly with individual pharmacies on pricing. 

Pharmacy benefit managers have faced increased scrutiny in recent years because their operational methods are opaque according to the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports independent health care research. 

PBMs often receive rebates that are calculated as a percentage of the manufacturer’s list price. Therefore, the Commonwealth Fund argued, these managers receive a larger rebate for expensive drugs than they do for ones that may provide better value at lower cost.

PBM industry representatives say they’re being unfairly blamed for high prescription drug prices and that drug manufacturers deserve more scrutiny. Ad sponsors pointed out that North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell recently credited PBM contract negotiators for saving the state $800 million, Business NC reported.

Fiedler said the bill has four main aims:

  • Increasing transparency of pharmacy benefit manager decisions and operations.

  • Requiring PBMs to pass on to employers all of the rebates they get from drug manufacturers.

  • Banning "price spreading," which is when a PBM charges an insurance plan a price for a prescription drug that exceeds the price paid to the pharmacy for the drug.

  • Requiring PBMs to have a process for allowing exceptions to "step therapy," in which plans require patients to try cheaper drugs for an ailment before covering a more expensive drug.

The bill doesn’t come close to offering the type of sweeping change the ad suggests," said Joshua Cohen, an independent health care analyst. He said PBM reform has "nothing to do with government-run health care."

In an email, Cohen said, "Government has long been in the business of regulating insurance under both Democratic and Republican Administrations and in all 50 states. Without such regulation, consumers lose valued protection against anti-competitive practices or simply egregious profiteering which disadvantages them." 

"Unless one takes an extreme libertarian view — that government has no place in health care or anywhere else in the economy — then it's quite normal for both the federal and state governments to intervene on behalf of their constituents," he said.

And it’s not a partisan issue. Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have sponsored bills pushing new regulations for PBMs.

Effects of the bill

The bill’s effects on drug prices and people’s health insurance plans are hard to predict, experts told PolitiFact. With Sanders’ bill, they said they don’t foresee dramatic changes in consumers’ plans. But different parts of the bill could cause different ripple effects — some for the better and some for the worse.

The bill’s supporters have pointed out that a similar effort to increase PBMs’ transparency would reduce commercial market spending and decrease the deficit by $1.7 billion over a 10-year period, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Meanwhile, Fiedler and Cohen said they could foresee the bill’s directive on rebates having little to no effect on costs. In many cases, PBMs already pass along rebates to employers.

"If PBMs have to pass through (all) rebates to employers, they're likely to respond to that by demanding a higher fee for their services to the plan," Fiedler said. "So, I don't see this as a particularly effective policy change if the goal is to reduce cost to employers. But mechanically, that's what (bill sponsors) are trying to achieve."

Cohen, the independent analyst, speculated that the directive could lead to higher premiums.

"If, as a result of the legislation, rebates were to be removed from the system, the de facto unintentional consequence could be that PBMs raise premiums in, say, the Medicare Part D benefit," he wrote in an email, referring to the outpatient benefit. 

"Until now, rebates have perhaps kept Part D premiums in check," Cohen told PolitFact in an email, emphasizing that empirical evidence is scarce. "This may change as a result of legislation."

Experts are also skeptical of the effectiveness of proposed bans on price spreading. Banning the practice would remove incentives for PBMs to prefer pharmacies "that have the largest spreads’ rather than the pharmacies with the lowest prices, which could reduce costs," Fiedler said. PBMs could also recoup the lost revenue in other ways. 

"It’s perfectly plausible that banning spread pricing would increase costs on net, although I doubt any increases would be large," Fiedler said. "Regardless, it’s hard to see how any of these debates over the fine points of spread pricing could substantiate the sweeping claims in the ad."

Our ruling

The ad says Sanders’ bill would "increase government control" of pharmacy benefits and is "radical health care takeover."

The bill, which is receiving bipartisan support, would introduce new regulations on pharmacy benefit managers. Some experts say this regulation could affect Americans’ health insurance plans by changing which prescription drugs their insurance plans cover or how much they pay for them.

However, the ad exaggerates the bill’s potential effects, which fall far short of a "health care takeover."

The ad contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Paul Specht
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - Photo used to claim ‘direct energy assault’ started Hawaii wildfires has circulated since 2018]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/11/instagram-posts/photo-used-to-claim-direct-energy-assault-started/ Instagram posts - Photo used to claim ‘direct energy assault’ started Hawaii wildfires has circulated since 2018Fri, 11 Aug 2023 19:52:35 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/11/instagram-posts/photo-used-to-claim-direct-energy-assault-started/

Five-year-old images are being shared in social media posts as proof that the government is using "direct energy weapons," such as lasers, to intentionally start the deadly fires that have recently ravaged Hawaii.

"Pay attention!!!!!!! Not wildfires," read sticker text on a video shared Aug. 11 on Instagram. The video narrator said the Hawaii fires were caused by a "direct energy weapon assault." 

Hawaii officials said Aug. 10 that they don’t yet know what caused the wildfires that have swept across the island of Maui and killed more than 50 people.

Dry conditions, combined with low humidity and high winds, set the stage for the fires to spread, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, commander general of the Hawaii Army National Guard, said at an Aug. 9 news briefing.

The Instagram video narrator said a friend in Hawaii sent him a photo that "shows a laser beam coming out of the sky directly targeting the city." He then referred to baseless claims about government weather modification programs that he said spray highly flammable chemicals like aluminum into the sky.

@politifact Social media posts claimed a photo showing a streak of light above flames on the ground is proof that a “direct energy weapon” was used to start the fires in Hawaii. But the photo has been used since 2018 in other baseless claims. #Hawaii #Maui #fire #wildfire #fyp #learnontiktok ♬ Storytelling - Adriel

We found multiple social media posts using the same image to make similar claims about a laser beam starting the Hawaii fires. 

Direct energy weapons are real — such as lasers, radio frequency devices and high-powered microwaves — and the U.S. and other governments are exploring using them for military purposes. But those weapons are not depicted in the Hawaii claim.

The photo, which shows a streak of light and a fire on the ground, has been circulating on social media and fueling false claims since 2018.

The same image was used that year to falsely claim it showed a meteor landing in Michigan and igniting a fire. Some used the image to claim it was a UFO being shot down or a missile striking the state, all of which were debunked.

A flash of light from a meteor was seen in the sky north of Detroit in January 2018, but there were no reports of it starting a fire on the ground. None of the multiple videos and photos captured of the meteor and seen on credible news sites show the image that was used to make the false claims.

So, where did this image originate? We can’t say for sure, but the fact-checkers at Snopes said in 2018 it may have been taken after a controlled burn Jan. 16, 2018, at a Marathon Oil refinery in Canton, Ohio. 

Another Facebook post used a different photo to claim a laser beam hit Hawaii., But that was a 2018 photo of a SpaceX rocket launch in California.

We rate the claim that photos prove the Hawaii fires were caused by a "direct energy weapon assault on the people" False. 

Jeff Cercone
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Altered images of Fox News host Sean Hannity, Elon Musk make a false promise]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/11/facebook-posts/altered-images-of-fox-news-host-sean-hannity-elon/ Facebook posts - Altered images of Fox News host Sean Hannity, Elon Musk make a false promiseFri, 11 Aug 2023 17:48:01 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/11/facebook-posts/altered-images-of-fox-news-host-sean-hannity-elon/

Altered images of Fox News host Sean Hannity and Tesla CEO Elon Musk appear to promise Americans a way to save hundreds of dollars on their energy bills. 

A July 12 Facebook post shows the chyron of what looks like an image from Hannity’s Fox News, saying "an effective way to save money on your electricity bill." A photo of Elon Musk holding something appears in the corner, with a graphic indicating an old electricity bill of $240 and a new electricity bill of $15. 

A second image, below the one of Hannity, appears to show Musk standing in front of a building that says "Watt Saver Intelligent." The supposed Fox News chyron below this image says: "Elon Musk’s factory is about to be closed."

"Under the pressure of united electric power giants, Elon has signed a production agreement, and this energy-saving device that can save 90% of electricity is about to be discontinued," says theFacebook post sharing these images. "There are only 10,000 units left. The factory will be closed next month." 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The image of Hannity comes from a May 2018 Fox News broadcast in which he discussed the "deep state," not Musk or electric bills. 

The photo of Musk was taken in September 2020, when Musk visited the construction site of Tesla’s planned "Gigafactory" in Germany. 

We found no news stories or other credible sources connecting Musk to a company called "Watt Saver Intelligent," and while Fox News has reported on the temporary closure of a Tesla factory in California due to the coronavirus, we found nothing like what’s suggested in this Facebook post. 

The post includes a link that echoes the imagery and colors of Fox News’ website, but it’s not connected to the broadcaster. Rather, the URL is info.aoamail.com, and after many paragraphs of text replete with what appear to be fake quotes from Musk, there’s another link to buy a supposed "WattSaver" product unrelated to the Tesla CEO.

We rate this post False.

Ciara O'Rourke