List of Checks

Is there a scientific consensus that life begins at conception?

There is no consensus on the definition of life, let alone whether it begins at conception.

At fertilization, a single-celled organism known as a zygote forms. However, this entity does not begin to resemble the human form until about week nine of gestation. Furthermore, a fetus typically cannot survive outside of the mother's womb until the third trimester of the pregnancy.

While it is uncertain when exactly human characteristics such as self-consciousness and the ability to feel pain emerge, the brain and nervous system of the fetus must be developed before these capacities are possible.

Scientists, bioethicists, philosophers and legislators disagree on which of these criteria constitute "life" or "personhood," as reflected in different definitions, theories and laws.

Do countries around the world subsidize fossil fuels?

Countries in every region of the world subsidize fossil fuels.

According to the International Monetary Fund, global spending on fossil fuel subsidies amounted to $5.9 trillion in 2020—equivalent to 6.8% of global GDP. Explicit subsidies such as subsidizing producers and undercharging for supply costs accounted for approximately $500 billion of this. The rest is attributed to implicit subsidies such as undercharging for environmental costs and general consumption taxes.

In dollar amount, the U.S. ranked second in fossil fuel subsidies ($662 billion) behind China ($2.2 trillion). Australia, Venezuela and many countries in the Middle East and North Africa that have large domestic fossil fuel industries also have high rates of fossil fuel subsidization.

Leading international fora like the G7 and G20 groups of nations have called for ending inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies. Globally, subsidies have been declining in recent years, though they remain in place in various countries as a result of several factors, including lobbying and concerns about the potential impacts of removing subsidies on consumers, especially the poor.

Is the repeal of Roe v. Wade expected to increase the maternal death rate?

The maternal death rate in the U.S.—already among the highest in the developed world—is expected to rise following the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

Based solely on the fact that women are more likely to die giving birth than having a legal abortion, the University of Colorado, Boulder found that banning abortion would "increase maternal mortality by 24%."

According to a 2009 study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, abortion-related deaths are more frequent in countries with more restrictive abortion laws (34 deaths per 100,000 childbirths) than in countries with less restrictive laws (1 or fewer per 100,000 childbirths).

Unsafe abortions have a much higher fatality rate than legal abortions, further suggesting that restricting abortion access risks increasing abortion-related death. States with the tightest abortion restrictions prior to the repeal of Roe v. Wade had the highest rates of maternal mortality.

Are only non-straight men eligible for the monkeypox vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is allocating monkeypox vaccines to at-risk jurisdictions for individuals with confirmed or suspected contact with the virus, including those who:

  • "Know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with monkeypox.
  • Had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox."

New York City, however, appears to have restricted vaccine eligibility to sexually active members of the LGBTQ community, listing the following requirements on its website:

  • "Gay, bisexual, or other man who has sex with men, and/or transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender non-binary.
  • Age 18 or older.
  • Have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days."

While other jurisdictions have authorized vaccinations for anyone who has come into close contact with an individual diagnosed with monkeypox, non-straight men, which comprise the majority of infections in the current outbreak, are being prioritized.

Have states with fewer COVID-19 restrictions fared better economically?

According to Politico, "States that shut down only briefly – or not at all – rebounded far quicker than those that remained closed" across metrics such as GDP, jobs and unemployment in 2021. Republican-led states, which adopted more lax COVID-19 policies, represented eight of the top 10 economies, while Democrat-led states, which adopted stricter COVID-19 policies, represented eight of the bottom 10 economies.

This trend has continued into 2022: Labor Department data show that red states have added 341,000 jobs since February 2020—the month before the pandemic hit—while blue states have lost 1.3 million, as of May.

However, in 2020, states with stricter COVID-19 rules had better economic outcomes. The faculty director of UCLA's Anderson School of Management explained that people are more likely to shop at businesses if they feel safe and that states with lax policies experienced work absenteeism due to higher infection rates. This discrepancy between years may be explained by the fact that initially fearful and vulnerable individuals became less cautious and more immune to COVID-19 as the pandemic progressed.

The New York Times noted that blue states, which tend to have service-based economies and higher costs of living, were more susceptible to pandemic-related disruptions, as lockdowns shuttered a larger percentage of their economies and city dwellers relocated to less expensive parts of the U.S.

Do many countries publicly fund elections?

Nearly 70% of 180 countries looked at by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance provide some degree of public funding to political parties, including for elections. About 28% offer none.

The amount of public funding offered varies widely. In a 2016 selection of the 34 member countries then members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, public funding as a percentage of party income ranged from 85% in Belgium to 35% in the U.K.

In the U.S., while limited public campaign financing is available for federal and some state elections, most candidates opt out, given that private fundraising is typically more financially advantageous, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Public election funding advocates such as the Brennan Center for Justice argue that strengthening public election financing would:

  • Reduce the political influence of private donors.
  • Allow less wealthy and well-connected individuals to compete.
  • Increase racial diversity among candidates.
  • Expand voter engagement.

Do immigrants living in the US without legal permission commit more crime than native-born Americans?

Recent research suggests that immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission have a lower crime rate than native-born American citizens.

Analyzing Texas arrest data between 2012 and 2018, researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison found that immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission were "roughly half as likely to be arrested for homicide, felonious assault, and sexual assault" compared to native-born citizens. Immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission were also significantly less likely to be arrested for drug and property crimes.

In a similar study, Cato Institute found that in 2018, the criminal conviction rate for immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission was 45% below that of native-born Americans in Texas.

Consistent with these findings, a 2018 study published in the journal Criminology, which analyzed criminal, socioeconomic, and demographic data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2014, concluded that "undocumented immigration does not increase violence," instead observing a negative correlation between such immigration and violent crime.

Do most states allow minors under the age of 18 to get married?

According to Unchained At Last, a nonprofit "dedicated to helping women leave arranged and forced marriages," only six states prohibit marriage prior to age 18: New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

Among the remaining states:

  • Nine permit 17-year-olds to marry.
  • Twenty three permit 16-year-olds to marry.
  • Two permit 15-year-olds to marry.
  • One permits 14-year-olds to marry.
  • Nine have no minimum age limit for marriage.

In most cases, these states require parental and/or judicial consent for underage marriage.

Unchained At Last reported in 2021 that 300,000 minors were legally married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018. Ninety six percent were age 16 or older, while less than 1% were 14 or younger. 

Are there plans to open a floating abortion clinic in the Gulf of Mexico?

Dr. Amy Autry, an OB-GYN and professor at the University of California San Francisco, is spearheading an effort to provide reproductive health care, including abortion services up to 14 weeks, on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

Autry said she is currently fundraising to acquire and retrofit a vessel as well as cover ongoing expenses, which she estimates will cost at least $20 million.

By occupying federal waters, Autry's legal team believes the floating clinic can legally provide abortions to people living in states that have banned the procedure following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

A similar service, which provides women lacking abortion access with abortion pills in international waters, is offered by Women on Waves.

Does the cost of child care in the US average $20,000 a year?

According to World Population Review, "the average cost of providing center-based care for an infant in the U.S. is $1,230 per month," or $14,760 per year. Only in Washington, D.C., and the state of Massachusetts do costs exceed $20,000 per year, at $24,243 and $20,913, respectively.

Nonetheless, affordability is an issue throughout the country: the cost of center-based infant and toddler care does not meet the federal definition for affordability—7% of annual household income—in any state.

In a 2021 analysis of child care across 40 developed countries, UNICEF reported that child care costs in the U.S. were the ninth most expensive. One reason for this, highlighted by the New York Times, is that the U.S. government spends far less on child care than other countries: $500 per child annually compared with the OECD average of $14,436.

Does the NRA expect the candidates it supports to oppose an assault weapons ban?

The National Rifle Association financially supports candidates with pro-gun records and stances, with the expectation that they will advocate against gun control legislation in office. 

The endorsement policy of its political action committee—the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund—states, "NRA has a pro-gun incumbent-friendly policy that dictates our support for pro-gun incumbents seeking reelection." The PAC evaluates the voting records of incumbents and then grades them on gun friendliness from "A" to "F." A questionnaire designed by the PAC is used to grade non-incumbents. Its 2022 questionnaire asks whether the candidate supports "a ... ban on semi-automatic firearms" similar to the one President Clinton signed into law in 1994 (which expired in 2004).

NRA-PVF receives the majority of its funding from small membership dues and donations, although the PAC does receive millions of dollars from the firearm industry.

One hundred percent of the candidates NRA-PVF has donated to so far in 2022 are Republicans, reflecting the party's strong Second Amendment stance.

Would living standards decline if the global economy transitioned to renewable energy?

A transition to renewable energy would elevate living standards worldwide across indicators such as health, the economy and quality of life.

The International Renewable Energy Agency compared a business-as-usual energy scenario with a more sustainable energy scenario and found that the latter would produce 2.5% more GDP growth, seven million more jobs and a 13.5% higher welfare indicator, reflecting improved health from reduced air pollution. The International Energy Agency estimated that achieving net zero emissions by 2050 would prevent 1.9 million premature deaths from household air pollution each year between 2020 and 2030. The cost of the transition would be more than offset by the economic benefits, with every dollar spent bringing returns between three and eight dollars, according to IRENA.

Financial services firm Deloitte reported in May that inaction on climate change could cost the global economy $178 trillion by 2070, with global warming "leading to loss of productivity and employment, food and water scarcity, worsening health and well-being, and ... an overall lower standard of living." In contrast, "the global economy could gain US$43 trillion over the next five decades by rapidly accelerating the transition to net-zero."

Has artificial intelligence achieved sentience?

According to Bloomberg, "the expert consensus is that it’s impossible" for artificial intelligence to achieve sentience "with the current state of technology."

Artificial intelligence designed to mimic human speech is fed "billions of books, online articles and sentences," which inform how it responds to prompts. However, such AI do not comprehend the meaning behind their responses. Instead, they are programmed to receive an input and automatically generate an appropriate output based on their database of human-speech examples. This input-ouput process is indicative of a highly complex machine rather than a self-aware subject that understands what it is doing and why its response makes sense.

Yahoo News similarly reported that, "Most experts ... argue that current artificial intelligence models — though becoming more advanced every day — still lack the complex abilities that are typically considered signs of sentience like self-awareness, intuition and emotions."

Were most Black Lives Matter protests peaceful?

Data collected from the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests throughout the U.S. suggest that the overwhelming majority of such protests were peaceful, marked neither by interpersonal violence nor property destruction.

Analyzing data from 7,305 BLM protests occurring in May and June of 2020, Harvard University researchers found that 96.3% of the protests involved "no property damage or police injuries,” and 97.7% of them resulted in no injuries at all.

Similarly, an Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project study found that approximately 93% of the 7,750 BLM protests they tracked between May and August 2020 involved no violence or destructive activity.

Despite this, 42% of respondents in a June 2020 poll reported beliefs that most BLM protesters were trying to "incite violence or destroy property." A Washington Post study suggests that this disparity may be due to "biased media framing" and "disproportionate coverage of violent demonstrations."

Has there been a spate of property damage to anti-abortion organizations following the overturning of Roe v. Wade?

Certain pro-abortion individuals and groups have made a coordinated effort to damage the property of churches, crisis pregnancy centers and other anti-abortion organizations following the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion and eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade. On June 14, the militant pro-abortion organization Jane's Revenge, which has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks, declared "open season" on "anti-choice groups."

Estimates of the number of incidents vary. In a June 15 open letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, 126 members of Congress requested that the Justice Department treat such attacks as acts of domestic terrorism, citing 14 examples from the past two months. In a more expansive list, the National Catholic Register documented 49 such acts of vandalism as of June 30.

Anti-abortion individuals and groups, for their part, have a history of attacking abortion clinics, including "11 murders, 42 bombings, 196 arsons, 491 assaults, and thousands of incidents of criminal activities directed at patients, providers, and volunteers," according to the National Abortion Federation. The federation noted a "significant increase" in "violence and disruption against abortion providers" in 2021.

Are medication abortion pills ineffective for people over a certain weight?

According to abortion rights advocate Reproaction, medication abortion pills, which are FDA-approved to terminate a pregnancy within the first ten weeks, are effective regardless of a person's weight.

Reproaction clarified that the efficacy of certain types of emergency contraception does decrease after weight thresholds are exceeded:

"Progestin-only pills containing levonorgestrel such as Plan B or My Way will be less effective for bodies over 155 lbs. Pills containing ulipristal acetate, such as ella, will be less effective for bodies over 195 lbs."

For those over the above weight limits, Reproaction noted that copper IUDs "have no weight restriction and are the most effective form of emergency contraception if inserted up to five days after unprotected intercourse."

Is it possible to obtain abortion pills in states that banned abortion?

There are still ways for individuals to obtain abortion pills in states that have banned abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

One method is to have them shipped internationally from providers such as Aid Access that fall outside of U.S. jurisdiction.

Another is to have them shipped to a "virtual mailbox" in a state that has not banned abortion and then have the package forwarded. 

The pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, are approved for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

According to NBC, "At least eight states banned all forms of abortion, including the abortion pill mifepristone, within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision."

The legality of state abortion-pill bans is disputed. Some, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, argue that states cannot ban FDA-approved medication, as federal drug approval trumps state actions. Others, such as constitutional scholar Katie Watson, suggest that by permitting abortion bans, the Supreme Court decision may be interpreted to empower states, which "traditionally ... get to regulate the practice of medicine," to decide on abortion-related matters within their borders independently of the federal government.

Are there any criminal laws against abortion in Canada?

In 1988, Canada's legal requirement for women to get approval before receiving an abortion was ruled unconstitutional by Canada's Supreme Court, which stated that the provision increased health risks to women, depriving them of their constitutional right to "security of the person."

Since then, no abortion legislation — either restricting or codifying the medical procedure—has been passed in Canada.

While there are no Canadian laws criminalizing abortion, no providers in Canada will perform an abortion more than 23 weeks and six days into a pregnancy, according to Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.

Dozens of countries permit abortion on request, although all have gestational limits, even if, in rare cases, they're not codified in federal law.

Does every other major industrial nation have higher inflation than the U.S.?

Many countries with advanced economies have a lower inflation rate than the U.S.

Inflation is calculated by measuring the growth rate of the cost of a representative "basket of goods" known as a consumer price index. Using May 2021 as the base period, the U.S. inflation rate was 8.6% in May 2022.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development has May 2022 inflation data for 24 OECD countries. Of those, 14 had lower inflation rates than the U.S. while 10 had higher rates.  

Pew reported that out of 44 advanced economies, the U.S. had the 19th highest change in its annual inflation rate between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

PolitiFact noted that in making the statement, "In every other major industrial country in the world inflation is higher," Biden may have been trying to convey that inflation has risen in other countries too, and not just the U.S., rather than that inflation has risen more in other countries than in the U.S.

Does the presence of armed staff at schools deter school shooters?

Multiple studies have observed that the presence of armed school officers does not deter school shooters.

A 2021 study published by JAMA that examined 133 cases of intended or executed school shootings between 1980 and 2019 found "no association between having an armed officer and deterrence of violence." Authors explained that since "school shooters are actively suicidal, intending to die in the act, ... an armed officer may be an incentive rather than a deterrent." They also noted the "well-documented weapons effect," in which "the presence of a weapon increases aggression." Their research indicated that "an armed officer on the scene was the number one factor associated with increased casualties."

Another 2021 study published by Brown examining national school-level data from 2014 to 2018 found that while school resource officers "reduce some forms of violence in schools, [they] do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents." Such officers were also associated with increased suspensions, expulsions, police referrals and arrests of students—particularly Black students.

To deter school shootings, school safety researchers advocate:

  • Raising age the age limit for gun ownership from 18 to 21.
  • Adopting universal background checks.
  • Banning assault rifles.
  • Teaching kids conflict resolution, stress management and empathy.
  • Providing staff and teachers with anti-bullying training.

Is there a clear link between police funding and violent crimes?

Overall violent crime rates in the U.S. increased in 2020 and again in 2021, including in cities that cut their police budgets in response to the summer 2020 protests of the police killing of George Floyd.

However, experts caution against assigning causation to the budget cuts. Violent crime also increased in cities that maintained or even increased their level of police funding. USA Today cites "social unrest, rising firearm sales, economic stress and other pandemic-related factors" as other possible causes.

Examining crime rates in 26 major cities, the Justice Department concluded that "it is far more important how police are used than how many there are." Tactics such as high visibility, aggressive patrolling and community engagement produced low crime rates, whereas "increased police strength alone" failed to "make a difference."

By mid-2021, many cities that defunded their police departments voted to restore funding due to the crime spike, difficulty retaining officers and political pressures.

Does systemic racism against people of color remain an issue in the US?

Cambridge Dictionary defines systemic racism as "policies and practices that exist throughout a whole society or organization, and that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race."

Recent research indicates that non-white people living in the U.S. continue to experience various forms of such society-wide discrimination.

In 2021, economists from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago found that job applicants with Black-sounding names were called back 10% fewer times than comparable applicants with white-sounding names. 

Also in 2021, the National Bureau of Economic Research published findings that Black and Hispanic rental applicants were respectively 5.6 percentage points and 2.8 percentage points less likely to get a call back than comparable white applicants.

In 2020, NYU researchers found that Black drivers were about 20% more likely to be stopped than white drivers and 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be searched.

In 2017, the United States Sentencing Commission reported that Black males receive prison sentences 20.4% longer than white males for comparable offenses.

In 2022, researchers at the University of Maryland found that Black neighborhoods in Baltimore that were historically denied loans in a discriminatory practice known as redlining were associated with an approximately five-year reduction in life expectancy.

Is it common to experience severe side effects from COVID-19 vaccines?

Data indicate that severe side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine are very rare. Most people experience mild or no side effects.

According to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Approximately five cases of anaphylaxis have occurred per one million doses administered.
  • Approximately four cases of thrombosis (blood clots) with thrombocytopenia syndrome have occurred per one million doses administered.
  • An average of about 77 cases of myocarditis (heart inflammation) have occurred per one million doses administered in individuals aged 12-24.

JAMA researchers found that between 0.2% and 0.3% of vaccine recipients experience allergic reactions.

Science magazine reported that in rare cases, the vaccines may cause "long covid-like symptoms." How frequently these side effects occur is unclear given that such cases are difficult to diagnose and are not being publicly tracked.

Clinical trial results suggest COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people with HIV.

Do the rich hold more student loan debt than the poor?

According to Brookings, the wealthiest 20% of households hold a third of student debt while the poorest 20% of households hold 8%.

Universal student debt cancellation, which would forgive student loan debt regardless of income and wealth levels, would cancel a higher dollar amount of debt for the rich than for the poor.

The poor stand to receive more relative relief from student debt cancellation given their lower incomes. The Education Data Initiative reported in May that the bottom 25% of earners, who make $32,048 or less, have an average debt of $30,575—95% of their yearly income. In comparison, the top 1%, who make at least $373,894 annually, have an average debt of $40,550—10% of their income.

The Biden administration, which is working on a student debt cancellation plan, has suggested it would exclude those earning more than $125,000 per year. While some proponents argue this would avoid using tax dollars for those who don't need it, others maintain that it would create a complicated bureaucratic process that would make it harder for poor people to receive financial relief.

Are gun manufacturers allowed to advertise assault weapons?

There is no law that prohibits gun manufacturers from advertising assault weapons for lawful uses.

In fact, a 2005 law established that gun manufacturers are not liable when their weapons are used to commit a crime. 

However, recent lawsuits argue that the law doesn't cover advertising that is deceptive or encourages illegal behavior. In February, Sandy Hook school-shooting victims settled a lawsuit for $73 million against Remington, which, according to litigants, portrayed its AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle as a weapon of war, invoked combat violence with its video-game product placement, and appealed to troubled young men with slogans like, "Consider your man card reissued." 

A pending lawsuit in New Jersey would require Smith & Wesson to turn over documents related to alleged deceptive advertising that guns make a home safer, as well as advertising that allegedly encourages illegal behavior by promoting concealed carry without mentioning permitting requirements.

A recently introduced bill in California would allow lawsuits against gun manufacturers who market their weapons for illegal uses or to children and those legally prohibited from possessing firearms.

Do federal laws protect employees from being fired for protesting?

There is no federal law that explicitly bars employers from firing their employees for protesting.

The vast majority of American workers are at-will, meaning they can be fired for almost any reason. Exceptions include discrimination due to an employee's "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin," as stipulated by the Civil Rights Act.

The First Amendment only prevents the federal government from interfering with free speech. It does not prevent private companies and employers from restricting political speech.

In the absence of federal legislation, several states have enacted laws protecting employees from being fired for lawful "political activities." These include California, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming.

Is most renewable energy still more expensive than fossil fuels?

In 2020, nearly two-thirds (62%) of the renewable power-generation capacity added worldwide had lower electricity costs than the cheapest source of new fossil fuel-fired capacity, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. “Today, renewables are the cheapest source of power,” said IRENA’s Director-General in June 2021.

Renewable energy costs declined considerably over the past two decades as technologies improved, more suppliers entered the market, and the industry benefited from economies of scale. Between 2010 and 2020, the cost of electricity from utility-scale solar sources fell by 85%.

The International Energy Agency's latest market update stated that while renewable electricity costs have increased due to rising freight and raw-material costs, fossil-fuel electricity costs "have risen at a much faster pace."

When factoring in the social costs of fossil fuels, renewables become even cheaper. A 2021 study found that a true accounting of the health and environmental impacts of fossil fuels "would make many fossil fuelled and nuclear power stations economically unviable." The Solutions Project estimated that a 100% renewable transition in the U.S. would save $742.38 billion and 62,676 lives lost to air pollution per year.

Have previous restrictions on assault weapons reduced mass-shooting deaths?

Drops in mass-shooting deaths have followed earlier bans on assault weapons bans in the U.S. and abroad.

In the U.S., during a 1994-2004 ban on semiautomatic rifles and magazines accommodating more than ten rounds of ammunition, mass-shooting deaths were 70% less likely to occur than at any other time between 1987 and 2017, according to a study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. Authors noted that assault rifles were responsible for nearly 86% of such deaths over the time period. Northwestern Medicine found that the ban would have prevented 339 deaths and 1,139 injuries from mass shootings if Congress hadn't let it expire. 

After Australia's 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which was committed with an AR-15, the country implemented a mandatory gun buyback program that reduced mass shootings along with female homicide victimization, according to RAND Corp.

Britain and New Zealand also implemented assault weapons bans following mass shootings, resulting in lower rates of gun violence.

Has the U.S. economy added about 8.7 million jobs since Biden became president?

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8.665 million jobs have been added to the U.S. economy since February 2021 (Biden's first full month in office).

In March and April 2020, the U.S. economy lost nearly 22 million jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, about 21.2 million jobs have been recovered.

Did mass shootings increase after the assault weapons ban expired?

Mass shootings increased considerably in the U.S. following the expiration of the assault weapons ban. 

The ban, which prohibited civilians from purchasing semiautomatic rifles and magazines accommodating more than 10 rounds of ammunition, was enacted on Sept. 13, 1994, and remained in place until Sept. 13, 2004, when Congress let it expire. According to Mother Jones, which keeps a database of mass shootings resulting in three or more fatalities dating back to 1982, there were 15 mass shootings resulting in 96 deaths during the ban, compared to 35 mass shootings resulting in 299 deaths in the following decade. Since then, there have been 58 mass shootings resulting in 483 deaths.

In the decade prior to the ban, there were 16 mass shootings resulting in 125 deaths.

The Conversation noted that it is difficult to determine the exact impact of the ban expiring on the spike in mass shootings given additional factors, including "changes in domestic violence rates, political extremism, psychiatric illness, firearm availability and a surge in sales, and the recent rise in hate groups."

Are mass shootings committed with a shotgun more lethal than those committed with a semiautomatic rifle?

The most lethal mass shootings have all been committed with semiautomatic weapons —either rifles or handguns.

Mother Jones keeps a database of mass shootings dating back to 1982. Of these, six of the 10 most lethal incidents were committed with a semiautomatic rifle as the primary weapon. Within the top 30, only one incident involving a shotgun as the primary weapon is present, at number 29.

The database also suggests that semiautomatic rifles are used more frequently than shotguns in mass shootings. Only six of 129 documented incidents were committed with a shotgun as the primary weapon.

A 12-gauge shotgun is more powerful than an AR-15 at close range and expels more fire. However, shotgun pellets and slugs more rapidly lose power with distance and are less accurate vis-à-vis AR-15s. The long-range lethality and precision of semiautomatic rifles contribute to their frequent use by mass shooters.

Was the AR-15 rifle invented for Nazi infantrymen?

The AR-15, or "ArmaLite" 15 rifle was invented by American firearms manufacturer ArmaLite in 1956 under the guidance of former Marine and Army Ordinance technician Eugene Stoner. 

German infantry-weapons developer Hugo Schmeisser designed the first mass-produced assault rifle, the Sturmgewehr 44, for Nazi military use during World War II. Various countries subsequently created their own assault rifles, including the Soviet AK-47 and the British EM-2. 

Originally a fully automatic weapon, the AR-15 was the standard-issue rifle for American troops during the Vietnam War, where it was known as the M-16. A semi-automatic version was later made available to the public.

Is Tesla's market value higher than that of the next eight automakers combined?

As of May 31, 2022, the $794.14 billion market capitalization of Tesla exceeds that of the next nine leading automakers combined. These include: 

  • Toyota: $228.99 billion
  • BYD (China-based): $119.42 billion
  • Volkswagen: $110.92 billion
  • Mercedes-Benz: $75.5 billion
  • BMW: $56.55 billion
  • General Motors: $56.30 billion
  • Ford: $54.06 billion
  • Stellantis (parent of Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Peugeot, others): $46.88 billion

Market capitalization is the total value of a company's shares.

Most equity-market analysts contend that Tesla is overvalued, pointing to its price-earnings ratio, a commonly used valuation metric that compares a company's actual share price to a theoretical share price calculated by dividing its earnings by its total shares. According to investment research company GuruFocus, Tesla's price-earnings ratio is higher than 93% of 914 companies in the vehicle and parts industry.

However, surveys of analysts released in late May by NASDAQ and CNN found that most continue to rate Tesla stock a "buy" given its strong sales and relatively high profit margins. While other automakers have begun selling their own electric vehicles, Tesla continues to dominate the U.S. market, having sold more EVs than all the other major companies combined.

Did economists warn that the Trump tax cuts could cause inflation?

Economists warned that Trump's 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could cause inflation by spurring spending.

According to the Tax Policy Center, by putting more money in people's pockets, tax cuts increase consumer demand, creating supply pressures that result in price hikes.

Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's, told Detroit Free Press in 2017 that the Trump tax cuts could force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in an attempt to stave off inflation, which would dampen growth and threaten recession. 

Reuters similarly reported in 2017 that the tax cuts added to the Federal Reserve's preexisting inflation concerns.  

However, inflation hovered around 2% throughout the first three years of Trump's presidency before declining in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current inflation spike began in the spring of 2021 as rebounding demand, paired with supply-chain disruptions, drove up prices.

Is the US military required to intervene if China invades Taiwan?

The U.S. has no legal obligation to deploy its military to Taiwan if China invades it. 

The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which governs relations between the U.S. and Taiwan, falls short of requiring a U.S. military response to a Chinese invasion, although it stipulates that the U.S. will continue providing Taiwan with defensive arms. It also permits the U.S. to "resist" actions that jeopardize the security of the people of Taiwan — a policy referred to as "strategic ambiguity."

The Act was signed into law to establish a back-channel relationship with Taiwan after the U.S. cut diplomatic ties with the island the year before at China's behest. Up to then, the U.S. had refused to acknowledge China's communist regime, instead recognizing the Nationalist Chinese government set up in Taiwan following Mao Zedong's 1949 revolution. However, perceiving the economic benefits of gaining access to Chinese markets, as well as the political advantages of exerting diplomatic pressure on the Soviet Union, the U.S. formally recognized communist China on Dec. 15, 1978.

Do white people commit hate crimes at the highest rate of any race?

According to Justice Department statistics, while white people commit the most hate crimes in raw numbers, Black people commit hate crimes at a higher rate relative to their population size.

In 2020, the FBI reported that white people accounted for 55% of 6,780 known hate-crime offenders while making up 61.6% of the U.S. population. In contrast, Black people accounted for 21.2% of the offenses while making up 12.4% of the population.

The Hate Crime Victimization Survey found that between 2015 and 2019, 45% of hate crimes were "perceived by the victim" to be committed by white people while 33% were perceived by the victim to be committed by Black people.

Caveats to the data include that:

  • The race of many offenders is unknown.
  • Black people are less likely to report hate crimes than white people.
  • Law enforcement isn't required to report incidents.
  • Incidents later determined by prosecutors to be hate crimes are not included.
  • Black people are more likely to be falsely accused of crimes.

Black people were the most likely to experience a hate crime in 2020, comprising 56% of victims. White people committed 73% of these anti-Black hate crimes.

Have drug seizures at the border increased under Biden?

As it is impossible to accurately assess drug smuggling given that successful drug smuggling isn't caught, law enforcement tracks seizures at the border as a proxy. Customs and Border Protection data show that overall drug seizures decreased in 2021 relative to 2020.

CBP reported 914,000 drug seizures in 2021 compared to 1.1 million drug seizures in 2020. In the first four months of 2022, seizures were lower than in those same months in 2020 and 2021.

With regard to fentanyl seizures in particular, numbers have been high under Biden. However, the spike began under president Trump in the latter months of 2020.

Biden's most recent drug control strategy, released in April, recommends investing $300 million each in CBP and the Drug Enforcement Administration. It also proposes strengthening domestic law enforcement, increasing collaboration with international partners to disrupt drug supply chains, and cutting off the financial activities of drug traffickers.

Has Russia’s invasion of Ukraine worsened inflation?

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has worsened existing inflation internationally, exacerbating pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions and fueling financial speculation.

Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of energy and agricultural products. According to the International Monetary Fund, the conflict has reduced supplies of oil, gas, metals, wheat, corn and fertilizer, driving up their prices sharply. News of these supply-chain disruptions has spurred speculative commodities future trading, leading to what one author terms "Bitcoin-esque volatility."

In addition to these factors, pandemic-relief spending, begun under Trump and continued under Biden, is thought to have contributed to U.S. inflation. Economists disagree over how much: as reported by the New Yorker, Larry Summers believes it's a primary factor, generating excess demand, while Austan Goolsbee downplays its impact, pointing instead to ongoing supply-chain issues that have made inflation a "global phenomenon," including in countries that did not pass large stimulus packages. In April, the European Union's inflation rate was 8.1% — comparable to the U.S.'s rate of 8.3%.

Are background checks required for all gun purchases?

Federal law requires that licensed firearm dealers run a background check on individuals seeking to purchase a gun. However, because the law does not extend to private sales, unlicensed dealers may sell individuals guns without running a background check, as often happens at gun shows, on the internet and between friends.

According to a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017, nearly a quarter (22%) of American gun owners "obtained their most recent firearm within the previous two years without a background check."

Public opinion polls consistently find that more than 80% of Americans support expanded background checks for gun purchases. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have background-check or permit requirements that go beyond the federal rules.

A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in 2019 found that "universal background checks were associated with an approximately 15% reduction in overall homicide rates."

Is it the policy of the Biden administration to raise fossil fuel prices?

While Biden advocates transitioning away from fossil fuels, his current policies aim to lower rather than raise oil prices to combat price pressures from pandemic-related supply-chain issues and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On March 31, 2022, Biden acknowledged the need to increase domestic oil supplies to temper prices. Pointing out that some oil companies are refusing to increase production given the higher profits they're enjoying from the shortage, he authorized the release of a million barrels of oil a day for the next six months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He also secured commitments from other countries to "release tens of millions of additional barrels into the market." Thirdly, he called on Congress to fine companies who are collectively "sitting on nearly 9,000 unused but approved permits for production on federal lands."

Biden clarified that his long-term goal remains establishing a clean-energy economy to secure permanent energy independence and combat climate change. He, along with many economists and oil-industry players, do support a carbon tax.

Do hundreds of women in the US die from legal abortions each year?

Very few women die from legal abortions, while far more die from illegal, unsafe abortions.

In 2018 (the latest data year available), the CDC's Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System documented only two deaths from complications related to legal abortion out of 615,000 abortions recorded that year. Between 2013 and 2018, the U.S. case-fatality rate for legal abortions was 0.41 deaths per 100,000 legal induced abortions.

In comparison, the World Health Organization reported that in developed nations, 30 per 100,000 women die from unsafe abortions yearly. In developing nations, the rate rises to 220 deaths per 100,000 abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 22,800 women worldwide died from unsafe abortions in 2014.

A 2021 study published in the journal Demography found that banning legal abortion in the U.S. would cause a 21% increase in pregnancy-related deaths by driving women to seek out unsafe abortions.

Did a study awaiting peer review find that conservatives are banned from Twitter at a higher rate than liberals?

A recent study, still awaiting peer review as of January 2023, found that conservative Twitter users are suspended from the platform more frequently than liberal users. Researchers said this disparity is largely explained by conservative users sharing more misinformation.

In 2020, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale and the University of Exeter randomly sampled 4,500 conservative Twitter users and 4,500 liberal users from a pool of 100,000 users who shared hashtags related to the U.S. presidential election. By July 2021, users who shared the #Trump2020 hashtag were 4.4 times more likely to have been suspended from Twitter than users who shared the #VoteBidenHarris2020 — 19.6% versus 4.5%.

Researchers note this isn’t necessarily evidence of political bias. They found that conservative users “shared information from much lower quality sites” than liberal users, according to two separate trustworthiness assessments: one by experts and another by a politically-balanced group of laypeople.

Editor's note: The previous version of this brief, titled "Does Twitter have an anti-conservative bias?" has been narrowed to accord with Gigafact's current editorial guidelines regarding inferring intent.

Has 'illegal immigration' risen 400% under the Biden Administration?

There is no measure of illegal immigration per se, as people who enter the U.S. undetected cannot be recorded. Estimated successful unlawful entries have trended downward and remain low due to an increase in Border Patrol agents initiated by George W. Bush.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection keeps a tally of undocumented immigrants attempting to enter the country both legally and illegally who are encountered at the border and denied entry. Such attempts have risen considerably: CBP recorded 1,956,519 border "enforcement actions" in fiscal year 2021 (October 2020 to September 2021) compared with 646,822 in fiscal year 2020 (October 2019 to September 2020) — an increase of about 300%. So far in fiscal year 2022, there have been more than 1.2 million enforcement actions.

COVID-19 lockdowns and Trump's decision to shut down the border are thought to have reduced immigration attempts in fiscal year 2020. Attempted entries spiked after lockdowns across Central America were lifted. Trump-era policies incentivized migrants to attempt entry repeatedly, adding to the total.

The American Immigration Council noted that "migration increased across the entire hemisphere in 2021" due to factors such as food instability, violence and political persecution.

Could $45 billion provide every American with tuition-free community college for the next five years?

While a scrapped $45.5 billion proposal would have funded "six semesters" of community college for many American students over the next five years, it would not have done so for "every American."

An earlier version of the Build Back Better Act stated the funds would "eliminate the cost of tuition and fees for eligible students at community colleges in participating states and at eligible Tribal Colleges and Universities." The program would be supplemented by state funds equal to an increasing percentage of the nationwide median cost of tuition and fees: zero the first year, 5% the second year, 10% the third year, and so on. States were not required to participate. Students were required to enroll in a single accredited program in their state to receive benefits.

In February, First Lady Jill Biden acknowledged that the provision was removed from the draft legislation.

Does the practice of abortion date back thousands of years?

Historical records show that abortions have been written about and performed for thousands of years.

Citing the textbook "Human Reproductive Biology," ScienceDirect writes, "A work by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, 4,600 years ago, contained a recipe to induce abortion using mercury."

Ancient Egyptians also used abortion techniques, which were documented in the "Ebers Papyrus," a medical book written around 1550 B.C.E.

Abortions were recognized in ancient Greece and Rome. The Greek physician Dioscorides wrote about them in "De materia medica," a book about herbal medicine, as did Roman author Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedia "The Natural History."

In Medieval times, monasteries, which doubled as infirmaries, performed abortions. The German Catholic nun Hildegard von Bingen wrote about emmenagogues (menstruation stimulators) and abortifacients (abortion inducers) in her medical texts "Physica" and "Causae et Curae."

Are white people more likely to be shot to death by the police than Black people?

Per capita, Black people are more likely to be shot to death by the police than white people.

Black people are overrepresented in fatal police shooting statistics relative to their population size. Statista, using data from The Washington Post, reported that 3,839 people in the U.S. were shot to death by police between 2017 and 2021 (excluding shootings of unknown race). Black people accounted for more than 27% (1,047) of these deaths while making up 13.4% of the population. In contrast, white people accounted for about 50% (1,917) of deaths while making up 76.3% of the population.

Research published by the medical journal BMJ similarly found that between 2015 and 2020, Black people were more than 2.5 times more likely to be shot to death by the police than white people.

Statista listed 20 police shooting fatalities among white people and 14 among Black people this year as of April 1, 2022.

Is Bill Gates the largest farmland owner in America?

Bill Gates is the largest owner of farmland in the U.S., with holdings totaling 242,000 acres, according to The Land Report and NBC News. He also owns 25,750 acres of transitional land and 1,234 acres of recreational land. Gates began acquiring farmland in 2013. The value of his assets is estimated at $690 million.

His farmland has been used to grow traditional crops, such as soybeans, corn, cotton and rice. Gates has made few public statements about his farmland, but clarified that his investment group was behind the decision to acquire farmland, and that it is not related to his philanthropic efforts to combat climate change.

There are 1.29 billion acres of private agricultural land in the U.S. As of December 2020, Chinese investors own 191,652 acres—less than 0.05% of foreign-held agricultural land in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Did the Supreme Court state that it would overturn gay sex and marriage protections in a leaked opinion about abortion rights?

A leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion undoing federal abortion protections does not explicitly state that the court will also overturn gay sex and marriage protections. However, the arguments given for overturning Roe v. Wade could potentially be used to support overturning Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges, which prohibited states from passing laws banning gay sex and marriage, respectively.

In the draft opinion, Justice Samuel Alito argues that there is no abortion guarantee in the Constitution, nor is "the right to abortion deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions." Alito did state that the Court's ruling applies only to abortion rights and does not "cast doubt" on any other precedents.

Legal experts speaking with Bloomberg Law suggested that the opinion nonetheless implicitly challenges the legitimacy of Lawrence and Obergefell given that gay sex and marriage are similarly absent from the Constitution and "the nation's history and traditions." However, another expert noted that because these cases entail equal protection and due process considerations, they would be harder to overturn. 

Is Saudi Arabia contributing to rising oil prices?

Saudi Arabia, the world's second largest oil producer behind the U.S., is refusing, along with the rest of OPEC, to increase oil production, contributing to ongoing supply, and by extension, price pressures.

Pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions, rebounding post-lockdown demand and the oil embargo imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine have driven the oil-price spike. 

Saudi Arabia has indicated it will not help ease these pressures, declining to arrange calls with President Biden. U.S.-Saudi relations are strained due to the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. withdrawal of support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen’s civil war and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Relations were better under Trump, who persuaded Saudi Arabia to increase production in 2018.

Saudi Arabia "won't bear any responsibility" for the shortages, citing production capacity issues due to a Houthi attack on its oil infrastructure.

Are Russia and Ukraine both employing war propaganda?

Both Russia and Ukraine are employing propaganda as part of their military strategies.

In Ukraine, legends of heroic figures and acts are disseminated to boost morale. Examples include a mysterious fighter pilot downing Russian aircraft called the "Ghost of Kyiv," cats that spot Russian sniper dots and footage of a supposed Ukrainian Air Force success that was taken from a video game.

In Russia, claims about the need to "denazify" Ukraine and protect Russians in eastern Ukraine from "genocide" are used to maintain support for the invasion. Russia has also been caught blaming its own attacks on the Ukrainian military or "crisis actors."

While Ukraine recently outlawed the sharing of military-related images, Russia's censorship is farther reaching, banning all forms of non-state media. The 2021 World Press Freedom Index ranks Russia considerably lower than Ukraine.

Is homosexuality caused by a single gene?

While there may be a genetic component to homosexuality, same-sex sexual behavior is not determined by a single gene.

The largest study conducted on homosexuality and genetics to date, published in Science in 2019, identified five spots on the human genome that are linked to same-sex sexual behaviour, but cautioned that none of the markers are reliable enough to predict someone’s sexuality. After comparing the genomes and sexual behaviors of nearly half a million people, authors estimated that genetics explains 8% to 25% of homosexuality, with the rest influenced by environmental and cultural factors. The study did not find that homosexuality was associated with a stretching of DNA on the X chromosome, as a small study from 1993 had.

A study published in Nature in 2021 suggested that the mating advantages of risk-taking behavior, which authors found to be genetically correlated with same-sex sexual behavior, could explain how homosexuality persisted as a trait despite contradicting the evolutionary principle of reproduction.

Are COVID-19 vaccines more dangerous to children than COVID-19 itself?

Child hospitalization and death rates from the COVID-19 vaccine are lower than those from COVID-19 itself, according to CDC data.

Of approximately eight million vaccine doses administered to children aged 5 to 11 from November to December 2021, 11 verified Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System reports were received, including two deaths of children with chronic health conditions. (The CDC found no causal connection between their vaccinations and deaths.)

Of the approximately 2.8 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 who received a COVID-19 booster between December 2021 and February 2022, there were 32 confirmed myocarditis cases and zero deaths.

In comparison, 8,092 children under 18 have been hospitalized and 1,185 have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

During the Delta surge, unvaccinated children were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than fully vaccinated children.

As of February 2022, "Approximately 75% of children and adolescents had serologic evidence of a previous [COVID-19] infection."

Currently, children younger than five years old cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Are members of Congress expected to raise money in exchange for committee assignments?

In an informal practice, both the Democratic and Republican parties assign fundraising quotas to each of their respective members of Congress. Those given positions of power, such as committee assignments, are expected to raise more. While these quotas, or "party dues," are not mandatory, both current and former members of Congress report that to advance in either party, they must be met. Dues are typically set in the six figures, but exceed $1 million for top positions.

These quotas are often met with contributions from special interests. Rep. Thomas Massie revealed in 2016 that a lobbyist offered to help him raise enough money to get on the Ways and Means Committee with the implied expectation that afterward, Massie would grant him legislative favors.

Proposed reforms range from adopting a merit-based system for committee-member selection to barring lawmakers from fundraising while Congress is in session.

Has Ukraine scored worse on common measures of corruption than Russia?

Two corruption indexes list Ukraine as slightly less corrupt than Russia, although both countries score below the global average.

Of the 180 countries included in Transparency International's 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine ranks 122 with a score of 32 while Russia ranks 136 with a score of 29. The organization surveys "experts and businesspeople" from each country on issues such as diversion of public funds, nepotistic appointments and state capture by private interests. Each country is then given a score from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Between 2012 and 2021, Ukraine has scored as low as 26 and as high as 33 while Russia has scored as low as 27 and as high as 30.

The World Bank's Control of Corruption tracker, which gauges "perceptions of the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain," also ranked Ukraine slightly cleaner than Russia in 2020, although the more corrupt country has fluctuated over the years.

Does a new study prove blue states fared worse during the pandemic than red states?

A recent study by free market advocate Committee to Unleash Prosperity suggests that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Democrat-led states had worse economic outcomes while Republican-led states had worse health outcomes.

Comparing states' pre-pandemic unemployment with pandemic unemployment and adjusting for national-average industry composition, the study indicates that 9 of the top 10 economic performers had a Republican governor while the bottom 10 economic performers all had a Democratic governor.

In contrast, assessing states' age-adjusted excess mortality, 7 of 10 with the lowest death rates were led by Democratic governors while 8 of 10 with the highest death rates were led by Republican governors.

In a separate analysis of each state's pandemic performance, Politico similarly found that Democratic states, which embraced mask mandates and stay-at-home orders, averaged lower COVID-19 death rates, while Republican states, which imposed fewer pandemic restrictions, averaged less economic hardship. 

Has Tennessee's legislature passed a law that criminalizes homelessness?

A Republican-led effort in Tennessee would effectively make it illegal for homeless people to sleep outside.  

The bill, which has passed the state House and Senate and is awaiting the governor's signature, makes it a misdemeanor to camp on highways and a felony to camp on any type of public property not designated for camping.

After an initial warning, the bill makes highway camping punishable by either a $50 fine or 20 to 40 hours of community service. The felony offense could entail jail time, a $3,000 fine and the loss of voting rights.

Homelessness has become increasingly criminalized in recent years: between 2006 and 2019, bans on camping have risen by 92%, sitting or lying by 78%, living in vehicles by 213% and loitering and panhandling by 103%, according to the National Homelessness Law Center.

Vagrancy laws criminalizing homelessness in America date back to the colonial era.

Will canceling student debt help close the racial wealth gap?

Student debt cancellation would decrease the debts of Black and Latino borrowers and thus modestly shrink the racial wealth gap, according to the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal think tank.

Students of color typically borrow more for higher education than white students while holding significantly less wealth. As a result, canceling student debt would lessen the burden of those least able to repay it, easing the racial disparity in wealth.

Brookings similarly affirms the value of canceling student debt to shrink the racial wealth gap, noting that it will enable people of color to create wealth by freeing them up to buy a home or start a business. However, it offers the caveat that student debt cancellation alone will not achieve full equity in racial wealth, citing the need to address "anti-Black policies across multiple sectors [that] have diminished wealth-building opportunities."

Has homeschooling become more popular over the past 50 years?

The decision to educate one's children at home has become much more popular since the 1970s.

The National Home Education Research Institute, which publishes the peer-reviewed journal Home School Researcher, stated that "before 1970 there were almost no homeschoolers." In 1973, NHERI estimated that 13,000 children were homeschooled. That number grew to 93,000 in 1983 and 275,000 in 1990. By 2003, 1.4 million children were homeschooled, and by 2016, 2.3 million were. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic adding additional momentum to the existing upward trend, the homeschooling population increased to more than 3.7 million in the 2020-2021 school year, according to NHERI. 

In a survey conducted by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, more than a third of parents (33.8%) cited "concern about school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure" as the most important reason for homeschooling. Dissatisfaction with acedemics (17%) and a desire to provide religious instruction (15.9%) followed.

Do homeschooled kids have poorer learning outcomes?

Homeschooled students appear to have superior learning and life outcomes vis-à-vis publicly schooled students across numerous metrics.

According to educational research company ThinkImpact, homeschooled students perform above average on their SATs and ACTs, scoring "between 15% and 30% more points than students attending public schools." They also graduate college at higher rates: 67% compared with 59% of publicly schooled students.

A review of 16 studies on the achievement of homeschooled students versus conventionally schooled students found that 11 showed superior outcomes for homeschooled students, one showed superior outcomes for conventionally schooled students, and four found no significant difference. Among the studies, homeschooled students were observed to have higher GPAs, test scores, civic involvement, mental health and life satisfaction. Additionally, one of the studies noted that homeschooled students had a greater degree of receptivity to ideas, being "more agreeable, conscientious and open" than their conventional counterparts.

Does gender-affirming surgery have positive mental health outcomes for recipients?

Research indicates that gender-affirming surgeries benefit recipients and are rarely regretted.

A systematic review of peer-reviewed articles on gender-affirming surgery encompassing 53 different studies found that the practice "reduced rates of suicide attempts, anxiety, depression, and symptoms of gender dysphoria along with higher levels of life satisfaction, happiness, and quality of life." Authors note that while some studies reported that these benefits "were not always enduring," the review's overall findings support the need to expand access to gender-affirming surgery as a means of improving the lives of transgender individuals.

A separate systematic review of articles on regret after gender-affirming surgery found that 1% of transfeminine patients and less than 1% of transmasculine patients, respectively, experienced regret among 7,928 recipients spanning 27 studies. For comparison, the regret rate for surgeries in general is 1 in 7, or about 14%.

Does gender-affirming health care have positive outcomes for transgender youths?

Numerous studies have found that gender-affirming health care improves the mental health of youths identifying as transgender.

A JAMA study published in February 2022 monitored the mental health of 104 transgender and non-binary youths (aged 13-20) receiving gender-affirming health care. The group had 60% lower odds of depression and 73% lower odds of suicidality compared with transgender youths who had not yet initiated hormone therapy or puberty blockers.

A similar study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in December 2021 assessed the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth, including 9,019 transgender and non-binary youths (aged 13-24) who responded to a question about hormone therapy. Those who received the therapy had lower rates of depression and suicidality than those who desired the therapy but had not yet received it.

The American Medical Association regards gender-affirming health care as "medically necessary" and opposes state laws attempting to restrict it. 

Does the Biden administration plan to lift a COVID-19 rule prohibiting unauthorized entry across the US-Mexico border?

In March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control under Trump invoked a provision in U.S. health law (Section 265 of Title 42) that allows authorities to prohibit foreigners from entering the country when there is a risk of a disease being introduced. Over the course of the pandemic, Title 42 has blocked more than 1.7 million attempts by migrants and asylum-seekers to cross the border.

After taking office, the Biden administration continued this policy, even appealing court decisions to end the practice. However, earlier this month, Biden's CDC announced that it would be terminating Title 42, effective May 23, 2022, "after considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19." Officials anticipate a surge of more than 170,000 migrants across the border after Title 42 is lifted.

The CDC continues to require masking on most modes of public transportation.

Do experts agree on a simple definition of 'woman'?

Experts in both biology and gender regard "woman" as too variable a marker to be encompassed by one simple definition.

A woman is colloquially understood as an adult human with female biology. However, some individuals have a genotype (internal biology) that conflicts with their phenotype (external physical characteristics). For example, 1 in 20,000 individuals have androgen insensitivity syndrome, possessing XY chromosomes and male internal reproductive organs (testes) while exhibiting a female phenotype (vagina, breasts). These individuals typically live as women despite their internal male biology. 

In addition to biological ambiguities, there is a medically recognized difference between biological sex and psychological gender. Some individuals report feeling like a woman and exhibit feminine traits despite being considered male at birth, and vice versa. Numerous studies have found that allowing transgender individuals to live as their desired gender lowers their risk of depression and suicide.

Is Elon Musk the richest person in human history?

While measurements of net worth are inexact, there are individuals widely believed to have possessed more wealth than Elon Musk, whose net worth, derived from the value of companies he helped build, peaked at $340 billion in November 2021, according to Bloomberg.

Ancient rulers form the bulk of those wealthier than Musk. Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, whose control of powerful states allowed him to amass personal riches, may have had a net worth as high as $4.6 trillion. Mansa Musa, who ruled the gold-rich Mali Empire in the early 1300s, possessed an estimated $415 billion. Visual Capitalist notes these are rough figures given the difficulty of valuing historical wealth in current U.S. dollars.

In the modern world, oil magnate John D. Rockefeller amassed as much as $400 billion, according to Investopedia. This estimate is a measure of net worth as a percentage of GDP.

Did Trump’s net worth decline during his presidency?

Former U.S. President Donald Trump's net worth declined roughly $700 million in the last full year of his presidency, from $3.1 billion to about $2.4 billion, according to estimates by Forbes of the value of various holdings and activities.

The majority of Trump's losses were attributable to declines in some of his real-estate holdings, including golf resorts and hotels, which were affected by the pandemic's impact on travel and leisure activities. During his term, he also lost money in his licensing and management business as multiple licensees dropped the Trump name to avoid being associated with "four years of polarization," according to real estate analyst Kevin Brown.

After a rebound in some valuations as pandemic restrictions eased, in March 2022 Forbes estimated his net worth had recovered to $3 billion.

Even at the lowest estimate, Trump was the richest president in U.S. history. The net worth of his most recent predecessors, Obama, Bush (Jr.) and Clinton, increased by $69 million, $20 million and $240 million during their presidencies.

Are book ban efforts on the rise in the US?

The American Library Association recorded 729 book challenges in 2021—the most since it began counting in 2001. On average, the ALA records around 400 challenges per year.

Multiple book-banning efforts are often coupled in a single challenge; the number of individual titles challenged in 2021 totaled 1,597. The ALA says the true number is even higher given that books are sometimes removed from libraries without a formal challenge.

Challenges are not synonymous with bans, with the majority of challenges being unsuccessful due to advocacy from "librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens."

Most challenges were initiated by conservatives targeting books about people of color and LGBTQ people. "The Hate U Give," a novel about a Black teenage girl whose friend is shot by a police officer at a traffic stop, was challenged for its alleged "anti-police" agenda. "This Book is Gay," a nonfiction book about growing up queer, was challenged for “providing sexual education."

Do some Chinese companies pollute more than entire nations?

Several large corporations generate more carbon emissions than some entire large nations. Emissions from Chinese industrial companies such as Baowu (a steelmaker), Huaneng Power International or China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation are equivalent to or in some cases larger than those from the entire nations of Pakistan, the U.K. or Canada, respectively, according to Bloomberg. Bloomberg used data from the companies as well as estimates by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

Between 1988 and 2015, 100 privately- and state-owned companies around the world were responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions; 25 of those were responsible for 51% of emissions. Chinese coal companies and ExxonMobil were the highest emitting state-owned and privately owned companies. The Chinese coal producers contributed more than 14% of total emissions over that period.

China, which is currently the world's largest carbon emitter, has pledged to have its emissions peak in 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060.

Did the US increase Russian oil imports despite its ban on them?

The U.S. increased imports of Russian oil in the latter weeks of March following President Biden's March 8, 2022, executive order banning Russian oil imports.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. imported 148,000 barrels of oil per day during the first full week of March. This number dropped to 38,000 barrels per day in the second week of March before rising to 70,000 barrels per day in the third week of March and 100,000 barrels of oil per day during the fourth week of March.

According to Reuters, the Biden administration permitted a 45-day wind-down period for Russian oil imports set to end April 22, 2022. During the first week of April, the EIA recorded zero barrels of oil imported from Russia.

On April 7, 2022, Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill to codify the Russian oil ban laid out by Biden in his executive order.

Have solar and wind power increased significantly in recent years?

Solar and wind power generated a record 10% of global electricity in 2021, according to Ember, a nonprofit research group. This follows significant growth in solar and wind in the past few years, which have doubled as a share of global electricity since 2015. Sustainable energy as a whole, which includes other sources such as hydropower, biofuels and nuclear, accounted for 38% of global electricity production in 2021.

Many countries are responsible for this increase, with 50 receiving more than a tenth of their electricity from wind and solar.

In the U.S., renewable sources generated a 20% of electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration. In March, the EIA estimated that renewables will account for 44% of U.S. electricity supply by 2050.

As renewable sources grow, fossil fuel sources are projected to shrink. By 2050, the EIA estimates coal will drop from 23% to 10% and natural gas from 37% to 34% of the U.S. electricity supply.

Is nuclear power's share of electricity production expected to increase significantly?

Nuclear energy generated around 10% of the world's electricity in 2020, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA's "high case projection" says nuclear power could contribute about 12% of global electricity by 2050. The "low case scenario" says nuclear could decline to about 6% of total electricity generation.

Any increase in nuclear energy is expected to come from abroad, in countries like China and India. In the U.S., where the number of nuclear power plants has steadily declined since the 1990s, nuclear's share of electricity production is projected to decline from 19% today to 12% in 2050, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Experts debate the role of nuclear in reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Nuclear's minimal space requirements and capacity to produce electricity 24/7 make it an attractive option. However, high expenses and long construction times render new plants distant and uncertain prospects.

Are there fewer firearm deaths in states with more relaxed gun control laws?

Gun violence data consistently suggest there are more firearm deaths in states with lax gun control laws.

In an analysis of recent gun death data from 2015-2019, the Bay Area News Group found "a strong correlation between strict state gun laws and lower overall firearm fatality rates," particularly for firearm suicides. The correlation was weaker for firearm homicides: since gun homicides cluster in cities, some rural states with relaxed gun control laws nonetheless had low gun homicide rates.

In a separate analysis of FBI data, the Washington Post found that in the eight states permitting authorities to exercise discretion over which applicants receive gun permits, gun homicides were lower in the period 2016-2020.

In a third analysis of CDC data, Joslyn Law Firm reported, "The vast majority of states with the most gun homicides are states that score a 3 or higher for gun-friendliness."

Can the COVID-19 vaccine affect women’s menstrual cycles?

Analyzing data from nearly 4,000 women between the ages of 18 and 45, a study collecting data through a menstrual cycle tracking app found that women vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine experienced a slight, temporary increase in the time between their menstrual cycles. 

Researchers discovered that on average, women who received their first COVID-19 vaccine saw a temporary cycle length increase of 0.71 days, while women who received their second during the study saw a 0.91-day increase. Researchers noted, "The increase in cycle length for both the first and second vaccine cycles appears to be driven largely by the 358 individuals who received both vaccine doses within a single [menstrual] cycle."

Menses, or days of bleeding, did not increase in the vaccinated group relative to the unvaccinated group.

Scientists caution that menstrual cycle changes of less than eight days are normal and encourage women to continue receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Can any minor receive sex reassignment surgery?

According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, "Gender reassignment surgery is widely restricted to adults over the age of 18." 

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health stated sex reassignment surgery should not be carried out until individuals reach the legal age in their country and live in their desired gender role for one year.

Dr. Norman Spack, director of one of the nation's first gender identity medical clinics, told CBS that typically, "Gender-reassignment surgery, which may include removing or creating penises, is only done by a handful of U.S. doctors, on patients at least 18 years old."

Other gender-affirming measures may be taken earlier. Puberty blockers are sometimes prescribed to adolescents and hormones to teens.

As of March 2022, 15 states have implemented or are considering legislation that restricts minors' access to sex reassignment surgery. 

Are some countries still buying Russian oil?

Reuters identified 11 countries that allow their oil companies to remain "major takers of Russian crude" in the midst of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine: China, India, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia and Indonesia. The U.S., Canada, Britain and Australia have banned Russian oil imports. Oil and gas giants BP, Shell and TotalEnergies are limiting or phasing out Russian oil dealings.

Another punitive measure taken by governments against Russia is the European Union's removal of seven Russian banks from SWIFT — the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications — which facilitates international money transfers. However, the EU exempted Russian banks handling energy payments given that European nations are still purchasing Russian oil and gas.

Did violent crime increase in the US in 2021?

Violent crime did increase in 2021 under Democratic president Biden, but at a slower pace than in 2020, when Republican president Trump was still in office. Pew posits the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to policing after the George Floyd protests as two hypotheses for the spike.

Based on crime data from 22 major U.S. cities, the Council on Criminal Justice found that the country's homicide rate was up 5% from 2020 and 44% from 2019. Additionally, gun assaults rose 8% and aggravated assaults were up 4% compared to 2020 levels, while robberies remained virtually unchanged.

In contrast, non-violent crimes, such as property and drug offenses, dropped in 2021. However, drug overdoses broke records in 2021, suggesting that while drug arrests declined, drug use had not.

Violent crime rates are still significantly lower than in the past: using FBI data, Pew reported that the violent crime rate fell 49% between 1993 and 2019.

Are far-right extremists the top source of domestic terrorism in the US?

According to New America, far-right extremists, motivated by anti-government, white supremacist and anti-abortion ideologies, killed more people (112) than any other group over the past 20 years. Jihadists came in second, killing 107 people. Far-left groups killed one person over the same period.

The Anti-Defamation League found that over the last decade, far-right extremists accounted for 75% of extremist murders, or 333 of the 443 people killed. Right-wing extremists were linked to 26 of the 29 confirmed extremist murders in 2021.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that "far-right extremists were responsible for 66% of domestic terrorist attacks and plots in 2020—roughly consistent with their share in other recent years."

Last summer, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated white supremacists were the greatest domestic terrorism threat facing the U.S.

The FBI defines domestic terrorism in part as "violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals."

Are there alternatives to synthetic fertilizer?

Many alternatives to synthetic fertilizer exist. The USDA lists "compost, cover crops, plant by-products, animal manure, and other biological materials" as common choices used in organic farming to avoid synthetic fertilizer.

Synthetic fertilizer increases short-term crop yields by adding limiting nutrients such as nitrogen to the soil. However, it also contributes to global warming via nitrous oxide emissions and disrupts ecosystems via runoff.

In addition to cover crops that protect the soil and organic fertilizers such as compost and manure, farmers also employ crop rotation to enrich soil, utilizing nitrogen-fixing crops such as legumes. 

There is disagreement about whether organic farming can feed the world. A widely cited Nature study from 2017 says it is possible, but assumes more land is made available for agriculture, more people adopt a plant-based diet and less food is wasted.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic reduce profits in the fossil fuel industry?

In 2020, U.S. fossil fuel consumption reached its lowest level in 30 years, brought on by pandemic restrictions to travel and commerce and warmer weather that decreased demand for heating fuels. As a result, many fossil fuel companies experienced reduced profits: Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and BP saw losses of $22.4 billion, $5.5 billion, and $5.7 billion, respectively.

In 2021, as pandemic restrictions were lifted and the economy reopened, fossil fuel demand rebounded, causing steady increases in gas prices. This netted many oil companies the highest profits they've seen in years: Exxon, Chevron, and BP reported respective profits of $23 billion, $15.6 billion, and $12.85 billion.

Twenty five of the top oil companies announced a combined $205 billion in profits in 2021, according to watchdog group Accountable.US.

Do gasoline prices rise faster than they fall?

Gasoline prices have been observed to be asymmetrical: they rise more quickly in response to increases in the price of crude than they fall in response to decreases in the price of crude.

On average, retail gasoline prices rise more than four times as fast as they fall, according to a working paper written for the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Economics.

Experts offer numerous explanations for this "rockets and feathers" phenomenon. One is that uncertainty about future oil prices causes retailers to refrain from immediately dropping prices. Another is that retailers use crude price decreases to recoup earlier losses from crude price increases.

Sometimes, however, there is no technical explanation. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis cited economists that noted retailers will refrain from lowering prices to boost profits, taking advantage of consumers' acclimation to higher prices.

Do some members of Congress invest in fossil fuels?

At least 28 Senators and 100 members of the House are invested in fossil fuels, according to Sludge, a news outlet that reports on money in politics.

Fifty-nine of the House members were Republicans while 41 were Democrats. The 10 members of Congress most invested in fossil fuels were Republican. Some of these legislators sit on committees related to climate and the environment. Their investments include "corporate stocks, oil wells, and shares in energy industry funds."

Over the past decade, fossil fuel investments have lost roughly $123 billion in value, nearly 20%, while clean energy investments have gained $77 billion in value. In 2021, senators collectively held $12.6 million in fossil fuel investments, down from $14.5 million in 2019. Sludge has not published 2021 figures for the House, but in 2019 House members reportedly held as much as $78.2 million.

Congress is expected to vote on legislation banning members from trading stocks later this year.

Would converting to electric cars likely require the US to increase imports from China?

The U.S. electric vehicle industry is currently dependent on imports from China, the global leader in EV manufacturing. Barring major changes in the U.S. industry, meeting President Biden's 2030 goal of making half of new vehicle sales electric would lead to more Chinese imports.

Substantial government support has facilitated Chinese dominance of the EV supply chain. The U.S., which has not invested as much in EVs, lacks production and processing capacity. With regard to lithium, the U.S. has 4% of global reserves while China has 8%, yet China produces 15 times more lithium than the U.S. China has at least 101 EV battery factories in operation or planning compared to eight in the U.S.

To lessen U.S. dependence on China, Biden is attempting to expand domestic mineral production and increase EV imports from allies such as Canada and Finland.

Is the number of Russian troops killed in the Russo-Ukrainian War on track to surpass the number of American troops killed in the war in Afghanistan?

Less than a month after Russia invaded Ukraine, an estimated 7,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, according to American officials who spoke to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity. In comparison, 1,910 U.S. soldiers were killed in action in Afghanistan, according to a Defense Department casualty report. In Iraq, 3,481 American troops were killed in action. When factoring in "non-hostile" deaths, the combined fatality count is 6,758. 

The 7,000 figure is a mid-range estimate; some place the count as low as 3,000 while others place it as high as 10,000. Estimates are based on media analysis, Ukrainian and Russian figures, satellite imagery and extrapolations from destroyed tanks, according to CNN. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed.

Would reviving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline lower gas prices in the near future?

The "export limited" extension of the Keystone pipeline was less than 8% complete when President Biden revoked its permit. If construction resumed, it would take years for oil to flow through it.

Even if XL became operational, the crude, taken from Canada's tar sands, would be piped to Gulf Coast refineries, which export a large portion of their oil.

Oil prices are determined by global markets. Commenting on whether XL would lower gas prices, the U.S. State Department told PolitiFact in 2017:

"Gas prices throughout the United States are primarily driven by global market factors. Any impact on prices for refined petroleum products resulting from the approval and construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would be minimal."

Despite Republican efforts to revive the pipeline, TC Energy is having the XL infrastructure dismantled and stated the project "will not proceed."

Have fewer than 100 kids aged 5-11 died from COVID-19 annually?

In the U.S. alone, 385 children aged 5-11 have died from COVID-19 in the two years since the start of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Additionally, 537 children under five years of age have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

Children under 11 are a small percentage of overall deaths, making up 10% of cases since the pandemic began but 0.1% of deaths.

Children aged 5-11 "are at least as likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 as adults," the CDC reported in November. High transmission rates are explained by frequent interaction with family and schoolmates.

Children are at risk of developing a COVID-19-induced ailment, MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children). Children vaccinated against COVID-19 are less likely to develop MIS-C.

Experts continue to recommend children receive vaccinations to reduce their risk of severe illness and death.

Did Florida ban the word ‘gay’?

The word "gay" isn't banned throughout the state of Florida.

The Florida legislature did pass a bill earlier this month that prohibits "classroom instruction...on sexual orientation or gender identity" in kindergarten through third grade classrooms. The ban also extends to instruction deemed "not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students." Parents may file lawsuits against school districts over violations.

Given the broad language of the bill, it is unclear what constitutes a violation, with the bill's sponsors declining to provide examples. Advocates say the bill gives parents more control over the upbringing of their children while opponents say it will harm LGBTQ+ youth and cause teachers to omit instruction on a wide range of topics for fear of being sued.

If signed by Florida Governor DeSantis, who has signaled his support, the bill will take effect July 1.

Did the US support rebel groups that later formed ISIS?

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began as an offshoot of the Islamist group al-Qaida, which formed to oppose the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The U.S., then engaged in the Cold War, funnelled weapons and money to al-Qaida to aid its opposition. The Soviets were eventually driven out of Afghanistan and the sharia-based Taliban regime was established. Al-Qaida went on to commit acts of terrorism against the U.S., including 9/11.

More recently, the U.S. armed Syrian rebel groups fighting against the Assad regime during the Syrian Civil War. One of these groups, al-Qaida in Iraq, later combined with other Islamist groups to form ISIS. A 2017 study from weapons tracker Conflict Armament Research found ISIS possessed "significant quantities" of U.S.-supplied weapons and ammunition.

While U.S.-backed efforts beginning in 2014 reclaimed all ISIS-controlled territory, the group remains active in the Middle East.

Has the US lost its ‘energy independence’ under Biden?

The metric commonly used for energy independence is net exports of oil: crude purchased abroad minus crude sold abroad. After achieving energy independence in 2020, the U.S. maintained it in 2021, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The U.S. has never been truly energy independent; it has never fulfilled all its energy needs with domestic supplies. While the U.S. produces enough oil in theory to satisfy its needs, it's often cheaper to import oil from abroad. Additionally, some crude produced domestically is more suitable for export to foreign refineries.

Current oil market pressures are attributable to pandemic-related supply shortages combined with rebounding post-lockdown demand along with the recent U.S. embargo on Russian oil.

Biden's efforts to prioritize renewables over fossil fuels may reduce future domestic oil supplies, but efforts to develop alternatives could lessen reliance on imported oil.

Has Disney donated to politicians who oppose abortion?

Disney donated $261,653 to 28 Florida lawmakers who have filed anti-abortion legislation, according to Corporate Accountability Action. The company also contrib­uted to anti-abortion candid­ates in Louisi­ana during the state's 2019 elec­tion and the Georgia House Republican Trust, Inc., which backed politicians who passed Georgia's post fetal-heartbeat abortion ban.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek was recently criticized by LGBTQ+ rights advocates for refusing to publicly condemn Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, which prohibits "discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity" in some classrooms.

Following the criticism, Chapek came out against the legislation and announced that Disney would be pausing all political giving in Florida and boosting efforts to fight similar legislation around the country. 

Disney's political contribution report for the second half of 2020 shows the company has contributed to both Democratic and Republican party causes in California, Florida and Georgia. 

Is sand mining the largest extractive industry in the world?

Comprising 85% of mining extractions worldwide, sand mining is currently the world's largest mining endeavor. The United Nations Environment Program estimates that more than 40 billion tons of the sediment are extracted every year.

This amount far exceeds that of the most mined minerals: coal and iron. Approximately 7.4 and 4.6 billion tons of coal and iron are extracted every year, respectively. Oil extraction totals around 4 billion metric tons annually.

The largest use of sand is in infrastructure materials such as concrete, cement, glass and asphalt, fueled by the 21st century construction boom. As much as seven tons of sand and gravel are required to make one ton of concrete.

Due to weak regulations in many places, sand is being mined unsustainably, eroding coastlines, disrupting ecosystems and causing islands to sink into the ocean.

Did only 3% of US oil imports come from Russia in 2021?

In 2021, U.S. oil and petroleum-product imports from Russia rose 8%, spiking in the second half of the year after hurricanes along the Gulf Coast hampered domestic crude production. Imports totaled approximately 245 million barrels last year, compared to about 198 million barrels in 2020 and about 190 million barrels in 2019. Reuters reported that 30% of Russian imports were crude oil, with the remainder being refined products.

Russia was America's fourth-largest foreign source of oil in 2021 after Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Last year's sales were the highest since at least 1995—the furthest back U.S. Energy Information Administration data go.

President Biden has committed to releasing more than 90 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve after banning Russian oil imports earlier this week in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Is there a neo-Nazi movement in Ukraine?

Neo-Nazi movements exist inside Ukraine, with the ultranationalist Azov Battalion being the most prominent among them. Created in 2014 to assist the Ukrainian army in its military conflict with Russia, the 900-member battalion, which has been formally integrated into Ukraine's armed forces, uses Nazi-era symbolism and recruits neo-Nazis into its membership.

The group was founded by white supremacist Andriy Biletsky, who stated Ukraine's mission was to "lead the white races in a final crusade...against Semite-led Untermenschen [inferior races]."

Ukrainian neo-Nazi movements are limited in scope and lack political power. In 2019, Ukraine's far-right bloc received 2.3% of the vote.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that the invasion of Ukraine was done in part to "denazify" Ukraine. Many remain doubtful of this, citing that numerous Ukrainian Jews have felt the need to take refuge or flee the country.

Was the Democratic Party created to support slavery?

The Democratic Party formed to back Andrew Jackson's second run for the presidency in 1828 after he was deprived of the position in 1824 despite having received the most votes. The Democratic Party originally advocated limited federal government powers in favor of states' rights.

Some, but not all, Democrats supported slavery. In the lead-up to the Civil War, Southern Democrats endorsed slavery in the Western territories. Northern Democrats, however, proposed that each territory decide the question for itself through referendum. 

Southern Democrats led the effort to secede from the Union and form the pro-slavery Confederacy following the election of Republican president Abraham Lincoln. After the Civil War, they also blocked abolitionist legislation and oversaw Jim Crow segregation measures.

A party realignment occurred during the 20th century, beginning with FDR and the New Deal Democrats and continuing with the Republicans' Southern strategy to win over Democrats who opposed desegregation.

Do suicide prevention organizations reduce death rates?

While suicide prevention programs have been effective in reducing death rates, this impact has varied depending on one's age and sex.

A 2019 study analyzing the effectiveness of such programs across four comparable countries over the past 30 years found declines in suicide rates in men in particular, likely due to reduced access to firearms. Programs had the strongest deterrent effects on men aged 25 to 44 and 45 to 64. The study also found a significant deterrent effect in females aged 45 to 64 and older than 65.

A 2016 survey of 1797 studies related to suicide prevention similarly found that programs help reduce suicide rates. Effective strategies include reducing access to lethal means, establishing suicide prevention hotlines, providing quality mental health counseling, raising awareness in schools and administrating psychiatric medicine.

Did a group of Republican Congress members spend the Fourth of July in Russia?

In 2018, a group of Republican legislators made a visit to Russia that coincided with the Fourth of July. However, to imply this action was unpatriotic is a misrepresentation of the facts.

The group was on a diplomatic mission to warn Russia against meddling in the 2018 midterm election. The trip occurred a month before Trump and Putin were to meet to discuss Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, among other topics.

One Senator from the group stated,

“We didn't come here to say, what you've been doing is great, and we're going to look the other way. We came here to talk candidly and honestly. The Russians can earn a better relationship with the U.S. if they want to.”

The group, comprised of seven senators and one House member, was the first congressional delegation to visit Russia since the country’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Are President Biden's energy policies responsible for Russia's increased oil and gas revenues?

Russia's increased oil and gas revenue in 2021 is primarily the result of pandemic-related factors rather than President Biden's energy policies.

In 2020, global energy demand dropped due to business closures and restrictions on mobility enacted in response to COVID-19, driving down prices. Russia's oil and gas revenues subsequently took a hit.

In 2021, global energy demand recovered as lockdown measures were lifted and the economy reopened, driving up prices. Russia's oil and gas revenues rebounded in tandem.

President Biden's shutting down of the Keystone XL pipeline did not affect energy prices in the short-term as it was non-operational, being only 8% complete when construction was stopped. However, because it could have boosted supplies in coming years, its cancellation could theoretically impact price trends in the years to come.

Have monthly deaths from COVID-19 been consistently higher under Biden than under Trump?

Since March 2020, when Americans began dying from COVID-19 in significant numbers and the disease was declared a national emergency, monthly death rates have fluctuated widely, driven by vaccine availability, successive waves of infections, and other factors scientists are still seeking to understand.

Comparing the ten months in 2020 when the Trump administration was overseeing the pandemic with the same calendar months under the Biden administration in 2021, deaths averaged about 8,000 per month lower under Biden (see the table based on Centers for Disease Control data for detail). Deaths peaked in December 2020 and then declined rapidly during the first half of 2021 as Americans became increasingly vaccinated against COVID-19. Deaths spiked again in the second half of 2021 as the Delta variant spread.

To date, the pandemic has claimed more than 950,000 American lives, with 385,444 deaths occurring during 2020, 460,277 in 2021, and 100,871 in 2022.

Are greenhouse gas emissions higher under Biden than they were under Trump?

To fairly compare greenhouse gas emissions under Biden and Trump, two things must be acknowledged. First, there is only one year of emissions data available under Biden given that he did not become president until 2021. Second, pandemic-related lockdowns in 2020 hampered economic activity, creating an artificial dip in emissions.

With this in mind, emissions did rise by 6.2% in 2021 relative to 2020, according to an estimate by the Rhodium Group. However, the group noted that 2021 emissions remained 5% below 2019 levels.

Emissions were even higher in 2018, and about the same in 2017 as they were in 2019, according to data from Statista. This suggests Trump had higher peak emissions than Biden and that emissions were higher under Trump than Biden in all but the 2020 pandemic year.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a 2% increase in emissions in 2022, driven by transportation-related petroelum consumption.

Do avocados have a larger carbon footprint than beef?

Although cultivating avocados is carbon intensive compared to other fruits and vegetables, their footprint is still much smaller than beef's.

A pack of two avocados has a carbon footprint of around 0.85 kilograms, according to a study cited by the World Economic Forum.

In comparison, CO2 Everything estimated that a 100-gram serving of beef has an average carbon footprint of 15.5 kilograms, based on data from a widely cited Science study from 2018.

For context, avocado contains 160 calories per 100 grams while beef contains 260 calories per 100 grams.

Beef's large carbon footprint is attributable to intensive land, water and feed use; methane emissions, and the inefficient conversion of plant energy to animal energy.

A study from September 2021 found that the production of animal-based foods was responsible for 57% of food production-related greenhouse gas emissions while plant-based foods were responsible for 29% of such emissions.

Are cases of myocarditis resulting from COVID-19 vaccines common?

Very few cases of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, have been observed as a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control says its recent recommendation to lengthen the period between vaccine doses may reduce the already rare side effect.

The cases haven't affected advice from U.S. health authorities that anyone 5 years or older should get fully vaccinated. People who get sick from COVID-19 are actually at a higher risk of contracting myocarditis, and a more severe case, they note.

The CDC estimates the incidence of COVID-19 vaccine-related myocarditis at 0.48 cases per 100,000. An estimated 1-10 cases per 100,000 occur regardless of vaccination status.

A study conducted between December 2020 and August 2021 reported 1,991 cases among 192.4 million vaccinated individuals.

Among cases, "the great majority...were mild and resolved on their own," according to VCU Health, a Virginia medical center.

Does the US government require schoolchildren to wear masks?

At the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control recommends all schoolchildren above the age of two wear masks inside, but does not legally require it.

Individual states have taken action to enforce school mask mandates in some cases and ban them in others. According to Education Week, 12 states plus the District of Columbia currently require masks to be worn in schools, down from 18 states and the district earlier this year. By March 31, 2022, six more states will end the mandates.

Four states have banned school mask mandates. An additional six have attempted bans that have either been suspended, blocked by courts, or remain unenforced.

Certain school districts have defied the statewide mandates, which have been challenged, sometimes successfully, in court.

Do NFTs contribute to climate change?

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which let users create digital "originals" of their items, are indirectly linked to increases in carbon dioxide emissions given their sale on cryptocurrency blockchains like Ethereum.

To verify an Ethereum transaction, cryptocurrency miners must solve a complex puzzle requiring energy-intensive computing. Ethereum emits nearly 54 megatons of CO2 annually. If it were a country, its carbon footprint would rank 55th of 209 nations listed by Worldometer.

NFTs constitute around 1% of Ethereum transactions. Still, the average NFT transaction has an estimated carbon footprint equivalent to more than a month’s worth of electricity for a person living in the EU.

Proposals to reduce the carbon footprint of NFTs, and cryptocurrency transactions generally, include carbon offsets, alternative verification methods that do not require energy-intensive puzzle-solving, and a layered blockchain that permits all but the final transaction among users to happen "off-chain."

Have pandemic lockdowns been proven ineffective at reducing COVID-19 deaths?

A preprint paper released earlier this month, which has not yet undergone peer review, is drawing criticism from infectious disease experts, who say it does not invalidate previous findings that lockdowns significantly reduced COVID-19 cases and deaths.

One objection is that the paper uses an overly broad definition of lockdown as a "compulsory non-pharmaceutical intervention," which fails to distinguish between different policies — mask-wearing, quarantining if sick, curfews, non-essential business closures, shelter-in-place orders, etc. — that entail different degrees of isolation.

Another is that the paper, which looks at 24 previous studies on lockdowns and COVID-19 mortality, excludes any data more recent than April 2021 — before the Delta variant took hold and before the Omicron variant emerged. 

Two widely cited studies from 2020 found that lockdowns prevented or delayed 530 million COVID-19 cases and averted 3.1 million deaths throughout Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

Did Whitney Houston lip-sync her performance of the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl?

According to Whitney Houston's long-time producer Rickey Minor, Houston pre-recorded the national anthem, which was then played at the 1991 Super Bowl while Houston sang into an unamplified mic. 

Did two California ports threaten to impose fines on idled shipping containers?

The threat of fines on shipping containers left waiting too long at the docks appears to have helped reduce delays at the nation's busiest cargo gateway.

In November, urged by the Biden administration to take action as shipping delays mounted, the adjacent California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach approved compounding $100-per-day fines on shipping containers left sitting at the ports for extended periods.

As of early February authorities had yet to actually impose the penalties. "Merely announcing the fee reduced the number of those idling containers by more than 60%," a port official said on Jan. 20. "The results have been phenomenal."

Do Fox News viewers believe more COVID-19 misinformation than viewers of other media outlets?

Fox News viewers tend to believe more COVID-19 misinformation than viewers of other media outlets.

A 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation examined the correlation between the news outlets people trust and the amount of COVID-19 misinformation they believe. It found that 36% of survey respondents who trust Fox News believe or are unsure of at least half of eight false statements related to COVID-19, compared to 11%, 12%, and 14% of respondents who trust CNN, MSNBC and NPR, respectively.

Fox's own research team accused regular contributors to the network of “spreading disinformation" in an internal memo from 2020 obtained by the Daily Beast.

Fox News was the most distrusted media outlet among 30 polled in a 2019 Pew survey. Forty-three percent of respondents reported trusting Fox, while 40% reported distrusting it.

Has unemployment risen under President Biden?

The unemployment rate is down since president Biden took office, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

In January 2021, the unemployment rate stood at 6.4%. Since then, it has steadily declined. In January 2022, the rate was 4.0%.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment reached as low as 3.5% in the early months of 2020 before spiking to 14.7% in April of that year due to lockdowns.

Was every Supreme Court Justice a white man until 1981?

There was one non-white Supreme Court justice on the bench before 1981: civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall, who was appointed in 1967.

In 2018, CNN published an article highlighting that all but six Supreme Court justices have been white men. The exceptions at the time were:

  • Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991).
  • Sandra Day O'Connor (1981-2006).
  • Clarence Thomas (1991-present).
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993-2020).
  • Sonia Sotomayor (2009-present).
  • Elena Kagan (2010-present).

Since then, two more justices have been appointed. One was Amy Coney Barret, bringing the total number of non-white justices to seven of the 115 who have served on the court as of February 2022.

Last month, Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement. President Biden is expected to nominate a Black woman to replace him.

Are critical race theory bans limiting how Black History Month can be taught?

State laws banning critical race theory in schools are limiting how topics related to Black History Month can be taught.

The laws, which are often broadly written to prohibit "divisive concepts" related to race, have helped certain school districts justify banning books with racial themes. A representative of the American Library Association told CBS News there is a coordinated effort to challenge books that deal with racism or Black American history.

Teachers could incur fines or be fired for violating the laws. A group of Wisconsin teachers was suspended earlier this month over a Black History Month lesson that slaves were executed for disrespecting their master in ancient Mesopotamia.

Critical race theory examines how racism is codified in American law and is typically taught at the college level. CRT bans have been introduced in 37 states and are currently law in 14.

Has Brexit caused traffic issues in England?

New border checks resulting from Brexit are contributing to longer delays for trucks transiting through the port of Dover. Traffic restrictions to prevent buildup on the road leading to the port have been imposed 18 times in 2022 as of February—a notable increase compared to the same time of year in previous years.

Under the U.K. government’s new Goods Vehicle Movement Service system, customs now requires the completion of paperwork before the export of goods to Europe, as well as document checks, which have been taking up to 15 minutes per vehicle.

Port authorities maintain the increased custom checks are "not the sole reason for queues," citing increased freight volumes, port construction and a reduced number of ferries in operation due to ship refitting. They warn that traffic could worsen in September when biometric checks are due to be implemented at the port.

Are gun manufacturers uniquely exempted from lawsuits?

Gun manufacturers are not exempted from all lawsuits, but federal law does offer some protections. The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act grants gunmakers immunity from being sued if their products are used in a criminal act.

While PLCAA may be the broadest immunity given to an industry, others exist. The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act protects drugmakers from lawsuits during public health emergencies. Even in the absence of explicit legislative exemptions, "your company can’t be held liable unless there’s a defect in your product or service," according to Harvard Business Review.

Individuals can file lawsuits against gun manufacturers for other reasons, including product defects responsible for physical harm or property damage, improper record-keeping, and "negligent entrustment" — when a gun is sold to someone with a discernible risk of using it to harm themselves or others.

Did a Russian investor finance Spotify in its early days?

Early in 2011, Russian tech investor Yuri Milner helped finance Spotify. One such investment was indirectly funded by VTB Bank, a majority state-owned Russian bank. This, along with Milner's investments in Facebook and Twitter, have led to conspiracy theories that Milner is "working for Russia to turn social media against democracy," according to Vox. 

Milner's investments were made through his venture fund, DST Global, an international investment firm headquartered in Hong Kong. DST Global itself is funded by many international, passive investors who have no say in which companies DST decides to fund. VTB Bank is amongst these passive investors, having no influence in DST's decision to fund Spotify. VTB Bank is responsible for less than 5% of the contributions made to DST Global.

Milner states that such theories are only compelling amongst those "that see my nationality as inherently suspicious."

Do two-thirds of Americans have no savings?

Estimates of the number of Americans with no financial savings vary, but all are lower than two thirds.

A July 2021 survey by Bankrate found that one in four Americans (25%) have no backup cash in the event of an emergency — up from 21% in 2020.

A February 2021 survey by GOBankingRates found that 40% of Americans had less than $300 in savings.

GOBankingRates reported in 2019 that 45% of Americans had $0 dollars in a savings account. Respondents attributed their inability to save to living paycheck-to-paycheck and a high cost of living. The top cited solution to these issues was a higher salary.

A 2019 Federal Reserve survey found 12% of respondents could not afford a $400 expense, while an additional 37% would use credit cards, borrowing, or selling to cover it.

Most financial planners recommend maintaining an emergency fund capable of covering 3-6 months of expenses. 

Has Russia been occupying parts of Ukraine since the 2014 invasion?

The Russian government annexed Ukrainian-governed Crimea in March 2014 and has since expanded its military presence there and advanced infrastructure projects linking the Ukrainian peninsula directly to Russia. 

The U.N., the U.S., and the European Union regard Russia's annexation of Crimea as illegal. The U.N. General Assembly has adopted several resolutions, including one in December, urging Russia to withdraw from Crimea and end its growing military presence there. The U.S. and the E.U. have also demanded an end to the occupation, imposing sanctions on Russia in response to its actions.

In recent months, Russia has increased its military presence in Crimea and on the Ukrainian border, including near Donetsk and Luhansk—two separatist territories in eastern Ukraine occupied by pro-Russian rebels.

Russia views Ukraine as an important buffer against NATO and seeks to prevent it from joining the military alliance.

Did a study find that a cannabis compound helped prevent SARS-CoV-2 from infecting cells?

Researchers from Oregon State University observed that two cannabis compounds, CBGA (cannabigerolic acid) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), are able to block SARS-CoV-2 from entering cells. By attaching themselves to spike proteins on the virus, the compounds block an important step in the infection process.

This does not mean smoking weed will prevent COVID-19. The purity of the tested compounds was higher than that available in commercial products. In a separate study, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of cannabis, did not keep the virus out of cells, and even blocked the therapeutic effect of CBD when combined with the non-psychoactive compound.

Scientists emphasize that more research must be done to corroborate the findings.

Are billionaires effectively taxed at a lower rate than most other Americans?

The wealthiest billionaires effectively pay income taxes at a lower rate than other U.S. taxpayers. Estimates of just how much depend on what taxes and what income ranges are used for comparison.

Two Berkeley economists found that in 2018, the wealthiest 400 adults paid the lowest overall tax rate of any income segment examined, at 23%. The lower 50% of adults paid an average rate of 24.2%.

ProPublica, in a 2018 report focusing on the 25 richest taxpayers, found that their relatively low rates arose in part from favorable treatment of investment income and deductions for gifts to nonprofits.

Last year, White House economists, citing various sources, estimated that the 400 richest U.S. families paid an average 8.2% rate on income between 2010 and 2018.

Was 2021 a record-breaking year for US-Mexico border crossings?

In 2021, more than 1.73 million undocumented immigrants were encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border—the highest ever recorded in a single year. The previous record of 1.69 million was set in 1986. Customs and Border Protection keeps yearly records of border encounters dating back to 1925.

CBP also keeps monthly records dating back to 2000. Among these, the highest number of encounters in a single month occurred in March 2000, when 223,305 encounters were recorded. July, the top month for encounters in 2021, was about 10,000 shy at 213,593 encounters.

Customs and Border Protection cited "violence, natural disasters, food insecurity and poverty" in Central American countries as responsible for the high number of encounters. Apprehensions of individual migrants also sharply increased after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, most border encounters involved families.

Do Black Americans suffer from asthma at a higher rate than white Americans?

Black Americans are both more likely to suffer from asthma than white Americans and more likely to be hospitalized and die from the respiratory disease. 

Using survey health data from the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health reported that Black Americans were 40% more likely to have asthma than white Americans in 2018. The office also found that Black children were five times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than white children in 2017 and that Black Americans were almost three times more likely to die from asthma than white Americans in 2019.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, while genetics and individual behavior contribute to this disparity, social determinants are the largest factor. For example, Black neighborhoods tend to have higher rates of air pollution and poorer quality hospitals.

Do Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna make large profits from their COVID-19 vaccines?

Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna made large profits from their COVID-19 vaccine sales in 2021: approximately $9 billion, $14.7 billion and $10.5 billion in pretax profits, respectively. The estimates were provided by People's Vaccine Alliance, an advocacy group working to broaden access to the vaccines. The group based the full-year numbers on published results for the first three quarters of the year and other statements by the companies.

The alliance attributes the vaccine manufacturers' high profit margins to the overpricing of vaccines. Its analysis estimated that Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are charging governments "as much as $41 billion" more for vaccines than their estimated production costs.

These companies have also received criticism for under-distributing COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries. Each sends less than 1% of its vaccines to underdeveloped regions, despite having received $8 billion in public funding for vaccine development.

Does the omicron variant of COVID-19 share some of the common cold’s genetic code?

Researchers from the medical data analytics firm nference have discovered that COVID-19's omicron variant shares a "snippet of genetic material" with the virus that causes the common cold. This snippet has not been found in previous COVID-19 variants. Researchers speculate that omicron could have mutated from someone who was simultaneously infected with SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-229E — the viruses that cause COVID-19 and the common cold, respectively. Frequently reported cold-like symptoms of omicron such as runny nose and sore throat lend support to the finding.

Venky Soundararajan, a co-author of the nference study, suggested that by incorporating genetic material from the cold virus, omicron may be making itself look "more human," helping it evade attack by the human immune system. This could explain its high degree of transmissibility.

Currently, omicron is responsible for 99.5% of the COVID-19 cases nationwide.

Did FDR oversee a faster rate of job growth than any of his successors?

Franklin D. Roosevelt, first elected president in the midst of the Great Depression, led the U.S. for twelve years, during which the country added 15 million jobs, a 38.5% gain. (FDR took office in 1933 and died in office early in his fourth term in 1945.)

Succeeding presidents, limited by a 1947 constitutional amendment to two terms, have bettered those absolute numbers as the size of the U.S. economy has grown, but not the percentage growth of the FDR years.

President Bill Clinton presided over an economy that added 18.6 million jobs, a 15.6% gain.

The Reagan administration added 16.5 million jobs, a 16.6% gain.

Economists debate the ability of any single leader to influence employment amid larger economic and social forces. A 2016 study found that Democratic administrations posted better overall economic results, but found that the "edge" derived "mainly" from oil-price changes, productivity trends, "a more favorable international environment" and "perhaps more optimistic consumer expectations about the near-term future."

Did Biden pause distribution of some COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments?

On Dec. 23, 2021, the Biden administration temporarily halted the distribution of specific monoclonal antibody treatments over concerns that they may be ineffective against the omicron variant of COVID-19. Two of the treatments affected were those manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly. Shipments of Sotrovimab, another monoclonal antibody manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, were not halted, as the drug was found to be effective against omicron.

On Dec. 29, 2021, distribution of Regeneron and Eli Lilly's treatments was resumed. However, given their lack of efficacy against omicron, these treatments are only being shipped to regions where the latest variant makes up less than 80% of cases. Exceptions are made for treatment sites capable of distinguishing between variants via testing.

Omicron is currently responsible for 99.5% of COVID-19 cases nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

Does a net worth of $5,000 make an individual richer than half of the global population?

Wealth equivalent to more than $4,100 places an individual in the richer half of the world's population.

The poorer 50% of the planet's inhabitants own an average of $4,100 in assets, according to 2021 data from the World Inequality Lab. The bottom 50% account for just 2% of total global wealth.

In comparison, the top 10% owns more than three-quarters (76%) of global wealth, with an average net worth of $771,000.

While the wealth of the top 10% is growing more slowly than the global average, the wealth of the top 1% is growing much more rapidly, capturing "38% of all additional wealth accumulated since the mid-1990s," the organization says. The wealth of the top 0.1% rose from 7% to 11% of the total over the same period, with particularly steep gains for billionaires, according to the report.

Wealth differences between adults have continued to widen during the pandemic, both overall in the world and in most individual countries.

Did pandemic lockdowns cause delays in routine medical checkups and screenings?

According to CDC data, by the end of June 2020, 41% of American adults had reported "delaying or avoiding" urgent or emergency care (12%) and routine check-ups (32%) due to concerns about being infected with the coronavirus. Such behavior was particularly prevalent among certain groups, including caretakers for adults, those with other medical conditions or disabilities, and Black or Hispanic individuals.

Others, however, have simply been unable to schedule medical screenings or appointments due to pandemic-induced lockdowns. A July 2020 study by the Epic Health Research Network found that volumes of screenings for various types of cancers were 29% to 36% lower than their pre-pandemic levels. Doctors are reporting anxieties that many patients remain undiagnosed or are coming in with more severe cases.

The American Heart Association has since begun a "Don't Die of Doubt" campaign, encouraging patients to seek medical help for non-COVID-19-related conditions.

Has the omicron variant caused any fatalities?

Despite surging infection numbers around the globe, only a few countries so far have reported fatalities clearly attributable to the omicron variant of the coronavirus. The group includes the U.S., the U.K., Israel, India, South Africa and Australia. Most of the deceased either had other underlying health conditions or were unvaccinated, as was the case with the single confirmed U.S. fatality.

Despite being highly contagious, research suggests that omicron is leading to fewer hospitalizations and deaths than earlier variants of the virus. A study from South Africa found that fewer individuals infected with omicron required hospitalization, and that those who did experienced milder symptoms, required less supplementary oxygen and had shorter stays than patients in previous waves.

Another South African study has calculated the death rate for omicron to be 2.7%, far lower than wave one's 19.7% or Delta's 29.1%.  

Are more Republicans dying of COVID-19 than Democrats?

According to NPR, counties where more than 60% of residents voted for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the 2020 election have nearly triple the death rate of counties whose majority voted for Biden. Counties that voted for Trump at an even higher rate experienced an even higher death toll.

This difference is attributable to the partisan disparity in vaccination rates. Counties that heavily voted for Trump are far less vaccinated than those where most voted for Biden. Recent polls indicate that one's political party is the strongest predictor of whether they are vaccinated, with unvaccinated persons being three times as likely to lean Republican than Democrat.

Misinformation is likely to blame for this. A Kaiser report found that Republicans are "much more likely" to believe COVID-19 misinformation, with authors identifying a correlation to consuming conservative media.

Are the symptoms of the omicron variant as severe as those of the delta variant?

Preliminary data suggest that while the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is highly contagious, it typically causes a mild sickness "that can resemble the common cold," resulting in fewer hospitalizations and deaths than previous strains.

A U.K. study published last week found that the risk of hospitalization from omicron "was approximately one-third of that from delta." The study also found that those with three vaccine doses were 81% less likely to be hospitalized from omicron than those without a dose.

A South African study also published last week similarly found that fewer individuals infected with omicron were hospitalized, and that among those who were, their symptoms were less severe, fewer required oxygen, and their stay was shorter than in prior waves.

A separate South African study found that the death rate dropped from 29.1% with Delta to 2.7% with omicron.

Could 3% of US military spending end global starvation?

A United Nations agency calculates that global starvation could be significantly ameliorated with less than 1% of the sum the U.S. annually spends on its military.

The World Food Program, the food-assistance branch of the U.N., released a plan last November to combat famine. It identified 42 million people across 43 countries at risk of starvation and found that it would cost $6.6 billion to feed each of them "one meal a day, the basic needed to survive," for one year. This price tag is 0.9% of the latest U.S. military budget of $768.2 billion.

A broader study published in October 2020 found that it would require $33 billion a year to end hunger globally—about 4% of the U.S. military budget.  

The UN agency noted that hunger is on the rise due to "widespread conflicts, growing climate crises and the economic fallout of COVID- 19," increasing 110% from 2019. 

Are COVID-19 tests producing substantial profits for the US health care industry?

Private U.S. providers of COVID-19 diagnostic tests and testing services have continued to make significant profits in 2021.

Abbott, one of the best-known manufacturers of the tests, reported global COVID-19 testing-related sales of $1.9 billion in the third quarter of 2021, as the surge of Delta-variant infections boosted demand for its tests. It reported profits 50% above forecasts and said it expected 40% growth in profits for the full year.

Companies, clinics and hospitals administering the tests also “have been booking record profits,” Kaiser Health News reported in May. U.S. regulations don’t limit fees charged to insurers or the public. In 2020, Quest Diagnostics made $42 in revenue per procedure, which on average cost $29 to administer—margins one-third higher than the company generates from its regular activities, according to Reuters. Quest in October raised its 2021 earnings outlook based on “higher than anticipated" COVID-19 testing volumes.

This Brief has been updated to include third-quarter financial figures.

Is it certain that gun owners are more likely to use their gun to commit suicide than in self-defense?

Ambiguities in data collection cast uncertainty on whether gun use for suicide or self-defense is more likely. 

There is a wide range of estimates of gun use for self-defense, from under 2,000 to 2.5 million incidents annually. These figures vary based on a given data-collecting organization's methodology. The Gun Violence Archive—which has cataloged under 2,000 annual incidents several times in recent years—only counts incidents that are "significant enough" to be verified by law enforcement, while the 2.5 million figure, derived from a 1995 study by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, relies on self-reported incidents.

The number of annual firearm suicides—measured by the Centers for Disease Control and the University of Washington—range between a low of 19,392 in 2010 and 24,975 in 2017. The number of firearm suicides has trended upward over the past decade.

Do preliminary findings suggest mouthwash may help prevent COVID-19 infections?

A 2020 study found that several nasal rinses and mouthwashes had "significant virucidal properties" related to the human coronavirus, meaning they were observed to destroy or inactivate it. Researchers concluded the products "may provide an additional level of protection."

A similar study from 2021 found that using a certain type of mouthwash on day one "reduced the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in saliva," concluding that it "appears to provide a modest benefit compared with placebo."

Despite these preliminary findings, experts speaking to Healthline offered the following caveats:

  • The virus collects in other parts of the body untargeted by mouthwash.
  • There is currently no large-scale study on the efficacy of mouthwash for combating COVID-19.

Makers of Listerine mouthwash cautioned that "no evidence-based conclusions can be drawn with regards to the anti-viral efficacy of Listerine Antiseptic mouthwash at this time."

Have voter ID laws been found to decrease minority turnout?

Voter ID laws have been linked to lower rates of voter turnout among non-white groups.

A 2020 study of county turnout data from 2012 to 2016 found that "the gap in turnout between more racially diverse and less racially diverse counties grew more in states enacting new strict photo ID laws than it did elsewhere."

Certain voter ID laws have also been observed to be unequally applied: in 2006, Hispanic voters in New Mexico's First Congressional District were more likely to show identification than non-Hispanic voters.

Twenty states require voters to show a form of photo ID, which white people carry at higher rates than non-white people. An additional 14 states require non-photo ID. Some states accept forms of ID held more frequently by white people while rejecting forms held more frequently by non-white groups, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Are Mississippi teachers paid less than teachers in other states relative to the cost of living?

Salaries for Mississippi teachers are near the bottom of rankings for teachers' salaries across the U.S., even when adjusting for cost of living, according to the latest analyses from 2019. Multiple rankings placed Mississippi teacher salaries between the second- and fourth-lowest among U.S. states when accounting for regional purchasing-power variations. 

Mississippi teachers' salaries are low enough to qualify mid-career teachers for six or more government benefits—more than in any other state. Other factors also impact Mississippi teachers' finances, including high health insurance premiums for family coverage and higher employee contributions to retirement plans in comparison to other states.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has proposed teacher pay raises over the next three years totalling $3,300, which he says would bump up the state's teacher-pay ranking to the 21st in the country.

Are men more likely to spread viral particles than women?

A 2021 study from Colorado State University suggests that men's biology and speaking patterns make them more likely to spread viral particles, with implications for coronavirus transmission, which spreads through respiratory droplets.

The study found that males produced 62% more droplets than females, adults 62% more than minors, and singing 77% more than talking.

The study did note that after accounting for participants' voice volume and exhaled carbon dioxide, "age and sex differences were attenuated and no longer statistically significant." However, practically speaking, males appear to emit more droplets due to their larger lung capacity.

The study was inspired by a previous finding that singing and talking loudly emit more droplets than speaking and talking quietly, respectively.

Female voices tend to higher and breathier, giving the appearance of being quieter due to how the human ear perceives sound. However, it is unclear whether the female voice is actually quieter.

Have one in 300 Mississippi residents died of COVID-19?

According to Centers for Disease Control data, 347 Mississippians per 100,000 have died of COVID-19 since Jan. 21, 2020. This equates to about 3.5 per 1,000, indicating that more than one in 300 Mississippi residents have succumbed to the disease.

The death rate is even higher for specific Mississippi counties, including Clarke and Neshoba. One in 165 Clarke County residents have died from COVID-19. In Neshoba County, one in 141 residents have perished — the highest death rate of any U.S. county.

Mississippi also has the highest rate of COVID-19 deaths (347 per 100,000) among the states. Alabama and New Jersey trail behind, losing 332 per 100,000 and 321 per 100,000 residents to COVID-19, respectively, since the start of the pandemic.

Mississippi is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with 55% of Mississippians having received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Mississippi is also among the unhealthiest states in the nation.

Is the Build Back Better Act expected to increase the national deficit?

The Build Back Better Act is expected to increase the national deficit in the short term before beginning to decrease it in 2027. 

The Congressional Budget Office's cost estimate shows a total increase of $367 billion in the deficit as a result of the legislation. Annually, the legislation will cause net increases in the deficit between 2022 and 2027, after which it will cause net decreases until 2031. The estimate also finds that the legislation will result in decreases in deficits after 2031.

Following a request by Republican members of Congress, the CBO projected deficit increases of $3 trillion between 2022 and 2031 from the Build Back Better Act for a modified scenario in which various policies in the legislation would be permanent rather than temporary. However, President Biden and Democratic members of Congress have said that any extensions of the programs would be offset by other changes.

Is the Build Back Better Act expected to increase inflation?

Most economists in government and academia agree that the Biden administration's Build Back Better legislation will not contribute to inflation.

A memo by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reassured lawmakers that the legislation would not add to short- or long-term inflation given that it is projected to have a small short-term net deficit impact and, as highlighted by the Congressional Budget Office, reduce the deficit in later years.

Two groups of top economists released statements of support for the legislation as well as Biden's larger infrastructure and social spending agenda. The groups highlighted how the legislation will counter both short-term price increases during the pandemic and long-term inflationary pressures by investing in economic capacity and productivity over several years.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget called the expected impact "ambiguous," recommending fully paying for the costs to reduce inflationary risk.

Do vaccines contain stem cells?

While vaccines do not contain stem or fetal cells, many common vaccines are developed by growing viruses in fetal embryo cells. 

Examples include those for treating hepatitis A, rabies and chickenpox. Fetal cells were also used during the testing and development of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

The fetal cells were initially taken from two fetuses aborted in the early 1960s. However, from the beginning, scientists have duplicated these cells in the lab for use — no cells from aborted fetuses are used.

According to scientists, fetal human cells are used rather than animal cells because viruses "tend to grow better" in human cells. Furthermore, as fetal cells do not divide as much as other types of cells, they can be used for far longer. 

Did the Biden administration make insulin unaffordable?

The spike in insulin prices began long before Biden became president. Between 2012 and 2018, the price increased at an average rate of 14% a year.

To combat the continuing price hikes, President Trump issued an executive order in 2020 designed to lower the prices of insulin and epinephrine for low-income individuals.

On his inauguration day, Biden suspended the not-yet-implemented order as part of a regulatory freeze on all "new and pending rules," giving his administration time to review the policies to determine their alignment with his political objectives. The Health and Human Services Department supported this decision, suggesting the order's "limited scope" would have a "minimal economic impact."

Biden's proposed Build Back Better legislation includes measures to make prescription drugs more affordable, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and imposing a tax penalty on pharmaceutical companies for increasing prices faster than inflation.

Does the US mismanage less than 1% of its plastic waste?

In 2016, the estimated rate of plastic waste mismanaged by the U.S. was between 2.33% and 2.99% of plastic waste generated, according to a peer-reviewed Science Advances study. Examples of mismanagement include litter, illegal dumping, inadequate domestic waste management, and inadequate management in countries that import plastic waste from the U.S.

The U.S. generates more plastic waste than any other country (17% of the world's total) and ranks 12th for the amount of mismanaged waste. It also had the third-largest amount of mismanaged plastic waste in a coastal environment globally.

Given the scale of the issue, a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report urges the creation of a national strategy to reduce the amount of plastic waste the U.S. releases into the ocean, including steps to reduce waste at all stages of the plastic waste cycle.

Has the Biden administration sought funding for nearly 87,000 new IRS employees?

In May 2021, the Biden administration proposed funding increases for the IRS, including funding for 86,852 new agency employees.

The Treasury Department said the hiring is needed because of expected departures of current employees along with growth in enforcement and customer service responsibilities. The department says understaffing, along with outdated technology, contributes to the large-scale tax avoidance in the U.S.: 15% of owed taxes go uncollected, causing an estimated $600 billion in lost revenue annually.

In response to Republican objections on privacy grounds, the department clarified that audit rates would not rise for those making under $400,000 per year. Instead, the IRS will "target enforcement actions where they belong: on higher earners who do not fully report their tax liabilities" given that "the tax gap is more concentrated toward the top of the income distribution."

Has political partisanship worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Democrats and Republicans are more likely to be antagonistic and disagree across a range of political values.

Partisans were more likely to hold a “very unfavorable” view of the other side in 2021 than in 2000 and 2014, according to Pew Research Center. In the summer of 2020, ahead of the presidential election, Pew also found that voters' views about race, gender, and family were more polarized along party lines than they had been in 2016.

The growing divide manifests in greater party-based polarization in presidential approval ratings: Gallup reported that the Biden presidency is experiencing the largest gap in job approval among his predecessors going back to Clinton.

Do veterans make up a greater percentage of Congress than of the general population?

The veteran population is 10 percentage points higher in Congress than in the general population.

According to the Congressional Research Service, as of January 2021, Congress had 75 veterans in the House and 16 in the Senate, for a total of 91. These figures suggest veterans make up 17% of the 535-member Congress.

In contrast, in 2018, the latest year with available data, veterans made up about 7% of the adult population.

Despite being higher than in the general population, veteran representation in Congress has been declining since the mid-1970s, when nearly three-fourths of lawmakers had served in the military, according to Military Times. The Military Officers Association of America cites the end of the draft as one reason for the drop.

Veteran representation within the general population has also decreased, from 18% in 1980 to 7% in 2018.

Is there a federal ban on late-stage abortions?

There is no outright ban on late-stage abortions at the federal level, although most states do not permit the practice.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that Americans have a constitutional right to abortion, but that states could prohibit the practice at the point of "fetal viability" — when a fetus can survive outside the womb, typically at 24 to 28 weeks — with exceptions required for the life and health of the pregnant person.

Since then, the only federal abortion restriction that has been enacted and upheld is a partial-abortion ban, which makes illegal the termination of a fetus already partially outside the womb.

Forty-three states prohibit abortions after a certain point in pregnancy, except when the pregnancy threatens the individual's life or health. A few states also make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Is climate change a concern for most Americans?

According to recent polls, the majority of Americans report being concerned about climate change. Citing warming weather and recent "extreme weather events," 59% of Americans in an October 2021 Associated Press-NORC poll stated that climate change was an "extremely important" issue to them. Around 76% of respondents even claimed to have "taken at least one action" to reduce their personal carbon footprint.

A recent American Psychiatric Association poll similarly found that roughly 67% of Americans are worried about the impact of climate change on the planet. More than half (55%) were also concerned about climate change's impact on their mental health, with these percentages being higher for Gen Z-ers, millennials, and Gen X-ers.

Relatedly, roughly two-thirds of Americans reported that the government was doing "too little" to combat climate change in a 2020 Pew Research Center Study.

Are all PCR COVID-19 tests being taken off the market?

Only a few of the many PCR COVID-19 tests, which are used to detect whether people are carrying the coronavirus that causes the disease, have been taken off the market. Quidel is one such company that had its COVID-19 PCR tests recalled in July 2021 after it was found that patients with high amounts of the coronavirus were testing negative for COVID-19 with its tests due to faulty instruments.

Despite this, as Reuters reports, there is no evidence that all PCR tests are being taken off the market or that COVID-19 cases were "falsified."

Companies making the alternative COVID-19 antigen tests have been experiencing more recalls. While antigen tests produce results more quickly, PCR tests are more accurate. Both Innova and Ellume, COVID-19 antigen test-making companies, had their tests recalled by the FDA due to the risk of false results.

Did both Republicans and Democrats vote for free-trade agreements that led to outsourcing?

While the economic impacts of trade liberalization are widely debated and difficult to measure, critics argue that free-trade agreements have led to the outsourcing of well-paying U.S. jobs to other countries. Three prominent pro-trade actions by Congress were bipartisan, with particularly strong support from Republicans (see vote tallies in the Google Docs file linked below).

The 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been blamed for 600,000 lost U.S. jobs over two decades, and its successor, the 2020 U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, entered into force with bipartisan support.

Additionally, a Republican House majority enabled Democratic president Bill Clinton to grant China permanent normal trading privileges in 2000 ahead of the country's ascension to the World Trade Organization. This action helped stimulate greater trade between the U.S. and China, as well as a large U.S. trade deficit, which some believe has led to the loss of 3.7 million U.S. jobs between 2001 and 2018.

Is China the top country for electric vehicle battery production?

China is the global leader in the production of lithium-ion batteries, the power source for most electric vehicles. Forecasts predict 77% of global lithium-ion production capacity will be located in China by the end of 2021.

China controls 80% of the world’s raw material refining for lithium-ion batteries, 77% of the world’s cell capacity and 60% of the world’s component manufacturing, according to BloombergNEF’s 2020 lithium-ion battery supply chain ranking. China is also the top country in the world for domestic battery demand. China currently has 93 factories manufacturing lithium-ion battery cells, in comparison to four in the U.S.

China is expected to expand its dominance in the battery market. Experts predict that 148 of the world’s 200 lithium-ion battery factories to be built by 2030 will be located in the country. They also suspect that Chinese companies will accelerate the construction of battery factories overseas.

Could America achieve energy independence by extracting more oil?

Experts debate whether American energy independence is possible. At the least, it would require more than just upping the quantity of oil extracted domestically.

Each type of crude oil has a particular way it's processed. Newer oil reserves, made accessible by horizontal drilling, typically contain light sweet crude. However, the adjacent refineries are built to handle heavy sour crude. New pipelines and refineries would have to be built to transport and process the oil before it could supply domestic energy needs.

Moreover, because oil is a global commodity, the oil market abroad would continue to affect oil prices in the U.S., even if America produced enough refined oil to supply all of its domestic energy needs.

In 2020, America's oil production exceeded consumption, yet it imported 44% of the oil it consumed and exported 46% of the oil it produced.

Would greenhouse gas emissions increase if everyone went vegan?

Much research indicates that greenhouse gas emissions would decrease, not increase, if everyone went vegan.

A 2016 study published in PNAS found that a vegan diet would cut food-related emissions by 70%. A more conservative estimate from 2017, which factored in emissions from food waste currently fed to livestock that would have to be burned, found that switching to a vegan food system would decrease U.S. agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by 28%.

Due to the feed and land livestock require, and the waste they generate, animal agriculture has a much higher carbon footprint than plant agriculture. For example, 100 grams of protein from beef generates 50 times more emissions than an equivalent serving of beans.

A 2014 study found that meat-eaters emitted between 99% and 102% more greenhouse gases than vegans. These findings are supported by a 2021 study that found global greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods.

Is the term ‘Latinx’ popular among Latinos?

Despite the push by some in the LGBTQ+ community to replace the gendered terms "Latino" and "Latina" with the gender-neutral term "Latinx," the term remains relatively unpopular among Hispanic and Latino populations.

According to a 2019 poll from Pew Research Center, only 23% of U.S. adults self-identifying as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term "Latinx" and only 3% use it to describe themselves. A Gallup poll had similar findings: only 4% of Hispanic adults surveyed claimed to prefer the use of the term "Latinx."

Those opposed to the term argue it is difficult to pronounce or even "linguistic imperialism on the Spanish language."

To deal with such complaints, the term "Latine" has been proposed as a substitute.

The term's origins are unclear, but Mexican American linguist David Bowles told History: "White people did not make up Latinx. It was queer Latinx people."

Are Americans quitting their jobs at a record pace?

The number of quits — "generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee" — increased in September to the highest level on record at 4.4 million, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data dating back to 2004. The quits rate also increased to 3.0% in September. In comparison, the quits rate was 2.1% a year before.

The Great Resignation, as the phenomenon has come to be known, has affected the tech and health care industries most heavily, while resignations actually decreased slightly in industries such as manufacturing and finance.

Experts still have not reached a consensus on root causes. Gallup survey data highlights how quitting is related to low rates of employee engagement, while University of California, Berkeley economist Ulrike Malmendie has proposed that people are quitting due to the more existential "experience effects" of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can melatonin help treat COVID-19?

Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, which is made in the pineal gland but can also be taken as a supplement, has been observed to help reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

A June 2021 study found that COVID-19 patients given melatonin were discharged from the hospital sooner and returned to "baseline health" faster than those not given melatonin. 

A September 2021 study found that melatonin improved symptoms and chances of survival in mice by reducing a type of pulmonary inflammation.

An October 2021 study reviewing melatonin's effects on humans found that "melatonin acts to prevent [oxygen deficiency], thereby improving COVID-19 prognosis."

Melatonin may also help prevent COVID-19 infection: A November 2020 study found that melatonin supplementation reduced the likelihood of a positive COVID-19 test by 28%, but authors noted that more studies are needed to evaluate its clinical efficacy. 

Has the chance of dying from extreme weather significantly declined over the past century?

Over the past century, there has been a substantial decline in deaths from extreme weather.

The average number of annual natural disaster–related deaths declined from between 400,000 and 500,000 in the early 1900s to less than 100,000 in the second half of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st century, according to the International Disaster Database, which has cataloged more than 18,000 mass disasters dating back to 1900. Comparing deaths over longer periods of time is preferable to comparing between years since the number of deaths in any given year is highly variable, with low-frequency, high-impact events causing the most deaths.

The decline is attributable to improved disaster management and response systems rather than a decrease in extreme weather events. The number of natural disasters has actually risen by a factor of five over the past 50 years, causing a sevenfold increase in economic losses.

Did pollution decrease during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown?

In a majority of countries, pollution decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

A study published in PNAS in August 2020 found that "lockdown events have reduced the population-weighted concentration of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter levels by about 60% and 31% in 34 countries." Authors attributed the drop to "unprecedented reductions in economic activity" such as the decrease in cars on the road. The study controlled for meteorological variations.

A separate report by IQAir found that 84% of the 106 nations supplying pollutant data experienced lower levels of PM 2.5 in 2020 relative to 2019 due to lockdown measures.

NASA's computer models of 2020 pollutant levels absent the pandemic indicated that the lockdown "reduced global nitrogen dioxide concentrations by nearly 20%."

Adding nuance, a January 2021 study published in Science Advances suggested that while pollution did decline, the amount was lower than expected.

Could we significantly reduce atmospheric CO2 by planting more trees?

Scientists have established that reforestation can help mitigate climate change by sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide.

A Science study published in 2019 on global reforestation potential found that ecosystems could support a 25% increase in forested area. That increase could store a quarter of the current atmospheric carbon pool.

In response to critical comments on the study, Science clarified that "tree restoration should [not] be considered the unique solution to climate change" and acknowledged "the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels."

There is not enough reforestation potential to sequester the CO2 necessary to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius: a 2017 study found that trees could sequester a third of what's needed. Trees also do not prevent CO2 from being absorbed into the oceans. CO2 acidifies water, disrupting marine ecosystems.

Can climate change increase babies’ risk of heart disease?

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2019 suggests warmer temperatures due to climate change may cause an uptick in the number of babies born with congenital heart disease, starting in 2025.

Scientists currently hypothesize that heat exposure during early pregnancy causes "fetal cell death or interferes with protein synthesis," both of which disrupt the development of a fetus.

Heart disease currently affects around 40,000 children born per year in the U.S. and is the most common birth defect. Scientists believe the uptick may cause an additional 7,000 babies per year to be born with the defect between 2025 and 2035.

While most congenital heart disease cases are treatable, scientists are encouraging pregnant women to "limit time outdoors" and use air conditioning during hot weather.

Does current data suggest there are more trees in Canada’s boreal forest than stars in the Milky Way?

Current data suggests there are more trees in Canada's boreal forest than stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

In 2015, Nature published a study estimating the global tree population at more than three trillion trees. According to data collected by the study's 38 researchers, about 750 billion trees are located in boreal forests in North America and Eurasia. Canada's reported share is 318 billion trees. The estimate was formed using data from international forestry databases and peer-reviewed studies reporting large international inventories published in the preceding 10 years. The study only included trees thicker than 10 centimeters in diameter at breast height. 

In contrast, the most cited estimate of stars in the Milky Way, conducted by the The European Space Agency by measuring the luminosity of the galaxy, is 100 billion.

NASA noted that while 100 billion is the most commonly cited figure, estimates of 400 billion and greater exist.

Did President Biden refer to Black baseball player Satchel Paige as a 'great Negro'?

At the National Veterans Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 11, President Biden, while recounting an anecdote about Black professional baseball player Satchel Paige, made the following remarks:

"I’ve adopted the attitude of the great Negro — at the time, pitcher in the Negro Leagues — went on to become a great pitcher in the pros — in the Major League Baseball after Jackie Robinson. His name was Satchel Paige."

It's likely Biden intended to describe Paige as a great pitcher in the Negro Leagues, but misspoke and then corrected himself. Biden is notorious for faux pas, even referring to himself as "a gaffe machine" in 2018.

The Negro Leagues were all-Black baseball teams that formed in the 1920s when the sport was still segregated. A year after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Paige became the first Black World Series pitcher in 1948.

Is Nevada one of the best states for renewable energy?

Nevada is one of the leading U.S. states for geothermal and solar electricity generation.

It is the state with the second highest generation of geothermal electricity, trailing only California. Nevada produces a quarter of U.S. geothermal power.

Nevada is also the state with the sixth-largest amount of solar energy capacity as of 2021, supplying solar energy to nearly 700,000 households. It has the sixth-highest capacity of utility-scale solar electricity generation among the states.

Nevada ranked 12th among states for the largest increase in total renewable energy production between 2010 and 2019, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. It also ranked 13th in the country for overall operating wind, solar and energy storage capacity.

Does Nevada permit coyote killing contests?

Despite pressure from state Democrats, Nevada still permits coyote hunting tournaments.

Last Friday, Nevada's Wildlife Commission board voted 5-4 not to adopt an amendment that would have ended the practice. The proposed ban applied only to contests that award prizes for the most kills; hunters could still trap and kill coyotes, which have no species protections and can be killed without licenses. Hunters make up 2.35% of Nevada residents, according to Nevada Wildlife Department director Tony Wasley.

Opponents of the ban claim the contests serve as free predator control that the state would otherwise have to pay for and protect wildlife, livestock, and pets from coyotes.

Proponents argue the contests are too sporadic to contribute to population control and that coyotes provide ecosystem services such as eating rodents.

Since 2014, eight states have banned coyote killing contests.

Does Nevada rank last in the US for both employment and education?

Nevada does currently rank last in the U.S. for employment but is not the worst performing state in the nation for education — although it is close.

Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment data from September 2021, the most recent month available, indicates that Nevada is tied with California for the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 7.5%. In a separate measurement of the most job-friendly states by personal finance website WalletHub, Nevada scored 41st out of 50.

U.S. News and World Report's 2020 Education Rankings, which uses "enrollment in pre-K, standardized test scores and the public high school graduation rate" as metrics, ranked Nevada 48 out of 50 for "pre-K-12" education.

In Education Week's school quality rankings, which uses enrollment, reading and mathematics achievement, and the high school graduation rate as metrics, Nevada tied with Oklahoma for 49 out of 50, trailed only by New Mexico.

Is there a consensus on whether people vaccinated against COVID-19 are less likely to transmit the virus?

The medical community currently lacks consensus on whether people vaccinated against COVID-19 are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.

New Scientist cited several studies that found vaccinated individuals infected with COVID-19 are between 63% and 89% less likely to transmit the virus.

However, a Lancet study published October 29 found that while vaccination "reduces the risk of Delta variant infection and accelerates viral clearance," once infected, vaccinated individuals transmit the virus at similar rates to unvaccinated individuals.

Nature offers a third take, reporting that vaccinated individuals infected with COVID-19 are initially less likely to transmit the virus, but the "protective effect...dwindles alarmingly" three months after vaccination.

Did Ted Cruz defend Nazis?

Ted Cruz did not defend Nazi ideology or practices. Instead, he objected to the classification of a Nazi salute performed by a man protesting school masking as a threat. Addressing the matter at a Congressional hearing, Cruz said,

"My God! A parent did a Nazi salute because they thought the policies were oppressive. General Garland, is doing a Nazi salute at an elected official...protected by the First Amendment?" Attorney General Merrick Garland responded, "Yes, it is."

In September, the National School Board Association requested federal law enforcement to protect "education leaders" from violence and intimidation, citing more than 20 instances, including the Nazi salute. Less than a week later, the Justice Department issued a memo disclosing it would be coordinating with local law enforcement to "discourage" and "prosecute" future threats.

Garland refused to rescind the memo despite Republican pressure.

Did US billionaires get 70% richer during the coronavirus pandemic?

U.S. billionaires have collectively gained $2.1 trillion during the coronavirus pandemic — a wealth increase of 70.3%, according to Forbes data from stock prices analyzed by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies. Billionaires' wealth was valued just under $3 trillion in March 2020, the beginning of the pandemic, compared to more than $5 trillion as of Oct. 15, 2021.

The number of American billionaires also increased from 614 to 745 over the same period. In 2021, the U.S. reinforced its status as the best performing region for ultra-high-net-worth individuals amid surging equity markets, government stimulus packages and ultra-low interest rates.

Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX, was the billionaire whose wealth grew the most, at 751%, causing him to surpass Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as the world's richest person.

Do Americans pay more for prescription drugs than other developed nations?

Americans pay significantly more for prescription drugs than similar nations around the world. Advair, for example, is more than twice as expensive in the U.S. compared to Canada and more than three times as expensive compared to the U.K., according to a 2015 Bloomberg analysis.

In 2018, average prescription drug prices were roughly 2.5 times higher in the U.S than in 32 other OECD countries, according to U.S. News and World Report. The gap was especially pronounced for brand-name drugs, which cost 3.4 times more in the U.S. than its OECD counterparts.

The RAND Corporation made similar findings but noted that generic drugs, which make up 12% of drug spending, are slightly cheaper in the U.S.

Consumer advocate Drugwatch cites the ban on price negotiation, the lack of price increase caps, and patents that crowd out generics as some factors influencing the U.S.'s high drug prices.

Have diabetes medications experienced high inflation in recent years?

The price of diabetes medications and supplies has been on the rise, increasing by 58% between 2014 and 2019, according to affordable health care advocate GoodRx. When insulin is included, the spike grows to 76%.

This is an ongoing trend. Research from the American Diabetes Association found that "the average price of insulin almost tripled between 2002 and 2013."

Insulin prices in the U.S. are an outlier globally: insulin prices are more than eight times higher in the U.S. than in 32 high-income nations combined, according to a RAND Corporation study.

Lawmakers in at least 36 states have introduced bills to stop the rise in insulin prices, but are met with pushback from manufacturers. In April 2021, a bill that would allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices was reintroduced. It passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

Is the Biden administration considering giving up to $450,000 to all undocumented immigrants?

The Biden administration is not considering making all undocumented immigrants eligible for up to $450,000.

Instead, the payouts would go only to immigrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration, according to the Wall Street Journal, who spoke with "people familiar with the matter."

The Department of Homeland Security told The Washington Post that at least 5,500 children were taken away from their parents under Trump's "zero tolerance" border policy. Payouts could thus total around $2.5 billion — less than 0.1% of the federal government's revenue of $3.4 trillion in 2020.

The Wall Street Journal reported that about 940 legal claims related to family separation have been filed. Georgetown Law professor Heidi Li Feldman told The Washington Post that the government could face much larger payments were the litigation to go forward, as well as costly legal fees from defending all the cases. 

Does the US have more people in prison than China?

Based on formal tallies, the U.S.'s prison population is the highest of any country in the world including China, both in terms of per capita prisoners and total number of prisoners.

The U.S.'s incarceration rate was 639 per 100,000 in 2021, according to World Population Review. China's ranks 116th with 121 per 100,000.

Despite having less than a quarter of China's population, the U.S. also has the highest overall prison population at more than two million. China's is approximately 1.7 million. Globally, the U.S. accounts for 4% of the population and 25% of prisoners.

China's figure does not include detainees located in Xinjiang internment camps, which are reportedly used to indoctrinate Uyghurs and other Muslims. While China has not provided numbers, a recent estimate based on satellite images, public spending on detention facilities, and witness accounts of overcrowded facilities and missing family members placed the number of detainees at 1.5 million.

Is an AT&T-affiliated satellite TV service an important source of revenue for One America News?

One America News, a conservative news channel, receives 90% of its revenues from a distribution contract with AT&T's 70%-owned DIRECTV satellite television service, according to court documents and transcripts reviewed by Reuters. AT&T does not agree with characterizations that it therefore "funds" the channel, but the privately-owned service nonetheless relies on the agreement for most of its revenue, Reuters found.

Without the AT&T revenue, OAN "would go out of business tomorrow,” a lawyer stated in court, according to Reuters. The statement came during a trial of a lawsuit brought by a former OAN employee against the conservative news channel, Reuters said.

Reuters said documents indicated that the channel relies on the AT&T fees for $57 million a month. AT&T says the figure is "inaccurate," but declines to provide a specific one.

AT&T sold part of its interest in DIRECTV in August 2021.

Is California considering widening a highway through the Richardson Grove redwoods?

Caltrans, California's transportation department, has been attempting to widen a 1.1 mile– long strip of highway running through Richardson Grove State Park since 2006. After being halted three times, a federal judge gave the project a green light this August despite opposition from environmentalists and indigenous groups. While lawsuits have been filed to overturn the decision, none so far has succeeded.

Caltrans says the project will enable industry standard-sized trucks, currently prohibited from the route, to pass through, improving the movement of goods and "helping local businesses stay competitive."

Opponents argue the project will "kill or damage irreplaceable ancient redwood trees" and suggest there are alternative routes that can be used to move goods through Richardson Grove.

The project's construction date is still "to be determined," according to the Caltrans website.

Have 'almost ten' deaths been directly attributed to the Jan. 6 Capitol siege?

Only five deaths — one cop and four rioters — are directly attributable to the siege:

  • Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died of a stroke after being beaten by rioters.
  • Ashli Babbitt, who died after being shot while attempting to breach a broken window.
  • Kevin Greeson, who died of a heart attack.
  • Rosanne Boyland, who appears to have been crushed to death.
  • Benjamin Philips, who died of a stroke.

Four additional police officers present at the siege have since committed suicide. While the reasons remain unclear, the wife of one officer claims her husband became deeply depressed following the siege, where he was punched and hit in the head with a metal pole.

In July, officers testified to Congress that they feared they might die during the siege as they were beaten, threatened, and taunted with racial insults. 

Does China’s recently demonstrated hypersonic missile technology pose a national security threat to the US?

China's recent nuclear-capable hypersonic missile test demonstrates a military capability threatening to U.S. national security.

Gen. Mark Milley, the nation's top military officer, called the test “very concerning.” Milley confirmed the occurrence of the test, originally reported by the Financial Times, which cited “five people familiar with the test” as its source. Milley declined to provide details due to their classified nature. Chinese officials have denied that the tests involved hypersonic missiles.

The key features of hypersonic missiles, which the U.S. and Russia are also developing, “include flight trajectory, speed and maneuverability that make them capable of evading early warning systems that are part of U.S. missile defenses,” according to AP News. Hypersonic missiles can fly six times faster than the speed of sound.

The U.S government currently spends more than $1 billion per year on hypersonic research.

Are police required to wear masks by the federal government?

There is no federal policy requiring law enforcement officers to wear masks on the job.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends law enforcement personnel wear masks if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and continue to work or if they are entering a structure where someone has died and the suspected cause is COVID-19.

Some larger cities, including Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago are requiring police officers to wear masks in most circumstances and disciplining them when they fail to comply. Other cities are not enforcing such protocols, even exempting officers from public mask mandates.

Police issues expert David A. Harris told Associated Press that "it's reasonable to expect police to wear masks during more routine work" while acknowledging that the masks can obstruct an officer's vision and breathing.

Do cruise ships emit thousands of tons of greenhouse gases per week?

According to an estimate cited in The Guardian in 2006, the 2,092-passenger Queen Elizabeth II consumes 433 metric tons of fuel a day. As each ton burned emits 3.1 tons of carbon dioxide, the big liner produces 9,396 tons of emissions a week. “Travelling to New York and back on the QEII, in other words, uses almost 7.6 times as much carbon as making the same journey by plane,” environmental advocate George Monbiot told the U.K. newspaper.

The 323 cruise ships operating worldwide account for 0.2% of global emissions.  The average vessel carries 3,000 passengers. Cruises are carbon-intensive due to their use of heavy fuel oil and their need to run 24/7, as they feed and house both passengers and accompanying staff while in port and en route.

Environmental groups have long urged the industry to invest in cleaner fuel sources. A German advocacy group, NABU, argues that ships’ reliance on relatively “dirty” fuel oil means a single ship can have the impact of a million cars. It calls on owners to convert ships to lower-sulfur fuels and install emissions-control technology.

Is the Biden administration primarily responsible for the recent rise in inflation?

Biden's COVID-19 stimulus spending is not the primary cause of recent inflation. Pandemic-related government spending began under Trump to protect the country from COVID-19's economic fallout. Moreover, research across 80 countries in the postwar period by economists Son Hang and Casey Mulligan found "little relation between inflation and nonmilitary government spending."

Last month, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell discussed the factors driving inflation, citing:

  • Supply bottlenecks due to pandemic-related disruptions in global production and trade.
  • Labor shortages, which lead to supply shortages due to decreased productivity.
  • Increased demand "as the economy continues to reopen and spending rebounds." 

Powell opined that the inflation is temporary: as supply chains are restored, "inflation is expected to drop back toward our longer-run 2 percent goal."

In a recent poll, 62% of Americans said Biden was "somewhat" or "very" responsible for increasing inflation.

Are significant numbers of health care workers quitting due to vaccine mandates?

Thus far, it seems very few health care workers are willing to risk their jobs over vaccinations.

According to Fierce Healthcare, those who quit rather than receive the vaccine often make up less than 1% of a hospital's workforce.

The New York Times similarly found that the non-compliance rate at large hospitals ranged between 0.5% and 2%.

The Conversation reported that while half of unvaccinated workers say they'd rather quit than get a shot, few are following through: between 0.3% at an Indiana hospital and 2.3% at an Alabama hospital — a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates.

Rather than Biden's vaccine mandate, which permits religious and medical exemptions and a weekly testing alternative, factors driving the shortage of health care workers include COVID-19 burnout, retirement and an aging population that is living longer and in need of more care.

Is the federal government collecting vaccine data to keep tabs on which American citizens are following orders?

The federal government does not keep records on which American citizens have been vaccinated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, "there is no national organization that maintains vaccination records." The only records that exist are those in local vaccination clinics and the paperwork patients receive after getting vaccinated.

The Atlantic reported that the U.S. operates on an "honor system" — there is often no way to validate whether vaccination cards required for entry into certain places are legitimate.

The federal government has also never legally ordered the general public to get vaccinated. While more limited mandates have been enacted for public schoolchildren, federal employees, etc., there are exemptions that allow the immunocompromised or those with "religious or philosophical objections" to opt out. Other alternatives include periodically showing a negative test result or paying a fine.

Is the US government purchasing cellphone data to locate and arrest undocumented immigrants?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement purchased location data generated from cellphone activity and used it to identify and arrest immigrants, according to people familiar with the matter that spoke with the Wall Street Journal. ICE and other immigration agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Protection have been buying large commercial datasets since at least 2017 from Venntel, a small location-based marketing company. The location data is harvested from smartphone apps.

In December 2020, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE and CBP, announced an investigation into "policies related to cell-phone surveillance devices."

A letter written by the Inspector General to Congress from February 2021 recognized that the Fourth Amendment protects users' cellphone-produced location data—including GPS data produced automatically through the use of applications on cellphones—and that the government needs warrants to access it.

Is there no reason to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have already been infected?

Being infected with COVID-19 does confer some natural immunity. However, those who have had COVID-19 can still be reinfected. Receiving a vaccine reduces infection risk, including in individuals previously infected.

According to a Centers for Disease Control study published in August, unvaccinated individuals with a COVID-19 history "are twice as likely to get infected again" compared to those "fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus."

A Science Magazine study published in October corroborates this, having found that COVID-19 vaccinations increased antibody levels in those with preexisting immunity, affording an "immune memory" at least six months after vaccination.

Warner Greene, a virologist at the Gladstones Institute, says individuals vaccinated post-infection have "hyper-immunity, which is like super-immunity" superior to natural immunity alone.

These findings suggest COVID-19 survivors have a reason to get vaccinated if they wish to reduce their risk of reinfection.

Is it true that supporters of school choice never advocate eliminating district boundaries or changing funding models?

While school choice is commonly associated with funding charter or private school education, the policies also permit "interdistrict schooling," allowing families to send their children to public schools outside of their district. According to 2017 data, 23 states require public schools to admit students from other districts.

Education expert Corey DeAngelis stated, "One of the central tenets of school choice is that zip code shouldn't determine your school."

Many school choice advocates also recognize that funding education via local property taxes creates educational inequality, with low-income districts unable to invest in enough teachers and supplies to facilitate quality schooling. School choice advocates Aaron Garth Smith and Christian Bernard stated,

"Ideally, local property wealth should play no role in determining school funding levels. Dollars instead should be pooled at the state level and allocated transparently based on enrollment and student needs." 

Are recent actions by the Biden Administration driving rising gas prices?

Oil policies enacted under Biden are not driving the current spike in gas prices. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic is principally responsible.

During last year's quarantine, oil demand plummeted as businesses closed and individuals sheltered in place. In response, OPEC and its allies cut production to prevent a price collapse. Parallel to this, pandemic lockdowns disrupted oil-industry supply chains.

Oil suppliers thus struggled to meet a rebounding demand spurred by the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions earlier this year. When demand exceeds supply, prices rise.

Energy experts Mark Finley and David Dismukes told USA Today that Biden policies such as halting Keystone XL and blocking new federal-lands drilling are not impacting current oil prices given that these projects were never operational. However, because the policies detract from future supply, the two agree that they could have a long-term impact on prices.

Has Congress moved to enact President Biden’s campaign promise to increase funding to HBCUs?

The Biden administration appears likely to fall far short of a campaign pledge to invest $70 billion in historically Black colleges and other minority-serving institutions to “lower students’ costs, increase graduation rates, establish research centers, build high-tech labs, and more.”

In March 2021, the White House proposed $45 billion in research and development funds for HBCUs and MSIs, as part of the administration’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. With disagreement among congressional Democrats over funding levels and priorities, the bill’s most recent version allocates only $2 billion for the institutions, in the form of competitively-awarded grants rather than direct allocations. Those institutions would still receive $27 billion in tuition subsidies and $1.45 billion of institutional aid.

In response, a group of HBCU presidents wrote a letter to members of Congress, urging “direct action” through the reconciliation bill to eliminate historical under-investments.

Does Canada have stronger COVID vaccine mandates for travelers than the US?

Canada has imposed stricter COVID-19 vaccine requirements for travelers than the U.S.

While the U.S. requires all visitors to the U.S. to have tested negative for COVID-19 no more than three days before their flights, Canada only admits fully-vaccinated foreign visitors. Canada has also announced that by the end of October it will require that anyone traveling by commercial airline, interprovincial train or cruise ship be fully vaccinated as well. The U.S. has no such mandate.

Both countries have announced policies requiring their federal employees to be vaccinated. The Biden administration is also developing requirements covering businesses with more than 100 employees.

As of Oct. 9, the Centers for Disease Control says that 56.4% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. As of Oct. 2, Canada's official count says 71.1% of its population is fully vaccinated.

Have most migrants entering the US without legal authorization ended up living in Florida?

The Department of Homeland Security in 2018 estimated that California and Texas were home to the most people lacking legal authorization to live in the U.S., with estimated populations of 2.6 million and 1.9 million people, respectively. Together, these two states’ unauthorized migrant populations represented 40% of the nationwide total. The next leading states were Florida, with about 6% of the total, followed by New York, Illinois and New Jersey.

Unauthorized residents are more concentrated in urban areas than the U.S. population overall, with 61% of the estimated total living in 20 metro areas in 2016. The metropolitan areas with the largest concentrations were New York and Los Angeles.

In Florida, the unauthorized population grew by 110,000—about 20%—between 2015 and 2018. Between 2015 and 2019, Miami was the metropolitan area where immigrants, including those living there both legally and illegally, comprised the largest share of the population.

Is green hydrogen a viable alternative fuel?

“Green” hydrogen is already being produced today in a process called electrolysis that uses electricity generated by sustainable power sources to separate out hydrogen from water molecules.

Currently, most hydrogen is obtained by subjecting natural gas to high-temperature steam, separating out hydrogen but also causing the isolated carbon to combine with oxygen in the air to form carbon dixoide. To encourage production of more green hydrogen, the International Energy Agency recommends government actions to build more hydrogen production facilities and develop renewable energy sources to power them.

Hydrogen is considered an important part of the sustainable energy transition due to its ability to substitute for natural gas and its transportability. Hydrogen is also energy dense—highly valued in industries such as aviation, shipping and concrete and steel manufacturing, which are difficult to decarbonize due to their requirements for high energy-density fuels.

Did Sen. Tammy Duckworth benefit from Illinois provisions exempting disabled veterans from property taxes?

As a disabled veteran residing in Illinois, Sen. Tammy Duckworth is eligible to claim a special property tax exemption in addition to other provisions for most homeowners. Since 2015, Illinois law has exempted any veteran with a service-connected disability of 70% or more, as determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs, from paying property taxes on his or her primary residence. Local assessors must also value the given home at $775,000 or less.

Sen. Duckworth’s Illinois home has an assessed value of $252,250, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Sen. Duckworth lost both of her legs while completing a tour of duty in Iraq as an Illinois Army National Guard member in 2004.

Are COVID vaccines known to be linked to increased risks for cancer?

COVID vaccines are neither linked to increased rinks for cancer nor can cause cancer, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

False claims about COVID vaccines and cancer arose after Sloan Kettering researchers discovered that “messenger RNA inactivates tumor-suppressing proteins.” While the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines rely on mRNA to function, mRNA molecules that “inactivate tumor-suppressing proteins” are not the same ones found in mRNA-based vaccines. Thus, the vaccines do not deactivate any proteins that would stop the creation of tumors.

The claim was initially spread by Natural News, a far-right-leaning website known to spread and promote anti-vax conspiracy theories. The claim has been refuted by Sloan Kettering itself, with the institute noting that because the vaccines do not interact with or alter one’s DNA, they could not possibly cause cancer.

Do Congressional Democrats and Republicans support their parties with funds that are effectively membership dues?

Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress support their parties through fundraising quotas.

While officially dues are not required, there is political pressure to comply, with parties rewarding successful fundraisers with powerful committee assignments.

Summarizing Issue One’s report on the subject, U.S. News and World Report wrote that during the 2018 election cycle, leading House committee members “directed 20% or more of their campaign expenses to national party committees,” with the top dues payer transferring $1.8 million to support other Republicans. It added that “parties rely heavily on membership dues to shore up funds, in part because current campaign rules place no limits on what a member can transfer to a party committee.”

Critics warn that the funding expectations distract members from governing while supporters hold that they allow funds to be channelled to newer members lacking pull with donors.

Have some members of Congress reported substantial investments in the developers of COVID-19 vaccines?

OpenSecrets, which tracks money in U.S. politics, in 2018 compiled data about Congressional stock-market holdings based on lawmakers' financial disclosures. It documented:

  • 47 Congressional investors in Pfizer, with holdings between $2,630,444 and $8,206,395.
  • 47 Congressional investors in Johnson & Johnson, with holdings between $2,545,111 and $4,688,062.

OpenSecrets pointed out that these investments could constitute a conflict of interest, writing,

“Lawmakers could lose massive chunks of their personal wealth if their legislation hurts those companies’ bottom lines.”

Many members also receive campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. According to health care media outlet Stat, “72 Senators and 302 [House] members cashed a check from the pharmaceutical industry ahead of the 2020 election”—more than two-thirds of Congress. COVID-19 providers Johnson & Johnson, Astra Zeneca, and Pfizer are included; the latter contributed to 228 lawmakers.

Moderna, another COVID-19 vaccine maker, is privately held.

Did a New York State court increase pressure on the Trump Organization to respond to requests for more information about its operations?

On Sept. 24, 2021, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that if the state attorney general is not satisfied with the Trump Organization’s latest response to a subpoena, the Trump firm must hire a third party to conduct a collection and review of its records.

Under the order, the New York Attorney General’s office has until yearend to determine if the response is sufficient. If not, the Trump firm must hire a third-party firm to conduct a further review, subject to the approval of the attorney general.

The order follows repeated failures by the Trump Organization to respond to the subpoenas, dating back to 2019. According to a former prosecutor interviewed by Courthouse News, it is uncommon to grant the party requesting the information such extensive oversight over the response to its request.

Do vaccinated people have valid reasons to hope everyone in their community also gets vaccinated?

Public healh scientists and leaders cite a number of reasons to encourage as many members of a community as possible to get vaccinatons against serious communicable diseases.

No vaccination offers 100% protection, so having more people vaccinated helps reduce the risk of serious illness for all.

Some members of the population—infants, children, the immunocompromised—may not be able to gain adequate protection from a vaccine, so hope to rely on widespread vaccinations of others to reduce their own risk.

The goal of “herd immunity” reflects these considerations, which have prevailed in the U.S. since court decisions in the early 20th century upholding authorities’ power to make certain vaccinations mandatory.

The goal underlies continuing efforts to inoculate more people against COVID-19, despite objections based on personal preference, religious grounds or claims of immunity acquired through previous infection.

Did a COVID-19 surge around St. Louis cut off veterans’ access to needed records?

In early August, a government processing center in St. Louis relied on by military veterans cut operations in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the area. 

The National Personnel Records Center, part of the National Archives, reduced staffing and operations to 10% of normal. The agency's policy limits facility occupancy during periods of high community transmission to 25% or less. With many records still on paper, such reductions impede response times.

The center has been accepting emergency requests associated with medical treatments, burials and homeless veterans, but is closed to the public and not servicing most records requests.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers recently called on the Biden administration to address the center’s backlog, which has persisted despite special Congressional funding of $50 million in December 2020.

Did California enact new limits on single-family zoning, overriding local controls?

On Sept. 16, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newson signed legislation limiting single-family zoning across the state. The law allows many homeowners to “build more than one housing unit on land that was previously designated for only one unit” under local zoning rules.

Housing affordability advocates hope the law will increase California’s notably tight housing supply. White House economists have cited its potential as a model policy response as housing prices continue to increase nationally. Another new state law fosters denser housing development near public transit lines.

One analysis of the single-family zoning bill noted a number of limitations, concluding it could “modestly accelerate” the construction of new housing units—adding a maximum 700,000 units of 2 million needed. 

Opponents are seeking to overturn the new laws with a ballot inititative in the 2022 election.

Has there been significantly more criminal activity in Republican presidential administrations than Democratic ones over the past 50 years?

While there is no official scorecard, various tallies suggest that in the past 50 years criminal indictments and convictions of executive-branch officials and have been much higher during Republican administrations.

A fact check by PolitiFact in early 2020 recorded 142 indictments—formal criminal accusations—related to three recent Republican administrations (Nixon, Reagan, Trump) versus two indictments during three recent Democratic administrations (Carter, Clinton, Obama). Since then, more Trump associates have been indicted, including Steve Bannon and Tom Barrack.

In 2018, the Daily Kos, using Wikipedia's list of federal political scandals, enumerated 88 court convictions—a formal declaration that someone is guilty of a crime—during the five Republican administrations since 1970. In comparison, the three Democratic administrations since 1970 were associated with two convictions, both during the Clinton presidency.

Fifty-five of the 88 convictions occurred during Nixon’s presidency, followed by 16 under Reagan, nine under George W. Bush, seven under Trump, and one each under Ford and George H. W. Bush.

Were four current Supreme Court justices involved in the 2000 presidential election dispute?

Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett all assisted George W. Bush’s legal team in the dispute over the 2000 presidential election results. A fourth colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas, who joined the Supreme Court majority halting a recount, was appointed by George H. W. Bush in 1991.

Roberts flew to Florida and advised Bush’s brother Jeb, then the state’s governor, during the dispute. President Bush nominated Roberts as Chief Justice in 2005.

Kavanaugh offered legal counsel, arguing for “the arbitrary, standardless nature of the recount process in Florida.” Bush hired Kavanaugh to work in the White House and later appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Trump elevated him to the Supreme Court in 2018.

Barrett, before being confirmed to the court in 2020, told the Senate that she “provided research and briefing assistance” to Bush’s law firm for about a week “at the outset of the litigation.”

Do Biden administration vaccine requirements apply to Congress?

The Biden administration Sept. 9, 2021, orders instituting strict vaccine requirements for executive-branch employees and contractors don’t apply to Congress, which as an independent branch of government determines its own employment-related policies.

A 1995 law clarifies administrative processes for legislative-branch employees, including staff members and others working for legislative-branch groups such as the Capitol Police and Congressional Budget Office. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated on April 29 that, “We cannot require someone to be vaccinated. That’s just not what we can do. It is a matter of privacy to know who is or who isn’t." She estimated about 75% of the House membership was vaccinated. On Sept. 2, USA Today reported that the number across both houses was likely higher than 81%.

Have the US and other countries made new foreign aid commitments since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan?

International donors have pledged over $1.2 billion of humanitarian and development aid to Afghanistan. The amount includes a recent United Nations flash appeal seeking urgent relief for 11 million Afghans as well as a regional response. The U.S. pledged $64 million in additional humanitarian assistance, while China and several European countries were among donor countries making new funding pledges.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called humanitarian assistance an “entry point for effective engagement with the Taliban” after the Taliban conveyed its support for aid in the country. U.N. officials have called for any sanctions on the regime to exclude impartial humanitarian activities from their scope.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken clarified that in accordance with its sanctions on the Taliban, U.S. aid to Afghanistan “will not flow through the government, but rather through independent organizations like NGOs and U.N. agencies.”

Did a recent study increase the focus on COVID-19 vaccine side effects for boys between 12 and 15 years old?

Recent studies have highlighted tradeoffs for some young teenage boys between COVID-19 vaccines’ side effects and their protective benefits.

A study that has yet to be peer-reviewed indicates that healthy 12-17 year-olds may be two to six times more likely to have a cardiac-related side effect from the vaccine than to be hospitalized with COVID-19 if they don't take it. The study found post-vaccine “cardiac adverse events” were highest among boys aged 12-15 after the second dose.

Another study found this subgroup has the highest risk of developing similar cardiac problems as a result of contracting COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control conducted a risk-benefit analysis showing that vaccination for boys aged 12-17 prevents 5,700 COVID-19 cases at a cost of 56-69 myocarditis cases. It recommends full vaccination for everyone 12 and over. U.K. experts have advised giving boys from 12 to 15 just a single dose.

Was a recent Florida report of more than 1,200 COVID-19 deaths in a day well above the recent overall trend?

Florida has experienced a sharp recent rise in COVID-19 deaths. The 7-day average as of Sept. 10 was 350 per day, compared with 50 or fewer in late June. 

Health officials focus on average numbers for a more accurate picture than that offered by daily reports. On Sept. 7 the state reported 1,291 deaths; the prior day, the Labor Day holiday, it reported none.

Tracking changes during August was made more confusing for the public by a change in how the state recorded fatalities. Along with a couple of other states, Florida changed from using the date the death was reported to the date the death occurred. The Miami Herald noted that the change resulted in a temporary understatement of the state's mortality rate—in one week cited by the Herald, there were 262 daily deaths measured under the old method, but 46 under the new.

Has the US government authorized ‘booster’ shots for people who received a J&J single-dose COVID vaccine?

The U.S. government has not yet formally authorized booster shots for those who received an initial dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, as researchers are still debating the medical risks and benefits.

Many experts seem to agree at least that immunocompromised people and older adults will likely benefit from a booster shot, in some cases recommending a Moderna or Pfizer formulation following the initial J&J shot. In August 2021, the city of San Francisco began offering Moderna and Pfizer boosters to those who earlier received the J&J shot.

Prominent experts have publicly declared intentions to “mix and match” a Moderna or Pfizer booster following their initial J&J shot, the New York Times reported, despite the lack of “rigorous” data. Those who want a booster may need “some deviousness” to find a drugstore willing to administer it at this point, it noted.

Have about 2,500 children been hospitalized with COVID-19 in each recent week in the US?

According to Centers for Disease Control data, in the week ending Sept. 9, 2021, new hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients under 18 years of age averaged 350 a day, close to a pace of 2,500 weekly or 10,000 a month.

The latest week saw a slight decline from the previous week’s daily average of 371.

With schools in session and vaccines not yet approved for children under 12, parents, educators and health officials are paying close attention to the trend and the possible effect of the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The pace reflects an increase in the proportion of people under 18 entering the hospital—which rose to 0.48 per 100,000 in September from 0.07 in early July. Overall, infected children remain much less likely to require hospitalization than adults; average new admissions for all age groups were 3.5/100,000 in week ending Sept. 9.

Do recently published grant documents prove that Anthony Fauci misrepresented the purpose of US funding for virus research in China?

The Intercept recently published grant documents detailing the National Institutes of Health’s funding of bat coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The publication stated that the documents do not implicate NIH official Anthony Fauci in lying about the research. Nor do they show that the research might have led to the origin of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The Intercept noted that the documents “do not make clear whether Fauci read them,” although the staff at the NIH agency he runs “did know about the research.”

Scientists interviewed by The Intercept disagreed about whether the grant, made to the Wuhan Lab through an intermediary nonprofit in 2014, actually enabled so-called “gain of function” research. A White House spokesperson reiterated that the “NIH has never approved any research that would make a coronavirus more dangerous to humans.”

Has the violent crime rate in San Francisco gone up since the election of a reform-minded District Attorney?

Data indicates that San Francisco’s downward trend in violent crime has continued since Chesa Boudin, an advocate of progressive criminal-justice reforms, became the city’s District Attorney in 2020.

The city police department reports a decline in violent crimes since 2017:

  • 2017: 63,489.
  • 2018: 59,379.
  • 2019: 57,775.
  • 2020: 44,423.
  • 2021 (to September 5): 30,978.

Notably, the biggest drop occurred in 2020, Boudin’s first year in office. However, it is difficult to attribute any causation to his policy changes given that crime rates dropped nationally due to the pandemic.

San Francisco’s crime rate so far in 2021 is 0.8% higher than in the same period in 2020 (January 1 to September 5).

A second attempt to recall Boudin is underway after an attempt earlier in 2021 failed to garner sufficient public support. His policies are at “the polarizing core” of a community debate over policing and prosecution policies, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Is the rate of unsolved crimes in Minneapolis higher than the national average?

In 2018, the latest data year available, the FBI reported that nationally, 54.5% of violent crimes and 82.4% of property crimes went unsolved.

In contrast, “the overall [Minneapolis] arrest rate at the start of August was about 12% this year, compared to 15- to 28% in the previous four years. That means roughly 88% of crimes are going unsolved,” according to CBS Minnesota.

A former director of a training program for Minnesota law enforcement told CBS understaffing was one reason for the rise:

”There‘s a lack of people working, a lack of people being able to do what they need to do.”

Following the George Floyd protests in 2020, many officers left the Minneapolis Police Department, prompting citizens to file a successful lawsuit requiring the department to hire more officers. Citizens also got the city council to restore $6.4 million of last year’s $8 million department budget cut after complaining of slowed response times and increased crime.

Is the incidence of anaphylaxis from COVID-19 vaccines higher than initially thought?

While one study of limited scope found an unusually high incidence of anaphylaxis in COVID-19 vaccine recipients, the authoritative source on adverse vaccination events found an incidence in line with the Centers for Disease Control’s figure of “approximately 2 to 5 people per million” for life-threatening allergic reactions.

The outlier study was limited to fewer than 65,000 employees at a Massachusetts hospital. Sixteen experienced anaphylaxis — a rate of two per ten thousand. Two-thirds of those who did “had an allergy history”—a known risk multiplier.

In a much broader study, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a government vaccine safety mechanism that requires health care professionals to report adverse effects, documented 66 anaphylaxis cases out of more than 17.5 million vaccine doses—a rate of approximately four per million.

Providers monitor recipients following vaccination. Epinephrine, the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis, is kept on hand.

Are most rapes and sexual assaults in Texas reported and do most perpetrators get arrested?

Most sexual assaults, in Texas and elsewhere, are underreported. A 2015 study found that as few as 9% of sexual assault victims in Texas reported the event to law enforcement. Low reporting rates can often be attributed to feelings of trauma, shame or fear experienced by victims.

The percentage of reported perpetrators who actually get arrested and convicted is also quite low. Out of 14,656 rapes reported in Texas in 2019, around 15% of perpetrators were arrested. Between 2014 and 2018, 9.6% of reported sexual assaulters were convicted.

Texas reported the highest number of forcible rape cases in the country in 2019—proportional to population, the 15th-highest rate in the U.S.

The statistics underscore the challenge implicit in Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent vow that the state will “work tirelessly to eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by arresting and prosecuting them.”

Is the seasonal pattern of ordinary flu different for Florida than for most states?

No evidence suggests that Florida, or the American South in general, experiences peak flu season at a time different than the rest of the country.

As the Centers for Disease Control reports, influenza activity often first increases in October, peaks sometime between December and February, and can last “as late as May.” Flu season in Florida occurs in this same time period, “from October to May,” according to data on a website run by the state’s health department.

Nationwide, the CDC noted that flu activity in the 2020-2021 season was “unusually low,” probably because of the effect of widespread masking and social distancing measures taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, the agency notes that “a record number of influenza vaccine doses” was distributed.

Has a self-described ‘satanic’ religious organization sought to challenge restrictions on abortion?

The Satanic Temple, a Salem, Massachusetts-based nonprofit religious organization, says it recently filed suit in federal court in Texas to seek an exemption to the state’s restrictions on abortion. The group aruges that provisions for mandatory waiting periods and viewings of sonogram results violate its members’ religious beliefs, such as that bodily autonomy is “sacrosanct.”

In 2019, the organization made a similar, unsuccessful challenge to Missouri's abortion laws.

It also recently asked the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for unrestricted access to drugs that induce abortions, citing religious grounds similar to those claimed by Native Americans for the use of peyote in religious rituals.

The Satanic Temple describes itself as a “nontheistic” group, as it does not believe in a literal Satan, but in a metaphorical Satan as “a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority.”

Has the pandemic surfaced vulnerabilities in medical oxygen supply and distribution in the US?

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in early 2021 noted continuing localized challenges in securing enough oxygen to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients, citing strains during 2020 outbreaks in New York, southern California and elsewhere. “If enough areas are severely affected concurrently, a national crisis could ensue,” Hopkins warned.

COVID-19 treatments using high flow oxygen therapy use five to ten times more oxygen than a mechanical ventilator. With capacity limits on piped supplies, hospitals turn to portable oxygen, in turn causing oxygen cylinder shortages.

The summer surge of hospitalizations in southern states has stressed supplies in that region. On Aug. 28, a hospital-supply group told Bloomberg News that the "worst-hit" hospitals in the Southeast have only 12 to 24 hours supply on hand.

Even before the pandemic, many lower-income countries faced much more “severe” shortages, McKinsey & Co. reports.

Is Social Security funded separately from other government spending?

While general tax revenue may be spent on any government expense, Social Security is funded by revenues from the dedicated payroll tax which must be spent on the program. Workers who pay into the program become eligible to collect benefits upon retirement. Revenue is allocated to those currently eligible for benefits rather than kept in individual accounts.

If more revenue is collected than disbursed, the difference is saved for future use. For the first time since 1981, Social Security will run a deficit in 2021. Assuming deficits continue, Social Security would be insolvent by 2034. At or before that point, benefits would have to be reduced or the program would have to be restructured.

Social Security funding is thus “off-budget” and not part of the Congressional budgeting process. Its finances are considered in ”unified” views of the budget that include all government activity.

Did an Apollo 11 crew member say the mission’s moon landing was faked?

Reports that Buzz Aldrin, one of the three astronauts aboard Apollo 11, claimed that the mission’s moon landing was “staged,” are fake. This claim was posted by the website Huzlers in 2014. Huzlers at the time allowed users to create their own “prank” articles to share with their friends, and has a history of sharing fabricated new stories.

Others who believe the moon landing was faked point elsewhere for evidence, citing a photo where Neil Armstrong is reflected in Aldrin’s visor. Skeptics point out that Armstrong does not appear to be holding a camera in the photo, so there must have been another person taking the photo.

In reality, however, Armstrong’s camera is attached to the front of his suit. These were used by the astronauts as space suits are quite bulky, which made it hard to use a regular hand-held camera.

Are substantial numbers of US health care workers still unvaccinated against COVID-19?

While the vaccination rate among health care workers continues to increase, a significant share remains unvaccinated.

The Covid States Project, a collaborative effort by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard, Northwestern, and Rutgers, recently surveyed more than 20,000 individuals from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They found that as of July, 27% of health care workers had not been vaccinated.

Researchers noted that 15% of health care workers reported being vaccine resistant and warned that “absent mandates, most of the currently unvaccinated health care workers will remain unvaccinated, potentially fueling outbreaks in health care facilities.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated in May that anti-discrimination laws do not prevent employers from requiring their employees to be vaccinated. Since then, many workplaces, including health care facilities, have implemented vaccine mandates; some have fired workers for refusing.

Has ISIS-K, the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan-based affiliate, directly threatened the US?

The Islamic State Khorasan, the affiliate of the Islamic State group active in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, presents an “enduring threat” to the U.S. homeland as well as allied interests in the region, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in 2018.

The group, sometimes referred to as ISIS-K or Daesh Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26, 2021, attack at Kabul’s airport, which killed at least 169 civilians and 13 U.S. service members. Earlier this year the group was involved in an attempted assassination of a U.S. diplomat in Kabul.

In 2018 CSIS noted the group’s sweeping vow to raise “the banner of al-Uqab above the White House." The banner is a solid black flag of symbolic importance in Islamic tradition.

CSIS noted that the group “has mocked and threatened the United States in its official media streams and called for lone-wolf attacks in the West.”

Have prosecutors brought forward widespread conspiracy charges related to organizing the Jan. 6 Capitol riot?

Government prosecutors have mostly avoided charging individuals or groups with conspiracy-related crimes involving the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Immediately after the attack, prosecutors suggested those found to be involved could face charges such such as seditious conspiracy or racketeering.

Prosecutors to date have charged 18 people affiliated with the “Oath Keepers” for offenses including conspiracy. Most of the more than 570 individuals charged to date in connection with the incident, however, face charges such as assaulting a law enforcement officer, illegal entry or disorderly conduct.

Sources with knowledge of the FBI's investigation of the riot say that the agency has found little evidence of an organized plot, as Reuters reported in August. Earlier news media reports said the FBI found little evidence of widespread advance planning by insurgents to breach the Capitol building. 

The law enforcement investigation remains ongoing.

Was the police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the Capitol riot cleared of wrongdoing?

Two separate investigations concluded that U.S. Capitol Police officer Michael Byrd did not violate any laws by opening fire on protestor Ashli Babbitt.

On Jan. 6, 2021, protestors in the Capitol attempted to break through glass doors leading to the House of Representatives chamber. When Babbitt began climbing through one of the doors, Byrd fired a single shot into her shoulder.

In April, a Justice Department investigation found that Byrd acted “reasonably” in halting Babbitt's advance to defend himself and members of Congress.

In August, a Capitol police investigation found that Byrd’s “conduct was...within department policy” of permitting use of deadly force when defending “the officer’s...life, or [that] of any person in immediate danger.”

Although Babbitt herself was unarmed, Byrd believes “he saved countless lives” given the threat of the mob attacking members of Congress were they to have broken through the doors.

Have any coronavirus cases on Martha’s Vineyard been linked to Obama’s 60th birthday party?

On Aug. 7, 2021, former President Barack Obama held a party for his 60th birthday on Martha’s Vineyard, an island just south of Cape Cod. The Obamas “scaled back the event to include only family and close friends” amid rising concern about the spread of the delta coronavirus variant, and asked guests to show either proof of vaccination or test results showing they were free of the virus.

The Daily Mail reported that of 158 coronavirus cases documented on the island since the date of the event, none has been attributed to the party. A local health official told the Daily Mail that after contact tracing, there haven’t been “any cases linked to the Obama party,” adding that if there were, “we’d be seeing them already.”

Official Massachusetts data groups Dukes County, which includes Martha’s Vineyard, with nearby Nantucket County. Records show the 14-day average daily infection rate rose in the counties to 67.4 per 100,000 people in the two weeks ending Aug. 21, from 46.3 in the prior two-week period.

Are the majority of infections by the delta variant of the coronavirus among the vaccinated?

Coronavirus infections among the unvaccinated far outnumber “breakthrough” infections among fully vaccinated people. “Almost all (more than 9 in 10) COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have occurred among people who are unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated,” KFF reported on July 30.

KFF, a nonprofit focused on health-related policy and analysis, provides the best-available data, based on figures from December 2020 to July 2021 from the 25 states that track breakthrough infections of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Infections among the vaccinated were “below 1% in all reporting states,” KFF found. Hospitalization and death rates among the vaccinated were “effectively zero” in all but a few states.

No vaccine offers 100% protection. KFF notes that as more people become vaccinated, the relative number of cases among the vaccinated may rise, for the simple reason that “there will be fewer unvaccinated people in the population.”

Are recent coronavirus surges in Texas a likely result of illegal immigration?

Evidence suggests that immigration, legal or unauthorized, is not a main driver of coronavirus surges in Texas. New cases in the summer 2021 surge have not been concentrated in counties along the border, nor have they been occurring only in counties with a majority-Hispanic population. The timeline of immigration spikes does not coincide with case spikes.

According to the New York Times’ mapping of reported cases, most coronavirus hot spots in the latest week have not been located in border counties. Some of the most severe outbreaks have occurred in the interior of the state, in counties with a majority non-hispanic population, such as Concho County, Chambers County and Glasscock County.

According to Pew Research, immigration numbers have been increasing throughout the pandemic, even in periods while coronavirus cases were in decline. From January to June 2021, cases in Texas steadily declined despite increasing immigration numbers.

Is a former Taliban prisoner released by Obama in 2014 now the ruler of Afghanistan?

No single figure has yet emerged as leader of Afghanistan following the Taliban assumption of control in August 2021. Media reports have focused on the potential role of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader released from prison in Pakistan in 2018 at the behest of the Trump administration. From Qatar, as the group’s “deputy chief for political affairs,” he led negotiations that culiminated in a U.S. commitment to withdraw, signing the January 2020 agreement with the U.S.

Khairullah Khairkhwa, another Talib who participated in the negotations, came to Qatar in 2014, after being freed from imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration released him along with four other members of the group in exchange for the release of Bowe Berghdal, a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban after deserting his post.

Did the US leave behind military gear in Afghanistan worth billions of dollars?

Over the past two decades, the U.S. spent an estimated $83 billion training and arming Afghan security forces. After taking control of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021, the Taliban effectively gained ownership of the forces’ military arsenal.

While it is unclear exactly how many weapons were obtained, a U.S. official told Reuters that intelligence assessments place the Taliban’s cache at “more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones.”

Retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel said that the large hardware are “more like trophies” given their intensive maintenance and training needs. There is more concern about the easier-to-use arms, which include assault rifles, machine guns, mortars, howitzers, communication equipment and night-vision goggles.

In 2014, the Islamic State group similarly gained firepower as it advanced in Iraq, capturing the Iraqi forces’ U.S.-supplied weapons.

Are the White House and federal agencies strongly encouraging vaccinations for their employees?

The Biden administration continues to develop new rules to encourage federal employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination—and impose new restrictions on those who don’t.

As first outlined by the president on July 29, 2021, the rules are not an absolute mandate. Employees at the White House and all civilian agencies will be required to verify their vaccination status. If unvaccinated, they will have to wear a mask at work, be tested regularly for COVID-19 and observe limits on permitted official travel. On Aug. 18, the administration clarified that employees who don’t comply may face disciplinary action.

The administration has not set deadlines for implementation, Federal News Network reported. The report noted the administration said agencies “need to act quickly” and should engage with federal employee unions at their “earliest opportunity” as they develop COVID-19 testing programs.

Did recently-published research find signs of impaired cognitive development in children born during the pandemic?

Researchers comparing cognitive scores of a group of Rhode Island children born in 2020 and 2021 to scores of others born in the preceding decade found that “children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic.” This effect was more pronounced among impoverished children.

The study, which is awaiting peer review, was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and conducted by a team of researchers at Brown and other U.S. universities.

While causation was not definitively established, researchers cite concerns about the impact of pandemic policies—stay-at-home orders, masking and social distancing—on early neurodevelopment given the “missed educational opportunities and reduced interaction, stimulation and creative play with other children.”

The known negative impact of conditions such as “family and home stress, parent and child anxiety, lack of stimulating environments,” and financial strain adds support to the findings, they said.

Was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot?

In mid-January, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested that her life had been in danger during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, stating:

“I had a pretty traumatizing event happen to me...and I do not know if I can even disclose the full details...due to security concerns but I can tell you...I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die.”

In February, she clarified that when the riot began she was in her office, in a building near the Capitol that was not attacked. She recounted hearing banging on her door and a man yelling, “Where is she?” Initially fearful the man was a rioter, she later discovered he was a police officer.

In August, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, who routinely receives death threats, told CNN she had feared being raped during the riot. She had previously stated she was a survivor of sexual assault.

Is the delta coronavirus variant challenging some of the protective effects of COVID-19 vaccines?

Vaccines appear to be less effective at slowing the spread of the coronavirus’s delta variant, contributing to increased caseloads and a greater risk of contracting symptomatic COVID-19, even among the vaccinated. 

The American Society of Microbiology estimates that the delta variant is “40%-60% more transmissible than the alpha [variant] and almost twice as transmissible as the original...strain." The ASM outlined related challenges posed by delta, including:

  • Higher viral loads, causing greater contagiousness.
  • Antibodies that are less able to neutralize the virus.
  • Slightly less protection against symptomatic “breakthrough” disease for the vaccinated.

Delta is currently responsible for 83% of U.S. coronavirus infections. Infections that cause severe symptoms increase the chance of mutations into other variants, leading public health leaders and scientists to urge continued efforts to increase vaccination rates.

Vaccinated people continue to be well-protected against serious disease and death.

Are birds at greater risk from increased solar power generation than from continued reliance on fossil fuel sources?

A 2016 study examined the impact of large “utility-scale” solar energy plants in southern California on bird populations, and found that the risk to birds was far less than that already posed by fossil-fuel power plants. It estimated that up to 138,600 birds died each year because of solar plants then “either installed or under construction.” The authors cited a 2009 estimate of 14.5 million avian deaths annually from fossil-fuel plants.

No more recent research is available, but based on that data, the expected risks for birds from a planned fourfold expansion in large-scale solar plants would still be far less than the impact of equivalent fossil-fuel generation.

As larger solar installations began operating in the last decade, media reports noted the impact of designs using large arrays of mirrors. “Birds fly into concentrated beams of sunlight and are instantly incinerated, leaving wisps of white smoke against the blue desert,” the Los Angeles Times reported in 2016.

Have wildfires across Siberia been exacerbated by warming average temperatures?

Rising average temperatures are exacerbating Russia’s wildfires by melting permafrost and drying out land, providing more fuel for fires across vast stretches of Siberia.

Russia’s average temperatures have been increasing at 2.5 times the rate elsewhere on the planet, a 2015 report estimated. Warmer temperatures contribute to more severe fires, whether they are caused by lightning, human negligence or deliberate arson. Russia’s northern forests account for 11% of the world’s biomass, according to a 2007 estimate; more severe fire seasons in those regions add to the challenge of slowing the growth of global carbon emissions.

On Aug. 11, the Washington Post reported that so far in 2021 fires in uninhabited areas across Russia, which authorities let burn unchecked, have engulfed some 8,000 square miles. California’s largest recorded wildfire to date, in 2020, burned across 1,600 square miles.

Did Hawaii reimpose a COVID-19 lockdown?

As of Aug. 12, 2021, Hawaii has not reimposed the kind of COVID-19 lockdown that closes businesses or requires people to stay home. However, it has enacted new restrictions in response to a recent increase in reported coronavirus infections.

On Aug. 5 the state enacted either vaccination or regular COVID-19 testing mandates for all state and county employees and extended existing safety measures such as mask mandates for indoor public spaces and a mandatory 10-day “self-quarantine” for unvaccinated travelers. On Aug. 10 it added limits on the size of social gatherings, social distancing rules in bars and restaurants and a 50% capacity limit for “high-risk activities.”

Hawaii has the lowest per capita cumulative coronavirus case rate of any state at 3,284 per 100,000 people. North Dakota, which revoked its mask mandate in January, has the highest case rate at 14,741 per 100,000.

Are people who watch Fox News still more hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine than most other news consumers?

Polls find that vaccine hesitancy among Fox viewers has dropped in recent months but remains higher than among other mainstream news audiences.

An August 2021 Morning Consult poll found that 27% of Fox viewers were “unsure...or unwilling to get a COVID-19 shot,” down from 37% in mid-March. In contrast, CNN, MSNBC and New York Times consumers all expressed vaccine hesitancy at rates below 20%. The same poll found that Facebook, Snapchat, and Reddit users had vaccine hesitancy rates between 30% and 35%. 

Some Fox News coverage and commentary has conveyed skepticism about vaccines. Media Matters for America, a liberal nonprofit that tracks conservative news coverage, reported that between June 28 through July 11, “57% of segments about coronavirus vaccines on the network included claims that undermined vaccination efforts.”

Many factors aside from media consumption influence attitudes towards vaccines. Vaccine hesitancy is lower among Republicans who trust Fox News than among Republicans who don’t trust any TV news source, according to a July Public Religion Research Institute poll.

Is there a martial law provision in the infrastructure bill?

The latest available draft of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill makes no mention of martial law at any point in its 2,700+ page entirety, and neither does a White House summary of the bill. Here are some of the provisions in the bill, according to the nonpartisan, nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

  • $110 billion for roads and bridges.
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rails.
  • $39 billion for public transit.
  • $25 billion for airports.
  • $17 billion for ports and waterways.
  • $15 billion for electric vehicles.
  • $11 billion for road safety.
  • $1 billion for reconnecting communities.

The CRFB praises the investments in the economy that the bill funds. But the group says that the bill’s unfunded costs point to the need for greater efforts to reduce deficit spending.

Is Dell turning down orders for some new computers from residents in states with more stringent energy consumption rules?

Recent energy efficiency regulations appear to prevent Dell from selling certain configurations of two of its energy-intensive gaming computers in six states: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Dell expanded on the matter as it pertains to California, stating,

“This was driven by the California Energy Commission Tier 2 implementation that defined a mandatory energy efficiency standard for PCs...put into effect on July 1, 2021.”

The California regulations were passed in 2016 in an effort to meet climate policy goals, and have been phased in over time.

Given the rapid growth of computing’s energy consumption, which doubles “approximately every three years,” the Semiconductor Industry Association warned that computing may become unsustainable by 2040. By requiring computers to be efficient, the hope is that more computing can be powered with less energy.

Did President Biden pledge to change the government’s stance on disclosing additional evidence about the 9/11 attacks?

In October 2020, a letter by then-presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged that his future administration’s attorney general would personally examine the merits of requests to release FBI information related to the 9/11 attacks. He said that he would adhere to Obama-era guidance that invokes state secrets privilege using a “narrowly tailored” approach, that is, only to the extent necessary to protect against the risk of “significant harm to national security” or “embarrassment to a person or organization.” The White House press secretary said in August 2021 that President Biden remains committed to this pledge.

A group of 9/11 survivors, victims’ family members and first responders have sought more disclosures about the attacks, specifically about the role of Saudi Arabian officials in assisting the hijackers. They have called on Biden to value “America’s citizens over diplomatic relations” with the country.

Does research suggest that removing dams on the Snake River could help revive fish populations?

Dams disrupt the migration patterns of salmon and steelhead born in fresh water that travel downstream to live their adult lives in the ocean before returning upstream to lay their eggs. Dams block their paths, slow water flow and raise water temperatures, attracting predators.

In February, 2021, 68 fisheries researchers from the Pacific Northwest called for the removal of four federally-operated dams along the Snake River in southeastern Washington, citing research about survival rates for salmon as the number of dams in their path increases. Regional political leaders disagree about the best way to proceed.

Yale Environment 360 reported in 2019 that the dams “are prime targets for removal because their economic value has diminished and their absence would inordinately benefit salmon.” Other energy sources have undercut hydroelectric power in the region, and freight volume on the river has declined 70%, Yale noted. A 2017 study cited by Yale estimated as much as a threefold increase in the area’s salmon population were the dams to be removed.

Did Disney make a short subject about China’s history to accompany an upcoming Marvel film release there?

A recent tweet by Victory News Network claimed that Disney made an animated short about Chinese history to placate officials threatening to ban its upcoming Marvel superhero film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” The tweet is not meant to be taken seriously. VNN is a parody website based on a “faith-based Christian television network,” Victory Channel. On July 5, VNN tweeted:

“This is a parody account. We write funny fake news. If you see someone taking one of our made-up stories way too seriously, please let them know it's a joke.”

The bottom of its website reads, “This is a parody website, dummy.”

While the tweet is a spoof, there is real controversy in China about “Shang-Chi,” which began as a Marvel comic featuring the Asian supervillain Fu Manchu. There is speculation that China may ban the film adaptation, but no official announcement has been made. The film premieres in the U.S. on September 3.

Do COVID-19 vaccinations offer less protection to immunocompromised people?

Data remains incomplete, but COVID-19 vaccinations appear to offer less protection to people with immune systems weakened by various medical issues.

A 2016 survey estimated that 3% or 4% of American adults are “immunocompromised” as a result of genetic deficiencies, post-transplant drug regimes, infections such as HIV or various other medical treatments.

COVID-19 vaccines normally produce antibodies detectible in anyone who receives a shot, signaling a high degree of protectiveness. A study of 658 transplant recipients published in May 2021 found that only 15% developed antibodies after a first vaccine dose, and 54% after two. A survey of vaccinated transplant patients found relatively more serious “breakthrough” COVID-19 illness—the overall numbers were low, but the rate of serious illness was 485 times higher than for the general vaccinated population.

Researchers note that the immunocompromised may also lack B and T cells, further weakening their protection. Even so, they encourage the immunocompromised to get vaccinated given its safety and modest protection. Researchers are investigating whether a third dose could strengthen the level of protection.

Are young people who start with vaping more likely to take up smoking cigarettes later?

Extensive research supports the conclusion that e-cigarette use or vaping by young people increases the subsequent likelihood of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes. Multiple meta-analyses of studies find an association between e-cigarette use and a later transition to cigarette smoking. One analysis estimated an odds ratio of 3.50, indicating a strong magnitude of association.

Possible reasons for e-cigarette-using adolescents being more prone to subsequent cigarette smoking include expectations of pleasurable effects from other tobacco products, attitudes towards risk-taking and easier access to cigarettes.

A World Health Organization social media post states that adolescents who use electronic nicotine delivery systems, such as e-cigarettes, at least double their chance of starting to smoke cigarettes later in life. The WHO did not disclose the data source for the specific figure.

Does Trump have 20 times as much cash on hand as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee?

Going into July 2021, former President Donald Trump’s political organization had $102 million in cash on hand, money he can use to fund either his own future campaigns or those of others he may want to support.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which focuses on supporting candidates for the House of Representatives, had $44.2 million—about 43% of Trump’s total.

The DCCC is one of three principal Democratic fundraising committees. Their combined cash on hand is $118.9 million—roughly 15% more than Trump’s total.

The Republican Party also has three main fundraising committees, which have a combined $161.8 million in cash on hand—37% more than Trump’s total.

Does the Biden administration continue to focus on vaccinations as the key to overcoming the coronavirus?

Getting more Americans vaccinated is “how we put this virus behind us,” according to President Joe Biden. He outlined several additional steps in detail during a press briefing on July 29, 2021, including:

  • Federal reimbursements to businesses who give staff paid time off to get their families vaccinated.
  • New encouragement to states to use relief funding to give $100 to anyone who gets fully vaccinated.
  • Requiring Veterans Administration health care staff to get vaccinated.
  • New rules requiring regular testing and masking for federal workers who don’t get vaccinated.

Beyond that, Biden is seeking more support to help persuade the reluctant. He lauded the efforts of some Republican leaders and Fox News “commentators” to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

Biden urged more businesses and local governments to require vaccines, and said he is asking the Justice Department to determine if he can do so nationally.

Was the CDC’s latest change in masking guidance based solely on a faulty study from India?

The latest adjustment in Centers for Disease Control advice about masking was based on “new science” about the delta variant of the coronavirus, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a TV interview. An updated CDC document cites research from the U.S. and Israel into “breakthrough” delta infections of fully vaccinated people, as well as a study from India of patients protected by a vaccine not being used in the U.S.

“These early data suggest that breakthrough delta infections are transmissible,” the CDC says. The infections don't necessarily lead to higher risk of serious disease for the vaccinated, but the variant may be more readily transmissible to unvaccinated or immunosuppressed people they may encounter. That concern led the agency to advise that vaccinated people in areas experiencing generally high rates of infections should wear masks indoors.

Was there a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Iceland despite a 90% vaccination rate?

By late July, about 90% of Icelanders 16 and older were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In late June, Iceland removed all domestic COVID-19 restrictions, including "social distancing, limits on gatherings, mask-wearing, [and] limits on opening hours."

The country recorded an increase in reported coronavirus infections over the past month, averaging 93 a day in the week ending July 27— more than triple the highest level recorded previously in 2021. Fully vaccinated individuals accounted for two-thirds of the infections.

While the vaccines continue to reduce COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates around the world, they appear less effective at preventing delta variant infections. 

In response to its recent spike in infections, Iceland reimposed restrictions on July 25, limiting gatherings to 200 people and reenacting social distancing rules.

Are white evangelicals more hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine than other religious groups?

Polling finds that white evangelicals have the highest vaccine hesitancy among religious groups.

In a Pew Research survey conducted in February, 45% of white evangelicals responded that they would “definitely” or “probably...not get a vaccine,” compared to 36% of other Protestants, 22% of Catholics, and 28% of the religiously unaffiliated.

The Public Religion Research Institute similarly found that white evangelicals “stand out as the most likely to say they will refuse to get vaccinated,” at 26%, compared to 17% of other Protestants, 9% of Catholics, and 12% of the religiously unaffiliated.

KFF in its June survey found that white evangelicals expressed hesitancy or outright refusal at rates comparable to all rural residents and declared Republicans.

Does Dr. Anthony Fauci have complete control over funding for the government agency he heads?

Congress controls the funding for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, run by Dr. Anthony Fauci as part of the National Institutes of Health.

Congress approves overall funding for NIAID and its timing, and authorizes funding for each particular program the NIAID wants to support.

Periodic funding requests from the NIAID cross many desks before being considered by Congress: first those at NIH, then the Department of Health and Human Services, then Office of Management and Budget, which sends requests to the president. Each year the president proposes a budget to Congress, which Congress then must approve.

Are all the claims made in a recent lawsuit attempting to restrict use of COVID-19 vaccines supported by evidence?

In July, a controversial group called America’s Frontline Doctors, led by a woman arrested for her role in the January storming of the Capitol, filed a lawsuit seeking to suspend COVID-19 vaccinations. In May, the group unsuccessfully petitioned to halt vaccination of children under 16.

Both suits refer to false claims about COVID-19, including:

  • That the disease poses no health risk to children. American Academy of Pediatrics data suggest that children represent 14.2% of COVID-19 cases, up to 3.6% of hospitalizations and up to 0.26% of deaths.
  • That the vaccines are not effective. Clinical trials recorded an efficacy rate of between 86% and 100% at preventing severe disease, which has been borne out in observed results.
  • That the vaccines are unsafe. Clinical trials encompassing tens of thousands of participants found them to be safe, as has continued monitoring of reported post-vaccination health issues.

Has Israel found that the COVID-19 vaccine continues to work against the delta variant in preventing serious illness and hospitalizations?

Israel’s health ministry has noted that as the delta variant has become widespread, COVID-19 vaccines have shown a "marked decline in effectiveness" in preventing infections and symptomatic illness, down to 64%. But in a July 5 statement the ministry said the vaccines remain 93% effective at protecting against serious illness and hospitalization.

That view is consistent with the view of authorities at the World Health Organization, in the U.K. and in the U.S. In the U.S. the Centers for Disease Control says research looks reassuring, but it will continue to monitor the vaccines' efficacy.

All experts continue to urge eligible individuals to get vaccinated as the best protection against serious consequences or even death from contracting COVID-19.

Do more than 50% of convicted murderers in the US have a prior felony conviction?

According to Justice Bureau statistics, in the years 1990 to 2002, 38% of convicted murderers had at least one prior felony conviction. This number rose to 40% in 2009, the latest available data year. When factoring in non-felony convictions, 53% of convicted murderers had a prior conviction between 1990 and 2002, while 48% had a prior conviction in 2009.

The Justice Department’s research arm reported in 2016 that imprisoning convicted criminals “isn’t a very effective way to deter crime” and may actually “have the opposite effect,” with “inmates learning more effective crime strategies from each other” and becoming “desensitized...to the threat of future imprisonment.” It also found that “increasing the severity of punishment does little to deter crime” given that “criminals know little about the sanctions for specific crimes.” Instead, it cited research that “the certainty of being caught is a vastly more powerful deterrent than the punishment.”

Have more than 50% of Americans received at least a first COVID-19 vaccine?

As of July 21, 2021, 56% of the total U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and just under half of the country is fully vaccinated. Almost 66% of eligible people (anyone over the age of 12) have at least their first dose, and 57% are fully vaccinated.

The number of doses administered per day peaked in April 2021, after which it began to slow. The vaccination rate began to plateau in June 2021.

In a Senate hearing on July 20, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, noted that the highly transmissible delta variant accounts for 83% of recent coronavirus infections within the U.S. Such numbers are “even higher" in regions with low vaccination rates. Public health officials continue to urge eligible Americans to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others from the disease.

Do plant-based foods have a greater environmental cost than meat?

The environmental impact of animal products exceeds that of plant-based substitutes.

A study published in Science magazine found that meat, fish, eggs and dairy contribute 56% to 58% of the world‘s food-related emissions while providing 37% of consumed protein. Vegetable proteins have a fraction of the impact.

The Institute for Water Education concluded that obtaining protein, fat and calories from crop products is a more efficient use of water than meat products.

The World Resources Institute reports that generally speaking, “animal based foods” use more resources than “plant-based foods”—emissions from beef protein are 20 times that of the vegetable alternatives.

The cultivation of protein-rich plants can have an environmental impact. Two recent studies found that forest clearances in Brazil, often in order to plant soybeans (or raise cattle), have increased temperatures and decreased rainfall, which is now hurting crop production.

In recent years, have the electorates in Texas and Florida become more Democratic?

While the voter base in Texas has become more Democratic in recent years, Florida’s electorate has become less so.

According to a study of Texas demographic data from 2009 to 2019, “party change is occurring in Texas,” with “evidence that Democratic identification...is increasing.” Researchers attribute the shift to demographic change, as the growing ranks of racially diverse younger voters offset the influence of older whites, who are more likely to identify as Republican. (Texas doesn’t ask voters to register a party preference.)

In Florida, registered Democrats still slightly outnumber registered Republicans. However, Pew Research reported last year that the Democrats' advantage has been shrinking, from 658,000 in 2008, to 327,000 in 2016 and then to 134,000 in 2020, suggesting Florida's population is shifting more Republican.

In 1836, did the US House of Representatives ban discussion of slavery in order to ‘preserve the peace’?

From 1836 to 1844, the House observed a gag rule preventing anti-slavery petitions from being considered.

The rule was introduced in response to an increase in anti-slavery petitions submitted to Congress, spurred by an 1834 anti-slavery petition drive by the American Anti-Slavery Society. It passed with the support of Southern congressmen representing slave states.

John Quincy Adams was among the first to oppose the rule. Blocked from reading anti-slavery petitions, he argued that the rule violated the Constitutional right to petition. In 1844, the House rescinded the rule on a motion made by Adams with the support of Northern congressmen concerned about the threat of southern “slave power” to civil liberties.

After the Senate rejected a similar gag rule over fears that abolitionists could gain public support as champions of civil liberties, it implemented a “complex...delaying procedure” to prevent petitions from being heard.

Did judges hearing challenges to the 2020 election refuse to consider any evidence?

In a review of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, USA Today stated that judges “dismissed [some cases] for lack of standing and others based on the merits of the voter fraud allegations.”

There are numerous examples of judges reviewing evidence submitted by parties alleging 2020 election fraud, as is customary in court cases that have standing.

  • A Nevada judge ruled that “the contestants failed...to provide credible and relevant evidence to substantiate any” of their allegations.

  • A Third Circuit Appeals Court judge wrote: “Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

  • The Arizona Supreme Court chief justice wrote: “The challenge fails to present any evidence...let alone establish any degree of fraud...that would undermine the certainty of the election results.”

In December 2020, the Washington Post documented “at least 86” rejections of lawsuits filed by Trump or his supporters.

Has vaping been around for 15 years?

The first “commercially successful” e-cigarette, or vape, was created in 2003 in Beijing, and was introduced to the U.S. and Europe in 2006. The 2003 device was created by a pharmacist with a smoking habit, whose father passed away from lung cancer. E-cigarettes were thought to be a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.

Various inventors had worked on prototypes of e-cigarettes throughout the 20th century. The “first commercialized variation” of the e-cigarette was created in 1979, along with the first official research on nicotine delivery. The device ultimately failed because of its faulty nature, but its inventors are credited with coining the term “vape,” according to a history compiled by Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives.

The FDA began regulating e-cigarettes in 2011. E-cigarettes may be a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, although are still not safe, a Johns Hopkins doctor writes in an overview of research.

Has the NRA been a prominent supporter of interpreting the Second Amendment to limit restrictions on gun ownership?

The National Rifle Association has been advocating since the 1970s that the late 18th-century language of the Second Amendment supports the right of every American to own a range of modern firearms.

The amendment reads in its entirety:

“a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Michael Waldman, a constitutional lawyer who is president of the Brennan Center for Justice, notes that for two centuries the clause and its “bizarre comma placement” were ignored, until the NRA launched a “long crusade to bring its interpretation of the Constitution into the mainstream.” The group has helped fund legal scholarship that underpins court decisions in recent decades limiting state and local gun control regulations. The NRA has been “highly effective” at funding political support for its views, according to the Britannica encyclopaedia.

Do recent polls find that more Americans have come to believe that the coronavirus came from a lab in China?

Recent polls suggest that around half of Americans believe the coronavirus intentionally or unintentionally originated in a Chinese lab—up from an April Pew poll where 29% of respondents said the virus that causes COVID-19 was "most likely...made in a lab."

  • In a Politico/Harvard poll in late June, 52% of respondents attributed COVID-19 to "a laboratory leak in China."
  • In an early June Morning Consult poll, 46% of respondents agreed that "the coronavirus spilled from a virology lab in China."
  • In an Economist/YouGov poll from early June, 58% of respondents said that it was "definitely" or "probably" true that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab.

The jump follows reports that Wuhan scientists were hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms in November 2019, before the disease was identified. President Biden stated that his administration has not ruled out a "laboratory accident" as the possible origin of the disease.

Is California’s economy showing signs of strong recovery alongside lingering impacts from the coronavirus?

California’s economy is recovering from pandemic closures that were more severe than in many other states. In the calendar first quarter the state grew at 6.3%, only slightly off the national pace of 6.4%.

Travel restrictions hit the state hard; with international arrivals still restricted, recovery is expected to be lag in the leisure and hospitality sectors. In May 2021, the state’s unemployment rate, at 7.9%, was the third-highest in the U.S. The state legislature in May noted reports that up to 30% of the state’s restaurants closed permanently.

Offsetting that, the state benefited from the strength of its technology industry, with highly-paid workers largely able to continue working from home. In the four quarters ending March 31, “state wages and salaries were up 5.9%, the nation’s just 4%,” the state legislature analyst’s office reported. Healthy incomes and tax receipts have resulted in a windfall for the state government that the legislative analyst estimates at $38 billion.

Do conservatives say they are less likely to get vaccinated?

In polls, many conservatives continue to voice vaccine skepticism, as do some conservative politicians and opinion leaders. A Marist/NPR/PBS/survey in late June found that half of Trump supporters say “they won’t get a shot, the highest of any group surveyed.”

KFF, a nonprofit focused on health policy, reports that vaccination rates in counties that supported Trump in 2020 lag behind rates in counties that carried by Biden. A three percentage-point gap in early April widened to nearly 12 points by early July.

KFF finds that vaccination rates among some other groups are also lagging. In a June survey, it found the largest single reason—cited by 20% of all unvaccinated adults—to be “concerns over possible side effects.” Those findings were largely unchanged since January.

Almost all recent U.S. hospitalizations and deaths associated with COVID-19 have been among unvaccinated people.

Have investigations of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania turned up any evidence of voter fraud helping Democrats?

The only documented case of voter fraud in the 2020 election in Pennsylvania involves a man who committed fraud in support of former President Donald Trump, according to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that tracks election fraud.

The perpetrator, a Pennsylvania Republican, tried to register his deceased mother and mother-in-law as Republicans in an effort to “cast fraudulent ballots for Donald Trump.” He used their driver’s licenses and social security numbers to apply for absentee ballots, one of which he cast. He has since pleaded guilty to two felonies and cannot vote for four years.

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the last of a series of unsuccessful court challenges to the state’s election conduct on April 19, 2021. Recently, a Pennsylvania state senator announced his own plan to audit last year’s results, following a similar effort by legislators in Arizona.

Was a Republican National Committee technology provider hacked?

The Republican National Committee and SYNNEX Corp., one of its technology providers, confirmed on July 6, 2021, that “outside actors” tried to access RNC data.

RNC Chief of Staff Richard Walters said that no data was obtained, but they blocked all access from “SYNNEX accounts to our cloud environment,” according to statement issued on Twitter by a party spokesperson.

Bloomberg News, citing two unidentified sources, reported that the hackers were part of Cozy Bear, also known as APT 29, a group associated with Russia’s foreign intelligence service. A Russian government spokesperson denied official involvement in the attack.

The attempted attack happened within days of the largest ransomware attack on record by Russian cybercriminals, originating in a Florida software company. It is unclear whether the two attacks are related.

Does video evidence conclusively show that police ordered Ashli Babbitt to stop before she was shot during the January 6 riot at the US Capitol?

Video evidence and statements from the Department of Justice leave unclear if the U.S. Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt told her to stop before firing. Babbitt was part of a mob that broke into the Capitol on January 6, 2021. When she was shot, Babbitt was attempting to climb through the broken glass of a barricaded door near the chamber where a joint session of Congress had convened to certify the 2020 presidential election.

The attorney for the officer who shot Babbitt said he identified himself and ordered “the mob to not come through the barricade,” according to The Associated Press.

After an investigation, the Justice Department decided not to pursue criminal charges against the officer. Its press statement explaining the investigation’s findings does not mention if the officer ordered Babbitt to stop.

On published videos of the incident, the officer’s instructions are not clearly audible amid other noise.

Is there any data yet about the specific impact of the Delta variant on coronavirus risks for children under 12?

The more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus appears to pose a greater risk for children under 12. Vaccines for that age group have not yet been authorized in the U.S., and the variant is known to pose a greater risk of infection to all unvaccinated people.

But data is not yet clear about the variant’s impact on serious illness and death for that age group. The variant has only recently become prevalent in the U.S., and deaths may occur weeks after initial infections.

To date, adolescents and children have accounted for relatively fewer confirmed infections by earlier strains of the virus, and have been much less likely than older people to become seriously ill or to die from COVID-19. Through July 7, the Centers for Disease Control reports that Americans under 18, who are 22% of the population, account for 12.5% of known infections and 0.1% of confirmed deaths.

While those rates are relatively low, most health authorities presume that a more contagious virus puts all unvaccinated people at greater risks, including children, and advise they should continue to use precautions such as face masks.

Did a post-election survey find that Biden in 2020 gained support from married men and veterans compared to Clinton in 2016?

Compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016, President Joe Biden in 2020 received stronger support from married men and veterans, according to an extensive post-election survey by Pew Research. Pew found various statistically-significant shifts from its 2016 survey, including:

  • 44% of married men voted for Biden, versus 32% for Clinton.
  • 43% of households with military veterans voted for Biden, versus 35% for Clinton.

Pew did not include data for active-duty military.

Pew’s survey found that a shift in Hispanic support—59% of Hispanics voted for Biden, versus 66% for Clinton—was not statistically significant.

Biden, according to Pew’s analysis, also did about as well with Black voters as Clinton in 2016, winning 92% versus 91%. Blacks are “a unique group of voters for whom the contemporary Republican Party holds no discernible appeal,” a Brookings Institution analysis of the Pew data observed.

Is there still a shortage of N95 masks?

Recent reports by manufacturers and hospitals along with recommendations by the U.S. government confirm there is no longer a shortage of N95 masks.

In March, the American Mask Manufacturers Association stated that “the U.S. has ample supply of masks” and called on government to stop discouraging the public from buying them.

The next month, the Food and Drug Administration advised hospitals to transition away from “crisis capacity conservation strategies” such as reusing N95 masks in light of “increased domestic supply.”

The National Nurses Union similarly acknowledged “ample N95 supply” and pushed for stricter standards against mask rationing to adequately protect nurses.

Manufacturers that ramped up production during the pandemic are now struggling to sell their surplus given competition from abroad and reduced demand from vaccination efforts. The AMMA urged “government intervention” by August 1 to “save critical national supply.”

Does UK data show that fully vaccinated people are more likely to die of the COVID-19 Delta variant than unvaccinated people?

In the U.K., those who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 have not been more likely to die from the coronavirus’ Delta variant than unvaccinated people.

Between Feb. 1, 2021, and June 21, 2021, Public Health England found that fully vaccinated people in England comprised:

  • 1.8% of 92,029 confirmed cases of the Delta variant.
  • 10% of 3,460 associated hospitalizations.
  • 43% of 117 deaths.

If the vaccine lacked effectiveness, infection and hospitalization rates would be equal among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Instead, the data shows that vaccinated individuals were much less likely to contract the virus and to be hospitalized.

Fewer serious cases translates to fewer deaths. On June 28, Cambridge University published an estimate that COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented 7.2 million infections and 27,000 deaths in the U.K.

By early June, 50% of U.K. adults were fully vaccinated.

Is LA County changing its masking guidance because of the Delta coronavirus variant?

On June 28, 2021, the Los Angeles County health department updated masking advice in light of the much more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The department “strongly” recommended that “everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure.”

In a TV interview, Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that while local policy makers are encouraged to offer advice suited to local conditions, vaccinated people do not need to wear masks. “If you're vaccinated you are safe from the variants that are circulating here” in the U.S., she said. The masking policies “protect the unvaccinated.”

She noted that World Health Organization advice to continue social distancing as well as masking reflects the much lower level of vaccinations and higher infection rates prevailing outside the U.S.

Does the racial makeup of the military roughly reflect US society?

Compared to the racial makeup of U.S. society, white Americans are somewhat underrepresented among active-duty members of the military while Black Americans are somewhat overrepresented.

In 2019, white people comprised 76% of the U.S. population and 69% of the active-duty military. Black people made up around 13% of the U.S. population and 17% of active-duty military. Hispanics represented around 19% of the U.S. population and 17% of the active-duty military.

Twenty-two percent of active-duty members in 2019 had earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 32% of Americans 25 years and older. While high school diplomas were held by 56% of Americans, 76% of the active-duty military had a high school (or GED) diploma.

Despite adding more ways for women to serve, the military does not yet approach the 50/50 gender balance of the population—in 2019 women were 17% of the active-duty force.

Did 96% of the funding for Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s 2020 reelection campaign come from outside his Texas district?

More than 96% of the funding for Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s 2020 campaign came from donors based outside his Houston district. Many House candidates raise funds outside their home districts. Crenshaw is more reliant than most, raising only 4% of his contributions from within the boundaries of his home district—well below the median of 27.4% for current House members.

Crenshaw’s top five corporate campaign donors included three firms headquartered in Houston but outside his district: a developer, a lumber company and a fossil fuel producer. The other two were Kirkland & Ellis, a large law firm, and NorPAC, a pro-Israel group.

Crenshaw, a Republican first elected in 2018, raised the sixth most money of all House candidates in 2020.

With growing pushback against corporate influence (and more small donations from online giving), 155 congressional candidates rejected corporate money in 2020.

Is there an effort to shut down Tennessee’s health department for encouraging teens to get vaccinated?

On June 16, 2021, a Tennessee legislature committee discussed efforts to vaccinate minors. Rep. Scott Cepicky, a Republican, moved to “dissolve and reconstitute” the state health department over concerns that it was “coercing” children into getting vaccinated.

Cepicky and other lawmakers took issue with a department memo sent to vaccine providers about the “mature minor doctrine”—a 1987 state ruling that permits minors 14 and up to receive health care without parental consent. Cepicky also objected to department ads displaying children smiling with a bandage on their arms, suggesting that they amounted to “peer pressure” and “guilt-tripping” given the “impressionable” nature of “young people...wanting to fit in.”

The department clarified that its intent was to be informative, not promotional.

The Republican-led committee plans to reconvene and continue its discussion in July.

Did the stimulus bill passed in March allow for increased police funding?

The $1.9 trillion stimulus package enacted in March, 2021, provided $350 billion in new federal funding for state and local governments. Recently, amid signs of rising concern about crime and gun violence, the Biden administration has highlighted ways local governments can use the funds for policing and public safety.

The Treasury Department established spending rules for recipients of the funds—which includes all metropolitan cities—specifying that funds can be used for public safety and crime prevention to:

  • re-hire police to restore staffing to “pre-pandemic levels.”
  • in communities experiencing increasing violence, hire more law enforcement personnel “even above pre-pandemic levels.”

The funds can also be used for purposes including mental health services and housing assistance.

The legislation passed with no Republican support.

Did Katie Hill resign from Congress after the ethics committee launched an investigation into an alleged inappropriate relationship?

California Congresswoman Katie Hill announced her resignation on Oct. 27, 2019. On Oct. 23, the House Ethics committee had opened an investigation into an alleged sexual relationship between Hill and someone on her congressional staff.

Around then, news media published revealing photos of Hill, her ex-husband and a female campaign staffer that predated her 2018 election.

In interviews, most recently with “Axios on HBO,” Hill has said she resigned because of the leaking of nude photos of herself. She told Axios she felt “relief” that she “could stop this barrage of a horror show.”

In other interviews, she expressed regret at having an intimate relationship with a staff member and spoke about the harassment faced by her family and staff. She also cited concerns that her scandal would be a liability for the Democratic Party ahead of impeachment proceedings against then-President Donald Trump.

Did FEMA’s response to a Florida condo collapse require a request for federal help from Gov. DeSantis?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requested federal assistance late in the afternoon following the early morning collapse of a Surfside, Florida, apartment building on June 24, 2021. The White House issued a federal emergency declaration the next day.

President Joe Biden told reporters the afternoon of the collapse that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was “ready to go,” with teams already on the scene, he said. FEMA can only act after a state officially requests help.

The state’s request is time-stamped at 5:52 p.m., June 24. The building collapsed at about 1:20 a.m. Local news reports noted that DeSantis traveled to Surfside, at the opposite end of the state from the capital, as part of his own initial response. “Travel time back to Tallahassee, drafting, and briefing the Governor accounted for the delay of the order,” Florida Politics reported, citing “knowledgeable sources.”

Did Defense Secretary Austin state that critical race theory is not being taught in the military?

After being asked how the Defense Department should think about critical race theory, Secretary Lloyd Austin responded, “We do not teach critical race theory.”

The exchange took place at a congressional hearing on the 2022 military budget. Later on, Rep. Mike Waltz quoted a letter from the U.S. Military Academy superintendent that read, “There is one course that has [CRT] as part of the syllabus.” Waltz presented evidence that the course included a seminar on “understanding whiteness and white rage.” Gen. Mark Milley appeared to confirm this, arguing for the importance of teaching military personnel about racial issues, including white rage, citing the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol.

CRT examines laws and customs that are said to contribute to systemic racism. Republican lawmakers in 25 states have attempted to restrict the teaching of CRT in colleges and schools.

Did President Biden’s choice to run the Bureau of Land Management advocate for population control in her graduate-school thesis?

Tracy Stone-Manning, President Biden’s nominee to be director of the Bureau of Land Management, suggested in her 1992 environmental studies master’s thesis that limiting children to two per family would help the environment.

The thesis, archived on a University of Montana website, included fictitious advertisements she created to make arguments for various policies. One of the ads, focusing on the impact of population growth, reads in part: “When we overpopulate, the earth notices it more. Stop at two. It could be the best thing you do for the planet.”

The headline calls out a baby as an environmental hazard.

In recent years, scientists have acknowledged that the planet may have enough resources to support a larger population, while focusing on the need for humans to manage the nature and scale of their resource consumption.

Stone-Manning has not yet been confirmed to the post.

Is crime ‘exploding’ only in cities led by Democrats?

Many U.S. cities are reporting year-on-year rises in murders—fueling headlines and rhetoric—and at the same time declines in other crimes. Patterns do not appear related to the political party in charge, or to recent policy or budget changes.

In the three biggest U.S. cities, all led by Democrats, so far in 2021:

  • New York homicides are up 12%. The overall crime rate is down by 1% (as of June 27).
  • Los Angeles homicides are up 26%. Property crime is down 9%.
  • Chicago homicides are up 4%. The overall crime rate is down 7%.

Meanwhile, smaller Republican-led cities show similar trends:

  • Oklahoma City homicides are up 25%. The overall crime rate is down 6%.
  • Fresno hasn’t published 2021 figures; homicides were up in 2020 while overall crime fell slightly.

Crime variations reflect long-standing problems and are “not related to which party is ruling,” a Boston criminologist told The Associated Press.

Do laws in their own and neighboring states counter the efforts of various US cities efforts to regulate firearms?

The effect of cities’ attempts to regulate firearms locally can be limited by state laws enacted in their own as well as neighboring states.

Forty-two states have laws “pre-empting” local governments from adopting their own specific gun-control measures, despite what may be strong local support.

In states with stronger controls, recent research finds those can be offset by weaker regulations in nearby states. More liberal rules in neighboring states correlate with increased rates of total firearm deaths, suicides and homicides within a state. Conversely, proximity to states and population centers with stronger gun laws was correlated with lower homicide rates.

In Baltimore, 82% of guns seized by police last year were obtained outside the city—63% outside Maryland. Some 60% of firearms seized in Chicago over the years 2013 to 2016 came from other states with more permissive laws.

Is the US economy growing at the fastest pace in nearly three decades?

U.S. gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2021 posted its biggest increase in almost three decades, expanding at an annual rate of 6.4%. That was the highest rate since 1984.

The Federal Reserve Board on June 16 raised its outlook for full year growth to 7%, which would also be the highest rate since 1984. The pace of expansion reflects the strong recovery from a sharp economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Fed expects growth in 2022 to reach 3.3%, above its longer-term outlook as well as the pace of the last 15 years.

The recovery has also led to a higher reported rate of inflation, with the benchmark index figure in May up 3.9% from last year, representing the greatest increase since 1992. Fed officials expect the price increases to abate as overall conditions return closer to normal.

Have cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome been found in people shortly after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

Rare cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome have been observed in people from 10 to 22 days after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

A U.K. study found four cases. A report from India found seven. Facial weakness was a common symptom in these patients, despite typically arising in less than 20% of GBS cases.

With GBS, immune system damage results in muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis, often after a viral or bacterial infection. In 1976, a swine flu vaccine was confirmed to have increased risk of the disorder.

The AstraZeneca shot is not approved in the U.S. The U.S. alert system has received 279 reports of GBS following COVID-19 vaccinations: 59 after a Johnson & Johnson shot, 97 after the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and 121 after the Moderna shot.

A causal link has not been confirmed; some or all cases could be coincidences. U.S. authorities continue to recommend all the approved vaccines.

Is half of the US population homeless?

On a given night in 2020, an estimated 580,466 people in the U.S.—about 18 of every 10,000 people—were experiencing homelessness, according to an estimate by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD defines a homeless person as someone who “lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”

HUD gathered its latest data in January, before the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some observers think the HUD figure is an undercount, given its definition of homelessness and methodology.

Education Department data looks at how many public school students have at least temporarily experienced homelessness over a period of years. As its data necessarily excludes childless adults, it may also be an undercount. It estimates 1.3 million children experienced homelessness at some point in the time span between 2016 and 2019.

The 2020 census enumerated 331,449,281 people in the U.S.

Has the CDC warned that young people should not get a COVID-19 vaccination because of heart-inflammation risks?

The Centers for Disease Control continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for all adolescents and young people as “potential benefits outweigh the potential risks,” even after scattered preliminary reports of heart inflammation with a few days of getting the shot.

“These reports are rare, given the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses administered,” the agency says. As of June 21, 2021, the CDC says it has confirmed 393 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis in people, mostly male, aged 30 or younger (out of 616 reports). It is working to confirm if there is any relationship to the vaccines.

The CDC has stated that patients who develop heart inflammation following vaccinations generally experience a full recovery.

The Food and Drug Administration plans to add a warning about the rare risk of heart inflammation to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine fact sheets.

Did Democrats make record use of the filibuster in the last Congress?

The filibuster, which allows the Senate minority party to block legislation by refusing to end debate, has been used by both Democrats and Republicans, almost always while occupying the Senate minority.

While filibusters are used frequently, they are only recorded when a cloture vote is called by the majority party, which can end debate with 60 votes.

During the 2019-2020 Congressional term, a record-breaking 328 filibusters were recorded with Democrats in the minority.

Since 2009, 657 filibusters were recorded under Democratic minorities while 609 filibusters were recorded under Republican minorities.

Research by Slate on filibusters between 1991 and 2008 found that Democrats successfully filibustered 63 times while Republicans successfully filibustered 89 times.

President Biden recently proposed requiring a Senator to be on the floor speaking to preserve a filibuster. Filibuster rules may be changed by a simple majority vote, as they are not mentioned in the Constitution or legislation.

Is it illegal to teach about Juneteenth in some states?

While limits on classroom discussion of critical race theory—a controversial academic discipline that examines American history through the lens of anti-Black racism—have been proposed in 22 states and signed into law in five, teaching about Juneteenth is not explicitly illegal in any state.

Juneteenth commemorates the first enforcement of emancipation. It dates back to June 19, 1865, when federal troops entered Texas to enforce the abolition of slavery mandated by the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. The 13th amendment, which abolished slavery everywhere in the U.S., was ratified on December 6, 1865.

In 1979, Texas became the first state to make June 19 an official state holiday, with several other states following suit over the years. In June 2021, Congress passed a resolution establishing Juneteenth as a holiday for federal employees. President Biden signed it into law on June 17.

Do symptoms of the COVID-19 Delta variant differ from those of previous variants?

The mix of symptoms among those sickened by the Delta variant of the coronavirus appear to be somewhat unlike those of previous variants.

According to an ongoing study, “headache, sore throat, a runny nose, and fever” are the most common COVID-19 symptoms of those infected by the Delta variant in the U.K. Cough and “loss of smell” are less common symptoms for the Delta variant.

Doctors in Southeast China have seen patients becoming sicker more quickly, with their conditions “deteriorating more quickly” since the spread of the Delta variant. A U.K. study has found “increased risk” of hospitalization for Delta infections.

Another U.K. study found the Delta variant to be around 60% more transmissible than Alpha, the former most-transmissible variant.

There is not yet enough data to answer concerns that the Delta variant may be more deadly than previous variants.

Do Georgia officials say 100,000 names being removed from voter rolls are ‘outdated and obsolete’?

Georgia’s Secretary of State published on June 18, 2021, a list of 101,789 “outdated and obsolete” voter files to be removed from the rolls. Most of the voters had filed change-of-address cards with the post office. Election mail to others had been returned to sender. Some died.

A small number of files were removed because “the individual had no contact with Georgia’s elections officials in any way...for two general elections,” a statement said.

Updates to the rolls take place every two years; any eligible voters are free to re-register. But scrutiny is high because of past disputes. A court challenge led to the reinstatement of 22,000 registrations in 2019.

Gov. Brian Kemp was Secretary of State before his 2018 election victory over Stacey Abrams, who accused him of voter suppression during her campaign. Under his oversight the state cancelled more than 1.4 million voter registrations.

Is there a history of presidential campaigns declining to pay cities for costs related to campaign events?

Cities that send bills to presidential campaigns for security costs related to campaign events sometimes have a hard time collecting. A 2019 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that the Trump campaign owed ten city governments more than $800,000 in policing and other costs related to Trump’s rallies. In 2017, the organization reported that the 2016 Clinton and Sanders campaigns, as well as Trump’s, had unpaid local bills. 

The pandemic put a halt to many rallies in 2020, but El Paso hired lawyers to chase $569,000 in costs related to a 2019 visit by Trump. More recently, Albuquerque’s mayor told “The Daily Show” that Trump’s campaign owes the city about $200,000, which a Trump spokesman disputes.

A 2015 news report recounted how one Minnesota county waited 11 years to collect $18,000 from the 2004 Bush campaign, finally writing the debt off.

Do surveys find that Americans think Muslims experience more discrimination in the US than other religious groups?

Americans think Muslims experience religious discrimination to a greater degree in the U.S. than other religious groups.

A 2019 Pew Research survey found that over 80% of Americans think Muslims experience some level of discrimination. 64% of respondents thought Jews experience discrimination, and 50% said Evangelical Christians do. Survey results were similar in 2016.

Another Pew Research survey found that in 2019, 63% of Americans thought being Muslim puts people at a societal disadvantage, at least to some degree. 20% thought so about Jews and 15% thought so about Evangelical Christians.

A November 2020 report concluded that about two-thirds of Muslim adults in the U.S. have felt hostility or disrespect based on their religion; more than one-third of Jews said the same. Muslims and Jews both experienced more discrimination than Christians.

Was a car crash at a Pride parade in Florida an LGBTQ hate crime?

According to the local police, the car crash that occurred during the June 19, 2021, Pride parade in Wilton Manors, Florida, was “a tragic accident, and not a criminal act directed at anyone, or any group of individuals.”

The Fort Lauderdale police department reported that the 77-year-old driver accidentally accelerated, hitting two pedestrians before continuing “across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into the fence of a business.” The department noted that “the driver and both pedestrians are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus."’

The driver nearly hit a parade vehicle containing Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The driver was chosen to lead the parade in his truck because he is physically incapable of walking.

Investigations are ongoing. The driver, who has not been arrested and is cooperating with the police, was cleared of driving under the influence. 

Is there evidence that nicotine is toxic to the brain?

Literally speaking, nicotine is toxic to the brain in large enough quantities, meaning that it impairs brain function leading to serious illness or death. Nicotine overdoses are rare but have increased with the introduction of e-cigarettes, which can deliver more nicotine than traditional cigarettes.

Nicotine poses a series of other health risks, including cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, immune and reproductive damage, addiction, and cancer. A 2012 study on the effect of nicotine on the adolescent brain found that “smoking increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment in later life.”

The evidence that nicotine enhances brain function is mixed. A 2018 review of the literature found that nicotine improves motor function, attention and memory, but a 2020 review found results were inconsistent amid some evidence of tobacco industry funding.

Do red states report higher rates of violent crime than blue states?

In 2020, nine of ten states with the highest per capita violent crime rates leaned Republican, while eight of ten states with the lowest rates leaned Democrat, according to a cross-analysis of the latest available FBI crime data with FiveThirtyEight's partisan lean index.

Looking at the murder rate specifically, states that voted for Donald Trump exceeded states that voted for Joe Biden in every year since 2000, according to an analysis of CDC mortality data by Third Way. The left-center think tank pointed to higher poverty and gun ownership and lower education and social spending in red states as possible explanations.

The FBI cautions against using any one demographic marker to draw conclusions about the causes of crime, which they describe as manifold, complex and often “not readily measurable.” Cited variables include:

  • Youth concentration.
  • Poverty and job availability.
  • Education levels.
  • Family cohesiveness.
  • Strength of law enforcement.

Statistics are further complicated by the fact that higher crime rates may reflect greater reporting rather than a higher incidence of crime.

Updated 4/18/23 to reflect the most up-to-date information.

Are health care costs a big factor in personal bankruptcy filings in the US?

Research over the past 15 years points to medical expenses as a big contributor to personal bankruptcy in the U.S., but not to a consensus that health care costs are the number one cause.

An American Journal of Public Health survey of bankruptcy filers between 2016 and 2019 found that two-thirds of filers identified medical expenses as a factor—which suggests there have been limits to hoped-for benefits from the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s changes to insurance access and costs. A 2007 study by the American Journal of Medicine found that 62.1% of bankruptcies were medical.

Results from other studies vary. Health Affairs found that 17% of bankruptcies were caused by medical bills. A 2014 study published in Maine Law Review found that the number ranged from 18% to 26%. The New England Journal of Medicine found that 4% of bankruptcies were caused specifically by hospital costs.

Did a Monmouth University poll find that Biden's approval rating has dropped below 50%?

A recent poll of 810 adults conducted by Monmouth University found that 48% of respondents approve of how Joe Biden is doing as president. This shows a decline compared to earlier versions of the same poll, which placed Biden's approval rating above 50%.

Other polls from the past month, including those run by Morning Consult, IPSOS, Quinnipiac, Yougov, the American Research Group and Gallup, have placed Biden's approval rating at levels ranging 48% to 57%, according to results compiled by FiveThirtyEight, a polling website. On June 17, FiveThirtyEight estimated an average approval rating of 50.8% across all tracked polls of U.S. adults. Its tracking shows that approval for the new president peaked at 55.4% on March 22.

Did the Biden Justice Department halt efforts to obtain journalists’ email records only after the efforts became public?

During Trump’s presidency, the Justice Department sought to obtain email records of journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN as part of efforts to identify unauthorized press leaks.

Following initial press reports about the practice, President Biden in May said such actions are “simply, simply wrong.”

Yet under Biden the Justice Department had been continuing efforts to obtain email records of four Times reporters, informing a few Times executives about the inquiry while imposing a gag order to prevent them from talking about it.

After a federal court lifted the order on June 4, the Times reported on it, prompting the White House to say no one on its staff had been aware of the Justice Department’s actions.

The next day, the department announced that it would no longer seize journalists’ records during leak investigations.

Does evidence suggest that the 2016 mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub was a hate crime targeted against the LGBTQ community?

Evidence suggests that the June 12, 2016, Pulse nightclub shooting was not a hate crime targeted at the LGBTQ community, but a politically motivated act of terror in response to U.S. intervention in the Middle East. Shooter Omar Mateen likely did not know that the club, Pulse, was a gay club, instead choosing it due to its lack of security.

In the hours before the attack, Mateen googled “downtown Orlando nightclubs” and visited three other potential targets. He then drove back and forth between Pulse and a nightclub called Eve, likely deciding on Pulse given the “heavy police presence” surrounding Eve.

A rumor that Mateen told his wife he would be attacking Pulse as the two drove past it days before the shooting was discredited by cell phone records.

Mateen was an adherent of the Islamic State group, a terrorist group whose extremist positions include violent homophobia.

Has Florida stopped regular reporting of COVID-19 data?

In early June 2021, Florida’s health department began reporting coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths on a weekly basis, ending its previous daily reports. The weekly reports are now also less detailed, according to a local news outlet.

Florida’s pandemic-related state of emergency is expected to expire on June 26, and will transition to “a locally-led public health effort,” according to the state's emergency management department. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on COVID-19 in Florida documents declining new cases and hospitalizations over the past few months. Deaths have plateaued; 41% of the state was fully vaccinated as of June 11.

More than half of U.S. states no longer update their COVID-19 data daily, but Florida is the only state to report cases and deaths only once a week, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Did two fully vaccinated passengers on a cruise test positive for the coronavirus?

Two passengers aboard the first North American cruise in 15 months tested positive for the coronavirus late in their trip.

A Celebrity Cruises ship left the island of St. Maarten on June 4 for a 7-day trip. All passengers had been required to present both a negative test and proof of vaccination 72 hours before departure under the policy for St. Maarten travel. The positive cases were found June 9 during required pre-arrival testing. The two passengers were asymptomatic. They were isolated, and no contacts were found to have been infected, news reports said. 

“Celebrity has been up-front about the situation and quick to act to prevent the virus from spreading,” a travel writer who was aboard the voyage reported.

The Centers for Disease Control considers cruise ships to be “very high” risk locations for COVID-19 exposure and continues to recommend that all people avoid traveling on them. 

Did Biden’s chief of staff get all his statistics exactly right in a tweet about recent economic indicators?

Ron Klain, President Biden's chief of staff, on June 10 tweeted a series of claims about the economy. He noted—accurately—recent positive trends in overall jobless claims, pandemic unemployment assistance claims, monthly job growth and economic growth.

He misstated a detail about the latest consumer price data. The May increase (0.6% vs. April) was down from the April increase (0.8% vs. March) but not, as he stated, from the March increase, which was also 0.6%.

The claim generating the most skepticism on Twitter, however, was his assertion that gas prices were down. According to the May consumer price data gasoline prices were down 0.7% from April, making Klain technically correct.

That data appears at odds with both the anecdotal evidence of many Twitter users as well as the widely-cited AAA index. As of June 11, 2021, the AAA said gas prices were up 0.4% from a month ago.

Income tax aside, do the burdens of other major tax sources fall evenly on taxpayers?

Aside from income taxes, Americans pay a variety of other taxes. These broad taxes tend to impose higher relative burdens at lower incomes. So income taxes are often the main policy focus in discussions of economic inequality and overall fairness.

  • Federal Social Security taxes take a flat percentage of wages up to a fixed level of income ($142,800 in 2021).
  • Most forms of sales tax and excise taxes (such as tobacco taxes) are regressive, as lower-income earners spend more of their income on consumption than higher-income households.
  • While property taxes are considered fairly efficient, some researchers find that the system nonetheless tends to favor wealthier owners (who may own multiple expensive properties) for a variety of reasons. “Many properties aren’t properly assessed,” one analyst observes, as less expensive property in poor neighborhoods is often taxed at relatively higher rates.

Did a government review find that the abrupt clearance of Lafayette Park during last year’s BLM protests was unrelated to President Trump’s plans for a photo op?

A recent report by the Interior Department Inspector General about events surrounding a June 1, 2020, protest in Washington's Lafayette Park differs from many news accounts published at the time.

The report said the U.S. Park Police cleared the park specifically in order to install new security fencing later that evening following repeated protests at the site. The police action interrupted a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. The report said warnings to the crowd were “ineffective.”

Minutes after the protesters were pushed out, then-President Trump walked across the park to pose for photos in front of nearby St. John’s Church. Major news media, quoting protestors and noting the timing, reported that the park had been cleared in order to make it safe for the president’s excursion. Democrats in Congress noted the report left unanswered questions about the police’s timing and use of force.

Did a survey find that 71% of Democrats think that people should still stay home as much as possible to protect against the coronavirus?

A May 18-23 Gallup survey of American attitudes on “returning to normalcy” as serious COVID-19 illnesses decline found that 71% of Democrats believed that people should “stay home as much as possible,” even if they are seemingly healthy.

The figure is down from 85% in April 2021, but remains much higher than the figures for other Americans—only 13% of Republicans and 36% of independents believed that healthy people should still stay home. In sum, 56% of all surveyed believed people should “live their normal lives” as much as possible

An early June Ipsos poll found that 66% of Americans had seen friends or family in the past week, and 61% had gone out to eat. Democrats were more in favor of requiring proof of vaccination to return to work than Republicans, Ipsos reported.

Has the Biden administration shut down private detention facilities for unaccompanied migrant minors?

At an April 29 rally President Biden vowed that private prisons and detention centers “should not exist,” echoing promises by his Democratic rivals in 2019, including now-Vice President Kamala Harris.

In 2019, their focus was on reports of six deaths of migrant children held in custody by the Trump administration.

In 2021, the Biden administration still relies on some private facilities to cope with a renewed surge in migrant children. To comply with the law, it has had to increase capacity to move unaccompanied minors quickly out of detention centers supervised by border authorities into less restrictive shelters under the Health and Human Services Department, where minors wait while HHS secures long-term placements with relatives or foster care providers.

In May, HHS awarded more than $2 billion in contracts to two private companies and a nonprofit to build and manage more facilities.

Did the Trump administration in 2019 prohibit US embassies from flying rainbow flags in observance of Pride month?

Once during its term, in 2019, the Trump administration recognized June as LGBT Pride month. It declined to let U.S. embassies observe the event by hoisting the symbolic rainbow flag beneath the national flag that flies above their facilities.

In 2019, then-Vice President Mike Pence confirmed that the administration declined requests from some U.S. embassies to continue a practice that began in the Obama years. “...When it comes to the American flagpole, at American embassies and capitals around the world, having one American flag fly I think is the right decision,” he said in an interview with NBC at the time. He noted there were no restrictions on displaying the flag elsewhere in embassies.

No reports could be found of any Trump administration acknowledgement of Pride month in the other years of its term.

Do at least 56 members of Congress support giving Israel additional military aid this year?

A bipartisan group of 56 U.S. representatives wrote in early June 2021 to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to declare support for additional aid to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which intercepts incoming rockets.

The U.S. has pledged to provide Israel $3.8 billion in military aid annually from 2019 to 2028, including at least $500 million for missile defense along with promises of additional support following a major armed conflict. In 2014, after a wave of rocket attacks, Congress provided Israel an additional $225 million to replenish the Iron Dome system.

On an early June visit to Israel, Sen. Lindsay Graham said Israel would soon be making a request for $1 billion more in aid to “replenish the Iron Dome and a few other things, to upgrade the system.”

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. aid since World War II.

Has California in recent days had the lowest coronavirus infection rate in the US?

According to Centers for Disease Control data, California as of June 9, 2021, had the lowest level of coronavirus infections of all 50 states. In the previous seven days the state recorded 10.4 cases per 100,000 people, slightly lower than second-best South Dakota at 10.5. In the week to June 4, infections in California dropped 52%.

Three U.S. territories in the Pacific reported no cases at all.

California ranks among the top 20 states for vaccination rates, with 100,638 vaccine doses administered per 100,000 residents. The state has been in a process of gradual reopening, based on counties’ case and test positivity rates. 

On June 15, California is set to update its mask mandate, relaxing requirements for vaccinated people in many circumstances in line with recent CDC guidance.

Have US authorities found conclusive evidence to back up reports about alleged bounties on US troops in Afghanistan?

The Pentagon has “low to moderate confidence” in allegations that the Russian military offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, according to an April 2021 White House briefing.

The New York Times first reported the story in June 2020. The allegations received widespread attention from other media. The Trump White House said they were unverified and lacked “consensus” within the intelligence community.

President Biden’s White House is still not confident in these claims, as they are based on interrogations of Afghan detainees in “the challenging operating environment in Afghanistan.” Speculation about the bounties reached a high point last year, after reports that the U.S. Navy recovered $500,000 from a raided Taliban outpost, leading the Pentagon to believe that the money was supplied by the Russian military to kill U.S. troops.

Was there more employment growth in the first four months of the Biden administration than in the first four months of the Reagan and Trump administrations?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps monthly employment growth statistics dating back to 1939.

Presidents are inaugurated on January 20. Using February as each administration's first full month in office:

  • 263,000 jobs were added in the Reagan administration's first four months in office.
  • 683,000 jobs were added in the Trump administration's first four months in office.
  • 2,158,000 jobs were added in the Biden administration's first four months in office, using preliminary figures for April and May 2021.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout and an easing of pandemic restrictions have allowed jobs lost to the coronavirus pandemic to be partially recovered, sustaining employment growth that began in the middle of 2020.

The U.S. economy has yet to fully recover the more than 22 million jobs lost between March and April of 2020 due to the pandemic but has gained back nearly 15 million.

Does the Chinese government continue to suppress discussion or commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests?

Continuing censorship and a crackdown in Hong Kong underscore China’s determination to suppress discussion and commemoration of the 1989 events in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

On June 4, 1989, the Chinese government moved to disperse pro-democracy protestors who had been gathering for weeks. Armed forces killed hundreds of protestors and arrested thousands. Exact numbers have never been confirmed.

Public commemoration of the incident is officially banned in China, but Hong Kong residents have organized an annual vigil each June 4 since 1990. This year’s event was banned due to coronavirus restrictions, despite Hong Kong having had no local cases in six weeks. Police enforced the ban and made several arrests.

The Council on Foreign Relations reports that the Chinese government blocks sites like Twitter, Wikipedia and Facebook as June 4 approaches, as well as any related keywords or media.

Has federal help for Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria been delayed?

Federal assistance to Puerto Rico following two destructive hurricanes in 2017 has experienced significant delays. The causes include strained federal and local capacity, reimbursement and application processes that have been more onerous for Puerto Rico than for similar aid to states, and Trump administration concerns about corruption in the territory.

Aid has been channeled primarily through three federal agencies—the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The New York Times reported that only 0.7% of HUD funds—$138 million of $20 billion approved by Congress—had been released as of April 2021. At HUD, lengthy interagency negotiations and the 2018-2019 government shutdown also delayed the process.

In April, the department released $8.2 billion in funds and removed various grant restrictions.

Did the most recent annual count suggest that 99% of Western monarch butterflies have been wiped out?

Annual counts of Western monarch butterflies in California and northern Baja California by volunteers during Thanksgiving 2020 and New Year's 2021 found that a population decline has accelerated in recent years. The Thanksgiving count—1,914 monarchs—reflected a 99.9% decrease from the 1980s. Counts at specific sites where thousands of monarchs spent the winters past in found only a few hundred, or, in the case of some sites like Pacific Grove, California, none.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit that coordinates the counts, cites habitat loss and degradation, warming and other climate changes, pesticides, and loss of milkweed and other flowering plants as compounding factors in the Western monarch's endangerment.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a California state court recently denied monarchs protection under national and state endangered species laws.

Is Customs and Border Patrol employing facial-recognition technology to process asylum seekers?

On Oct. 28, 2020, Customs and Border Patrol launched “CBP One...a mobile application that serves as a single portal to a variety of CBP services.”

On Feb. 19, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security published a report on the app. However, it wasn't until May 7, 2021, that DHS added a section detailing the app’s use in processing asylum seekers impacted by a Trump-era rule requiring them to wait in Mexico until their eligibility is determined.

The app pairs with facial recognition technology to identify an affected asylum seeker, whose photo is taken and compared to a CBP database containing photos of remain-in-Mexico asylum seekers. If photos match and the asylum seeker's case is still pending, entry is granted into the U.S.

CBP stated that it will publish a separate report on the “privacy risks and mitigations” of the app’s use in asylum cases.

Can same-sex couples get married in Israel or any other country in the Middle East?

Same-sex couples cannot get married in any Middle Eastern country, including Israel.

In 2006, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Israeli government to recognize gay couples married abroad. Married and unmarried same-sex couples alike are entitled to the same legal rights as straight couples, including tax and inheritance benefits, medical privileges and the ability to adopt. Performing a same-sex marriage remains illegal within Israel’s borders.

In Israel, gay people are legally protected against hate crimes and employment discrimination and may serve in government and the military. In contrast, homosexual acts are illegal in most Middle Eastern countries, with punishments including multi-year prison sentences and the death penalty.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “there are currently 29 countries where same-sex marriage is legal.”

Is the Delta variant of the coronavirus beginning to spread in North America?

The coronavirus variant now known as the Delta variant, first identified in India, has spread to 62 countries. The variant was first detected in the U.S. between February and March of 2021. Canada and Mexico have also detected it, and are monitoring its further spread.

The variant has caused outbreaks throughout Asia and Africa, and is starting to spread throughout the United Kingdom as well. The World Health Organization has dubbed the Delta variant a “variant of global concern.”

U.K. epidemiologist Neil Ferguson has estimated that it is 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, previously thought the most transmissible. A study by Public Health England has shown that two vaccine doses are more effective than one against the variant. However, it has also found that it is more transmissible and causes “more significant illness” than previous variants.

Did former House Speaker Dennis Hastert serve time for charges related to past sexual abuse of a minor?

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced in 2016 to 15 months in prison, two years of supervised release and other penalties for paying hush money to cover up sexual abuse of a minor. Hastert, who served as speaker from 1999 to 2007, had abused an unnamed “Individual A" when he was his wrestling coach several decades ago.

While statutes of limitations had expired on any potential charges related to the abuse of Individual A or other minors, investigators discovered that Hastert agreed to pay Individual A $3.5 million in compensation. Hastert was charged for the illegal structuring of cash withdrawals and for lying to the government about those activities in order to hold him “accountable for the crimes he committed that can still be prosecuted.”

Hastert admitted to sexually abusing multiple minors; the sentencing judge called him a “serial child molester."

Were online listings of Dr. Fauci’s upcoming book taken down the day after batches of his emails were released?

Listings for an upcoming book written by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious disease, were removed from the websites of two online retailers on June 2. The day before, files of Fauci’s emails from last year were released by the government to two news organizations under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

Fauci's publisher, National Geographic, told Fox News and other media that the book listings were removed because they were prematurely posted for pre-sale.

Some conservative-leaning media initially speculated that the listings were removed due to political “backlash” about Fauci “profiting off the pandemic” following the attention given to the email disclosures. National Geographic told Fox News that Fauci will earn nothing from the book or an accompanying documentary.

Does a 2015 video show a Black Lives Matter cofounder calling to ‘end the imperialist project that’s called Israel’?

A video of a 2015 panel at Harvard Law School features Patrisse Cullors, a cofounder of the Black Lives Matter movement. The video was posted in 2015, according to the date on the YouTube page. She spoke about the importance of supporting pro-Palestinian activists, given both movements’ opposition to U.S. government-funded militarization. She said, “if we don’t step up boldly and courageously to end the imperialist project that's called Israel, we're doomed.”

Cullors had visited Palestine as part of a delegation organized by Dream Defenders, a Florida-based grassroots organization with an “abolitionist” stance on global issues. 

Cullors resigned in May 2021 as executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation in order to focus on book and television projects, according to the Associated Press.

Is an Austrian company seeking to sell US fire departments plug-in hybrid fire trucks?

An Austrian manufacturer has found at least one U.S. customer for its new plug-in hybrid fire truck, after conducting demonstrations of a concept vehicle across the country over the past two years.

Rosenbauer announced one sale, to the city of Los Angeles, last year. An April 2021 press report says the city will take delivery by the end of the year, later than the city's initial announcement indicated.

The company, a leading supplier of conventionally-powered firefighting vehicles, says the new model features a number of other useful innovations in addition to its energy usage and quieter operations when running on battery power. It is priced up to $1.2 million, according to various news reports, making it somewhat more expensive than the average comparable non-aerial fire truck, according to estimates by HowMuchIsIt, a price-comparison website.

Will taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 increase when the 2017 tax cuts expire?

Taxes are due to modestly increase across the board if Trump-era tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of 2025.

The 2017 cuts reduced individual tax rates by up to 4%, depending on income levels. Legislators set an expiration date for the cuts because of Congressional rules designed to limit the long-term impact of tax and spending changes on budget deficits.

President Biden has pledged not to raise taxes on households making less than $400,000, suggesting that he will work with Congress to extend or offset the cuts before they expire. Temporary Bush-era tax cuts were extended in 2010 and made permanent in 2012.

The center-left Tax Policy Center noted that drawing additional tax revenue only from the 5% of Americans who make $400,000 or more could make it difficult for Biden to finance his infrastructure proposals.

Did Texas authorities arrest people who violated the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions on business openings?

A few Texans were arrested in the spring of 2020 for violating state-issued COVID-19 safety orders limiting “non-essential” business operations.

Two Laredo women were arrested and detained for several hours in April after being reported to local authorities for operating a home beauty salon. A month later, a Dallas woman was jailed for two days for keeping a hair salon open in violation of the orders. She told the county judge that she needed to continue working in order to feed her children. In response to public outcries, Gov. Abbott modified his orders on May 7 to eliminate confinement as a punishment for violating the rules. “Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” Abbott said.

Did medical examiners determine that US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died because of injuries caused by Capitol rioters?

The District of Columbia’s chief medical examiner ruled that U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died from natural causes after suffering two strokes. Sicknick was on duty during the January 6, 2020, riot at the Capitol. He collapsed after returning to his office, was transferred to a hospital and died the next night. The examiner found that Sicknick’s death was not hastened by an injury. 

The police initially attributed his death to “injuries sustained while on-duty.”

In a Washington Post interview, the medical examiner did not dismiss the effects the riot had on his death. “All that transpired played a role in his condition,” he said.

Federal prosecutors charged two men on multiple counts for attacking officers, including Sicknick, with bear spray. The men were not charged with his death, as the medical examiner said the autopsy “found no evidence” of a reaction to the irritants.

Has a House member introduced legislation to prohibit federal agencies from issuing vaccine passports?

A Republican Congressman has proposed legislation to block federal agencies from issuing “standardized documentation” of a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status to present to private entities like restaurants or airlines. Arizona Rep. Andy Briggs, who introduced the bill, said it would also prohibit the federal government from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine in order to access government property or services. 

The bill, which was introduced April 8, 2021, is at an early stage. It has 23 co-sponsors, all Republican.

Is the UN investigating Israel for possibly committing war crimes?

On May 27, 2021, the U.N. Human Rights Council approved a resolution that included an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel. The resolution was supported by 24 states; nine opposed it and 14 did not vote. 

The ongoing independent, international commission will investigate alleged violations committed by Israel in its conflict with Hamas.

Israel claims that its deadly strikes in Gaza targeted buildings hosting armed groups. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said such actions may still be considered war crimes if no evidence suggests the targets were used for military purposes.

Israel denounced the decision and said it would “not cooperate” with the investigation. A Hamas spokesperson said Hamas’ actions were “legitimate resistance” and asked for “steps to punish” Israel.

Do polls show that public favorability towards the Black Lives Matter Movement has decreased?

Recent polls show a fall in overall support for the Black Lives Matter movement since the 2020 protests following the death of George Floyd.

A Morning Consult/Politico survey found that in June 2020, 61% of U.S. voters viewed the BLM movement favorably. In May 2021, that number fell to 48%. During that period, support from:

  • Blacks edged up from 82% to 84%.
  • Whites fell from 56% to 42%.
  • Democrats fell from 82% to 76%.
  • Republicans fell from 36% to 16%.

A USA Today/IPSOS survey found that support for BLM fell from 60% in June 2020 to 50% in March 2021. Meanwhile, trust in law enforcement increased from 56% to 69%.

A September 2020 Pew Research survey detected early signs of eroding support. BLM support among adults fell from 67% to 55% between June 2020 and September 2020; the biggest decline was among white Republicans, whose support fell from 37% to 16%.

Are a growing number of US jurisdictions choosing not to prosecute minor thefts?

U.S. authorities are increasingly using alternatives to prosecuting minor thefts.

In 2018, Philadelphia classified thefts under $500 as “summary offenses,” which are handled out-of-court and typically result in a fine rather than jail time.

In 2019, the Dallas district attorney said he would no longer prosecute thefts valued under $750, reasoning that few people steal out of hunger and that “putting [them] in jail is not going to make their situation any better.”

District attorneys in Maryland, Florida, North Carolina, Washington and Tennessee have enacted similar reforms, the Texas Tribune reports.

Brooklyn offers accused petty thieves a half-day course instead of a court appearance.

A 2021 study of a Massachusetts county’s decision not to prosecute nonviolent misdemeanors found that it reduced “the likelihood of future criminal involvement...with no apparent increase in local crime rates.”

Did Nordic settlers farm in Greenland in the 11th and 12th centuries?

For a few centuries beginning around 950, temperatures in the North Atlantic were warm enough that Norse farmers settled in Greenland. ”The colonists developed a little Europe of their own,” Archaeology Magazine wrote in 2000.

The settlements disappeared sometime in the 15th century. Archaeologists theorize that the communities tried to adapt to the onset of colder temperatures in what’s known as the “Little Ice Age.” They “failed anyway,” a University of Maryland archaeologist told Science in 2016.

They left behind a rich archaeological record, which for centuries has been preserved in permafrost. Warming in recent decades has begun to literally rot away organic materials. “What stands to be lost is a unique record of remarkably preserved material: hair textiles, human and animal bones, woods, hides, leathers,” Scientifc American noted in a 2019 report.

Does New York City jail hundreds of people on a barge moored in the Bronx?

Since 1992 New York City has been using a custom-built five-story barge docked in the Bronx as an intake center for its network of jails. Intended as a temporary solution to overcrowding in the city’s main facilities on Rikers Island, it holds up to 800 people.

Conditions on the barge have long been a focus for those advocating reform of New York’s use and management of incarceration. A former prisoner described it as “dark and cramped and sweaty” to a New York Times reporter in 2019.

Crowding on the barge contributed to the deaths of two detainees in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, according to the city agency that runs the jails. Another man died in custody at Rikers.

In 2019, the New York City Council approved a $8.7 billion plan to replace the barge as well as facilities on Rikers Island by 2026.

Does contracting measles prevent cancer?

Studies suggest that the measles virus, when engineered in a lab, shows promise as a cancer drug. But no evidence suggests that naturally contracted measles prevents cancer, and experts warn against virotherapy research influencing attitudes towards measles, mumps and rubella vaccines.

A study using mice found that exposure to engineered measles regressed ovarian tumor cells by 80%. Over 150 clinical trials of cancer patients who were administered engineered measles showed promising results for various cancers.

However, experts studying the measles virus as a potential cancer therapy say their research is being incorrectly cited as part of anti-vaccination campaigns. They note that:

  • Measles killed 110,000 people globally in 2017. They unequivocally advise vaccination against MMR.
  • Evidence of measles as a cancer therapy shows the engineered virus is most effective in patients who have received the MMR vaccine.

Did IGN delete an article directing readers to Palestinian aid groups?

On May 14, 2021, an article entitled “How to Help Palestinian Civilians,” attributed to “IGN staff,” was posted on video game and entertainment media outlet IGN’s website. The article sought to “highlight the humanitarian crisis in Palestine” and the “recent...catastrophic loss of Palestinian lives.” It directed readers to “charities and organizations on the ground in those areas where you can donate funds to help those most in need.”

On May 16, the article was deleted from IGN‘s website. The next day, IGN issued a statement via Twitter about the company‘s decision, which read in part that “by highlighting only one population, the post mistakenly left the impression that we were politically aligned with one side.”

In response, more than 70 IGN staff members signed an open letter condemning IGN’s actions.

Have Iranian authorities said that they will halt all uranium enrichment if the US repeals sanctions?

Iran has never agreed to entirely stop enriching uranium, a process needed to create nuclear fuel.

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said in March 2021 that Iran’s “definite policy” is that the nation will only recommit to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal, if the U.S. lifts sanctions against Iran. In the 2015 agreement Iran agreed to a 3.67% limit on uranium-235 enrichment. In May 2021, Iran began enriching uranium up to 63% following an explosion at its Natanz enrichment plant. Lower levels of enriched uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants. Uranium enriched beyond 90% can be used to make nuclear weapons.

The U.S. withdrew from the 2015 agreement in May 2018, reimposing all sanctions on Iran that the deal had previously lifted. Iran then began violating the agreement’s terms.

Was last year’s payroll tax deferral taken up by many employers?

The Trump administration’s optional “holiday” for Social Security tax payments last fall was not widely embraced by employers outside the federal government. The measure let employers defer collecting employees’ share of the taxes for the last four months of 2020.

In September, Forbes reported that uncertainty about administering the plan led most private employers, including UPS, Costco, General Motors and many others, to opt out. The House of Representatives declined to go along for its staff, but the administration did opt all executive branch and active military employees in.

With Trump’s defeat, talk of making cuts permanent or forgiving the 2020 taxes faded. Congress did extend the payment deadline for employers from April 30 to the end of 2021. The Treasury began notifying Trump appointees who have left their jobs to repay any 2020 taxes due within 30 days.