Trump team communications captured by intelligence community surveillance, Nunes says

Members of the intelligence community “incidentally collected” communications from the Trump transition team during legal surveillance operations of foreign targets, a top Republican lawmaker said Wednesday afternoon.

House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said this produced “dozens” of reports which eventually unmasked several individuals’ identities and were “widely disseminated.”

He said none of the reports he had read mentioned Russia or Russians and he was unsure whether the surveillance occurred at Trump Tower — as President Trump has suggested. Nunes also was unsure if then President-elect Trump was captured by the surveillance, which occurred in November, December and January.

“I recently confirmed on numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected intelligence,” Nunes said.

The revelations could at least partially back up some allegations made by Trump earlier this month, when he tweeted that former President Barack Obama had “wiretapped” him, though top lawmakers have sharply disputed those claims. FBI Director James Comey also testified earlier this week he had no evidence to support the claims.

Nunes said he told House Speaker Paul Ryan earlier Wednesday about his findings. He later said he briefed Trump, calling some of the collection “inappropriate.”

Trump commented briefly afterward, saying he felt “somewhat” vindicated by Nunes’ comments.

“There’s a lot of questions that I think his statement raises, and that I hope we can get to the bottom of,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also said.

He said the NSA had been “very helpful” during the investigation, however, he was unsure if “the FBI is going to comply.”

Nunes said the surveillance collection was “legally collected foreign intelligence under FISA incidental collection.” But Nunes said he was “alarmed” the intelligence “ended up in reporting channels and was widely disseminated.”

It was previously reported that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was “unmasked” in this way, however, Nunes said “additional names” were unmasked as well.

He said he didn’t know what foreign intelligence value the surveillance had “and why people would need to know that about President-elect Trump and his transition team.” Nunes did not identify which foreign targets were under surveillance.

Asked if he thought Trump was spied on, Nunes replied: “I’m not gonna get into legal definitions here, but clearly I have a concern.”

Obama, Duterte and other notorious political insults

  • 6 September 2016
  • From the sectionWorld
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte attends a plenary session at the Asean summit in Vientiane, Laos 6 September.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPresident Duterte has apologised for comments made in the past

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he regrets calling his US counterpart Barack Obama the “son of a whore“.

His controversial comments have led to diplomatic consequences with the US president cancelling a scheduled meeting with Mr Duterte.

But the Philippine leader, who has insulted prominent figures before, is not the only one guilty of offending world leaders.

From a “sadistic nurse” to “the devil” himself, here are some of the more memorable comments made by or about those in positions of power.

Arafat the ‘son of 60,000 whores’ (1999)

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat attends prayers at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah, 17 May 2002Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionPalestinian leader Yasser Arafat was verbally attacked by the Syrian defence minister

The then Syrian defence minister General Mustafa Tlass, known for his colourful language, triggered a diplomatic row with the Palestinian Authority when he described its leader Yasser Arafat as the “son of 60,000 whores”.

Gen Tlass, who launched the outspoken attack on Mr Arafat in a speech in 1999, said: “You should have told the White House that Jerusalem is the capital of the future Palestinian state but instead you stayed as quiet as a mouse and did not dare say a single word in favour of Palestine or Jerusalem.”

His comments led to demonstrations in Gaza with thousands of Palestinians protesting at the personal attack on their leader.

Bush is ‘the devil’ (2006)

George W Bush speaks during a press conference, 20 December 2006Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionGeorge W Bush was labelled ‘the devil’ by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in 2006

In a dramatic speech to the UN in September 2006, the then president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, famously described his US counterpart George W Bush as the “devil”.

The Devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house.

“And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here. And it smells of sulphur still today.

Media captionChavez: ‘Yesterday the president of the United States came here, talking as if he owned the world’

“Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.”

On the same podium in 2009, Mr Chavez cautiously welcomed Mr Obama’s new administration. Looking around, he said: “It doesn’t smell of sulphur any more. No, it smells of something else. It smells of hope, and you have to have hope in your heart.”

Farage and the ‘damp rag’ (2010)

Nigel Farage reacts during a debate on the 2011 EU budget at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, 24 November 2010Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionNigel Farage stunned MEPs when he described Herman Van Rompuy as ‘a damp rag’

When a sentence begins with the words “I don’t want to be rude”, you should probably prepare to be offended.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) at the time of his speech to MEPs in the European parliament, launched into a personal attack on Herman Van Rompuy that lasted several minutes.

He said the president of the European Council had “the charisma of a damp rag”.

He compared the former Belgian prime minister to a “low-grade bank clerk” and said he came from a “non-country”.

The attack, which stunned the chamber, came as Mr Van Rompuy made his maiden appearance in parliament in Brussels.

Berlusconi and the Nazi guard (2003)

Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy, at a renaissance villa near Rome, 6 November 2003Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionFormer Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi created a diplomatic crisis with his ‘Nazi’ comment

The EU was plunged into a grave diplomatic crisis following former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s “Nazi guard” remarks to a German MEP, Martin Schulz.

MEPs threatened to break off relations with the EU’s top decision-making body, the European Council (headed by Mr Berlusconi at the time), unless a formal apology was given.

“I know that in Italy there is a man producing a film on Nazi concentration camps,” Mr Berlusconi said, adding: “I shall put you forward for the role of Kapo [guard chosen from among the prisoners] – you would be perfect.”

As the controversy over his remark intensified, he responded: “I’ll try to soften it and become boring, maybe even very boring, but I am not sure I will be able to do it.”

Abbott’s run-in with Putin (2014)

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House in in Canberra, 4 December 2014Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionTony Abbott threatened to ‘shirtfront’ Vladimir Putin after the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17

Tony Abbott, then Australian prime minister, controversially threatened to “shirtfront” Russian leader Vladimir Putin ahead of the November G20 summit in Brisbane.

Mr Abbott’s comment was made after the shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine, in which 38 Australians were among the 298 killed.

Russia was criticised for backing the rebel separatist fighters blamed for shooting down the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane.

The term “shirtfront”, commonly associated with the rough and tumble of Australian football, means to target an opponent with a head-on charge aimed at bumping them to the ground.

The two appeared cordial when the meeting took place.

Clinton a ‘sadistic nurse’ (2007)

Hillary Clinton coughs during a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, 5 September 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionPresidential hopeful Hillary Clinton was described as a ‘sadistic nurse’ by Boris Johnson

Hillary Clinton could be the next US president. And as leader of “the free world”, she would be a useful person to have in your corner.

Not known for her sense of humour, it was unlikely that she would have been amused by this description from UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Back in 2007 Mr Johnson said: “She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.”

In 2016 he said his outspoken comments had been “taken out of context“.

Maduro tells Almagro to shove it (2016)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during a rally in Caracas, 1 September 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was accused of being ‘mad as a goat’ over his comments

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pulled out a string of epithets for the head of the Organization of American States (OAS,) Luis Almagro.

He called him “rubbish”, a “traitor” and told him: “Mr Almagro, you can take your Democratic Charter, put it into a thin tube, and shove it wherever it fits.”

In a series of Twitter posts addressed directly to Mr Maduro, Mr Almagro also called him a “petty dictator”.

After the remarks, the former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said President Maduro was “mad as a goat”.

The comments were made after Mr Almagro called an emergency meeting over Venezuela’s “institutional crisis”, a move that could have led to Venezuela’s expulsion from the OAS.

Trump questions Obama’s citizenship (2011)

Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at a rally Jackson, Mississippi, 24 August 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDonald Trump demanded proof that President Obama was not born in Kenya

He has blamed US President Barack Obama for everything from Brexit to the rise of so-called Islamic State (IS), but Donald Trump’s request to see Mr Obama’s full birth certificate triggered a long-running debate – and a string of conspiracy theories.

The colourful billionaire was convinced that Mr Obama was actually born in Kenya and offered the president $5m to reveal his college and passport records.

Later, at the annual White House correspondents’ dinner, Mr Obama said: “As some of you heard, the state of Hawaii released my official long-form birth certificate.

“Hopefully this puts all doubts to rest, but just in case… tonight for the first time I am prepared to go one step further, I am releasing my official birth video.”

The screen in the conference hall then cut to a clip from the Disney film The Lion King. “Oh well,” Mr Obama added, “back to square one”.

President Kirchner an ‘old hag’ (2013)

Media captionBBC Mundo’s David Cuen: ‘There have been similar precedents in the past’

The Uruguayan president was caught on microphone at the start of a news conference apparently referring to his Argentinean counterpart as an “old hag”.

President Jose Mujica, allegedly referring to Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband, was overheard in a recording in 2013 saying: “This old hag is even worse than the cross-eyed man.

A Uruguayan newspaper posted audio of his comments on its website, which led to official protests in Argentina.

President Mujica later denied that he had been talking about the Kirchners. To this day he has failed to explain whom he was referring to.

Archbishop Tutu is ‘evil’ (2004)

The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, speaks at a press conference in New York City, 1 May 2004Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionSouth Africa’s former Archbishop Desmond Tutu was labelled ‘evil’ by Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe hit out at South Africa’s former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, calling him an “angry, evil and embittered little bishop”.

The two are not known to be the closest of friends with Archbishop Tutu earlier saying that Mr Mugabe resembled a caricature of an African dictator.

Mr Mugabe’s comments were made in an interview with Sky News.

Archbishop Tutu, who won the Nobel peace prize for his efforts as one of the leading figures in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, did not comment on Mr Mugabe’s verbal attack.

‘Their lives matter’: Obama issues lengthy statement on police shootings

Caitlin Dickson,Caitlin Dickson 1 hour 59 minutes ago

Obama lifts US embargo on lethal arms sales to Vietnam

  • 1 hour ago
  • From the sectionAsia
Media captionPresident Obama said lifting the arms embargo would remove “a lingering vestige of the Cold War”

President Barack Obama has announced the US is fully lifting its embargo on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam, its one-time enemy.

Speaking during a visit to communist Vietnam and talks with its leaders, Mr Obama said the move removed a “lingering vestige of the Cold War”.

The US is trying to bolster its relationship with its Pacific allies, as China asserts territorial claims.

But Mr Obama said the embargo decision was not related to US policy on China.

“It’s based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalisation with Vietnam,” he said in Hanoi.

Vietnam is one of several countries in the region involved in maritime disputes with China. The US insists on the right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

In 2014, a row over a Chinese oil rig near the Paracel islands led to clashes between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels and anti-China riots in Vietnam.

Why Vietnam wants US weapons

Beijing’s new South China Sea islands

High hopes for Obama visit

White House officials had indicated the arms ban, in force since 1984, would be lifted only if human rights in Vietnam improved.

Media captionJonathan Head reports from Hanoi: “Whatever the differences on human rights, both these countries have put their history behind them”

“Sales will need to still meet strict requirements, including those related to human rights, but this change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself,” Mr Obama said after talks with President Tran Dai Quang.

Vietnam had been arguing for an end to the embargo, which was partially lifted in 2014.

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President Obama alongside Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi, 22 May 2016Image copyrightEPA

Powerful symbolism: Jonathan Head, BBC News, Hanoi

President Obama’s easing of all remaining restrictions on arms sales to Vietnam is powerfully symbolic. But what does it mean in practice?

Up to now, Vietnam has relied on Russia to supply most of its defence equipment, a legacy of the Cold War, when they were allies. The government would certainly like to diversify its sources, and is looking at a number of potential alternative suppliers. But it won’t be rushing into the arms of US manufacturers just yet.

One reason is that a lot of US technology may be too sophisticated and expensive for Vietnam’s needs. And while Vietnam’s defence spending, which has doubled over the past decade, is driven by the rivalry with its giant neighbour China, it will not want to antagonise China by seeking state-of-the-art US weapons that might alter the military balance.

Another reason is the complicated process of procuring US weapons. In his announcement, Mr Obama said any military contracts would still be subject to provisos on human rights, and given the Vietnamese government’s poor human rights record that might hold up possible arms sales in Congress.

The greatest potential for US sales probably lies in areas like military surveillance systems and coastal defence. Vietnam would welcome technology that helps it track Chinese naval forces. The partial lifting of the embargo two years ago was with the specific aim of improving US sales in this area, yet Vietnam is taking its time to decide what it most wants to buy.

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Mr Obama’s visit comes 41 years after the end of the Vietnam War in which the US sought to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam.

Several million Vietnamese – civilians, communist fighters and South Vietnamese soldiers – were killed, as well as more than 58,000 US soldiers.

By the end of the war in 1975, the communists had gained control of the entire country.

While in Vietnam, Mr Obama is expected to meet dissidents and make the case for Vietnam to remove obstacles to the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal.

Amnesty International on Monday accused Vietnamese authorities of “carrying out their repressive business as usual” in arresting six activists.

“Before leaving Vietnam, President Obama must insist on the release of all prisoners of conscience,” said its international advocacy director, T Kumar.

In a separate move, Vietnamese officials have removed the accreditation of the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Hanoi after accusing him of conducting an unauthorised interview – something he denies.

The US president flies later to Japan for a summit of the G7 industrialised nations. His visit will include a tour of Hiroshima, where the world’s first nuclear attack was carried out in 1945 by the US, killing at least 140,000 people.

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‘Leverage for Vietnam’ – media view

The lifting of the US arms embargo “will tighten the strategic pressure on China”, Vietnamese Communist Youth Union newspaper Tuoi Tre says on its website.

“It will also provide Vietnam with leverage in future arms deals with traditional weapons suppliers, particularly its long-time security patron, Russia,” the paper says.

China’s privately-owned portal Sina News sounds a note of alarm, saying that the lifting of the arms embargo “is a cause for concern” because it may have an impact on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

A commentary (in Chinese) by Phoenix TV’s news anchor Cheng Helin on Sina’s “Headlines Blog” argues that Vietnam is being drawn into “co-operation to contain China” as part of “a three-way alliance with the US and Japan”. But, says the author, the US is unlikely to sell Vietnam sophisticated weapons.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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South China Sea map

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Trump Derailed by Obama’s Endorsement

BY ANDY BOROWITZ
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CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY AUDE GUERRUCCI/PICTURE-ALLIANCE/DPA/AP
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Adding a new wrinkle in an already unpredictable election year, Donald Trump saw his poll numbers plummet on Monday after receiving a surprise endorsement from President Barack Obama.

The long-awaited downfall of the abrasive billionaire came in startling fashion, as few had expected the President to offer a full-throated endorsement of Trump, especially on the eve of the all-important Super Tuesday primaries.

Praising the Republican front-runner during a nationally televised address, the President said that, despite media reports to the contrary, Trump shared his views on such important issues as immigration and religious tolerance. “In every way that matters, Donald and I are on exactly the same page,” Obama said, pointing to a framed picture of the billionaire on his Oval Office desk.

Concluding his endorsement with an emphatic closing argument, Obama said, “If you love me, vote for Trump.”

In several G.O.P. polls taken after the President’s stunning endorsement, Trump sank from first to fifth place, trailing the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson by several points.

As news of the President’s endorsement spread, former Trump supporters across the nation gathered to vent their anger, with some burning signs, trucker hats, and other campaign paraphernalia at impromptu bonfires.

Harland Dorrinson, who had attended a massive Trump rally in Alabama just a day earlier, said that he now felt totally betrayed by the billionaire. “I guess when all is said and done, Donald Trump was just too good to be true,” he said.

Watch: Bob Mankoff offers a glimpse into the process by which The New Yorker chooses the cartoons for forthcoming issues of the magazine.

GET NEWS SATIRE FROM THE BOROWITZ REPORT DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX.

Fact checking the 2016 State of the Union address

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President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address

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President Obama looked back on his tenure and took shots at Republican presidential candidates for their rhetoric in his final State of the Union address. (Associated Press)

A State of the Union address is often difficult to fact-check, no matter who is president. The speech is a product of many hands and is carefully vetted, so major errors of fact are relatively rare. But State of the Union addresses often are very political speeches, an argument for the president’s policies, so context is sometimes missing.

Here is a guide through some of President Obama’s most interesting claims, in the order in which he made them. We also checked one claim in the GOP response. As is our practice with live events, we do not award Pinocchio rankings, which are reserved for complete columns.

“We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ’90s; an unemployment rate cut in half.”

While President Obama often has touted what he often calls the “longest streak of private-sector job creation in history,” the average number of jobs created in this 70-month period is significantly lower than under either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan. (When you exclude a single month of decline, in fact, Clinton and Reagan had streaks of 85 and 71 months, respectively.)

The low point in jobs was reached in February 2010, and there has indeed been a gain of 13.6 million nonfarm jobs since then, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But it’s worth remembering that in the same period, the number of federal, state and local government jobs has actually declined by nearly 500,000.

The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when Obama took office in 2009, and now it is 5 percent. The president says it was cut in half by measuring from the high point reached during his presidency: 10 percent in October 2009.

Still, even with the massive jobs losses at the start of his presidency, Obama can claim that nearly 9.3 million jobs were added since he took office. At this point in George W. Bush’s presidency, the comparable number was 1.3 million; and for Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, the figure was 21.2 million and 12.7 million, respectively.

“Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.”

The low point for manufacturing jobs was reached in February 2010, and there has been a gain of 878,000 jobs since then. But Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the number of manufacturing jobs is still 230,000 fewer than when Obama took office in the depths of the recession — and 1.4 million fewer than when the recession began in December 2007. Indeed, the United States only gained 30,000 manufacturing jobs in all of 2015.

Here’s a graph that shows the trend over the last 10 years:

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/graph-landing.php?g=37TT

And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.”

The improvement in the economy, coupled with the spending cuts in the sequester, has yielded a significantly lower deficit than just a few years ago. The deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was $439 billion.

For economists, raw numbers mean less than the percentage of the gross domestic product, and here, too, there has been an improvement. As a percentage of the GDP, the deficit in fiscal year 2015 was 2.5 percent, the lowest level since 2007.

For fiscal year 2009, when Obama took office, the deficit was 9.8 percent of GDP, so that’s a 75 percent reduction.

“We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.”

The president used to say “roughly 10 nations” when making this comparison, but cuts in U.S. defense spending and increases in estimates of Chinese spending appear to have shifted the calculation.

The mostly widely cited public source for this claim is the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tallies public numbers each year. SIPRI urges caution in how its data is used, saying that “attempts to draw conclusions about a country’s level of military capability from its level of military expenditure should be regarded with considerable skepticism.”

That’s because raw numbers can be misleading. The official Chinese figures are believed to be understated — and it costs China less money to buy the same goods and services as the United States. A rough calculation of purchasing power parity suggests the correct figure for Chinese defense spending could be double official estimates.

The comparison to China also does not include the fact that because it is not a global power, Beijing may actually spend more on its military in the western Pacific than does the United States.

Moreover, the United States ranks ninth when military spending is measured as a percentage of the gross domestic product, according to the CIA Factbook. Percentage of GDP is a good indicator of how a country chooses to use its resources — the top ranks of the list are dominated by oil-rich Middle Eastern countries and Israel — but the statistic does not shed much light on the effectiveness of a country’s military. So there are also limitations in that comparison.

“Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.”

In lauding his achievements in energy, the president made a reference to the dramatic decline in gasoline prices. But the White House graphics that accompanied his speech in its posting on Medium included a sentence that made a claim based on much higher gas prices.

The graphic claimed that “Americans will save nearly $8,000 at the pump in 2025 thanks to doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and light trucks.” But there are two big caveats to that figure, which comes from official government estimates of the savings over the lifetime of a car between 2012 and 2025.

First, gasoline was presumed to cost about $3.42 before taxes, so obviously any savings from fuel efficiency would be significantly reduced if gasoline stays at current $2-a-gallon levels. Second, the cost of the rules was estimated to amount to $3,000, thus reducing the savings to car owners to $5,000 even before the impact of lower fuel prices is considered.

“On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average.”

According to the Solar Foundation, an independent energy research nonprofit, the median wage for solar designers is about $27 per hour, and solar installers earn a median wage of $21 per hour. (Solar installers’ hourly median wage was $19.24, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent, May 2014 figures.) Workers in solar assembly earn $18 per hour. These figures are, indeed, higher than the median hourly wage for all occupations as of the most recent figures in May 2014, at $17.09. (However, the median hourly wage for employees in the mining industry — including coal mining — is also higher than the median hourly wage for all jobs — at $48.54.)

The group reported in its 2015 Census that the solar workforce is larger than the coal industry and other fossil fuel generation sectors. It used Bureau of Labor Statistics figures to compare coal industry employees to solar industry employees, as measured through its survey of more than 7,600 U.S. businesses.

As of October 2015, the coal mining industry had 65,000 jobs. Per the Solar Foundation’s 2015 figures, there were 119,931 people employed in solar installation.

Obama’s statement comes from the Department of Energy’s website, which cites the Solar Foundation’s wage figures. But the source is unclear for the claim that solar is saving “tens of millions of dollars a year” on energy bills for Arizona and New York residents. Solar power is, indeed, growing rapidly in New York and Arizona. While the Department of Energy appears to attribute the savings figures to the Solar Foundation, the claim that solar customers are saving $13 million in Arizona and $11 million in New York every year is not in the nonprofit’s most recent annual report.

It’s worth noting that in Arizona, there is an ongoing controversy over whether residents truly are getting lower rates on solar energy. Energy regulators in the state are battling utility companies over net metering, which is the process through which solar customers get a credit for a certain amount of electricity that they send back to the grid. Regulators are working on a compromise deal that could result in a cost-shift for non-solar customers.

“Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.”

Texas and Iowa lead the nation in wind power, and the cost of wind power surely is lower in those states than in others. But this claim overlooks the impact of the federal tax credit that has driven much of the cost of wind power down.

The average price of coal and natural gas power ($65 per megawatt-hour) is still cheaper than newer sources of energy like wind ($80) and solar ($107),according to the Dallas Morning News.

In particular, the Production Tax Credit is a crucial subsidy that allows wind energy to compete with energy from fossil fuels. This tax credit is the driving force behind negative wind power pricing in Texas, according to a 2015 reportby the Institute of Political Economy at Utah State University and public policy research organization Strata. Texas also provides many state-level financial incentives for wind power generation.

The Department of Energy estimates that within a decade, wind power will become cost-competitive with fossil fuels without a federal tax incentive. The White House noted that solar and wind energy prices are now becoming competitive with energy from conventional fuel sources.

GOP Response

“Many of your frustrations are my frustrations. A frustration with a government that has grown day after day, year after year, yet doesn’t serve us any better.”

— South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

Actually, federal government employment has dropped during the Obama administration; at one point in 2014 federal employment reached the lowest level since 1966. There has been a slight uptick since then, but even so, as a percentage of total employment, the federal government now has the smallest share since World War II.

Here’s a graph that shows total federal employment since 1939. The spikes every 10 years reflect temporary hiring for the U.S. Census.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/graph-landing.php?g=37Ux

Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports for The Fact Checker. Send her statements to dig into via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook.

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Count the pinocchios. A weekly review of what’s true, false or in-between.

513
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513 Comments
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msgrowan
8:08 PM GMT
All State of the Union messages are carefully crafted screeds that portray half-truths as gospel and minimize any negative trends or developments – if even mentioning them in passing. The President’s last such address was in that hoary tradition, and deserves no more – and no less – attention and regard that that accorded his own earlier such effusions and those of his predecessors. It will be consigned to the dusty shelves of rarely reread history, together with all such earlier specimens of political spin.
.Jim.
7:49 PM GMT
The author needs to update this article. $3.5 TRILLION per year!
Governor Haley’s comment about “frustration with a government that has grown day after day, year after year, yet doesn’t serve us any better.” was referring to an enormous Federal Government that has grown to have an enormous budget of $3.5 TRILLION per year. $430 BILLION in deficits per year. Now $19 TRILLION in DEBT! That’s how the Federal Government has grown year after year, in annual expenditures!
Ralph Miano
1/13/2016 10:50 PM GMT
5 Pinnochios for King Obama’s speech.
davee crockett
4:40 AM GMT
…said a guy on a barstool, having a hard time finding any counter factual information.
dotjuan1
6:08 AM GMT
Huh? How is your comment relevant since Ralph was opining on what were facts in the article? Why would he need to present any other facts?
satxusa
1:25 PM GMT
dot,

davee is actually the guy on the barstool projecting his own sentiments onto Ralph. davee wishes what Ralph said wasn’t true, but is.

JFSpack
3:33 PM GMT
5 statements, 5 Pinocchios? One pinocchio per statement means “Mostly True” all the way through.
lenbilen
1/13/2016 10:22 PM GMT
The State of the Union message: A limerick.

President Obama gave a rambling speech about his failures of the last seven years, and coated them in a coat of a call for unity to accelerate the pace of progress as he sees it… rambling on and on…

Most of the attendees sat stone-faced.

The State of the Union: It’s sad

might lead to the therapy pad.

He was proud, he was coy,

but it gave me more joy

when I colonoscopy had. http://lenbilen.com/2016/01/12/the-state-of-the-un…

davee crockett
4:47 AM GMT
There once was a man named Lenbelin,
Success of a Dem made him illen,
So he said “I’ve no facts,
With which to come back,
So instead I’ll write poems of my rearend
chrisjiii59
1/13/2016 9:17 PM GMT
The president’s SOU speech was great. He touted his long record of achievements, gave credit where it was due, and made me very happy and proud that I voted for him twice.
Twoiron2
1/13/2016 9:54 PM GMT [Edited]
chris,

Don’t get hurt patting yourself on the back. It will take 1-to-2 generations to recover from 8 years of Obama malfeasance, skullduggery, and bad judgment.

That’s if the country he hates (America) is still around a generation from now — that’s not a given.

LenR
1:37 AM GMT
The country is in much better shape than it was when he took office.
davee crockett
4:48 AM GMT
Must be very dark in that cave.
Haiku Guy
1:51 AM GMT
No, simply not true. Uf you were in dept 9 trillion before and 20 trillion 8 years later would you say you were in ‘much better shape..”
No, you would say it is worse. You are a fool.
davee crockett
4:59 AM GMT
Simply not truer: Do some reading of credible economists (hint, none named Moore). 3T of That belongs to Bush-Cheney on the Great Recession and another 2T for Iraq and missing Bin Laden.

Then take into account the 5% Unemployment (Romney said elect me and I’ll bring you 6%) AND reduced number not looking for work, way way down in annual US Troops killed, and 1/10th the domestic deaths by terrorist under Bush., even counting all the RW fanatic shootings.
Do some home work, it may hurt but the facts are out there.
And as this and other fact checking sites point out, Crime down (trend), Deficit’s down from end of Bush term (Trend), Bin Laden dead, abortions per capita at historic lows,Taxes paid as % GDP at historic lows.

BUT He did not put any banksters in jail and did not find that $8B Rumsfeld lost in Iraq, so there is that.

candela17
1/13/2016 9:05 PM GMT
The cuts in the Federal work force were achieved by gutting the military. The civilian side of Federal employment has gowned exponentially. The fact checker neglected to include that fact.
chrisjiii59
1/13/2016 9:21 PM GMT
When was the military “gutted”? The reconciliation that the GOP foolishly made the country enter into cut military spending. The POTUS made mention in his speech last night about the huge amount of money we spend on our military. No other country even comes close to what we spend, which is ridiculous. How many bombs, warplanes, tanks, and ships does it take to make you feel safe? Of course safety is of no concern to the Congressional GOP morons, they’re more concerned about their military contractor buddies getting outrageous amounts of money out of our treasury.
Twoiron2
1/13/2016 10:02 PM GMT [Edited]
chris,

My goodness, man, you are ignorant. We spend a lot of money because we are the protectors of freedom in the world. How much has it cost to keep tens of thousands of American troops in Japan, Korea, and western Europe for 70 years? Get back to me with some facts and figures and stop being as lazy as Obama in addressing the questions people put to you…

LenR
1:39 AM GMT
The military doesn’t even want a lot of what Congress forces on them. They want to prepare for the next war, not the last one.
screen.velocity
1/13/2016 9:46 PM GMT
Ah, unless WP is using totally different numbers, Fed Emp. NEVER includes Military Personal outside of a few Pentagon positions.
Twoiron2
1/13/2016 9:04 PM GMT [Edited]
What is the purpose of “fact-checking” a pathological liar?

Not only does he lie (with reckless abandon) but the data the government prepares for him to lie about is all lies. How can unemployment be down when the labor participation rate tallies nearly 95MM unemployed people who have given up looking for work — AND THEY ARE EXCLUDED IN THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE COMPUTATION.

How can you say the inflation rate is low when the market basket of goods and services used to arrive at the rate of inflation is always changing?

Fact-check this: Obama’s record as prezzie is Obysmal, no matter what HE claims. We all know he fantasizes he is the 1/2-black messiah.

Someone needs to tell Jimmy Carter he’s no longer at the top of the “worst prezzy” list.

Pathetica
1/13/2016 9:14 PM GMT
Even tho there are facts – you still proclaim he lies. Well, that makes no sense. At least when we went after Bush we stuck to reality and facts. There were no WMD in Iraq. Torture is illegal. Tax cuts for the rich don’t appear to be helping middle America and so on.
Twoiron2
1/13/2016 9:59 PM GMT
Pathetic,

What is it with you Obama low-information voters? You never address the questions and always either resort to insults or blaming GWB.

Professor Jonathan Gruber was right about you people…you are stew pit.

chrisjiii59
1/13/2016 9:23 PM GMT
Just because you’re too delusional to know the truth when you hear it doesn’t make the POTUS a liar. It just makes you look stupid.
Twoiron2
1/13/2016 9:57 PM GMT
chris,

“Hurl insults in lieu of answering the questions” is rule #1 in the low-information voter playbook. I see you are loyal, if ignorant, student of the playbook.

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Glenn Kessler · January 12

Barack Obama: US gun control inaction must end

  • 5 January 2016
  • From the sectionUS & Canada
  • 1035comments
Media captionA tearful President Obama outlined new restrictions on gun purchases

An emotional US President Barack Obama has unveiled new restrictions on gun purchases, saying the “constant excuses for inaction” have to stop.

Wiping away tears, the president recalled the Sandy Hook primary school shooting in 2012 where 20 children and six adults were killed.

His executive actions, without Congress approval, widen background checks on potential gun buyers.

But the National Rifle Association said it would fight Mr Obama’s measures.

And the leader of the House of Representatives, Republican Paul Ryan, said the plans were certain to be challenged in the courts.

“His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty,” he said.

Meanwhile, sales of guns in the US appear to have risen, amid speculation in recent weeks that the White House was going to tighten the law.

Earlier, the president announced the law change at the White House, while surrounded by survivors and relatives of victims of shootings.

“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can’t hold America hostage,” Mr Obama said.


Analysis – Anthony Zurcher, BBC News North America reporter

An emotional president employed all of his rhetorical skill to justify what are, in reality, executive actions that only modestly expand federal regulation of firearm sales.

Standing in a room filled with victims of gun violence, he explained that the murder of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, changed him – and that he hoped it would change the country.

Three years have passed since that school massacre, however, and the country hasn’t changed. While some states have toughened their laws, others have expanded gun rights and the US Congress has taken no action.

So Mr Obama did what he could, and wrapped the move in language that sounded more appropriate for a ceremony announcing the passage of sweeping legislation that, in today’s political environment, has no chance of reaching his presidential desk.

And even this small move will likely be fiercely challenged in court, in Congress and at the ballot box by whichever Republican wins the nomination fight to replace him in 2017.


Gun violence is significantly higher in the US than in other advanced countries, killing about 30,000 people each year.

Congress has been reluctant to pass any laws restricting gun ownership, facing pressure from gun owners and the powerful National Rifle Association.

Mr Obama tried to pass expanded background check legislation in 2012 after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead but it failed in Congress.

Former congresswoman and gun violence victim Gabrielle Giffords arrives before US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on executive actions to reduce gun violenceImage copyrightAFP
Image captionFormer Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was the victim of a shooting, attended the White House event

The executive actions include:

  • Background checks for all gun sellers, overturning current exemptions to some online and gun show sellers
  • States providing information on people disqualified from buying guns due to mental illness or domestic violence
  • Increased workforce for the FBI to process background checks, hiring more than 230 new examiners
  • Congress being asked to invest $500m (£339m) to improve access to mental healthcare in the US
  • The departments of defence, justice and homeland security exploring “smart gun technology” to improve gun safety

The announcement is already shaping up to be an issue in the 2016 presidential election.

Leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: “@POTUS is right: We can protect the second Amendment while protecting our families and communities from gun violence. And we have to.”

Republican candidate Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the executive actions are unconstitutional, with a link to sign up for his campaign correspondence on a webpage that says “Obama wants your guns” with a photo of the president in an army jacket and hat.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted that he would repeal the actions and protect the Second Amendment.

Media captionResidents in Oregon attack Obama’s plan
Media captionTime for Congress to act now, says congressman

During Mr Obama’s speech, comedian Amy Schumer, cousin of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, was in the audience. Two women died in a shooting at a movie theatre in Louisiana during a showing of her movie Trainwreck.

Gabby Giffords, a former congresswoman who survived a shooting, was there as well, in addition to many relatives of victims and survivors of mass shooting.

Shares in gunmaker Smith & Wesson rose to their highest value since 1999 ahead of the president’s announcement.

The number of background checks on potential buyers – a guide to future sales – has risen in the wake of mass shootings in the past.

Graph showing the number of background checks performed by the FBI from December 2007 to December 2015

More on US gun debate

Media captionThe BBC contrasts President Obama’s reactions after mass shootings, with the levels of US gun ownership during his terms in office. (Video by David Botti)

Why Obama is powerless – the roadblock at Congress

Are you mad or criminal? – the question a gun seller asks

Texas women and their firearms – a photographer taught to shoot at an early age

Do tighter gun laws work? – a state where guns are a way of life

Guns at home – the question parents hate to ask before a playdate

 

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