EarthLink – News
Plan to slow Western wildfires would clear strips of land
By BRADY McCOMBS | Fri, July 19, 2019 02:51 EDT
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Trump administration is proposing an ambitious plan to slow Western wildfires by bulldozing, mowing or revegetating large swaths of land along 11,000 miles (17,700 kilometers) of terrain in the West.
The plan that was announced this summer and presented at public open houses, including one in Salt Lake City this week, would create strips of land known “fuel breaks” on about 1,000 square miles of land (2,700 square kilometers) managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in an area known as the Great Basin in parts of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Utah.
The estimated cost would be about $55 million to $192 million, a wide range that illustrates the variance in costs for the different types of fuel breaks. Some would completely clear lands, others would mow down vegetation and a third method would replant the area with more fire-resistance vegetation.
It would cost another $18 million to $107 million each year to maintain the strips and ensure vegetation doesn’t regrow on the strips of land.
Wildfire experts say the program could help slow fires, but it won’t help in the most extreme fires that can jump these strips of land. The breaks could also fragment wildlife habitat.
An environmental group calls it an ill-conceived and expensive plan that has no scientific backing to show it will work.
A U.S. Geological Survey report issued last year found that fuel breaks could be an important tool to reduce damage caused by wildfires, but the agency cautioned that no scientific studies have been done to prove their effectiveness and that they could alter habitat for sagebrush plants and animal communities.
The Bureau of Land Management says it has done about 1,200 assessments of fuel breaks since 2002 and found they help control fires about 80 percent of the time.
The strips of land that would be 500 feet or less would be created along highways, rural roads and other areas already disturbed such as right of ways for pipelines, said Marlo Draper, the Bureau of Land Management’s supervisory project manager for the Idaho Great Basin team.
They won’t prevent fires, but they should reduce the costs of having to battle major blazes because fuel breaks reduce the intensity, flame length and spread of fires and keep firefighters safe, Draper said.
It cost about $373 million over the last decade to fight 21 fires that were larger than 156 square miles (404 square kilometers) on lands managed by the bureau in Utah, Nevada and Idaho, according to a report explaining the proposal.
“It gives us a chance to get in front of it and put fires out more quickly,” Draper said.
Western wildfires have grown more lethal because of extreme drought and heat associated with climate change and by housing developments encroaching on the most fire-prone grasslands and brushy canyons. Many of the ranchers and farmers who once managed those landscapes are gone, leaving terrain thick with vegetation that can explode into flames.
The proposal is out for public comment and pending environmental review. If approved, some of the land could be cleared as soon as next year while other projects could take several years, she said.
The plan comes after President Trump last December issued an executive order last December calling on the Interior Department to prioritize reducing wildfire risks on public lands.
This proposal doesn’t include U.S. National Forest Service lands. Most states have their own separate plans for fire prevention, which sometimes include thinning of forests.
These fuel breaks are a useful tool if used along with other wildfire prevention methods that can keep firefighters safer and potentially help out in broad scopes of land because they are long and thin, said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, the area fire adviser for University of California Cooperative Extension. They can especially helpful by providing perimeters for prescribed burns. But they must be in the right places and don’t stop fires, she said.
David Peterson, an ecology professor at the University of Washington and former federal research scientist, said the plan will likely produce mixed success slowing down fires. But Peterson said the plan will not help with extreme fires that produce embers and flames that jump over these fire breaks. He said the risk of fragmenting important habitat and harming animals like sage grouse is real.
The U.S. government must also be committed to the chore of maintaining the areas or the plan won’t help and could open the door for more cheat grass to grow in, which fuels fires.
“We are buying into a long-term commitment of funding,” Peterson said.
Patrick Donnelly, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Nevada state director, said the plan could break up habitat for sage grouse, deer and the Pygmy rabbit. He said the money would be better spent planting native seed and sagebrush to get rid of non-native plants that make fires worst.
“This seems like the Interior is trying to demonstrate they are doing something, and they want something that is impressive to people, like: ‘Look at us, we’ve bulldozed 11,000 miles of desert,'” Donnelly said. “Ultimately, this is a misguided effort.”
EarthLink – News
The Latest: Gulf incidents rattle shipping industry
Fri, July 19, 2019 07:34 EDT
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on developments related to tensions between the U.S and Iran (all times local):
Energy experts say recent seizures and attacks aimed at oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz will raise insurance rates for shipping companies and, if unchecked, could reduce tanker traffic in the vital waterway.
Britain’s foreign secretary said Friday that Iranian authorities seized two ships, one flying under the British flag, the other registered in Liberia. The events occurred in a passageway that carries one-fifth of the world’s crude exports.
An Iranian news agency says the Liberian ship was later let go.
Energy economist Michael Lynch says if these kinds of incidents continue, shipping companies might shy away from the Persian Gulf. He says the short-term effect will mostly fall on the shipping industry in the form of higher insurance rates.
U.S. Central Command says the U.S. has intensified air patrols over the Strait of Hormuz in response to the Iranian seizure of a British tanker.
A Central Command spokesman, Lt. Col. Earl Brown, says a small number of additional patrol aircraft are flying in international airspace to monitor the situation.
He also says Central Command’s naval arm has been in contact with U.S. ships operating in the area to ensure their safety.
The semi-official Fars news agency is reporting that a second oil tanker detained by Iranian forces has been released and has left Iranian waters.
Fars reported Friday that the Liberian-flagged Mesdar tanker was briefly detained in the Strait of Hormuz and given a notice to comply with environmental regulations before being allowed to continue on its way.
Britain’s foreign secretary said that Iranian authorities seized two vessels Friday in the strategic waterway, actions signaling an escalation that has become a flashpoint in tensions between Tehran and the West.
President Donald Trump says Iran is “nothing but trouble.” But the president also says he thinks that the standoff with Tehran will eventually work out “very nicely.”
Trump spoke to reporters at the White House on Friday as British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was confirming that Iran had seized one British and one Liberian-flagged vessel in the Strait of Hormuz.
It was the latest escalation of tension in the strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint in tensions between Tehran and the West.
Trump says “Iran is showing their colors” with the seizures. He says “Iran is in big trouble right now” because its economy has been crippled by economic sanctions. He says it would be easy to straighten out the problem, or to make it worse.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says two vessels have been seized by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz.
Hunt said Friday he will shortly attend an emergency government session to see what can be done to secure the release of the two vessels.
He says they are a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel.
He said the crews comprise a range of nationalities but are not believed to include British citizens.
UK Chamber of Shipping CEO Bob Sanguinetti says the seizure of a British oil tanker by Iranian forces represents an escalation in tensions in the Persian Gulf that makes it clear more protection for merchant vessels is urgently needed.
He said Friday the action is “in violation of international regulations which protect ships and their crews as they go about their legitimate business in international waters.”
He called on the British government to do “whatever is necessary” to ensure the safe and swift return of the ship’s crew.
The White House says President Donald Trump has spoken on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss Iran and ongoing efforts to ensure that Tehran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.
Their phone call Friday came just as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was announcing that it had seized a British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz.
On Thursday, the USS Boxer downed an Iranian drone in the strait. Last month, Iran shot down an American military drone.
Macron has taken a lead role in trying to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which has been unraveling since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. Macron recently sent a top diplomatic adviser to Tehran help quell escalating tension in the Persian Gulf.
The operator of oil tanker Stena Impero says it is unable to contact the ship after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz.
Northern Marine Management and shipping firm Stena Bulk say in a statement that the vessel was in international waters and is now heading toward Iran. The ship has 23 crew aboard.
The British government says it is urgently seeking information after reports Iran has seized the British-flagged ship.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says it has seized a British oil tanker that was passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
The IRGC’s website, sepahnews.com, says the tanker “Stena Impero” was seized Friday by IRGC forces for “non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations” and has transferred the vessel to an Iranian port.
The report did not elaborate what port it was transferred to.
President Donald Trump says there is “no doubt about it” that a U.S. warship destroyed an Iranian drone, despite Iranian denials that it lost an unmanned aircraft.
Trump is speaking from the Oval Office Friday about the incident Thursday in the Strait of Hormuz. His comments come a day after announcing that the USS Boxer took defensive action after an Iranian drone came within 1,000 yards (915 meters) of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
He says: “No doubt about it. We shot it down.”
Neither Trump nor the Pentagon spelled out how the Boxer destroyed the drone or provided any video or other evidence from the incident. Several U.S. officials said the ship used electronic jamming to bring it down rather than hitting it with a missile. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record about the event.
Electronic jamming breaks the data links between a drone and its controller on the ground, causing it to crash. Such a move requires a vehicle-mounted, counter-drone device on the flight deck of the ship — a device that’s visible in official photographs of the Boxer released by the Pentagon after the incident.
National security adviser John Bolton said “there is no question this was an Iranian drone and USS Boxer took it out.”
An Iranian news agency reported Friday that the country’s armed forces say all Iranian drones in the Persian Gulf returned safely to their bases.
— By Robert Burns.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has released video images it claims proves that a U.S. warship did not destroy an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf.
Iranian state TV shows video it says was taken by an Iranian drone on Thursday of the USS Boxer and another American warship.
The IRG on its website said the drone recorded three hours of video of the USS Boxer and five other vessels Thursday starting when the ships first entered the Strait of Hormuz.
Trump on Thursday said the Boxer took defensive action after an Iranian drone closed to within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
The claims from both sides mark another escalation of tensions between the two countries less than a month after Trump nearly launched an airstrike.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has asked the international community to use diplomatic tools to avoid a dangerous escalation in Iran.
Talking to reporters in Florence on Friday, Maas said “there’s a strong danger of an escalation in Iran and we don’t want things to keep going this way.”
U.S.-Iran tensions are on the rise again as U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday an American warship shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz. But military officials in Iran denied the incident.
The German minister added that “there are diplomatic tools, talks and negotiations with countries in the Gulf region and with the United States.”
Maas said he talked to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, noting that “everywhere there’s a willing to contribute to a de-escalation. We want to sooth the current tensions.”
Gibraltar’s government says the British overseas territory’s Supreme Court has extended for 30 days the detention of an Iranian supertanker suspected of breaching European Union sanctions.
The government said in a statement on Friday that the court has set Aug. 15 as the date for a new hearing on the Panama-flagged Grace 1, which was intercepted off the southern tip of Spain.
British Royal Marines boarded the ship July 4 amid suspicion it was taking a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria, deepening Persian Gulf tensions
The EU has imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government over its continued crackdown against civilians.
Gibraltar police have arrested the vessel’s captain, chief officer and two second mates as part of their investigation. All are Indian.
The price of oil is up as tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf region, where a fifth of the world’s crude is shipped through.
Energy prices rose on Friday, a day after President Donald said a U.S. warship had downed an Iranian drone. Iran denies its drone was struck and says all its unmanned aircraft in the region returned to base safely.
It’s the latest incident to increase uncertainty in the region, where oil tankers have been attacked or threatened recently.
About 20% of all oil traded worldwide passes through the Persian Gulf, so investors are aware of the potential for disruptions to ship traffic.
The U.S. benchmark for crude oil advanced 77 cents, or 1.4%, to $56.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the international oil standard, picked up $1.03, or 1.7%, to $62.96 per barrel.
The head of Gibraltar’s government says he met privately with Iranian officials to defuse tensions surrounding the seizure of an Iranian supertanker near the British overseas territory.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told parliament on Friday that the meeting in London earlier this week “was both constructive and positive.”
Picardo says he wants to “de-escalate” after the interception of the Panama-flagged tanker off the southern tip of Spain on July 4.
The tanker is suspected of carrying Iranian oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, and its seizure stoked international tensions over the Persian Gulf.
Picardo says he met with the Iranian officials at the Foreign Office in London on Wednesday, after asking the British government to approach Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif about talks. Picardo says he told the officials that due process of law must be followed and that the case is before Gibraltar’s Supreme Court.
— this item has been corrected to show that Picardo met with Iranian officials, not the foreign minister;
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is praising French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to facilitate talks between Iran and the United States, saying diplomatic efforts are critical.
Merkel told reporters on Friday that “every possibility for contact should be sought to prevent an escalation.”
Since the U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran last year, the other parties to the agreement — Germany, France, Britain, Russia, China and the European Union — have been trying to preserve it.
But Merkel says “the fact that we are keeping to this agreement doesn’t mean that we don’t see a lot of what Iran is doing very critically, like the influence on Syria, the attitude to Israel, the influence in the Yemen war concerns us a lot, the ballistic missile program.”
She says that “outside the agreement, there is good reason for further talks with Iran about these activities.”
China has praised an Iranian offer to speed up ratification of an agreement on access to its nuclear sites, while criticizing the latest U.S. sanctions on Chinese and other entities for allegedly helping Iran buy materials for its nuclear program.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday that the offer from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sends “a positive signal that Iran is willing to seek a compromise solution.”
The Iranian parliament is not due to ratify the agreement with the International Atomic Energy Association until 2023.
The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on companies and individuals in Iran, China and Belgium.
Geng said China opposes America’s “long-armed jurisdiction over other countries, including China.” He called U.S. unilateral sanctions the root cause of the current tension.
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard says it will release images taken by a drone that President Donald Trump says was hit by a U.S. warship to disprove his claim.
The Guard’s website, sepahnews.com, published a statement on Friday saying these images will show the Guard’s drone had been carrying out its regular mission as the USS Boxer arrived in the Strait of Hormuz.
It didn’t say when the images would be released.
Trump on Thursday said the USS Boxer took defensive action after an Iranian drone came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
The Guard said the drone sent images before and after the time the Americans claimed the aircraft was destroyed on Thursday. The Iranian drone reportedly later returned to base safely.
The statement added that Guard forces continue to carefully monitor all movements of foreigners — especially “the terrorist forces” of the U.S. and the British in the strategic Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf.
An Iranian lawmaker says the U.S. president is seeking to increase tensions in the Persian Gulf region by “falsely claiming” that a U.S. warship targeted an Iranian drone.
Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, spokesman of the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, says that “with such allegations, America plans to create tensions and psychological warfare in the region and in Iran, and hide its failures.”
His remarks were carried by the semi-official ISNA news agency on Friday.
President Donald Trump on Thursday said an American warship, the USS Boxer, took defensive action after an Iranian drone came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
Hosseini also added that “Trump’s claim is not endorsed by anyone, because it is not true.”
An Iranian news agency is reporting that the country’s armed forces say all Iranian drones in the Persian Gulf returned safely to their bases.
The report comes after President Donald Trump on Thursday said an American warship, the USS Boxer, took defensive action after an Iranian drone came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency Quote: d military spokesman Gen. Abolfazl Shekari as saying on Friday that “all Iranian drones that are in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, including the one which the U.S. president mentioned, after carrying out scheduled identification and control missions, have returned to their bases.”
Gen. Shekarchi also said there have been no reports of any confrontation between the USS Boxer and an Iranian drone.
Iran is denying a U.S. warship destroyed an Iranian drone in the strategic Strait of Hormuz after it threatened the ship.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi tweeted on Friday: “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else.”
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is in New York for U.N. meetings, said there’s “no information about losing a drone.”
President Donald Trump on Thursday said the USS Boxer took defensive action after an Iranian drone closed to within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
The incident marked a new escalation of tensions between the countries, less than one month after Iran downed an American drone in the same waterway and Trump came close to retaliating with a military strike.
EarthLink – News
US judge denies bail for ex-Peruvian president Toledo
By DAISY NGUYEN 08:06 EDT
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A U.S. judge on Friday denied bail for former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo after prosecutors argued that he was a flight risk and pointed out officials found a suitcase with $40,000 in cash during his arrest.
“If the defendant were to flee, this would be a diplomatically significant failure of the United States to live up to its obligations to Peru under the (extradition) treaty,” Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson said before ordering Toledo, 73, held pending an extradition hearing scheduled for July 26.
U.S. Marshals detained Toledo at his Northern California home Tuesday on an extradition request.
The ex-president is wanted in his home country on accusations of taking $20 million in bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.
Toledo denies the charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elise LaPunzina told Hixson that the cash and the fact that Toledo has ties to other counties made him a flight risk. She said his wife, former Peruvian first lady Eliane Karp, is from Israel, a country that does not have an extradition agreement with Peru.
Toledo’s attorney, Joseph Russoniello, argued for the former president to be released on bail, saying he has deep ties to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he came in the late 1960’s to study economics.
Russoniello said the cash was his wife’s money, and it was being used to pay for the couple’s expenses.
Karp declined to comment after the hearing, saying only the word “liars” in Spanish as she walked out of the courtroom.
Toledo was Peru’s president from 2001 to 2006 and has lived in California in recent years, defying orders from his country’s courts to return to Peru to face charges.
He had been a visiting scholar at Stanford University as recently as 2017, though the school has said it was an unpaid position. He earned a doctoral degree in education and two master’s degrees from the university.
In March, he was arrested in Menlo Park on suspicion of public drunkenness at a restaurant but was released without charges. Peruvian authorities were coordinating his extradition at the time of his arrest, but they didn’t request holding him on the minor offense.
Odebrecht in 2016 acknowledged in a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to paying $800 million to officials throughout Latin America in exchange for lucrative public works contracts. The scandal also has tainted the careers of other former presidents in Peru who are under investigation for ties to Odebrecht.
In April, former President Alan García killed himself with a gunshot to the head as officers waited to arrest him on corruption charges.
Toledo’s arrest was the latest chapter in what has been a stunning fall from grace for the man who rose out of poverty to become Peru’s first president with indigenous roots.
He grew up shining shoes and selling lottery tickets in northern Peru, one of 16 children, at least seven of whom did not survive to adulthood. His life took an unexpected turn when he met two American humanitarian workers. With their help, he applied for and won a scholarship to the University of San Francisco.
His jovial nature, ease with the masses and opposition to strongman Alberto Fujimori helped him clinch the presidency in 2001. He proudly called himself “El Cholo” — a term referring to his indigenous ancestry.
The nation’s economy boomed under his leadership, with annual growth in the gross domestic product rising from 0.2 percent to 6.8 percent.
EarthLink – News
Ex-NSA contractor sentenced to 9 years for stolen documents
By ERIC TUCKER and MICHAEL KUNZELMAN 04:10 EDT
BALTIMORE (AP) — A former National Security Agency contractor who stored two decades’ worth of classified documents at his Maryland home was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison.
Harold Martin, 54, apologized to the federal judge who sentenced him for a theft that prosecutors have called “breathtaking” in scope.
“My methods were wrong, illegal and highly questionable,” Martin told U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett.
The punishment was in line with the nine-year sentence called for under his plea agreement, in which he admitted guilt to a single count of willful retention of national defense information. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Martin gets credit for the nearly three years he has spent behind bars since his arrest.
A prosecutor and defense attorney both noted there is no evidence that Martin intended to transmit any of the classified information to anyone, but the judge said the trove of records contained “very sensitive material.”
“That means people’s lives were potentially in danger,” Bennett said.
The sentencing resolves a mysterious case that broke into the open in 2016, when FBI agents conducting a raid found a massive trove of stolen government documents inside his home, car and storage shed.
“This case is enormously significant not only for the Justice Department but also for the intelligence community,” Robert Hur, the United States attorney in Maryland, told The Associated Press in an interview before the sentencing. “In any case where you have someone who holds a security clearance at the level that Mr. Martin did and chooses to betray that public trust in such a profound way, it puts national security at risk.”
Prosecutors initially said 50 terabytes had been found, though Hur said that estimate had been revised significantly downward. The information spanned from the mid-1990s to the present and included personal details of government employees and “Top Secret” email chains, handwritten notes describing the NSA’s classified computer infrastructure, and descriptions of classified technical operations.
The case attracted particular attention since the raid took place just weeks after a mysterious internet group calling itself the Shadow Brokers surfaced online to advertise the sale of hacking tools stolen from the NSA. The U.S. believes that North Korea and Russia were able to capitalize on stolen hacking tools to unleash punishing global cyberattacks.
Prosecutors never linked Martin to the Shadow Brokers or charged him in the theft. But prosecutors say he nonetheless jeopardized national security through habitually taking home secret and classified government documents and carelessly storing them.
“He knew this was wrong, dangerous and illegal,” Justice Department prosecutor Zachary Myers said.
Defense attorneys, meanwhile, described him as a compulsive hoarder who never betrayed his country. One of his lawyers, James Wyda, said Martin struggled for years with an undiagnosed mental illness, autism spectrum disorder.
“Instability and isolation were constants throughout Mr. Martin’s childhood and adult life,” Wyda said, adding that the stolen documents “were profoundly important to him when he was in the throes of his mental health situation.”
But Hur said defense attorneys’ characterization minimized the crime.
“This isn’t just hoarding,” Hur told the AP. “It isn’t like wandering into someone’s house and finding stacks of newspapers or library books or junk. This is highly classified information, the compromise of which is going to do grave damage to national security.”
Tucker reported from Washington.
EarthLink – News
AP FACT CHECK: Trump, Harris both wrong about auto sector
By TOM KRISHER and AMANDA SEITZ 02:16 EDT
DETROIT (AP) — Renaissance or ruin? Americans are being presented with two starkly different accounts of the state of the auto industry, one from President Donald Trump and the other from California Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential candidate. Neither is accurate.
Trump claims to be a one-man spark for the enormous industry, which grew steadily and achieved record sales under President Barack Obama after its near collapse. Harris raises the apocalyptic risk of three in four autoworkers losing their jobs this year, which is not at all in the cards.
In reality, the auto industry has grown under two presidents and still posts strong numbers despite facing a leveling off in demand.
A look at their claims:
TRUMP: “They’re coming in at a level that we haven’t seen for decades. Car companies are coming in — Japanese car companies, in particular. Although, Germany called to say that they’re going to be announcing some very big movement with respect to a certain company that I’ve demanded has to come, because they sell us a lot of cars but they make them in other places. We want them making them in the United States. But Japan has 12 different companies building plants in Michigan, in Ohio, in North Carolina, in Pennsylvania. One is going to be announced in Florida. We are doing things that nobody thought were possible.” — Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
THE FACTS: There’s no evidence that car companies are coming to the U.S. at a rate faster than in previous decades, and industry observers know of only a few Japanese automotive companies building or expanding factories in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina or Pennsylvania — nowhere near a dozen. All four are key states for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.
In Ohio, Honda has filed paperwork for a small expansion of its engine plant in Anna, Ohio, near Dayton, but also has announced production cuts without layoffs. A parts supplier announced plans last year to expand in Springfield, Ohio. In North Carolina, transmission maker Aisin in April announced plans to bolster manufacturing operations with 900 jobs by 2021, but gave few details.
The only Japanese automakers building a new U.S. assembly plant are Toyota and Mazda, which are jointly constructing a factory in Alabama that will build SUVs. At least three parts companies have announced plans to build factories in Alabama to serve that facility.
Also, spokesmen for German automakers Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG say they haven’t been told of any coming new factory announcements.
The White House didn’t respond when asked to identify the 12 Japanese companies claimed to be building new factories.
In past decades, foreign automakers have made substantial investments in U.S. factories including Toyota, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.
Trump’s frequent claim, repeated this week during a made-in-the-USA event, that “we hadn’t had auto plants built in many, many years” is false.
Government statistics show that jobs in auto and parts manufacturing grew at a slower rate in the two-plus years since Trump took office than in the two prior years.
Between January 2017, when Trump was inaugurated, and June of this year, the latest figures available, U.S. auto and parts makers added 41,900 jobs, or a 4.4% increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in the two years before Trump took office, the industry added 63,600 manufacturing jobs, a 7.1% increase.
HARRIS: “Some estimate that as many as 700,000 autoworkers are going to lose their job before the end of the year.” — remarks in July 12 radio interview.
THE FACTS: No one is predicting that a majority of the nation’s nearly 1 million autoworkers will be unemployed by year’s end.
As she has before, Harris made the claim about potentially catastrophic layoffs based on a July 2018 study done by the Center for Automotive Research. She did not summarize its findings accurately. The study is also outdated.
The study laid out a variety of scenarios for potential job losses across all U.S. industries touched by the auto business — not just autoworkers — if a number of new tariffs and policies that Trump has threatened were enacted. The study gave a wide range of possible job losses, from 82,000 to a worst-case situation of 750,000. Those hypothetical job losses would be spread across car and parts makers, dealers, restaurants, retail stores and any business that benefits from the auto industry.
The Center for Automotive Research revised its study in February to a worst-case scenario of 367,000 job losses across all industries by the end of this year. The Trump administration in May also lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum products coming from Canada and Mexico, further minimizing the impact on the auto industry.
Overall, the auto industry has climbed back since the crisis in 2009 that sent General Motors and Chrysler into bankruptcy protection. Thousands of jobs have been added, and sales hit a record 17.55 million in 2016. Since then, demand has fallen, with about 16.8 million in new-vehicle sales expected this year.
Automakers won’t need additional factory capacity in a declining market. But the industry is still posting strong numbers and is not heading off a cliff.
Seitz reported from Chicago. AP writers Hope Yen, Josh Boak, Christopher Rugaber and Kevin Freking in Washington and Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.
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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures