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AP FACT CHECK: Trump myths on economy; Dems’ selective facts
By CALVIN WOODWARD and HOPE YEN | Mon, September 16, 2019 12:22 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — The country described by the Democrats running for president is mired in child poverty, riven with economic unfairness and broken in its approach to health care, crime and guns. The country presented by President Donald Trump is roaring and ascendant , shattering all economic records for performance.
The reality, of course, is more complex.
After three turns on the debate stage by the Democratic candidates, it’s become clear that for the most part they hew to actual statistics and other fundamentals more closely than does Trump, who routinely says false things and repeats them as if willing them into being.
That’s not to say the Democrats are beacons of accuracy. Some will use older statistics when newer ones don’t suit their argument or give a selective reading of history when that fits the story they want to tell. Sometimes what they don’t say speaks loudly, as when they won’t acknowledge the cost of their plans or the likely tax hit on average people.
ECONOMY AND TRADE
TRUMP: “All time best unemployment numbers, especially for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians & Women.” — tweet Friday.
THE FACTS: The unemployment rate for women has not reached an “all time best” during the Trump administration.
It did fall to 3.1% in April, the lowest since October 1953. But that is still far higher than the record set in May 1953 of 2.4%.
It’s a fact that Trump has acknowledged, having repeatedly joked at campaign rallies this year how he’s fallen short on the women’s unemployment rate. “I always say kiddingly, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t make it historic’ but you know what, it’s going to be historic very soon,” he said last week in North Carolina.
Since April, the unemployment rate for women has actually ticked higher to 3.3%.
TRUMP: “How do you impeach a President who has helped create perhaps the greatest economy in the history of our Country?” — tweet Friday.
THE FACTS: “Perhaps” is a rare bit of modesty in this frequent boast by Trump but he is still wrong in claiming the U.S. has its best economy ever.
In the late 1990s, growth topped 4% for four straight years, a level it has not reached on an annual basis under Trump. Growth reached 7.2% in 1984. The economy grew 2.9% in 2018 — the same pace it reached in 2015 under President Barack Obama — and hasn’t hit historically high growth rates.
The unemployment rate is near a 50-year low of 3.7%, but the proportion of Americans with a job was higher in the 1990s. More Americans are now out of the workforce, taking care of children or relatives, or going to school, while others became discouraged about their job prospects and stopped looking. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching for jobs. Wages were rising at a faster pace back then, too.
TRUMP, on China’s economy. “By the way, China is having the worst year they’ve had now in 57 years, OK? Fifty-seven.” — remarks Wednesday in meeting on e-cigarettes.
TRUMP: “They’ve had now the worst year in 57 years.” — North Carolina rally on Sept. 9.
THE FACTS: That’s not true. China is far from the impoverished disaster of a half century ago, when it was reeling from the massive famine caused by Mao Zedong’s radical economic policies and heading into the chaos of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.
China’s economy is indeed slowing from Trump’s taxes on Chinese imports, as well as its own campaign to constrain runaway debt. The International Monetary Fund expects the Chinese economy to grow 6.2% this year. That’s the slowest growth for China in nearly 30 years. But it’s still markedly faster than U.S. growth.
Since overhauling its economy in the late 1970s, China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, established a growing middle class and surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-biggest economy.
TRUMP: “Hundreds of billions of dollars have been and are coming into our country in the form of tariffs, and China is eating the cost.” — remarks at North Carolina rally on Sept. 9.
THE FACTS: Americans are also eating the cost.
As he escalates a trade war with China, Trump refuses to recognize that tariffs are mainly, if not entirely, paid by companies and consumers in the country that imposes them.
In a study in May, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, with Princeton and Columbia universities, estimated that tariffs from Trump’s trade dispute with China were costing $831 per U.S. household on an annual basis, before tariffs were recently escalated. Analysts also found that the burden of Trump’s tariffs falls entirely on U.S. consumers and businesses that buy imported products.
A report last month by JPMorgan Chase estimated that tariffs would cost the average American household $1,000 per year if tariffs on an additional $300 billion of U.S. imports from China proceed in September and December. Trump has since bumped up the scheduled levies even higher, probably adding to the U.S. burden.
BERNIE SANDERS: “We have the highest child poverty rate of almost any country on Earth.” — Democratic debate.
THE FACTS: This oft-repeated line by the Vermont senator is an exaggeration.
There are nearly 200 countries in the world, many with people living in extreme poverty that most Americans would struggle to fathom. Poverty is also a relative measure in which someone who is poor in one nation might look rather prosperous in another.
But the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development updated its child poverty report in 2018. The United States had an above average level of child poverty, but it was not at the bottom of the 42 nations listed in the report. The United States still fared better than Russia, Chile, Spain, India, Turkey, Israel, Costa Rica, Brazil, South Africa and China.
TRUMP: “We passed the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history.” — North Carolina rally.
THE FACTS: His tax cuts are nowhere close to the biggest in U.S. history.
It’s a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. As a share of the total economy, a tax cut of that size ranks 12th, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 cut is the biggest, followed by the 1945 rollback of taxes that financed World War II.
Post-Reagan tax cuts also stand among the historically significant: President George W. Bush’s cuts in the early 2000s and Obama’s renewal of them a decade later.
TRUMP: “Democrats want to confiscate guns from law-abiding Americans so they’re totally defenseless when somebody walks into their house with a gun.” — remarks Thursday to House Republicans in Baltimore.
THE FACTS: That’s a vast overstatement. No Democratic candidates have proposed stripping all guns from Americans. One of the top 10 candidates, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, has proposed confiscating assault-type weapons such as the AK-47 through a mandatory buyback program.
JOE BIDEN, on the treatment of migrants in his time as Obama’s vice president: “We didn’t lock people up in cages.” — Democratic presidential debate Thursday.
THE FACTS: Yes, they did.
The “cages” — chain-link enclosures inside border facilities where migrants have been temporarily housed, separated by sex and age — were built and used by the Obama administration. The Trump administration has been using the same facilities.
Democrats routinely accuse Trump of using cages for migrant children without acknowledging the same enclosures were employed when Biden was vice president.
BERNIE SANDERS: “Every study done shows that ‘Medicare for All’ is the most cost-effective approach to providing health care to every man, woman and child in this country.” — Democratic debate.
THE FACTS: No, not every study.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report earlier this year that total spending under a single-payer system, such as the one proposed by Sanders, “might be higher or lower than under the current system depending on the key features of the new system.”
Those features involve details about payment rates for hospitals and doctors, which are not fully spelled out by Sanders, as well as the estimated cost of generous benefits that include long-term care services and no copays and deductibles for comprehensive medical care.
A report this year by the Rand think tank estimated that Medicare for All would modestly raise national health spending, the opposite of what the Vermont senator intends.
Rand modeled a hypothetical scenario in which a plan similar to legislation by the Vermont senator had taken effect this year. It found that total U.S. health care spending would be about $3.9 trillion under Medicare for All in 2019, compared with about $3.8 trillion under the status quo.
Part of the reason is that Medicare for All would offer generous benefits with no copays and deductibles, except limited cost-sharing for certain medications. Virtually free comprehensive medical care would lead to big increases in the demand for services.
TRUMP: “Our ambitious campaign to reduce the price of prescription drugs has produced the largest decline in drug prices in more than 51 years.” — North Carolina rally on Sept. 9.
THE FACTS: He’s exaggerating his influence on drug prices, which haven’t fallen for brand-name drugs, the area that worries consumers the most.
Most of his administration’s “ambitious campaign” to reduce drug prices has yet to be completed. Major regulations are in the works and legislation has yet to be passed by Congress. A rule requiring drugmakers to disclose prices in TV ads has been blocked for now by the courts.
Harsh criticism of the industry — from Trump and lawmakers of both parties in Congress — may be having some effect, however.
The Commerce Department’s inflation index for prescription drug prices has declined in seven of the past eight months, which is highly unusual. That index includes lower-cost generic drugs, which account for 90% of prescriptions filled in the U.S. Prices for generics have been declining under pressure from big drug distributors.
For brand-name drugs, though, a recent analysis by The Associated Press shows that on average prices are still going up, but at a slower pace. The cost of brand-name drugs is what’s most concerning to consumers, with insured patients facing steep copays for some medications.
The AP analysis found that in the first seven months of 2019, drugmakers raised list prices for brand-name medicines by a median, or midpoint, of 5%.
That does reflect a slowing in price increases. They were going up 9% or 10% over those months the prior four years. But it’s not a decrease in actual prices. There were 37 price increases for every decrease in the first seven months of 2019. Pricing data for the AP analysis came from the health information firm Elsevier.
ELIZABETH WARREN, asked whether her health plan would mean higher middle-class taxes: “We pay for it, those at the very top, the richest individuals and the biggest corporations, are going to pay more. And middle-class families are going to pay less. That’s how this is going to work. … Look, what families have to deal with is cost, total cost.”
THE FACTS: That’s a dodge.
The senator from Massachusetts did not answer back-to-back questions about whether middle class taxes would go up from her version of Medicare for All.
It’s a given that consumers will pay less for health care if the government picks up the bills. But Sanders is almost alone among the candidates who support Medicare for All in acknowledging that broadly higher taxes would be needed to pay for that universal coverage. He would consider, and probably not be able to avoid, a tax increase on the middle class in exchange for health care without copayments, deductibles and the like. “Yes, they will pay more in taxes but less in health care,” he said in a June debate.
Some rivals, including Warren, have only spoken about taxing the wealthy and “Wall Street.” Analysts say that’s not going to cover the costs of government-financed universal care.
TRUMP: “We passed something they wanted to do for half a century: We passed VA Choice.” — North Carolina rally.
THE FACTS: It was Obama who won passage of the Veterans Choice program, which gives veterans the option to see private doctors outside the VA medical system at government expense. Congress approved the program in 2014, and Obama signed it into law. Trump expanded it.
BETO O’ROURKE, former U.S. representative from Texas, on last month’s mass shooting in El Paso: “Everything that I’ve learned about resilience, I’ve learned from my hometown of El Paso, Texas, in the face of this act of terror, that was directed at our community, in large part by the president of United States. It killed 22 people, and injured many more, we were not defeated by that. Nor were we defined by that.” — Democratic debate.
THE FACTS: Nobody has claimed that Trump “directed” the shooting. Earlier in the debate, O’Rourke had said the shooter was “inspired to kill by our president.” It is hard to know for sure what led the gunman to open fire inside a Walmart in El Paso, killing 22 people. The suspect posted a manifesto online before the shooting that echoed Trump’s comments on immigration. Yet the suspect said his own views “predate Trump and his campaign for president.”
The screed spoke of what the suspect called a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” railed against immigrants and warned of an imminent attack. Nearly all of the victims had Latino last names.
The suspect purchased the gun legally, according to El Paso’s police chief.
KAMALA HARRIS, on Trump: “The only reason he has not been indicted is because there was a memo in the Department of Justice that says a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.” — Democratic debate.
THE FACTS: We don’t know that it’s the only reason. Former special counsel Robert Mueller didn’t go that far in his report on Russian intervention in the 2016 election and obstruction of justice.
Harris, a California senator, is referring to a Justice Department legal opinion that says sitting presidents are immune from indictment. Mueller has said his investigators were restrained by that rule, but he also said that they never reached a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.
In Mueller’s congressional testimony in July, he said his team never started the process of evaluating whether to charge Trump.
Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Christopher Rugaber, Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report.
Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd
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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures
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German industrial designer Luigi Colani dies at 91
BERLIN (AP) — Luigi Colani, a renowned German industrial designer, has died. He was 91.
German news agency dpa reported that his partner, Yazhen Zha, confirmed that Colani died Monday in the southwestern town of Karlsruhe after a severe illness. No further details were given.
Colani’s designs, which included cars, furniture, glasses, TVs, cameras and clothes, were famous for their round, organic shapes.
His career spanned several decades and continents. He worked in Germany, Italy, Mexico, the United States, Russia, as well as in China and Japan where he was well-respected.
Colani’s design of the Canon T90 camera was one of his biggest successes and strongly influenced the Japanese brand’s designs, dpa wrote.
The designer himself said he had more than 4,000 design ideas that he put down on paper.
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Rwandan gospel singer comes out as gay, to country’s shock
By IGNATIUS SSUUNA | 11:46 EDT
KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Friends of Albert Nabonibo, a well-known gospel singer in Rwanda who recently came out as a gay man, do not want their names revealed. It is too shameful, one says. Another says he is anguished because his family knows he often used to socialize with Nabonibo.
The singer shocked many Rwandans in August when he revealed in an interview with a Christian YouTube channel that he is gay in a country where such a public assertion of homosexuality is unheard of. Although the central African nation has been relatively free of the anti-gay rhetoric commonly heard in some other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, homosexuality is still widely despised, and LGBT people keep a low profile.
Nabonibo told The Associated Press that he came out in order to live normally. Yet the reaction he has received, from family and friends to strangers, has been mostly “horrible,” underscoring the intolerance faced by LGBT people in many parts of Africa.
“But there is no going back, because I have to live my real life,” Nabonibo said in an interview in the capital, Kigali. “It’s so sad to see people you know abusing you.”
Nabonibo, who is 35 and also a qualified accountant, said he had become an outcast at his workplace as friends isolate him. He is worried he could lose his job. Even at home, news of his homosexuality shocked many relatives, although some have been acting tolerant, he said.
Although Rwanda’s penal code does not explicitly proscribe gay sex, same-sex marriage is banned. This means that many homosexuals are forced to live underground lifestyles in order to avoid the harsh judgment of society. Nabonibo said he was compelled to come out because he could no longer “live in denial.”
“There is a long list of them (gays) in your midst and they include pastors or churchgoers,” he said. “This pretense encouraged me to speak out.”
William Ntwali, a Rwandan human rights activist, said society in the country still stigmatizes gay people even when they are safe under the law.
“If you are gay, members of your community ostracize you,” he said. “People think you are not normal, and they look at it as an abomination.”
Some of Nabonibo’s best friends who spoke to the AP said they were too embarrassed even to talk about him. They requested anonymity for their own privacy.
“This is crazy. I don’t understand why he thinks this is normal,” said one friend, shaking his head.
Another friend, a man who attends the same church as Nabonibo, said he was in a state of “agony” since the rest of his family knows he used to hang out with Nabonibo. Now he has blocked Nabonibo from all phone contact, saying he wants to “keep safe.”
There has been a similar reaction on social media, with many Rwandans questioning Nabonibo’s intentions and others condemning him. One wondered on Twitter: “How can a gospel singer be gay?”
A senior government official, however, expressed support for Nabonibo, saying he is protected under the law and urging the singer to continue his worship ministry.
“All Rwandans are born and remain equal in rights and freedoms,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s state minister for foreign affairs, said on Twitter.
According to Human Rights Watch, 32 African nations have varying laws criminalizing homosexuality. In many cases most of the anti-gay laws are left over from the colonial era, one reason gay rights activists have fought vigorously to have the laws jettisoned.
In June, the gay rights movement in Africa scored a victory when a court in Botswana, upholding the rights of LGBT people, overturned laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations.
But there have been some setbacks.
In 2017, Chad enacted legislation criminalizing same-sex relations for the first time in the country’s history.
In May, a court in Kenya ruled against overturning a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults. Activists there who had challenged the law in court said they faced discrimination and threats to their dignity.
In neighboring Uganda, a government minister in charge of ethics is threatening to introduce another version of an anti-gay law passed in 2014, and subsequently voided by the country’s constitutional court, that provided for jail terms of up to life for those convicted of engaging in gay sex. The original version of that bill, first introduced in 2009, had included the death penalty for what it called aggravated acts of homosexuality.
In Rwanda, the way ahead can be challenging, Nabonibo said.
Some neighborhoods in Kigali are filled with gossip about how a certain gay man might spoil other citizens, he said.
“Criticism and sadness. What does it matter? What’s important is that I have taken my choice,” he said softly.
Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
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Volkswagen to pay up to $87 million in Australia for scandal
By ROD McGUIRK | 03:42 EDT
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Volkswagen has agreed to pay up to 127 million Australian dollars ($87 million) to settle an Australian class action stemming from the 2015 diesel emissions scandal, the German automaker and a lawyer said Monday.
The settlement was announced in the Federal Court in Sydney by law firm Maurice Blackburn and has yet to be approved by a judge.
Volkswagen will pay between AU$87 million and AU$127 million, depending on how many owners of the affected 100,000 Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda diesel vehicles sold in Australia join the class action, the firm’s principal lawyer Julian Schimmel said.
Volkswagen said in a statement that it made no admission of liability in the settlement. Volkswagen has also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs, which have yet to be assessed.
Volkswagen has paid 30 billion euros ($33.5 billion) in fines and civil settlements around the world after it was revealed that the world’s largest automaker after Toyota installed software on diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.
Volkswagen announced in May it had set aside 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) for legal risks related to the diesel scandal.
Plaintiff Alister Dalton, a Volkswagen owner, said a good settlement had been reached “I think everyone should be happy with how it’s all progressed and what the outcome is,” Dalton told reporters.
Robyn Richardson, another plaintiff who owns an Audi, said she was relieved. “It’s been a long road. It’s been a winding road. There have been peaks and troughs in terms of the work and the demands on the legal team,” Richardson said.
Volkswagen said another settlement was close to being finalized with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the competition and trade law watchdog. Details of that settlement remain confidential.
“Volkswagen views the in-principle settlements as a further step toward overcoming the diesel issue,” the statement said.
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UN mission accuses accountability for Myanmar ‘genocide’
By GRANT PECK | 06:54 EDT
BANGKOK (AP) — A special U.N. fact-finding mission has urged that Myanmar be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against its Muslim Rohingya minority.
The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said in a report Monday wrapping up two years of documentation of human rights violations by security forces that counterinsurgency operations against Rohngya in 2017 included “genocidal acts.”
It said the operations killed thousands of people and caused more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
The mission said the threat of genocide continues for an estimated 600,000 Rohingya still inside Myanmar living in “deplorable” conditions and facing persecution. The situation makes the repatriation of Rohingya refugees impossible, it said.
“The threat of genocide continues for the remaining Rohingya,” mission head Marzuki Darusman said in a statement.
The report summarized and updated six others previously issued by the mission that detailed accounts of arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, forced displacement and unlawful destruction of property.
It is to be presented Tuesday in Geneva to the Human Rights Council, which established the mission in 2017.
Muslim Rohingya face heavy discrimination in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar, where they are regarded as having illegally immigrated from Bangladesh, even though many families have lived in Myanmar for generations. Most are denied citizenship and basic civil rights.
The homes of many were destroyed during the counterinsurgency operation and there is little sign that refugees will not face the same discrimination if they return.
A plan to repatriate an initial group last month collapsed when no one wanted to be taken back.
The U.N. mission has focused on the Rohingya in Rakhine state but also covered actions by Myanmar’s military — known as the Tatmadaw — toward other minorities in Rakhine, Chin, Shan, Kachin and Karen states.
It said those groups also experienced “marginalization, discrimination and brutality” at the military’s hands.
“Shedding light on the grave human rights violations that occurred and still are occurring in Myanmar is very important but not sufficient,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, a Sri Lankan lawyer who was one of the mission’s three international experts.
“Accountability is important not only to victims but also to uphold the rule of law. It is also important to prevent repetition of the Tatmadaw’s past conduct and prevent future violations,” he said in a statement.
According to the mission, it has a confidential list of more than 100 people suspected of involvement in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, in addition to six generals whom it already named a year ago.
Citing the problem of military impunity under Myanmar’s justice system, the report called for accountability to be upheld by an international judicial process.
This could include having the U.N. Security Council refer the matter to the International Criminal Court, establishing an ad-hoc tribunal on Myanmar, such as was held for crimes in the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda, or invoking the 1948 Genocide Convention — which Myanmar has ratified — to ask the International Court of Justice to rule on compensation and reparations for the Rohingya.
With its work concluded, the mission has handed over the information it collected to another specially established U.N. group, the new Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
The new group’s mandate is to “build on this evidence and conduct its own investigations to support prosecutions in national, regional and international courts of perpetrators of atrocities in Myanmar.”
Myanmar’s government and military have consistently denied violating human rights and said its operations in Rakhine were justified in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.