A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
Social media posts misconstrue Biden’s joke about selling ‘state secrets’
CLAIM: A video shows President Joe Biden openly admitting to selling state secrets.
THE FACTS: Biden was making a joke at the outset of a roundtable with India’s prime minister. The video clip circulating on social media cuts off Biden’s remarks just before he makes it clear it was in jest. The official White House transcript of the comments and a longer version of the video shows the president immediately said he was only “kidding.” But many are sharing the truncated clip of Biden seated at a long table with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and prominent business leaders at the White House for a roundtable event. “I started off without you, and I sold a lot of state secrets and a lot of very important things that we shared,” Biden says in the video as Modi and others are seated around him, smiling and laughing. Other social media users even included a screenshot showing part of the official White House transcript of the Friday event. “Joe Biden’s brain is going and he’s literally admitting his crimes out loud,” wrote U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, in a widely shared tweet that included the 15-second video. But the clip and screenshot omit Biden’s very next sentence. “Now, all kidding aside,” he said, according to the transcript and a longer video of the remarks posted on the White House’s YouTube page. “We’re teaming up to design and develop new technologies that are going to transform the lives of our people around the world.” Spokespersons for the White House declined to comment, but an AP reporter who attended Friday’s roundtable confirmed Biden made the joke at the beginning of the event as the president and his guests were already seated at the table and reporters were beginning to file into the room. Nick Dyer, a spokesperson for Greene, argued Biden shouldn’t be joking when he’s been accused of “the crime he’s ‘joking’ about.” Greene and other House Republicans have been touting an internal FBI document containing an unverified allegation of Biden and a foreign national “relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.” But Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the Biden administration, dismissed the claims as a “fact-free wild goose chase,” noting the Justice Department, under former President Donald Trump, looked into the allegation and deemed it “not credible.” Meanwhile Trump, who is among the Republican candidates for president next year, has been charged with mishandling classified information, including sharing confidential military attack plans to a writer and others at his New Jersey golf resort in 2021.
— Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report.
A Bill Gates-tied mosquito project is not responsible for recent US malaria cases
CLAIM: Rare malaria cases reported in Florida and Texas recently were caused by a disease-control initiative backed by Bill Gates that involved releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in the U.S.
THE FACTS: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation doesn’t finance any modified mosquito release projects in the U.S. And experts say the types of mosquitoes that are used for that initiative in Florida are not capable of transmitting malaria. The false claims followed an announcement by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the U.S. has seen five cases of malaria spread by mosquitoes in the last two months — the first time there’s been local spread in 20 years. There were four cases detected in Florida and one in Texas. One tweet reads: “Malaria has been detected in Florida and Texas, CONVENIENTLY two states where Bill Gates was experimenting with GMO mosquitoes.” But that theory twists the facts in more ways than one. First of all, while the Gates Foundation has provided funding and support to combat malaria, it has not funded any work involving mosquito releases in the U.S., a spokesperson said. The foundation has indeed supported biotech company Oxitec, which is releasing modified mosquitoes in Florida as part of a disease-control initiative, though a spokesperson for the company said its U.S. work is not funded by the Gates Foundation. Regardless, Oxitec and experts say the notion that the company’s work could be responsible for the malaria spread is impossible for one simple reason: The modified mosquitoes being released are not the kinds that transmit malaria. “There is absolutely no truth to these claims,” Oxitec spokesperson Joshua Van Raalte said in an email. “They are scientifically impossible.” Oxitec’s work in the U.S. has involved releasing genetically modified, male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Florida Keys with the purpose of combating insect-borne diseases such as Dengue fever and the Zika virus. The intent is to have the modified mosquitoes mate with female mosquitoes and pass on a genetic change in a protein that would render any female offspring unable to survive — thus reducing the population of the insects that transmit disease. Aedes aegypti cannot and do not transmit malaria, concurred Nora Besansky, a biology professor at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in mosquitoes. A small subset of Anopheles mosquitoes are the only ones that do transmit human malaria, Besansky said in an email. She added that Oxitec only releases male Aedes mosquitoes — but it’s female mosquitoes that bite people for blood and “thus only the female mosquitoes transmit malaria parasites.” Lawrence Reeves, an entomologist at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, part of the University of Florida, agreed that the mosquito releases from Oxitec “have nothing at all to do with malaria, and it’s absurd to claim otherwise.” It’s also worth noting that the four malaria cases in Florida were reported in Sarasota County, not near the Florida Keys, where the Oxitec project is located, said Chad Huff, a spokesperson for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. And apart from the Florida Keys, Oxitec has not released mosquitoes anywhere else in the U.S., Van Raalte said. While the local spread of malaria reported in Florida and Texas is rare, it’s not unprecedented, as the AP has reported. Since 1992, there’ve been 11 outbreaks involving malaria from mosquitoes in the U.S. For experts and officials, the cases are not as confounding or unexpected as some may think. Zach Adelman, an entomology professor at Texas A&M University, said malaria was endemic in the southeastern U.S. for hundreds of years. That was curbed by changes to the landscape, such as draining marshes and swamps, and the use of insecticides. But international travel still presents an opportunity for people to bring malaria to the U.S. and for local mosquitoes to then transmit it.
— Associated Press writer Angelo Fichera in New Jersey contributed this report.
Has the number of glaciers changed in Al Gore’s lifetime? Experts say their mass is more important
CLAIM: There are 130,000 glaciers on Earth today, the same number as when former Vice President Al Gore was born.
THE FACTS: There is no way of knowing the number of glaciers when Gore was born in 1948, since there was no global inventory at the time, experts tell the AP, but glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate due to human-caused climate change. Some social media users continue to doubt the phenomenon and are sharing as evidence a meme claiming that there hasn’t been a decline in the number glaciers since Gore was born 75 years ago. The image, shared on Instagram, shows a photo of a young Gore with text under the image that reads: “The day Al Gore was born there were 130,000 glaciers on Earth. Today, only 130,000 remain.” Gore was in office from 1993-2001, and has since been involved with multiple projects around environmental activism. Scientists aren’t able to determine how many glaciers existed in 1948 because there was no comprehensive data at the time, said Louis Sass, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center. The best complete global inventory of how many glaciers are on Earth is from the Randolph Glacier Inventory, said David Rounce, a glaciologist and engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University. The Randolph Glacier Inventory is part of the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space initiative. The inventory estimates the number of glaciers and the area they covered in the year 2000, using satellite imagery. The latest version estimates that there were around 215,000 glaciers in the world covering 705,740 square kilometers that year, not counting those on ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Michael Zemp, the director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service, believes the 130,000 figure could have originated from the World Glacier Inventory. The WGI was established in the 1980s and recorded the number of glaciers using topographic maps and aerial images from the mid-20th century, not satellite images that are used today. But the WGI is a historical database that isn’t complete, and was replaced by the Randolph Glacier Inventory. Regardless, experts say that looking at the total number of glaciers isn’t the best way to measure the effects of climate change. In a warming atmosphere, the number of glaciers can decrease because they vanish — but it can also increase because a larger glacier disintegrates into several smaller ice patches, Zemp said. The number may also vary because of how a scientist defines glaciers and the size threshold used in various glacier inventories. “The best way to measure glacier changes over time is to use their glacier area or their mass,” Rounce said. Zemp pointed to research from the World Glacier Monitoring Service that says around 335 billion tons of glacier ice was lost per year from 2006 to 2016. That corresponds with an increase in sea levels of almost 1 millimeter (0.04 inch) per year, accounting for 25-30% of the observed increase in global sea levels, the service said. In January 2023, Hinman Glacier, the largest glacier between Mount Rainier and Glacier Peak, melted away. And a study led by Rounce published the same month found that two-thirds of the Earth’s glaciers are projected to melt out of existence by the end of the century.
— Associated Press writer Karena Phan in Los Angeles contributed this report.
Supreme Court did not hear a case seeking to oust Biden and other elected officials
CLAIM: The U.S. Supreme Court heard a case last week that was expected to annul the 2020 election.
THE FACTS: The Supreme Court did not hear such a case. On Monday, the justices declined to hear a case that argues hundreds of elected officials, including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former Vice President Mike Pence, should be ousted from their government positions for violating their oaths of office when they refused to investigate unfounded allegations that the 2020 race was rigged. The court has twice declined to hear a related case that cites these baseless claims, most recently on Feb. 21. But social media users erroneously claimed the justices were poised to decide a case that could undo the last presidential election. “The US Supreme Court began hearing the Brunson case yesterday Wed. 21 June, continued today 22 June and should have a decision out by Saturday 24 June,” an Instagram post states. “The result was expected to be an annulment of the 2020 Election, which would dissolve the Biden Administration and all of Congress for not investigating fraud in the 2020 Election.” The suit — Brunson v. Adams, et al. — was previously dismissed multiple times by a lower court before the case was ordered closed, according to court documents. It was then appealed to the Supreme Court on April 19. The suit argues that Biden, Harris, Pence and 385 members of Congress violated their oaths of office when they declined to investigate baseless claims about 2020 election interference. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the case. This suit is not to be confused with one of the same name which similarly argues that Biden, Harris, Pence and 385 members of Congress committed treason when they failed to probe the unfounded allegations about the 2020 race. Two Utah brothers with the same last name each filed one of the suits. The Supreme Court has declined to hear that case twice. Aziz Huq, a professor of law at the University of Chicago who is an expert on constitutional law, previously told the AP that it is unlikely the Supreme Court will ever hear such cases, given that they rely on a false narrative.
— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report.
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