What VAERS Can and Can’t Do, and How Anti-Vaccination Groups Habitually Misuse Its Data – FactCheck.org

For decades, an unassuming government vaccine safety surveillance system has done its job, quickly flagging possible side effects and allowing scientists and regulators to investigate further.

But for nearly as long, the ​​Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, has also been exploited by people opposed to vaccination. With a publicly searchable database, full of unverified reports of health problems that occurred sometime after vaccination, VAERS has proven irresistible to the anti-vaccination community, which often falsely claims the number of reported deaths or other issues is proof that vaccines are dangerous.

That’s despite the fact that the reports aren’t vetted for accuracy and don’t mean that a vaccine caused a particular problem.

VAERS is an early warning system used to identify potential safety concerns after a vaccine has been authorized or approved in the U.S. It’s often described as a “frontline” system, since it’s frequently the first vaccine safety system to detect a problem. But it’s also noisy and prone to distortion.

“Most of the anti-vaccine stuff that you hear, when they start to talk about how vaccines caused whatever, they’ll point to VAERS data,” Dr. Paul A. Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told us. “It is just manna from heaven to get bad information out there.”

While VAERS distortions were already a staple of vaccine misinformation prior to the pandemic, misuse of VAERS exploded with the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020. At FactCheck.org, we’ve written story after story debunking false or misleading claims about the COVID-19 vaccines that were based on misunderstandings about VAERS — and so have our fellow fact-checkers.

And now, one of the most notorious abusers of VAERS data is running for president. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of assassinated President John F. Kennedy and a prominent anti-vaccine advocateannounced his campaign challenging President Joe Biden in April. (Kennedy has stated that he is for safer vaccines and is not “anti-vaccine,” but many of his arguments against vaccination are inaccurate or misleading and typical of the movement.)

In 2016, Kennedy founded a group that would become Children’s Health Defense, a nonprofit that traffics in anti-vaccine misinformation and disinformation. Hundreds of stories on Kennedy’s website mention VAERS.

Given the misuse and confusion around VAERS, a research team at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center — led by APPC Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson and in partnership with Critica Science — has proposed renaming VAERS “Vaccination Safety Monitor” or “Vaccination Safety Watch.” APPC is FactCheck.org’s parent organization.

Here, we’ll explain how VAERS works and run through five misconceptions that anti-vaccination activists wield to mislead people about vaccines.

A Frontline System, Ripe for Distortion

As we’ve explained before, vaccines given to the public have already been tested in clinical trials, but those trials can only be so big and aren’t expected to be able to identify rare side effects. That’s where VAERS and other post-marketing safety surveillance systems come in.

VAERS, which began in 1990 and is co-run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, collects reports of health problems that occur after vaccination. Anyone can submit a report, regardless of whether it’s likely the vaccine caused the event.

The CDC and FDA then review the reports in a variety of ways, and further investigate any possible safety concerns.

“VAERS is designed to detect unusual or unexpected patterns,” Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, told us in an interview. “It’s really about pattern recognition.”

Key strengths of VAERS are its large size and speed. Because VAERS reports draw from across the country, even a very rare event can be quickly identified as a possible side effect.

Most famously, VAERS was the first system to raise concerns about a link between intussusception, a type of intestinal blockage, and RotaShield, the first rotavirus vaccine. In June 1999, just nine months after approval, 10 reports of intussusception had been reported to VAERS in infants who had received the RotaShield vaccine. This triggered further study of the issue and led CDC to temporarily suspend the shot the following month. The manufacturer recalled the vaccine a few months later, after other studies confirmed the safety signal.

Susan S. Ellenberg, a biostatistician at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told us the RotaShield example is the “poster child” for how VAERS can work.

VAERS has successfully flagged other safety concerns, including inflammation of the heart and surrounding tissue, known as myocarditis and pericarditis, which are the primary serious side effects of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. The conditions are rare after vaccination and are most frequent in young males after a second dose.

The system is also used to monitor the safety of different vaccine lots and to identify risk factors for developing certain vaccine side effects. VAERS data, for example, contributed to the decision to advise people with a severe immunodeficiency to avoid the RotaTeq and Rotarix rotavirus vaccines.

VAERS is unique in having its data available for anyone to access. In the early years, people had to file Freedom of Information Act requests to access the data. But in 2001, in the spirit of transparency, the agency posted the data online for download, a CDC spokesperson told us. In 2006, the data became searchable in an online tool.

A patient receives an influenza vaccine. Photo credit: CDC/Scott Housley.

Many of the features of VAERS, however, also make it susceptible to bad actors.

“The minute it was created, you could have argued that this was going to be misused, or at least misunderstood, because you’re asking people to understand the difference between causality and coincidence,” Offit said.

Ellenberg, who oversaw VAERS at FDA between 1993 and 2004, told us the system’s data was misused “from the very beginning.” She recalled one effort by the National Vaccine Information Center, a prominent anti-vaccination group, to use VAERS data to claim that certain vaccine lots, or what it called “hot lots,” were dangerous.

“They would look at VAERS and find vaccine lots that had the most reports associated with them and put them out there as those were potentially more toxic,” she said. “What the truth is, is that vaccine lots are variable sizes” and it’s completely normal for a vaccine lot with 100,000 doses to have more VAERS reports than one with 3,000. Lot sizes are proprietary information and therefore are not publicly available.

As PolitiFact has reported, the National Vaccine Information Center created its own VAERS search tool in 2003 that has become a favorite of anti-vaccination activists, fueling VAERS-based misinformation.

Federal officials have attempted to explain the limitations of VAERS and to discourage misinterpretations of the data, both in disclaimers on the website and in multiple academic articles.

As early as 1997, Ellenberg explained in a journal article that the way VAERS is designed, “sensitivity takes precedence over specificity; reporting of all serious events following vaccination is encouraged, inevitably resulting in large numbers of reports that do not represent vaccine-induced problems.”

“VAERS data must be interpreted with caution due to the inherent limitations of passive surveillance,” Shimabukuro and colleagues wrote in a 2015 article published in Vaccine, noting that VAERS is “primarily a safety signal detection and hypothesis generating system.”

“VAERS data interpreted alone or out of context can lead to erroneous conclusions about cause and effect as well as the risk of adverse events occurring following vaccination,” they added.

Claims involving VAERS have nevertheless figured prominently in anti-vaccine efforts to reduce the reach of a variety of vaccines, including the measles, mumps and rubella, and human papillomavirus vaccines.

With the COVID-19 vaccines, Ellenberg said the problem became “substantially worse.” Offit agreed that claims have “dramatically increased.” And anti-vaccine activists are using the tactics honed during the pandemic to apply them once again to other vaccines.

Common Patterns of Deceptions

1) Inappropriately Assuming Causality (And Accuracy)

Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding about VAERS is that the health issues described in the reports are not necessarily caused by the vaccine — and are often purely coincidental.

“Reports in VAERS simply represent something that happened after you got a vaccine. They don’t tell you the vaccine caused this,” Ellenberg said.

In some cases, it may be reasonable to assume the vaccine was the cause, such as some swelling on an arm just after a shot. But usually, Shimabukuro said, the information provided in a report isn’t enough to know whether a health problem was caused by a vaccine.

“Vaccines protect against a particular thing, a particular disease. They don’t protect against everything bad that might ever happen to you,” Ellenberg said. And so it’s inevitable that bad things will occur by chance right after a vaccine, even when they have nothing to do with the vaccine.

People are encouraged to file a report for any significant health problem even if they don’t think a vaccine was the cause. Health care workers and vaccine manufacturers are also required to file certain reports, also regardless of the level of suspicion of a vaccine.

And yet, the internet is littered with examples of people incorrectly presenting VAERS reports as events caused by vaccines. Sometimes the health problems are explicitly and inaccurately called side effects or labeled “vaccine-caused.” (Side effects, which are also known as adverse reactions, are considered to be caused by a shot.) Posts will also assume causality, for example, when citing VAERS data to give a supposed number of “COVID vaccine deaths.”

Some posts correctly note that VAERS reports may not have been caused by vaccines, but still mislead by calling the reports “vaccine injuries” or suggesting they are indicative of an important health concern.

Part of the issue, Offit said, is the terminology, including the name of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. In scientific parlance, the term “adverse event” does not imply a causal connection. It simply means the event occurred after vaccination, so there’s a temporal association that could very well be coincidental. To most of the public, though, that nuance is lost.

“Its mere name gives it the imprimatur of a causal association and that’s not what it is,” Offit said of VAERS. “It’s misnamed.”

On top of that, people often incorrectly assume that the reports must be true because they are in a government database.

But as the VAERS website explains in a disclaimer, reports “may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable.” Reports are not vetted before being included in the database.

In a now classic example, Dr. James R. Laidler, an anesthesiologist and autism advocate, said he filed a report in VAERS in the early 2000s that claimed “an influenza vaccine had turned me into The Hulk.” The report went into the database and was removed only after someone from VAERS contacted him, and after a discussion, asked if it could be deleted.

“If I had not agreed, the record would be there still,” Laidler wrote in a 2005 blog post, “showing that any claim can become part of the database, no matter how outrageous or improbable.”

That’s not to say that most VAERS reports are made-up. As we’ve written, the number of obviously false hoax reports is below 1%, and it’s illegal to file a false claim. But it’s not always clear when a report is fraudulent, and research has shown that litigation — even related to health issues that scientists know are not caused by vaccines — can drive up reporting.

2) Misunderstanding or Ignoring How VAERS Works with Other Systems

People opposed to vaccines often focus on VAERS to the exclusion of other vaccine safety systems — ignoring the fact that some of those systems are used to determine whether a possible safety signal from VAERS is indeed a problem.

As Dr. David Gorski, an editor of the blog Science-Based Medicine who has been debunking claims about vaccines for more than a decade, observed on Twitter, the reason these activists “fetishize #VAERS as the ‘definitive’ be-all and end-all of vaccine safety databases is because it is so easily distorted and weaponized.”

“VAERS at its best is a hypothesis-generating system,” Offit said. It’s all about signal detection — it’s not meant to be the final word on vaccine safety. And it doesn’t work in a vacuum.

“It’s important for people to know that VAERS is one of many complementary systems that CDC and FDA and other federal partners use to monitor vaccine safety,” Shimabukuro said.

Statistical methods are used to analyze VAERS reports to quickly pick up on any unusual patterns. “If a possible safety signal is found in VAERS, further analysis is performed with other safety systems, such as the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) and Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Project, or in the FDA BEST (Biologics Effectiveness and Safety) system,” the VAERS disclaimer explains. “These systems are less impacted by the limitations of spontaneous and voluntary reporting in VAERS and can better assess possible links between vaccination and adverse events.”

Indeed, while VAERS is a passive system, relying on people to submit reports, several of these systems are active, meaning they automatically collect information at regular intervals. And unlike VAERS, some of these systems offer a way of comparing outcomes to a control group.

The Vaccine Safety Datalink, for example, draws on electronic health records from across the country and contains information about which vaccinations were given and when. The data are updated every week, and can be used to compare the rates of possible side effects in people who received a particular vaccine with a similar group of people who were not vaccinated.

The CDC and FDA use several quantitative methods to probe VAERS data for possible safety signals. This includes disproportionality analysis, which essentially checks to see whether the adverse events reported for one vaccine are significantly different from those reported for other vaccines, which could be indicative of a problem.

Ellenberg likens these approaches to looking for a needle in a haystack. “What these methods do is pull out clumps and then you look for needles in the clumps.” After further investigation, she said, most of them will turn out to be nothing.

Because the number of administered doses was known, regulators also performed an observed versus expected analysis for the COVID-19 vaccines, Shimabukuro said. If the observed rate approaches or exceeds the expected rate, he said, “that may be evidence of a potential safety problem that might require further investigation.”

Agency physicians also do a lot of case review to investigate possible problems.

Importantly, this slicing and dicing of VAERS data can only point to a possible issue — it’s not confirmation of one.

“Just because you exceed a statistical threshold does not mean you have evidence of an increased risk or evidence of a causal association,” Shimabukuro said, adding that such data mining “findings” are not necessarily safety signals. “There can be other reasons for these findings or they can be spurious findings or in some cases, they can be things that we expect to find.”

VAERS, therefore, must be viewed in the larger context of how safety signals are identified. Insisting that only VAERS has the right answers is illogical and fundamentally misconstrues how vaccine safety surveillance works.

3) Improperly Comparing Vaccines

Much of the misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines using VAERS has focused on improper comparisons between vaccines. Claim after claim alleges that because so many more VAERS reports have been filed for the COVID-19 vaccines than for other vaccines, it must mean that they are dangerous.

This line of argument, however, is faulty. As we’ve previously written, there are several reasons why reporting to VAERS increased for the COVID-19 vaccines — and it doesn’t mean that the vaccines aren’t safe.

To start, a large number of COVID-19 vaccines were given out in a relatively short period of time, with more doses and priority given to older and more medically vulnerable people. The VAERS reporting requirements are also higher for the COVID-19 vaccines. Health care providers, for example, are required by law to report any vaccine administration error, any serious adverse event following vaccination, and any COVID-19 case that results in hospitalization or death. With other vaccines, providers are only required to report select adverse events. And the incredible amount of publicity and scrutiny of the new vaccines is arguably unprecedented in modern history.

“You really can’t compare what happened during COVID to what’s happened with other vaccines in the past,” Shimabukuro said.

The closest example, he said, is the rollout of an influenza vaccine during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. With that vaccine, he added, there was also a large increase in the number of reports to VAERS, and public awareness “was nowhere near what it is for COVID-19.”

Shimabukuro noted that the phenomenon of a spike in reporting with a new vaccine, known as the Weber effectis well documented.

And he added, the COVID-19 vaccines have been following the expected trajectory of the Weber effect quite closely, with very high reporting early on, followed by a peak and then a drop-off to a somewhat normalized level.

“The trend is very similar to what we see for other vaccines — other new vaccines, other pandemic vaccines,” Shimabukuro said, with the extreme attention on the COVID-19 pandemic “accentuating that overall trend.”

How are regulators so confident that the increased reporting in VAERS isn’t a safety concern? Because all of the data — including from VAERS, but also from all the other systems — consistently show that the COVID-19 vaccines have a good safety record.

“It’s data from multiple systems in the United States and data from other systems in other countries in Europe and in Canada and Israel, and really all over the globe,” Shimabukuro said.

Despite all the claims about COVID-19 vaccine-related deaths, VAERS data do not suggest that the vaccines increase mortality.

Of the COVID-19 vaccines ever offered in the U.S., only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been causally linked to thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, which can be fatal. TTS is a blood clotting condition combined with low blood platelets and is extremely rare. Six reports of the condition to VAERS led regulators to temporarily suspend the use of the J&J vaccine in April 2021. Through May 2023, monitoring has identified nine deaths from TTS that are considered to be due to the vaccine. The J&J vaccine is no longer available in the U.S., after the last doses expired in May.

“There is no hiding in the world of vaccines when you vaccinate hundreds of thousands and then millions and tens of millions of people,” Offit said. If a vaccine is truly responsible for a serious side effect, he said, it will be apparent.

4) Exaggerating the Issue of Underreporting

Another common anti-vaccine talking point is that because people voluntarily report to VAERS, it invariably is an undercount of vaccine “harms.” Vaccine opponents often try to calculate how much underreporting exists and multiply the number of reports by certain factors to arrive at the “real” number of vaccine side effects.

But this approach is flawed. It’s true that by design, VAERS can’t capture every side effect that is due to a vaccine. But it’s also the case that many of the health problems in VAERS aren’t caused by a vaccine.

“There’s underreporting and there’s overreporting,” Ellenberg said, referring to both scenarios.

“The suspected adverse events are underreported. I think that’s probably true. But the keyword there is suspected — they’re not necessarily true, truly caused by vaccines,” Offit said, adding that that’s expected with a passive system. That’s precisely why other, active vaccine safety systems are also used to monitor vaccines.

And there’s no simple way of determining how much underreporting exists. Anti-vaccine groups commonly cite a 2010 report from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care that stated “fewer than 1% of vaccine adverse events are reported.”

But Dr. Michael Klompas, a public health surveillance researcher at Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the report, told us in an email that the 1% number “takes into account that many adverse effects of vaccines are mild and expected so not worth reporting (sore arm, fatigue, local redness, etc.).”

Other researchers have attempted to estimate what’s called the reporting efficiency, or reporting sensitivity, of certain adverse events in VAERS, generally finding that the system more completely collects serious adverse events than mild ones.

An early effort in 1995, for example, found that VAERS detected 68% of vaccine-associated polio cases following the oral polio vaccine, but less than 1% of rashes after the MMR vaccine. (The oral polio vaccine has since been replaced in the U.S. with an injected vaccine that cannot give people the disease.)

Other work has found that for anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that occurs rarely with any vaccine, VAERS captured anywhere from 13% to 76% of cases, depending on the vaccine. Another study estimated that VAERS caught 47% of cases of intussusception after the RotaShield vaccine.

But as that paper noted, “Although the reporting completeness of VAERS has been evaluated for some specific vaccine-event associations, this information cannot be generalized.”

“The magnitude of underreporting varies widely, depending upon factors such as the severity of the event, proximity in time of the event to vaccination, and preexisting awareness on the possible association of the event to the vaccine,” it reads.

While underreporting is a legitimate limitation of VAERS, the system is not intended to capture everything. And applying ad hoc estimates for underreporting, particularly to all adverse events, or for adverse events that have not been linked to vaccination, is scientifically unsound and misleading.

5) Incorrectly Assuming All Reports Are Serious

Finally, another misconception is the incorrect notion that all reports in VAERS are serious. Again, part of this hinges on the use of technical language. “Adverse event” sounds serious to many people, but it includes minor incidents, such as a sore arm.

Less than 10% to 15% of U.S. reports in VAERS are considered “serious” — a regulatory term that means the event was life-threatening or involved hospitalization, prolonged hospitalization if someone was already hospitalized, persistent disability, a birth defect, death, or required medical attention to prevent one of these outcomes.

The CDC requests follow-up information for all serious reports, which, like their non-serious counterparts, may be entirely coincidental. As the CDC explains, while serious events happen after vaccination, “they are rarely caused by the vaccine.”

The non-serious and serious classification isn’t perfect. “Some degree of misclassification is inherent,” a 2004 review by government scientists explains, noting that injection site reactions typically are “not of great clinical significance but may be classified as serious if they result in a brief hospitalization.” On the other hand, something like Bell’s palsy, a usually temporary facial paralysis, is medically important, but may not be classified as serious because it involves outpatient care.

Still, it’s clear that many of the health issues reported to VAERS — which again, are not necessarily caused by vaccines — are relatively minor, and people who like to highlight the sheer number of reports to suggest vaccines are dangerous are not being fully transparent.

Imperfect, But Still Necessary

For all of its limitations and susceptibility to distortion, experts generally told us they thought VAERS served an important role.

Ellenberg, for example, said she thought VAERS could be the fastest way to identify a vaccine safety problem.

Offit, however, was less sure of its utility.

“I would argue that because it’s so massively misused and massively misunderstood,” which has caused “a lot of people to choose not to get a vaccine,” he said, “I think it has done far more harm than good.”

Still, he doesn’t think VAERS should go away. Rather, he thinks VAERS should not be made publicly available. That would limit the misinformation, but still allow the system to do its job.

Putting the genie back in the bottle, though, may be impossible. And for now, the CDC doesn’t agree.

“We understand that there is the potential for misuse and misrepresentation of VAERS data,” Shimabukuro said. “However, we think the benefits of being transparent and providing these data as a public service outweigh the potential harms.”

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s articles providing accurate health information and correcting health misinformation are made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.

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Rly staff have joined Balasore accident probe, reports of ‘absconding’ false. And the station master’s name is not Sharif – Alt News

Nearly 300 people were killed and over 800 injured in a horrific train accident in Odisha’s Balasore district on Friday, June 2. According to information available at the moment, a little before 7 pm on Friday, the Chennai-bound Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express hit an iron ore-laden stationary goods train and 10 to 12 Coromandel coaches got derailed and fell over on another track. The Bengal-bound Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, plying on that line, subsequently collided with those coaches, derailing three to four of its own coaches. The accident took place near the Bahanaga Bazar railway station on the Kharagpur–Puri line under the Kharagpur railway division of the South Eastern Railway zone.

In the days following the accident, even as the Railways started an inquiry to find out the exact cause of the mishap, several theories surfaced in media and public discourse. Some social media users claimed that the station master of the Bahanaga Bazar railway station, a certain Sharif, was absconding since the accident.

Vivek Pandey (@vivekpandeyvns_), a Twitter Blue subscriber the ‘chief of Rashtravadi Hindu Mahasabha‘ according to his bio, said in a now-deleted tweet said, “Name Sharif. Post – Station Master. At present, is absconding since the order of investigation. From now on one needs to check the name before offering a job. #Balasore”. (Archive)

Another Twitter Blue user, @Manv1994, whose bio says that he is the BJP IT chief in Vidhan Sabha from the Khair constituency, tweeted something similar on June 4 and also added an image of the supposed station master, Sharif: “Heard that the station master named ‘Sharif’ has gone missing after the inquiry was ordered? This is the problem with this community. #BalasoreTrainAccident #TrainAccident.” (Archive)

Another user, 🚩योगीआदित्यनाथफैन(डिजिटल योद्धा)गोडसे का भक्त 🕉 (@maheshyagyasain), who is a Twitter Blue subscriber, also shared a tweet with the similar claim that the station master, Sharif, is absconding since the mishap. He went on to claim that the accident was made to happen by station master Sharif.

He wrote, “This (the triple train collision) is not an accident, not a negligence, it has been intentionally executed by the station master Sharif who is absconding. He moved the Coromandel Express to the loop line where a static goods train. His real face will be exposed in the investigation if the involvement of station master Sharif is exposed.” (Archive)

Many other users including @manojkrs29, @yagya_varaha, @SNJ_111, @satyamS19745855, @JPThailand2, @UmeshCh57137537, @Kashi_Ka_Pandit shared similar claims.

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As can be seen above, several users connected the ‘station master Sharif’ theory with the supposed mosque near the tracks. The photo, where the white building has been pointed at with an arrow, was viral separately as well with the suggestion that it was a mosque, which proved the role of Muslims behind the accident. Alt News has already debunked this. The building is actually an ISKCON temple.

Fact Check

With the help of a journalist who covered the accident from the ground, we accessed a photograph of a board hung outside the station master’s room displaying the names of Bahanaga Bazar railway station staff. There was no one named Sharif.

A keyword search led us to a report by Kalinga TV, an Odia language news outlet, published on June 3. The headline said, “Odisha train accident: Bahanaga Assistant Station Master is on the run, case registered”. The report further mentioned that “according to reports, Bahanaga Assistant Station Master S B Mohanty, who was on duty, fled from the spot after the train accident took place.”

Then on June 5, Kalinga TV published another report with the headline: “Odisha Train Accident: Interrogation of Bahanaga Station Master underway.” The report mentioned that Mohanty was being interrogated by the Railway Safety Commissioner team regarding the train accident on June 2.

We contacted two senior IPS officers from Odisha who confirmed to us that none of the station staff was absconding and police were in touch with them. One of them said there was no one named ‘Sharif’ among the station staff. Another one said, “All the station staff are available. They are attending inquiries at different levels/places.”

Further, we reached out to a senior Bhubeneswar-based journalist with a national English daily who covered the accident. He said on Monday, “All of this is a rumour. He is not absconding and is cooperating with the authorities in the investigation. Mohanty travelled to Khurdah late last night to join the probe.”

Railways PRO Nihar Mohanty, too, confirmed to Alt News that S B Mohanty was not absconding.

To check the authenticity of the image used by @Manv1994 in his tweet, we ran a reverse image search, which led us to a website: vikaschander.com. We found the image in a blog post published on the website on March 2004. The title said: “Kottavalasa Kirandul KK Line”. We found more such railway blog posts on the website.

We came across Vikas Chander’s Facebook profile where his bio said that he is a digital creator, it also had the above website link attached.

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The man whose photo has been used in the viral posts is identified as the station master of Borra Guhalu railway station in the blog.

Thus, the claims that the Balasore railway station master named Sharif is absconding are false. The Bahanaga Bazar station master’s name is S B Mohanty. There was an initial report that Mohanty was missing for some time after the accident, but we can confirm that he is available and cooperating with the investigation.

It is worth noting that several social media users have made attempts to add a communal twist to the Odisha tragedy, one of the deadliest train accidents in India. In a tweet on June 4, Odisha Police said severe action would be taken against those who were trying to create communal disharmony by spreading rumours.

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FactChecking Haley’s CNN Town Hall – FactCheck.org

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley — a former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during former President Donald Trump’s administration — made a few false and misleading statements in a June 4 town hall on CNN:

  • Haley falsely said that crime as at “all-time highs.” The U.S. violent crime rate, and homicide rate specifically, peaked in 1991.
  • She said “all those medicines” at “your local drugstore” are made in China, but only a portion of foreign-made pharmaceutical ingredients are from China.
  • Haley wrongly said that Roe v. Wade allowed “abortion anytime, anywhere, for any reason.” The court ruling said states could prohibit abortion after fetal viability, with exceptions only for the life and health of the mother.
  • When discussing climate change, Haley said the U.S. is “very good when it comes to emissions” and China and India “are causing the problem.” But the U.S. emits more carbon dioxide than India and emits more CO2 per capita than both countries.
  • She repeated the misleading GOP talking point that the IRS is “going after” middle-class taxpayers. Enforcement efforts to collect unpaid taxes will focus on those earning more than $400,000, the Biden administration has said.

The town hall was held in Des Moines, Iowa.

Crime Isn’t at ‘All-Time Highs’

The U.S. violent crime rate hit its peak in the early 1990s. But in talking about maintaining gun rights for people to bear arms and “protect and defend their families,” Haley falsely said that “you’ve got crime at all-time highs.”

According to FBI data, the nationwide violent crime rate was at its highest in 1991 with 758.2 crimes per 100,000 people. In 2020, the rate was 398.5, and the FBI said that “violent and property crime remained consistent between 2020 and 2021,” the most recent year for which annual national figures are available.

The nationwide homicide rate also peaked in 1991, at 9.8 per 100,000 population. By 2019, it was down to 5.1. During the pandemic, there was an increase in murders, but nothing that approached the 1991 all-time high. And crime data indicate the number of murders in large cities has dropped since 2021.

The nationwide murder rate went up from 2019 to 2020, to 6.5 per 100,000 people, and the FBI said the number (not the rate) went up slightly in 2021, but not by a statistically significant amount. We don’t yet have 2022 figures from the FBI. But the Major Cities Chiefs Association found that the number of murders in 70 large U.S. cities declined from 2021 to 2022.

AH Datalytics, an independent group that collects publicly available information from large U.S. law enforcement agencies, has found a 12% decrease in murders so far this year, compared with the same time period in 2022. Most of the agencies had statistics through late April or late May as of June 5.

Not ‘All’ Medicines Made in China

Haley said “all those medicines” at “your local drugstore” are made in China, but that’s not right. According to the Food and Drug Administration, nearly three-quarters of pharmaceutical ingredients are foreign-made, but China only represents a portion of that.

“What I do care about is if it’s a national security risk,” Haley said. “When you saw we had COVID, they told you to put on a mask. The masks were made in China. They told you to take a home COVID test. You turned it over, it was made in China. You go down to your local drugstore, all those medicines are made in China.”

It’s unclear from her lead-in whether Haley was talking about all drugs in general, or just COVID-19 drugs, when she said they were “all” made in China. But it’s not accurate for either.

fact sheet from Pfizer, which makes the antiviral pill Paxlovid, says that the primary manufacturing sites for the drug are in Germany, Ireland and Italy.

An intravenous antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19, remdesivir, is manufactured in sites all over the world, including in China. Gilead Sciences, which invented remdesivir, lists a manufacturing network that includes two countries in Asia (China and Japan), eight in Europe, and two in North America (Mexico and the U.S.). The manufacturing process also requires obtaining chemicals “from around the world – including France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Canada, the United States, China and Japan.”

“No one country or region can manufacture remdesivir on its own and meet the level of supply required,” a Gilead press release states. “The raw materials and substances required, and the production capabilities and capacity required, represent a diverse network of companies that are working together to meet the needs of patients around the world. Any disruption in this supply chain could ultimately reduce the amount of remdesivir that could be produced and increase the time it takes to do so.”

If Haley was talking more generally about all pharmaceutical drugs, the FDA in 2019 said 72% of active pharmaceutical ingredients, or APIs, supplying the U.S. market are foreign made. The FDA said 13% of APIs are made in China, though it noted that “the number of registered facilities making APIs in China more than doubled between 2010 and 2019.”

Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, testified in October 2019 that “although CDER can describe the locations of API manufacturing facilities, we cannot determine with any precision the volume of API that China is actually producing, or the volume of APIs manufactured in China that is entering the U.S. market, either directly or indirectly by incorporation into finished dosages manufactured in China or other parts of the world.”

The FDA says it “inspects pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities worldwide, including facilities that manufacture active ingredients and the finished product.”


The Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a constitutional right to abortion, but said that the government could restrict abortions after fetal viability, provided there was an exception for cases involving risks to the life and health of the mother. Haley, however, wrongly said Roe “suddenly said abortion anytime, anywhere, for any reason,” adding that “all Americans had to succumb to that.”

The court ruling said states couldn’t restrict the right to an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy; in the second trimester, states could restrict abortion “in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.” And after a fetus is viable outside the womb, states could restrict or prohibit abortion with only exceptions for the life and health of the mother. Roe put viability at 24 to 28 weeks of gestation, but a subsequent ruling said viability is determined by the physician.

In a companion case decided with Roe, the court clarified that health referred to both physical and mental health. As we’ve written, some Republicans have objected to the inclusion of “mental” health, seeing it as a loophole. But it’s simply not true that Roe allowed any abortion at “any time” across the country.

Before the Supreme Court overturned Roe last year, nearly all states had restrictions on abortion — some challenging the Roe framework but others abiding by the viability threshold, according to a breakdown of the various state laws by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that supports abortion rights.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

For years, the U.S. has been the world’s second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. But Haley claimed that China and India are “the problem” when it comes to improving the environment – not the U.S.

“The United States is very good when it comes to emissions,” Haley said. “If we want to really fix the environment, then let’s start having serious conversations with India and China. They are our polluters. They’re the ones that are causing the problem.”

In 2021, China, by a wide margin, ranked first in metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted, according to the European Commission’s Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research. Trailing China were the U.S., the European Union and India, in that order.

We should note that, generally, U.S. emissions have been declining while the emissions of the rest of the top four have been increasing.

CountryTotal Metric Tons of CO2Percentage of Global Total
European Union2,774.937.33%

In terms of emissions per capita, however, the U.S. ranked higher than China and India. The U.S. emitted an average of 14.24 tons per person, and China’s and India’s averages were 8.73 and 1.90 tons per person, respectively.

China and India have populations of about 1.4 billion, while the U.S. population is approaching 335 million, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.


When discussing the need to “go back to being fiscally responsible,” Haley repeated a GOP talking point that the IRS under President Joe Biden is “going after” middle-class taxpayers.

Haley: Instead of the 87,000 IRS workers going after middle America, let’s go after the hundreds of billions of dollars of COVID fraud that we know exist.

Haley is referring to the Inflation Reduction Act, which became law in August and included $79.6 billion for the IRS over 10 years to improve technology, customer service and enforcement efforts to collect unpaid taxes. A Treasury Department spokesperson has told us that the IRS would use the funding to “fill positions of the 50,000 IRS employees who are on the verge of retirement” and increase its staffing by about 30,000.

But, as we have written, the Biden administration has said the stepped-up enforcement program will focus on taxpayers earning more than $400,000.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen directed IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig on Aug. 10 not to use the new funding “to increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels.”

In an Aug. 25 letter to the ranking Republicans on the House Budget Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the increased IRS funding for enforcement would raise an additional $180.4 billion over 10 years. But only “a small fraction” of that would come from taxpayers earning less than $400,000, “because, CBO expects, the IRS will follow the Secretary’s directive, and enforcement resources will focus on what the Secretary terms high-end noncompliance,” the letter stated.

It is also worth noting that the debt limit legislation signed into law by Biden on June 3 would cancel $1.4 billion of that new IRS funding. “CBO anticipates that rescinding those funds would result in fewer enforcement actions” and $2.3 billion in less revenues over the next decade, CBO said.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org does not accept advertising. We rely on grants and individual donations from people like you. Please consider a donation. Credit card donations may be made through our “Donate” page. If you prefer to give by check, send to: FactCheck.org, Annenberg Public Policy Center, 202 S. 36th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104. 

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A Florida School Restricted Access to Amanda Gorman’s Poem, But Didn’t ‘Ban’ It – FactCheck.org

Quick Take

Following a parent’s complaint, one K-8 school in Florida restricted access to a poem by Amanda Gorman that she had read at the 2021 presidential inauguration. The school moved the book in its library to a shelf for upper-grade students only. But social media posts falsely claimed Miami-Dade County had “banned” the book in all its elementary schools.

Full Story

Since 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a handful of high-profile education bills that the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, have condemned or considered controversial.

DeSantis, who is a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has signed bills that prohibit public colleges from funding diversity programs and prevent teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity with students in public schools through grade 12.

He also signed CS/HB 7, or the Individual Freedom law, which according to the governor is intended to ban critical race theory from being taught in Florida schools. Critics say the law will limit the teaching of Black history.

On May 20, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Florida “in direct response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.” The NAACP advisory says, “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”

DeSantis also signed a bill that, according to a press release from the governor’s office, “aims to preserve the rights of parents to make decisions about what materials their children are exposed to in school.”

Amanda Gorman recites her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” during the presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20, 2021. Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II.

On March 29, a parent filed a complaint with a K-8 school in Miami-Dade County about a poem read by Amanda Gorman during President Joe Biden’s inauguration. As a result, the book containing the poem was moved to a section of the school library reserved for students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

The Associated Press reported that the school “banned” the poem — though the AP later changed the headline of the story to say it was “barred for younger children.”

Posts on social media began to spread the misleading claim that Miami-Dade County had “banned” Amanda Gorman’s poem from all 158 elementary schools in the county.

“FLORIDA FASCISM. Miami-Dade County has banned the poem read by Amanda Gorman during President Biden’s inauguration from elementary schools following the objection of a single parent,” read a post on Instagram, which was shared by comedian D.L. Hughley.

The posts exaggerate the action taken in Florida. The poem was not “banned” or restricted at all elementary schools in the county. Access to the poem was restricted in one school to students in the upper grades.

At Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school located in Miami Lakes, one parent complained about five different reading materials — including the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Gorman. As a result of the complaint, four of the five materials were restricted from students in grades K-5, the Miami Herald reported.

The other four books noted in the parent’s complaint were “The ABCs of Black History,” “Love to Langston” by Tony Medina, “Countries in the News: Cuba” by Kieran Walsh, and “Cuban Kids” by George Ancona.

The parent cited “hate messages” and “CRT” — or critical race theory — as some of the reasons for the complaint, according to documents shared with the Miami Herald and posted on Twitter by the Florida Freedom to Read Project.

Following the parent’s complaint, the books were reviewed by a committee at the Miami Lakes school, and it was decided the material was appropriate for the students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

The Florida Freedom to Read Project shared another tweet that included the meeting minutes from the committee review.

“Below are the minutes from the review committee meeting that was held on 4/5/23. Aside from THE HILL WE CLIMB, all the books were written w/K-5 readers in mind. Due to ‘age appropriate’ language in HB7, this committee ‘erred on the side of caution’ & restricted them to 6-8,” the Florida Freedom to Read Project tweeted.

The review committee said Gorman’s “book has educational value because of its historical significance,” and “was determined to be of value for middle school students.”

The Miami-Dade County Public Schools district also clarified its action regarding Gorman’s poem in a tweet on May 23: “In order to ensure accurate information, @MDCPS is compelled to clarify that the book titled, ‘The Hill We Climb’ by @TheAmandaGorman was never banned or removed from one of our schools. The book is available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.”

About 570 books have been banned or restricted in Florida from July 2021 to June 2022, according to PEN America, a nonprofit suing a Florida school district along with the book publisher Penguin Random House over the recent bans.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.


Alfonseca, Kiara. “PEN America, Penguin Random House sue over banned books in Florida school district.” ABC News. 17 May 2023.

Ax, Joseph. “Florida education board extends ban on gender identity lessons to all grades.” Reuters.com. 19 Apr 2023.

Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Bill that Requires Curriculum Transparency.” News release. FLgov.com. 25 Mar 2022.

Human Rights Campaign staff. “Gov. DeSantis Signs Slate of Extreme Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills, Enacting a Record-Shattering Number of Discriminatory Measures Into Law.” 17 May 2023.

Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Legislation to Strengthen Florida’s Position as National Leader in Higher Education.” News release. FLgov.com. 15 May 2023.

Chapell, Bill. “1 complaint led a Florida school to restrict access to Amanda Gorman’s famous poem.” NPR. Updated 25 May 2023.

Chu, Andrea. “DeSantis signed 5 education bills: Here’s what they’ll do.” WTSP. 9 May 2023.

Florida Senate Committee on Education. “CS/HB 7— Individual Freedom.” Accessed 2 Jun 2023.

Papaycik, Matt. “Florida’s governor signs controversial bill banning critical race theory in schools.” WPTV.com. 22 Apr 2022.

Pilkington, Ed. “Amanda Gorman ‘gutted’ after Florida school bans Biden inauguration poem.” The Guardian. 24 May 2023.

NAACP Issues Travel Advisory in Florida.” Press statement. NAACP. 20 May 2023.

Associated Press (@AP). “A poem by Amanda Gorman that was written for President Joe Biden’s inauguration has been placed on a restricted list at a South Florida elementary school after one parent’s complaint.” 24 May 2023.

Brugal, Sommer. “Miami-Dade K-8 bars elementary students from 4 library titles following parent complaint.” Miami Herald. 24 May 2023.

DeMillo, Andrew, et al. “Presidential hopeful DeSantis inspires push to make book bans easier in Republican-controlled states.” Associated Press. 26 May 2023.

Florida Freedom to Read Project (@FLFreedomRead). “Here are the documents we shared w/ @smbrugal of the @MiamiHerald. They restricted THE HILL WE CLIMB by @TheAmandaGorman, forward by @Oprah to grades 6-8 of the @MDCP K-8 school after a parent complained it was ‘not educational’ & contained ‘hate messages.’ Absurdity.” Twitter. 23 May 2023.

Florida Freedom to Read Project. “About.” Accessed 2 Jun 2023.

Florida Freedom to Read Project (@FLFreedomRead). “Below are the minutes from the review committee meeting that was held on 4/5/23. Aside from THE HILL WE CLIMB, all the books were written w/K-5 readers in mind. Due to “age appropriate” language in HB7, this committee “erred on the side of caution” & restricted them to 6-8.” Twitter. 23 May 2023.

Miami-Dade Schools (@MDCPS). “In order to ensure accurate information, @MDCPS is compelled to clarify that the book titled, “The Hill We Climb” by @TheAmandaGorman was never banned or removed from one of our schools. The book is available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.” Twitter. 23 May 2023.

Yang, Wesley (@wesyang). “Headline: “Amanda Gorman’s poem for Biden’s inauguration banned by Florida school” Paragraph 15-16: “one of the books…was balanced and age appropriate, and would remain available for all students…” The other four were deemed “better suited” or “more appropriate” for middle school students.”  25 May 2023.

PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans.” PEN America. Accessed 2 Jun 2023.

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Biden Officials Have Taken Oaths of Office, Contrary to Social Media Claim – FactCheck.org

Quick Take

Officials serving in President Joe Biden’s administration have taken their oaths of office, and most can be seen in videos from their swearing-in ceremonies. But a video circulating on social media falsely suggests that they haven’t been sworn in and are “acting as elected officials without swearing an allegiance to the Constitution.”

Full Story

Members of President Joe Biden’s administration have taken their oaths of office, reciting an oath that swears an allegiance to uphold the Constitution.

The founding document specifies the exact language of the oath only for the president of the United States. But it also says that other officials — including “all executive” officers – “shall be bound” by an oath.

The oaths taken by federal officeholders are seen in recorded swearing-in ceremonies for about a dozen Biden administration officials, contrary to a claim that’s been circulating on social media.

Ann Vandersteel, a conservative commentator and conspiracy theorist whom we’ve written about before, posted on Twitter in April, “BREAKING NEWS! PUBLIC OFFICIALS DEVOID OF OATHS OF OFFICE!” That claim has now been adapted and repeated in a video circulating on Instagram.

The original claim and the adapted video both suggest that without having taken their oaths, the officials are serving illegitimately.

The video uses audio from Vandersteel’s original claim, saying, “Do we have public servants in office who are acting as elected officials without swearing an allegiance to the Constitution?”

The video has garnered comments such as, “Those who have no sworn oaths need to be sent to gitmo for treason,” and, “Clears up a lot. No oath to our constitution then they can’t violate it.”

But the video gives the wrong impression.

First, all the officials named or referenced in the video, except for Vice President Kamala Harris, aren’t elected, as the video says. They were appointed. And those whose nominations were confirmed all took their oaths of office, as seen in videos of their swearing-in ceremonies or reported in press releases and news articles.

Vandersteel’s claim is based on a document labeled “Petition for Writ of Quo Warranto” that says it was submitted to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.

The petition claims that the named officials may not have properly recorded their oaths of office and, if so, they should be removed.

But the federal statute it cites doesn’t have any bearing on the validity of the officeholder’s appointment. Rather, the statute — 5 U.S. Code, Section 3332 — requires officeholders to file an affidavit swearing that they haven’t paid for or otherwise bought their office.

The statute says that “within 30 days after the effective date of his appointment,” the officeholder must file their affidavit. That’s the key language, said Evan Bernick, an assistant professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law.

“The appointment is ‘effective’ regardless whether the affidavit is filed,” Bernick said in an email to FactCheck.org. (Emphasis is his.) “There is no suggestion here that filing is a condition precedent for taking office or essential to remaining in office.”

That’s also what the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit found when it rejected a similar argument leveled against Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation during the Clinton administration. Starr’s authority was challenged because he didn’t file an affidavit, as required by Section 3332.

“Although Congress can impose conditions on an appointee which must be satisfied before that appointee takes office, the affidavit requirement found in 5 U.S.C. section 3332 is not such a condition precedent,” the court said. “In support of this conclusion, we need only refer to the language of section 3332. That language requires that the affidavit be filed ‘within 30 days after the effective date of [the] appointment.’… The use of the word ‘after’ expressly negates the claim that the filing of the affidavit is a condition precedent to Starr’s execution of his duties as Independent Counsel.”

So, Bernick said, “It makes about as much legal sense to say that failure to comply with the Section 3332 requirement results in lack of authority to hold office as it does to say that it results in a fine of a bajillion dollars. The statute provides for neither remedy.”

The only constitutional requirement is that they take an oath, he said, which is codified in Section 3331.

“There’s no argument that they didn’t comply with Section 3331,” Bernick said.

No case related to the petition cited by Vandersteel has been opened, according to our search of federal court records.

The officials named in the petition are:

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (who recently announced she’ll be stepping down at the end of June). Walensky was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.

Janet Yellen, secretary of the Department of the Treasury. Yellen was sworn in on Jan. 26, 2021.

Jennifer Granholm, secretary of the Department of Energy. Granholm was sworn in on Feb. 25, 2021.

Janet Woodcock filled in as the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from January 2021 to February 2022. We found no record of her swearing-in.

Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Becerra was sworn in on March 26, 2021.

Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the Department of Transportation. Buttigieg was sworn in on Feb. 3, 2021.

Antony Blinken, secretary of state. Blinken was sworn in on Jan. 27, 2021.

Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas was sworn in on Feb. 2, 2021.

Miguel Cardona, secretary of Department of Education. Cardona was sworn in on March 2, 2021.

Gina Raimondo, secretary of Department of Commerce. Raimondo was sworn in on March 3, 2021.

Merrick Garland, attorney general. Garland was sworn in on March 11, 2021.

Robert Califf, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Califf was sworn in on Feb. 15, 2022.

Marty Walsh, former secretary of the Department of Labor. Walsh was sworn in on March 23, 2021.

Julie Su has been nominated as the secretary of the Department of Labor, but hasn’t yet been confirmed. She is serving as acting secretary, pending her confirmation.

Lloyd Austin III, secretary of the Department of Defense. Austin was sworn in on Jan. 22, 2021.

Kamala Harris, vice president. Harris was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.

So, we found that 14 of the 16 officials named in the petition have taken the required oath. Of the other two officials, one was serving as an interim appointee and the other has not been confirmed yet.

As to the petition’s claim that the officials have not properly recorded their oaths of office, Kermit Roosevelt, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania, told us: “This sounds like one of the absurd social media conspiracy theories that float around. There is definitely no requirement in the Constitution that officials have proof that they took the oath of office.”

We reached out to the two lawyers listed on the petition for comment, but haven’t heard back.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.


Jones, Brea. “Bogus ‘Sharpiegate’ Claim Resurfaces in Pennsylvania Election.” FactCheck.org. Updated 5 Dec 2022.

Bernick, Evan. Assistant professor, Northern Illinois University College of Law. Email interview with FactCheck.org. 2 Jun 2023.

Stobbe, Mike. “New CDC director takes over beleaguered agency amid crisis.” Associated Press. 20 Jan 2021.

U.S. Department of the Treasury. Press release. “Janet L. Yellen Sworn In As 78th Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury.” 26 Jan 2021.

U.S. Department of Energy. Press release. “Jennifer M. Granholm Sworn in as 16th Secretary of Energy.” 25 Feb 2021.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Janet Woodcock M.D. 17 Feb 2022.

Health and Human Services Secretary Swearing-in Ceremony.” C-SPAN. 26 Mar 2021.

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg Swearing-in Ceremony.” C-SPAN. 3 Feb 2021.

Swearing-In Ceremony for Secretary of State Blinken.” C-SPAN. 27 Jan 2021.

Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas Swearing-in Ceremony.” C-SPAN. 2 Feb 2021.

Secretary of Education Cardona Ceremonial Swearing-In.” C-SPAN. 2 Mar 2021.

Commerce Secretary Ceremonial Swearing-In.” C-SPAN. 3 Mar 2021.

Attorney General Swearing-In Ceremony.” C-SPAN. 11 Mar 2021.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Press release. “HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra Welcomes Robert Califf Back to HHS as FDA Commissioner.” 17 Feb 2022.

The White House (@WhiteHouse). “Vice President Harris Ceremonially Swears In Marty Walsh as Secretary of Labor.” YouTube. 23 Mar 2021.

U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. Nomination of Julie Su to serve as Secretary of Labor. 20 Apr 2023.

U.S. Department of Defense. Swearing In — Lloyd J. Austin III as Secretary of Defense. 22 Jan 2021.

Kamala Harris Sworn In As Vice President.” C-SPAN. 20 Jan 2021.

Kermit Roosevelt. Professor for the administration of justice, Penn Carey Law, University of Pennsylvania. Email to FactCheck.org. 25 May 2023.

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Trump’s Dubious Promise to End Birthright Citizenship – FactCheck.org

Former President Donald Trump misleadingly said that “under Biden’s current policies” children born to parents in the country illegally automatically become citizens. That’s not a Biden policy, but rather it has been the standing interpretation of the 14th Amendment going back more than 100 years, including under Trump.

In a video posted to Truth Social, Trump revived an old promise, saying that on Day 1 of a new term as president, he would issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children born to parents in the country illegally. But as we wrote when Trump vowed to — but never did — issue such an executive order when he was president, most legal scholars believe such a change would require a constitutional amendment.

Trump said his order would also end the practice of so-called birth tourism, “where hundreds of thousands of people from all over the planet squat in hotels for their last few weeks of pregnancy to illegitimately and illegally obtain U.S. citizenship for the child.” Some experts say this happens far less frequently than Trump claimed.

Ending birthright citizenship has been on Trump’s radar for years. When he was running for president back in 2015, Trump told then Fox News host Bill O’Reilly the issue has been “fully vetted now” and all that would be needed to end birthright citizenship was “an act of Congress.” But as we wrote at the time, most constitutional and immigration scholars said such a change would require a constitutional amendment, which is a higher bar than simple legislation. But, we noted, there were a few who agreed with Trump.

Fast forward three years to 2018 and Trump, then serving as president, said in an interview with Axios that he was told by White House counsel that actually, birthright citizenship wouldn’t even need to be changed with legislation, that he could do it simply with an executive order. We wrote then that most constitutional scholars said he couldn’t do it via executive order, or if he did, it would likely be overturned by the courts.

Nonetheless, Trump said such an order was “in the process” and “it’ll happen.” But it didn’t.

A year later, in August 2019, Trump again told reporters he was “looking … very, very seriously” at issuing an executive order to end birthright citizenship. But again, he never actually did it.

In late November 2020, after Trump had lost the election, members of his administration said the president was considering finally issuing an executive action in the weeks before leaving office that would seek to end birthright citizenship. It didn’t happen.

In other words, when he had the opportunity as president, Trump spoke multiple times about issuing an executive order to end birthright citizenship, but he never pulled the trigger. Now, in a video posted to Truth Social, Trump said if reelected, he would make such an order a priority on his first day back in the Oval Office.

Trump, May 30: Under Biden’s current policies, even though these millions of illegal border crossers have entered the country unlawfully, all of their future children will become automatic U.S. citizens. Can you imagine? They’ll be eligible for welfare, taxpayer-funded health care, the right to vote, chain migration and countless other government benefits, many of which will also profit the illegal alien parents. This policy is a reward for breaking the laws of the United States and it is obviously a magnet helping draw the flood of illegals across our borders. … As has been laid out by many scholars, this current policy is based on an historical myth and a willful misinterpretation of the law by the open borders advocates. …

As part of my plan to secure the border on Day 1 of my new term in office, I will sign an executive order making clear to federal agencies that under the correct interpretation of the law, going forward the future children of illegal aliens will not receive automatic U.S. citizenship.

Trump packed a lot into his statement, so let’s take it in pieces.

Trump said that “under Biden’s current policies” children born to parents in the country illegally automatically become citizens. That’s not a Biden policy, but rather it has been the standing policy going back more than 100 years.

According to the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.”

The idea was to grant citizenship to recently freed slaves. But the 14th Amendment also forms the basis of the country’s longstanding policy of granting birthright citizenship to anyone born on American soil.

Trump went on to say that “millions and millions and millions” of people come into the U.S. illegally, adding, “They come from mental institutions, they come from jails, prisoners.” This echoes comments Trump has made repeatedly on the campaign trail — that South American countries are emptying their prisons and “mental institutions” and sending those people to the U.S. But as we have written, immigration experts say there’s simply no evidence of that, and Trump has offered no backup.

Trump then said the U.S. “is among the only countries in the world” that extend citizenship to babies born in their country when neither parent is a citizen. But as we have written, a 2010 analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that advocates lower immigration, found that 30 of the world’s 194 countries grant automatic birthright citizenship to the children of immigrants in the country illegally. The U.S. and Canada are the only ones among those 30 countries that have advanced economies as defined by the International Monetary Fund. Outside North America, most of the 30 counties that have birthright citizenship policies are in Central and South America. No country in Europe has such a policy. Although Trump has said Mexico doesn’t have a policy like the U.S., it is actually pretty similar.

In his campaign video, Trump argued that the standing interpretation of the 14th Amendment bestowing citizenship to children born in the country even though their parents are in the U.S. illegally is — according to “many scholars” — “based on an historical myth and a willful misinterpretation of the law by the open borders advocates.” Trump said his executive order will make “clear to federal agencies that under the correct interpretation of the law, going forward the future children of illegal aliens will not receive automatic U.S. citizenship.”

Although Trump said “there aren’t that many of them around” who interpret the 14th Amendment to confer birthright citizenship to a child whose parents are in the country illegally, that’s not accurate. As we have written, that’s actually the opinion of most constitutional scholars.

The birthright citizenship portion of the amendment was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1898 in the case United States v. Wong Kim Ark, which involved a man, Wong Kim Ark, who was born in San Francisco to parents who were citizens of China but legally living in the United States. (There was no such thing as illegal immigration at the time.) Some argue that while that settles the issue of whether the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to children born to parents in the country legally, it doesn’t necessarily settle the issue regarding children born in the U.S. to parents in the country illegally.

Another Supreme Court involvement on the issue is a footnote in a 1982 decision in the case Plyler v. Doe, which dealt with the issue of whether states must provide education to children not “legally admitted” into the United States. In that case, Justice William Brennan, writing the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision, stated that “no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment ‘jurisdiction’ can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful.”

In a 2015 op-ed in the New York Times, John Eastman, a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, argued that the longstanding policy of extending citizenship to babies born in the U.S. to parents in the country illegally was based on a misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment and its limitation to people born in the U.S. who are “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

In 2018, Eastman told us that phrase precludes granting birthright citizenship to the children of immigrants in the country illegally, and he encouraged Trump to clarify that through an executive order. (Two years later, after the 2020 election, Trump hired Eastman, who was described in the final report from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol as one of the principal planners of an effort to overturn the certified presidential election results.)

But as we have said, most constitutional scholars don’t agree that a president can change the longstanding birthright citizenship policy via executive order. As we wrote in 2015, most constitutional experts think such a change would require a constitutional amendment. To achieve that, the change would have to be proposed by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, and then it would need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

As we noted then, at least some constitutional scholars think a change could be achieved simply through federal legislation passed by Congress. Some legislators have tried unsuccessfully for years to pass a bill to end birthright citizenship for children of adults in the country illegally, and some of those bills implicitly assume the issue can be solved without a constitutional amendment.

Most recently, Republican Rep. Brian Babin introduced the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2021. The bill sought to redefine what it means to be “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States so that birthright citizenship would only apply to a child born to a parent who is “(1) a citizen or national of the United States; (2) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States whose residence is in the United States; or (3) an alien performing active service in the armed forces.” The bill, which had 31 Republican co-sponsors, never came up for a vote.

In 1995, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion that suggests Trump would be on dubious legal ground, as would even an attempt to change the policy through legislation.

According to then-Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger, “A bill that would deny citizenship to children born in the United States to certain classes of alien parents is unconstitutional on its face.”

“The phrase ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ was meant to reflect the existing common law exception for discrete sets of persons who were deemed subject to a foreign sovereign and immune from U.S. laws, principally children born in the United States of foreign diplomats, with the single additional exception of children of members of Indian tribes,” Dellinger wrote. “Apart from these extremely limited exceptions, there can be no question that children born in the United States of aliens are subject to the full jurisdiction of the United States.”

Ultimately, though, if Trump were to issue an executive order as president, it would likely be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether it passes constitutional muster.

Birth Tourism

In his campaign announcement, Trump also pledged that he would end the practice of so-called birth tourism via executive order.

Trump had similarly pledged to do this as president, but never did. Rather, his administration issued a rule in 2020 for the State Department, directing staff to deny nonimmigrant visas to women if there is a “reason to believe” they intend to travel to the U.S. for the primary purpose of obtaining citizenship for a child by giving birth in the U.S.

In his campaign announcement, Trump claimed “hundreds of thousands of people” have participated in birth tourism.

“My order will also end their unfair practice known as birth tourism, where hundreds of thousands of people from all over the planet squat in hotels for the last few weeks of pregnancy to illegitimately and illegally obtain U.S. citizenship for the child, often to later exploit chain migration to jump the line and get green cards for themselves and their family members,” Trump said in his campaign video. “It’s a practice that’s so horrible and so egregious, but we let it go forward. At least one parent will have to be a citizen or a legal resident in order to qualify.”

Trump’s campaign website provided a yearly figure, saying that “tens of thousands of foreign nationals fraudulently enter the U.S. each year during the final weeks of their pregnancies for the sole purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for their child.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to our inquiry seeking support for these figures, but it seems likely they come from the Center for Immigration Studies, which estimates there are 20,000 to 26,000 possible birth tourists a year.

If Trump were looking at a period of, say, 10 years, then his estimate of “hundreds of thousands” of birth tourists could be accurate, Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, told us in a phone interview. But Camarota acknowledged the CIS estimate was based on data that was not limited only to women coming to the U.S. “for the last few weeks of pregnancy,” as Trump said.

Jeremy Neufeld, a senior immigration fellow at the Institute for Progress, took issue with the methodology underpinning Camarota’s estimates in a March 2020 blog post.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services does not provide a definitive count on birth tourism. Short of that, Neufeld told us the best estimate of birth tourism numbers comes from data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reports that there were 5,636 children born to foreign nonresidents in 2021. That annual figure was likely lower due to the pandemic; the CDC data indicate there were 10,042 children born to foreign nonresidents in 2019.

Camarota believes those figures significantly underestimate birth tourism because, he said, most mothers will list an address in the U.S. — rather than their foreign address — and remain in the U.S. until they are able to obtain a Social Security card, birth certificate and passport for their child. And so, he said, they are not captured in the CDC data.

Neufeld believes the CDC numbers are still the best estimate for the magnitude of birth tourism.

“The CDC numbers aren’t perfect — no numbers are — but I’ve never seen any evidence they’re more likely to be too low than too high,” Neufeld said. “Yes, they may miss birth tourists who lie about their residence, but they also include people who never intended to give birth in the US or are in the process of getting residency. Which of these effects is bigger? Nobody really knows.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org does not accept advertising. We rely on grants and individual donations from people like you. Please consider a donation. Credit card donations may be made through our “Donate” page. If you prefer to give by check, send to: FactCheck.org, Annenberg Public Policy Center, 202 S. 36th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104. 

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Ventilators Save Lives, Did Not Cause ‘Nearly All’ COVID-19 Deaths – FactCheck.org

SciCheck Digest

Ventilators can be lifesaving for critically ill COVID-19 patients. A social media claim that a new study shows ventilators killed “nearly all” COVID-19 patients is “quite wrong,” according to the study’s co-author. Ventilator-associated complications can contribute to deaths, but patients are typically put on ventilators when they would otherwise die.

Full Story

COVID-19 can cause lung damage and respiratory failure. In patients who are unable to breathe well enough to supply oxygen to their bodies, mechanical ventilators can be lifesaving and give them time to recover. Ventilators help people breathe by pushing air into their lungs via a tube inserted down their windpipe.

Yet, social media posts have shared an article from the People’s Voice with a false headline: “Official Report: Ventilators Killed Nearly ALL COVID Patients.” The People’s Voice, formerly News Punch, frequently publishes articles with false and inflammatory headlines.

The posts misrepresent the conclusions of a study published in April in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The idea that ventilators — and not COVID-19 — killed nearly all COVID-19 patients is “quite wrong,” study co-author Dr. Benjamin Singer, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Northwestern Medicine, told us.

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, also misrepresented the conclusions of the study, tweeting, “How many COVID patients died due to the use of ventilators? A recent examination of the data suggests quite a few.”

The idea that ventilators are dangerous, and not COVID-19, is a misinterpretation of his data, Singer said. “It’s not the ventilator that was the cause of death,” he said. “The ventilator was very much life support for these patients. It was ultimately COVID-19” that caused the deaths.

Singer’s study looked at 585 people put on ventilators due to respiratory failure between 2018 and 2022 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. These people primarily had COVID-19 or some other infectious disease, such as another viral or bacterial illness.

Around half of these very sick patients who required mechanical ventilation — people who likely would have died without the intervention — went on to survive their illness. The survival rate was similar whether they had COVID-19 or another disease and was consistent with the survival rate for COVID-19 patients on ventilators found in another, larger study.

Singer’s study explored the degree to which a known ventilator-related complication called ventilator-associated pneumonia contributes to death, finding that the complication is more common in people with COVID-19 and, when unresolved, is linked to death. VAP is usually treated with antibiotics.

People with COVID-19 likely have an elevated risk of VAP because they stay on ventilators for longer-than-average periods. COVID-19 also affects the immune system and damages the surface of the lungs in unique ways, Singer said, which could potentially make the lungs more susceptible to secondary infections.

VAP contributes to death in some COVID-19 and other infectious disease patients, explained Dr. Mark Metersky, a pulmonary and critical care physician and professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

However, virtually all of these patients would have died if they had not been put on a ventilator, he said. “It’s not that the ventilator killed them, the ones who died. It’s that the ventilator failed to save them.”

A related claim in a popular post — that medical professionals put patients on ventilators due to financial incentives — is also unsupported by evidence, as we and other fact-checkers previously explained. It’s standard for hospitals to get more money for patients, such as those on ventilators, who require more care.

Study Explored Ventilator-Related Pneumonia

VAP typically occurs as a form of secondary pneumonia, which means it shows up in patients who already have another pneumonia diagnosis, such as pneumonia resulting from COVID-19, the flu or a bacterial infection.

People are diagnosed with pneumonia when their lungs become swollen with fluid from a respiratory infection. VAP typically arises from bacteria introduced to the lungs via the patient’s breathing tube.

Singer’s new paper finds that once very sick COVID-19 patients are on ventilators, they are at greater risk of VAP compared with other similarly ill pneumonia patients, he said.

Further, the paper found that “whether that ventilator-associated pneumonia was cured or not was a major determinant of whether patients went on to live or die in the ICU,” he said. However, just being diagnosed with VAP was not associated with a higher risk of death.

Based on these conclusions, the People’s Voice article makes a false claim, which was shared widely: “Nearly all COVID-19 patients who died in hospital during the early phase of the pandemic were killed as a direct result of being put on a ventilator, a disturbing new report has concluded.”

First, many hospitalized COVID-19 patients have died who never went on ventilators. And Singer’s study was not limited to “the early phase of the pandemic” but rather went through March 2022.

As we’ve said, this line of thinking is also misleading because it does not make it clear that the patients on ventilators would have typically died without them. It is also untrue that Singer’s study showed that ventilator-related complications killed “nearly all” ventilated patients who died.

The People’s Voice article explains its reasoning by saying that “most patients” put on ventilators because of COVID-19 developed VAP. “So while COVID-19 may have put these patients in the hospital, it was actually a secondary infection brought on by the use of a mechanical ventilator that caused their deaths,” the article says.

In reality, 57% of COVID-19 patients on ventilators in the study developed VAP and a quarter of other ventilated pneumonia patients did. Around half of all patients with VAP died, which was “not significantly different” from the death rate in patients on ventilators who didn’t have VAP, according to the study.

Singer and his colleagues did find that patients whose VAP was not successfully treated were more likely to die than patients whose VAP resolved, indicating a connection between VAP and poor outcomes. The study was not randomized, and the researchers write that they cannot definitively determine that unresolved VAP — and not some other factor associated with it — leads to poor outcomes.

Metersky was skeptical that VAP is that much of a contributor to mortality, pointing to other studies that show a lower rate of VAP in pneumonia patients than was found in Singer’s study.

“Yes, some patients who are put on a ventilator will develop a fatal complication,” Metersky said. “Probably 1 in 100” patients put on a ventilator develop fatal VAP, he said, based on data from before the pandemic. Since about twice as many COVID-19 patients develop VAP compared with other pneumonia patients on ventilators, he said that would indicate that around 2% of people with COVID-19 who go on a ventilator die of VAP.

“But there are other complications,” Metersky said. These can include damage to the lungs from high oxygen and the air pressure from the ventilator or side effects from drugs used to sedate people on ventilators, for instance. “That’s why we don’t put a patient on a ventilator unless they absolutely need it,” he said.

Regardless, “it’s ridiculous to go from that study to say that the ventilators are killing all these people,” Metersky said, referring to the claim that nearly all COVID-19 deaths were caused by ventilators.

Early Ventilation Did Not Cause Mass Deaths

Other false claims, reviewed previously by others, state that overuse of ventilators played a major role in the first wave of COVID-19 deaths.

There were some suggestions very early in the pandemic that doctors should put COVID-19 patients on ventilators earlier than other pneumonia patients, Singer and Metersky both said, out of concern that respiratory failure might progress very quickly.

This was soon followed by calls for caution in ventilating patients early, and these practices quickly stopped, Singer said. “The standard indications for initiation of mechanical ventilation are really the same as they always have been” for patients with pneumonia, he said, regardless of whether they have COVID-19.

Multiple facts about the early ventilation recommendations are unclear. First, there was no standard definition of what experts meant when recommending “early” ventilation. Decisions on when patients require mechanical ventilation are based on the best judgment of their doctors as they monitor multiple indicators. Doctors want to be sure the ventilator is truly necessary — that the patient is headed toward death from respiratory failure without it. But they also don’t want to wait until the patient has organ damage from lack of oxygen.

Second, it’s unclear how widespread early ventilation was. Singer mentioned that his own recent paper showed that Northwestern Medicine put patients with COVID-19 on ventilators after a similar amount of time in the ICU as other pneumonia patients. Others have pointed out that some doctors at the beginning of the pandemic took measures to avoid putting patients on ventilators due to shortages.

Finally, it’s uncertain what impact early ventilation had on patients. The available research, recently reviewed in a blog post by epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wollongong in Australia, indicates that early versus later ventilation did not appreciably affect COVID-19 deaths. For instance, a review study that pooled and analyzed data from multiple studies found that going on a ventilator within a day of entering the ICU versus later had no impact on mortality.

It is possible that people occasionally were put on ventilators who could have avoided them, but this is difficult to quantify.

“There were probably a small number of patients who got put on a ventilator who ultimately might not have needed it,” Metersky said. “As we learned more about the disease, we learned to recognize that some patients may not need the ventilator. But it wasn’t this big conspiracy that we put everyone on the ventilator even though they could have gone home instead.”

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s articles providing accurate health information and correcting health misinformation are made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.


Pulmonary Manifestations.” COVID-19 Real-Time Learning Network. Updated 22 Feb 2022.

Tobin, Martin and Manthous, Constantine. “Mechanical Ventilation.” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Published 15 Jul 2017. Updated April 2020.

Adl-Tabatabai, Sean. “Official Report: Ventilators Killed Nearly ALL COVID Patients.” The People’s Voice. 13 May 2023.

Jones, Brea. “Posts Fabricate Charge Against Bill Gates in Philippines.” FactCheck.org. 10 Mar 2023.

Spencer, Saranac Hale. “Hate Crimes Hotline Headline Is Wrong.” FactCheck.org. 30 Nov 2018.

Yandell, Kate. “Posts Share Fake Chelsea Clinton Quote About Global Childhood Vaccination Effort.” FactCheck.org. 10 May 2023.

Gao, Catherine A. et al. “Machine Learning Links Unresolving Secondary Pneumonia to Mortality in Patients with Severe Pneumonia, Including COVID-19.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 27 Apr 2023.

Massie, Thomas (@RepThomasMassie). “How many COVID patients died due to the use of ventilators? A recent examination of the data suggests quite a few. ‘The investigators found nearly half of patients with COVID-19 develop a secondary ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia.’” Twitter. 15 May 2023.

Nolan, Margaret B. et al. “Mortality Rates by Age Group and Intubation Status in Hospitalized Adult Patients From 21 United States Hospital Systems During Three Surges of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Chest. 29 Jan 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia.” CDC website. Updated 9 May 2019.

Adele – Conspiracy Queen 👑 (@truth.bomb.mom). “Such a bummer that this happened 😢.” Instagram. 21 May 2023.

Fichera, Angelo. “Hospital Payments and the COVID-19 Death Count.” FactCheck.org. 21 Apr 2020.

Kertscher, Tom. “Fact-Check: Hospitals and COVID-19 Payments.” PolitiFact. 21 Apr 2020.

Pneumonia – Causes and Risk Factors.” NIH website. Updated 24 March 2022.

Pneumonia – What Is Pneumonia?” NIH website. Updated 24 Mar 2022.

Kohbodi, GoleNaz A. et al. “Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia.” Updated 10 Sep 2022.

Metersky, Mark L. et al. “Trend in Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia Rates Between 2005 and 2013.” JAMA. 13 Dec 2016.

Melsen, Wilhelmina G., et al. “Attributable Mortality of Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia: A Meta-Analysis of Individual Patient Data from Randomised Prevention Studies.” Lancet Infectious Diseases. 25 Apr 2013.

Metersky, Mark L. et al. “Temporal Trends in Postoperative and Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia in the United States.” Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. 3 Nov 2022.

Meyerowitz-Katz, Gideon. “Did Ventilators Kill People During COVID-19?” Medium. 25 May 2023.

Howard, Jonathan. “Intubations and Accusations: Doctors Were ‘Just Going Crazy, and Intubating People Who Did Not Have to Be Intubated.’” Science-Based Medicine. 19 Sep 2021.

Tobin, Martin J. et al. “Caution about Early Intubation and Mechanical Ventilation in COVID-19.” Annals of Intensive Care. 9 Jun 2020.

Anesi, George L. “COVID-19: Respiratory care of the nonintubated hypoxemic adult (supplemental oxygen, noninvasive ventilation, and intubation).” UpToDate. Updated 22 May 2023.

Marino, Ryan (@RyanMarino). “And -anecdotally- I was treating COVID patients in 2020. It was bleak and terrifying. They were incredibly sick and we actually did not have enough ventilators as we needed for this disease. I still remember the panicky feeling of using every possible attempt to avoid intubation.” Twitter. 15 May 2023.

Mansfield, Erin. “As the Coronavirus Curve Flattened, Even Hard-Hit New York Had Enough Ventilators.” USA Today. 28 Apr 2020.

Papoutsi, Eleni et al. “Effect of Timing of Intubation on Clinical Outcomes of Critically Ill Patients with COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Non-Randomized Cohort Studies.” Critical Care. 25 Mar 2021.

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Post Misrepresents Legal Power of Arizona Resolution on Electronic Voting Machines – FactCheck.org

Quick Take

The Republican majority leader of the Arizona Senate informed county election officials that a Senate resolution essentially bars electronic voting systems in the state. The state’s Democratic secretary of state and attorney general say the resolution carries no legal weight. Nonetheless, based on the resolution, a Facebook post misleadingly claimed the state “has banned electronic voting machines.”

Full Story

False claims about election fraud in Arizona have been circulating since the 2020 election. Former President Donald Trump has made a series of false claims about fraudulent ballots and “massive … voting irregularities” in the state’s 2020 election, as we’ve written before. Those claims followed investigations and audits that confirmed Joe Biden won the state’s presidential election.

Disputes over the integrity of Arizona’s election process continue, despite a lack of evidence of widespread fraud. On May 22, a judge rejected Republican Kari Lake’s suit claiming misconduct in the 2022 gubernatorial election, which she lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs.

That same day, Arizona’s Republican Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli questioned the security of the state’s voting machines in a letter sent to all 15 county boards of supervisors. Borelli told the officials that a concurrent resolution passed by the legislature earlier this year essentially bans electronic voting machines. Borelli claimed the legislature has “plenary authority” to override federal law and the governor.

Conservative commentator Tim Pool picked up on Borelli’s claim in a video posted on Facebook, quoting from the letter and falsely claiming that Arizona “has banned electronic voting machines in the 2024 election.”

But a resolution is defined in the Arizona Legislative Manual as “a declaration or expression of legislative opinion, will, intent or ‘resolve’ in matters within the Legislature’s legal purview.” It is not a law and has no legal power.

Stefanie Lindquist, a professor of law and political science at Arizona State University, told us that the definition of resolution “doesn’t matter” to Borrelli, who is relying on the theory that the U.S. Constitution gives states absolute power over how elections are run.

That theory, which Borrelli referenced in his letter to election officials, is known as the independent legislature theory. It’s a reading of the Constitution advocated by some conservative lawyers that says state legislatures have the absolute power to regulate elections, with a legislature’s authority exceeding that of the governor, the courts and the electorate, Lindquist said in a phone interview with FactCheck.org.

“What [Borrelli] is arguing is that by passing the concurrent resolution, the legislature has spoken, and under this particular theory, that’s all that’s needed,” Lindquist said.

The theory hinges on the Constitution’s elections clause, which says the “times, places, and manner” of holding elections for senators and representatives “shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” Borrelli’s letter said the clause “specifically conveys electronic voting systems (manner) are not mandated in statute to be used as a primary method for counting, tabulating, or verification.”

“The letter is relying on a theory that has never been tested, and many constitutional scholars are skeptical of its validity,” Lindquist said.

State officials have dismissed Borrelli’s letter.

In a statement issued on May 22, Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, said the resolution “does not have the force of law.”

Fontes, May 22: Senate Concurrent Resolution 1037, which expresses a desire to restrict the use of certain electronic voting machines, is non-binding and does not have the force of law. Election equipment must be certified by the federal and state government by specific requirements outlined in federal and state law. That certification process is being followed in Arizona and all applicable election equipment being used in Arizona is certified. If those requirements or certification process were to be changed, it would require a regular bill to be passed by the legislature and signed by the governor — which is not the case for this non-binding resolution. We defer to the Attorney General’s office on all other legal questions.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, also a Democrat, agreed with that view. The resolution “is non-binding and has no legal impact,” a Mayes spokesman told the Arizona Mirror.

Arizona House and Senate Republicans passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1037 in March, with voting along party lines. The resolution states that no electronic voting system can be used unless it meets certain criteria, including that it is made in the U.S. and has a publicly available source code.

The resolution contains language similar to Senate Bill 1074, which the state House and Senate passed and Hobbs vetoed on April 6.

“The election equipment required by this bill, as well as the problem it purports to solve, does not exist,” the governor said at the time.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.


Arizona Legislative Manual. 2003.

Arizona Senate. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1037. Accessed 31 May 2023.

Lindquist, Stefanie. Foundation professor of law and political science, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 30 May 2023.

Farley, Robert, Lori Robertson, Eugene Kiely and D’Angelo Gore. “Debunking Trump’s Latest Arizona Election Claims.” FactCheck.org. 20 Jul 2021

Lah, Kyung Eric Bradner. “Arizona Judge Rejects Kari Lake’s Final 2022 Election Lawsuit.” CNN. 23 May 2023.

Barchenger, Stacey. “At News Conference, Kari Lake Makes False Claims About Arizona Election Trial, Vows to Appeal Ruling.” Arizona Republic. 23 May 2023.

Arizona Secretary of State. Press release. “Statement from Secretary Fontes on Senate Concurrent Resolution 1037.” 22 May 2023.

MacDonald-Evoy, Jerod. “Citing ‘Plenary Powers,’ GOP Leader Claims a Non-binding Resolution Bans Arizona Election Machines.” Arizona Mirror. 22 May 2023.

Fifield, Jen. “Arizona Isn’t Banning Machines to Count Ballots. Why a Top Senator’s Declaration Means Nothing.” Votebeat. 23 May 2023.

Sievers, Caitlin. “Hobbs Vetoes Election, Abortion Bills.” Arizona Mirror. 6 April 2023.

LegiScan. Roll Call: AZ SCR1037. Accessed 1 Jun 2023.

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Database Errors Fuel False Claims about HIV Cases in Military – FactCheck.org

SciCheck Digest

The rate of new HIV infections in the military has been relatively unchanged since 2017. But social media posts falsely claim that the military has recorded a “500% increase in HIV since the COVID vaccine rollout.” A Defense Department spokesperson said errors in a military database sparked the inaccurate claim.

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COVID-19 vaccines were introduced to the general public in December 2020. About 81% of the U.S. population have received at least one dose of a vaccine as of May 10, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In August 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III mandated that members of the armed forces receive the vaccine. By December 2021, 96% of active-duty military members were fully vaccinated. An individual must follow mandates and pass the fitness standard in order to stay in or be allowed to join the armed forces. The vaccine mandate for members of the military was rescinded on Jan. 10.

In recent weeks, posts on social media have wrongly claimed that the military recorded a 500% increase in new HIV infections since the COVID-19 vaccines were introduced.

Master Chief Petty Officer Russell Smith receives the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sarah Villegas.

“DOD database reports 500% increase in HIV since the COVID vaccine rollout,” reads part of an Instagram post.

But there is “no association between COVID-19 vaccines and risk for HIV infection,” according to the CDC.

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the body’s immune system, and if left untreated can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

The false claim on social media was based on incorrect data in a military medical system.

A spokesperson for the Defense Department told us in an email, “This is a false claim stemming from a rumor about the Defense Medical Epidemiology Database,” a tool used to access data on active service members within the Defense Medical Surveillance System, or DMSS.

“The Defense Health Agency’s Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division (AFSHD) conducted a complete review of the data contained in the Defense Medical Epidemiology Database (DMED) and found that the data was incorrect for the years 2016-2020,” the spokesperson said. (Emphasis is the Defense Department’s.)

“Comparing the DMED database to the source data contained in DMSS, AFHSD discovered that the total number of medical diagnoses from 2016-2020 that were accessible in DMED represented only a small fraction of actual medical diagnoses for those years. In contrast, the 2021 total number of medical diagnoses were up to date in DMED. Comparison of 2021 to 2016-2020 resulted in the appearance of significant increased occurrence of all medical diagnoses in 2021 because of the under reported data for 2016-2020.”

“AFHSD has corrected the root-cause of the data corruption and it has been restored to full functionality,” the spokesperson said.

HIV is one of 434 medical conditions that can cause an individual to be disqualified from joining the military. “While DOD policy prohibits the accession of any applicant who tests positive for HIV, current service members who become infected may continue to serve,” according to a March report by the Congressional Research Service.

From January 2017 to June 2022, 1,581 service members were diagnosed with HIV, according to “HIV/AIDS in the Military,” a report published in March by the Congressional Research Service.

“As of 2022, 981 (62%) remain in military service,” the Defense Department spokesperson said.

The amount of new HIV cases has fluctuated in recent years. There were 280 in 2018, 314 in 2019, 237 in 2020, 309 in 2021, and 124 in 2022, according to data provided by the spokesperson.

The largest annual increase was 30.4% in 2021 and the largest decrease was 60% in 2022 – nothing as large as the 500% increase cited in the social media posts.

The CRS report also notes, “The rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections (also called the seroprevalence rate) among service members tested in 2021 was 23 per 100,000.” That was the same rate as in 2017 — before COVID-19 vaccines were introduced.

This isn’t the first time that the military database has been the source of false social media claims.

Reuters Fact Check last year debunked social media posts that listed HIV and numerous other “medical conditions that purportedly ‘skyrocketed’ among U.S. military personnel in 2021.” But those increases were all due to the same error in the Defense Medical Epidemiology Database for the years 2016 through 2020.

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s articles providing accurate health information and correcting health misinformation are made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.


Almost All Active Duty Service Members Receive Vaccines.” Department of Defense. 16 Dec 2021.

COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 11 May 2023.

DOD Rescinds COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate.” Department of Defense. 10 Jan 2023.

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Fact Check-DoD says data error caused spike in numbers of medical diagnoses in their medical database for 2021.” Reuters. 23 Feb 2023.

HIV/AIDS in the Military.” Congressional Research Service. 31 May 2019.

HIV/AIDS in the Military.” Congressional Research Service. 21 March 2023.

 McDonald, Jessica. “Q&A on COVID-19 Vaccines.” FactCheck.org. Updated 26 Sept 2022.

Spokesperson, Department of Defense. Email to Factcheck.org. 31 May 2023.

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#Database #Errors #Fuel #False #Claims #HIV #Cases #Military #FactCheckorg

Photo from 2021 farmers’ stir falsely viral as Sakshi Malik pinned to the ground – Alt News

Indian wrestlers including some Olympic medalists have been protesting since April 23, 2023, in Delhi demanding the arrest of BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in multiple cases of alleged sexual harassment including one under the POCSO Act.

On May 28, 2023, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Parliament building in Delhi, the protesting wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, were about to hold a Mahila Maha Panchayat. As they tried to march towards the new Parliament building from their site of protest at Jantar Mantar, they were stopped by the police and detained at various police stations across Delhi.

An image, apparently of Sakshi Malik, clicked during the protest, showing her to be pinned to the ground with the boot of a police official on her face, is circulating on social media. The image was shared by AAP MLA from Sultanpur Mukesh Ahlawat, who compared India with the Taliban and questioned the state of affairs in the country. (Archive)

Another verified user named Kirti Pathak AAP (@kirtispathak), who is described as the state vice-president of AAP in Rajasthan in her Twitter bio, shared the same image asking if it was of Sakshi Malik.

Ziya Us Salam (@ziyaussalam), whose Twitter bio describes him as a ‘journalist-author’ shared the same image with the caption: “If this image of a woman wrestler who has won medals for India does not stir you, nothing will of this fascist regime.” He later deleted the tweet.

Fact Check

First, we noticed that wrestler Sakshi Malik was wearing a light blue t-shirt during the protest and the subsequent scuffle on May 28. This can be seen in a video that she posted on Twitter. (Archive)

We did a reverse image search of the viral image and found an article in The Asian Age dated January 30, 2021, where the same picture was used in a report on the farmers’ protest. The image is captioned ‘Police pin down a farmer, who allegedly attacked Police SHO (Alipur) Pradeep Paliwal, during clashes between people claiming to be local villagers and farmers at the Singhu border in New Delhi on Friday. (Photo: PTI)’.

A Newslaundry article dated January 29, 2021, too, used the same picture and identified the person seen in the image as a 22-year-old Ranjit Singh, farmer from Kajampur village of Nawanshahr district in Punjab.

A further keyword search led us to an article in The Times of India dated February 1, 2021, which also used the same photograph and wrote how Ranjit Singh was accused by the Delhi Police of attacking a station house officer (SHO) with his sword and injuring him. He was arrested by Delhi Police under various sections, including attempt to murder. According to his brother Jaspreet Singh, Ranjit had gone with members of Kirti Kisan Union to the Singhu border protest.

When we looked for further information, we found an IANS article published by News18 dated January 30, 2021, which contained a zoomed out photograph of the same moment. It was attributed to PTI. The image is captioned: “New Delhi: Police pin down a farmer, who allegedly attacked Police SHO (Alipur) Pradeep Paliwal, during clashes between people claiming to be local villagers and farmers at the Singhu Border in New Delhi, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (PTI Photo)”.

Times Now published an article on January 30, 2021, where we found the following photograph captioned ‘Singhu border violence | Photo Credit: ANI’ The article also said: “The man who attacked SHO (Alipur) Pradeep Paliwal has been identified as Ranjeet Singh, 22, a resident of Punjab’s Kazampur village.”

The Newslaundry report also explained the tussle between the protesting farmer Ranjit Singh and the police personnel. It stated: “All of this was shot on camera by journalists and bystanders. It is in one such video that Ranjit was present. Before he entered the frame, members of the mob could be seen pelting stones and shouting at farmers across the barricades. A policeman in riot gear walked among them but not really stopping them. At one point, one of them attempted to yank his lathi but he gently pulled it back. This individual then managed to yank another lathi from a farmer and started to aim it at a farmer across the barricade. It was at this point, Ranjit, with a sword tucked in his belt, emerged from the barricaded area. He did not attack or point his sword at anyone. He then walked back into the barricaded area. In response, Delhi police personnel pushed Ranjit and he responded by pushing them back. In a flash, multiple policemen started raining blows on him with lathis. Ranjit pulled out his sword and raised it but was overpowered by the police who pinned him down and beat him.”

We also came across an interview of Ranjit Singh taken by BBC News Punjabi published on March 18, 2021, after his release on March 17. This video contains footage from the incident. These can be seen at the 0:19-minute, 0:32-minute and 1:01-minute mark.

To sum up, we can conclude that the person pinned to the ground under a boot in the viral image is not Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik, but Ranjit Singh, a farmer from Punjab. The photo was shot by the PTI on January 29, 2021 near Singhu border.

Shreyatama Datta is an intern at Alt News.

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