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Fact checks were prevalent during and after the Biden-Trump debate – but not for real-time viewers

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NEW YORK (AP) — There were some exhaustive, independent fact checks of claims made during the CNN debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Trouble was, none of them were available to the millions of people watching the two presidents in real time.

That was the result of CNN’s decision ahead of Thursday’s debate that moderators Dana Bash and Jake Tapper would be questioners, not arbiters. Supporters of President Biden were frustrated, since Trump was later flagged for more misleading statements than his rival, and it served to put greater emphasis on the Democrat’s tepid performance.

At the same time, it emphasized a puzzle the media has yet to solve after nine years of Trump operating in the public arena as it relates to the presidency.

“I think that there is a very real question about whether it is possible to fact-check Donald Trump live on television,” said Jane Hall, author of “Politics and the Media: Intersections and New Directions” and an American University journalism professor. “He has confounded many different formats.”

False claims abounded

An estimated 51.3 million people watched the unusual June debate, according to a preliminary estimate by the Nielsen company. The first time these candidates met onstage in 2020, there were 73 million viewers.

Bash and Tapper held firm to their intentions, which CNN stressed was its own call and not part of the debate rules negotiated with the campaign. The journalists avoided follow-ups, though they had to restate questions a number of times when candidates ignored them.

CNN’s Daniel Dale offered a report in which he said Trump had made at least 30 false claims, and Biden at least nine. But it wasn’t shown on the air until more than an hour after the debate ended — just shy of midnight on the East Coast.

“I wish the CNN moderators did more fact-checking, letting the audience know when things are said that are flatly false,” columnist Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times wrote on X. “Not sure how it helps for a platform to transmit falsehoods disguised as facts.”

Bill Adair, a professor of journalism and public policy at Duke University who founded Politifact, said it’s extraordinarily difficult to balance on-air corrections with the need to keep a conversation moving.

That said, “for them to be completely silent, I think, was going too far,” said Adair, who is no longer affiliated with Politifact. When Trump falsely claimed during an abortion discussion that Democrats supported killing live babies, one of the moderators should have stepped in, he said.

CNN expressed no regrets and was pleased with Bash and Tapper’s performances. “Like a big game, when no one is talking about the referees the day after, we did our jobs,” one executive said privately.

What of the production itself?

The debate ran smoothly as a television production, particularly in comparison to the first 2020 debate that moderator Chris Wallace recalled Thursday as a “disaster,” and a poorly conceived Trump town hall in 2023 that was a factor in then-CNN chief Chris Licht’s ouster.

It’s not that Biden did not dispute Trump’s statements; he did at least 10 times, according to the debate transcript.

“You’re lying,” Biden told Trump during an abortion discussion. “Every single thing he said is a lie, every single one,” he said about veterans. “What he’s telling you is simply not true,” he said about the Capitol insurrection. “He has no idea what the hell he’s talking about,” he said when the topic was NATO. “It is simply a lie,” he said about Trump on Ukraine.

And there was the familiar Biden phrase: “I’ve never heard so much malarkey in my life.”

Yet the claims often lacked specificity, and a feeling of missed opportunity lingered. Biden “let every fastball hanging over the plate get by,” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said on Friday.

Politifact pointed out 15 false statements made by Trump and another one — that Biden had allowed millions of people illegally into the country from jails and mental institutions — that it classified as a “pants on fire” lie. It cited three false statements by Biden.

The New York Times chronicled 20 false statements by Trump, with another 21 it said were either misleading, lacked context or lacked evidence. Its fact check pointed out no false statements by Biden, with 11 meeting the other characterizations. The Associated Press corrected 11 statements by Trump, four by Biden.

The Washington Post wrote that Trump “confidently relied on false assertions that have been debunked repeatedly” while Biden “stretched the truth occasionally.”

Some journalists, like Dale, fact-checked online during the debate, yet that required viewers to specifically pay attention to a second screen. Adair noted that at Duke, educators have experimented with ways to fact-check on television screens in real-time, yet automated efforts have largely failed and those led by humans require great speed.

Duke conducted one experiment with on-screen fact checks at a North Carolina television station in 2020, he said.

As yet, he said, he has seen little interest among television networks in doing anything similar this election cycle.

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David Bauder writes about media for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://twitter.com/dbauder.

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Feds were warned about setting ‘significant precedent’ with Ukraine visa program

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OTTAWA – Federal immigration officials warned the government it risked undermining the temporary immigration system with the design of the emergency visa program for war-displaced Ukrainians, newly released court documents show.

Immigration Department staff raised the concern in a memo to Sean Fraser, immigration minister at the time, shortly after the program was announced.

The memos outline the design of the Ukraine visa program, which allowed an unlimited number of Ukrainians and their family members to come to Canada to wait out the war.

The policy also waived the requirement for fleeing Ukrainians to promise to leave when their visa expires, against the advice of department staff.

“Waiving the need for a client to establish temporary intent would set a significant precedent that is not recommended, given that it would undermine a foundational component of the (temporary resident) legal framework,” staff said in the memo to Fraser, which was signed March 14, 2022.

Staff cautioned that waiving the requirement — the foundation of the temporary resident program — would set an “expectation that it could be done for other populations, not only those affected by conflict.”

The documents were disclosed as part of a proposed lawsuit against the federal government by three Afghan Canadians, who allege Canada discriminated against Afghan refugees by treating them differently than it did Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

The lawsuit hasn’t yet been certified by the court.

“The government knew that what they were doing was unfair,” said Nicholas Pope, one of the lawyers representing the Afghan Canadians.

The lawsuit was filed by Canadians who served as language and culture advisers to the Canadian government and NATO during the war in Afghanistan, but haven’t been allowed to bring family members in Afghanistan to safety.

Canada has approved some 962,600 emergency visas for Ukrainians since the 2022 Russian invasion, which allow people fleeing the conflict to work and study while the war rages.

The program was generally well received in Canada, where people opened their homes to Ukrainians and donated clothes, furniture and other essentials to help them settle during their stay.

Roughly 298,000 actually made the trip to Canada, though it’s unclear how many have stayed, and how many have since applied for permanent residency.

The government has argued the emergency program for Ukrainians can’t be compared to the program for Afghan refugees, because people from Afghanistan are unlikely to be able to return home.

In the memo, though, staff say the key distinction between temporary programs and permanent ones is the requirement that visa holders declare their intention to leave.

The department officials described the Ukraine emergency visa program as “exceptional in nature.”

“It underscores Canada’s unique relationship with Ukraine, the extensive diaspora and family links, as well as the unique nature of the conflict as a significant land invasion adjacent to EU countries with generous immigration measures,” the memo reads.

“However, it risks setting a significant precedent, one which may result in future pressures on the government to take similar action for other emergencies.”

Two full pages of legal considerations outlined by the department were blacked out in the documents provided to the court.

Fraser ultimately agreed with the department’s recommendation not to publish the policy publicly, given the “unprecedented and exceptional nature” of the approach.

The offices of Fraser, now housing minister, and the current immigration minister, Marc Miller, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The government has emphasized that the Ukrainian program is intended to be temporary, and has encouraged those without family ties to Canada to apply for permanent residency through traditional means if they hope to stay.

Since Fraser announced the visa program, the government has faced accusations of unfairly limiting temporary refuge to people attempting to flee conflicts in Sudan and the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In February the Canadian Council for Refugees pointed out the disparity between the program for Ukrainians and the temporary refuge programs for Sudanese people.

“The crisis in Sudan … is of catastrophic proportions,” the group wrote to Miller earlier this year.

“Given the scale of the crisis, the limit of 3,250 applications in the family-based humanitarian pathway is inadequate to the need. In contrast, Canada admitted an unlimited number of Ukrainians on temporary visas, and the pathway to permanent residence for Ukrainians is similarly without a cap.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.



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Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigating after parasite found in P.E.I. oysters

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SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – A “worrisome” parasite has been confirmed in at least one area on Prince Edward Island, and samples from several oyster farms have been sent for testing, says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Danielle Williams, disease technical specialist at the federal agency, said the parasite called multinucleate sphere X — or MSX — has been confirmed in Bedeque Bay on the province’s south shore.

“We haven’t determined the amount of spread yet, but it is worrisome. It is very worrisome,” she said in an interview Monday.

Several other sites are considered “under suspicion” of having the parasite and have been placed under quarantine as investigation continues to confirm whether it is present, including a location on Malpeque Bay on the province’s north shore, she added.

“We have found another location in Malpeque area and so we have a few places under quarantine right now,” she said. “What we did was that if a place was under suspicion, we placed it under quarantine until the testing results were finished.”

She said the parasite likes to stay in “little pockets of areas,” and if scientists are able to quickly identify and stop it from moving further, they can limit damage to the industry.

The parasite affects the growth of oysters and increases mortality, but there is no human health risk. Typically, cultivated oysters take about three years to reach market size, and the inspection agency said mortality rates from the disease can reach 90 to 95 per cent in older oysters.

The agency said MSX has previously been found in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, but this is the first time it has been detected in Prince Edward Island waters. Testing confirmed the presence of the parasite earlier this month after P.E.I. reported a “significant” oyster mortality in Bedeque Bay this spring.

Cory Deagle, fisheries minister for Prince Edward Island, called the presence of MSX in oysters in Bedeque Bay “devastating news.”

“It isn’t just about the impact on our oyster industry, it is about the livelihood of Islanders, their families and our communities,” he said in a statement last week.

“This is the first time we have had to deal with MSX in our province, and while MSX has been heavily researched over the years, scientists, researchers, and fishers around the globe still do not understand how the disease spreads. It will take time before we know the full extent of the impact on our industry.”

A provincial government study said that in 2019 Prince Edward Island accounted for 32 per cent of the national economic value of oysters — about $54 million.

Peter Warris, executive director of the P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance, said oyster growers are “very concerned” about the presence of MSX, something they have been dreading for years. “So it’s bad news that it’s finally arrived,” he said.

Harvesters have not yet seen significant mortalities, he said, noting that the situation is evolving. “I think everyone’s taking a bit of a pause in terms of their activities … waiting to see the results from the testing, to see where it has spread to,” he said.

A publication from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture said MSX caused massive oyster mortalities in Delaware Bay in 1957 and two years later in Chesapeake Bay. While the parasite has been found in the United States from Florida to Maine, not all areas have been associated with oyster deaths, it said.

Warris said it is possible to have a thriving oyster industry in spite of MSX. “The industry will adapt to the new circumstances,” he said.

Rod Beresford, an associate professor at Cape Breton University’s biology department, said one of the challenges with the parasite is that in spite of it being around since the 1950s, there is not much known about its life cycle.

Scientists have tried to determine if the parasite uses a separate animal from the oyster to complete its life cycle. What they do know is that the infection is first seen in the oyster’s gills — which is where oysters get their food — and replicates, eventually leading to the death of the host.

“For something that’s been around for 60 years and caused this much economic and ecological damage, it’s really, really surprising that we’ve not figured out its life cycle,” Beresford said. “It’s really a mystery.”

In many diseases, proximity to an infected animal increases the likelihood of infection, but that is not always the case for MSX, said Beresford, who has been studying the parasite.

It is also not known exactly what temperatures, salinity or conditions result in this parasite eventually causing infection and disease. In the past, he said, researchers have put infected and non-infected oysters together in tanks and there was no spread. As well, oysters free from MSX were injected with tissue from a diseased animal but did not get infected, he added.

“We’re missing a piece of the life cycle here,” he said. “We know so little about this organism, it’s shocking. … We’re really stymied by this. It’s a real challenge.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.



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One of Canada’s new navy ships stopped in Hawaii after taking on water

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OTTAWA – One of the country’s newest navy ships is tied up in a U.S. port after it took on 20,000 litres of water because of a leak.

HMCS Max Bernays is one of Canada’s new Arctic and offshore patrol ships, built in Halifax by Irving Shipyards.

It was taking part in an international exercise called the Rim of the Pacific Exercise when the incident happened July 12.

A Defence Department spokesperson said a valve and pump in one of the ship’s seawater cooling systems was leaking for about half an hour.

It’s not clear how long the repairs will take, and the navy is still trying to determine if the other seawater cooling system is affected.

The ship, delivered to the navy in late 2022, is one of three vessels sent to support Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy this spring.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

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