Archive: Facts

The Facts: Origins of U.S. Oil Imports

U.S. imports fluctuate month to month, but Canada is consistently one of our biggest sources of crude oil, along with Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Canada is also the single largest supplier of petroleum to the United States -- and the United States is by far Canada's best customer. On the other hand, Persian Gulf countries account for a considerably smaller percentage of U.S. gross oil imports. Of the Middle Eastern oil exported to the States, a significant majority comes from Saudi Arabia. Rounding out the top six suppliers of crude and petroleum to the United States are Venezuela, Nigeria and Angola. The top 15 can be found here. The 11-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries accounts for a little under half of U.S.-imported crude oil, about 40 percent of world oil production and an estimated two-thirds of proven oil reserves. Of OPEC members, only two are outside the Middle East...

By Emily Messner | April 25, 2006; 09:43 PM ET | Comments (28)

The Facts: Oil Company Profits

Major oil companies import crude and petroleum from a variety of sources, including some countries many Americans might prefer not to support. Trouble is, it's next to impossible to determine exactly which country provided the oil that produced the gasoline you're putting into to your car. You can guess -- for example, if you're filling up at a Citgo station, the odds are the gasoline has its origins in Venezuela or elsewhere in the Americas -- but can you be sure? No. We'll look at more of the raw data on where our oil comes from in the next post, but first, let's take a quick look at what we do know about the oil companies that serve as the middlemen between foreign oil producers and American consumers: ConocoPhillips and Amerada Hess Corp. will discuss their first-quarter earnings tomorrow morning. We'll see earnings reports from Exxon Mobil and Marathon Oil...

By Emily Messner | April 25, 2006; 11:08 AM ET | Comments (32)

The Facts: Nuclear Energy

Ordinarily, a facts post would be up by the second day of the debate at the latest. But in the case of nuclear power, I've found it quite difficult to find unbiased, non-governmental sources. This facts post has taken a bit longer because I was attempting to clarify the agenda of each source. In the interests of time and clarity, I've decided that when the producer of the material has a pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear bias that could slant some of the facts, that information will be identified as such and included in other posts wherever it fits. Governmental sources might not be perfect in this area either, but since they're the ones making the policy, understanding the information they're working with -- nationally and internationally -- is key to the debate. For research sources into this topic, read on....

By Emily Messner | April 19, 2006; 10:01 AM ET | Comments (45)

The Facts: Punishing Terrorists

It's not terribly easy to find straight facts on the punishment of terrorists -- most essays on the subject have distinct points of view. Here's a bit of background material to provide context for the debate: Start with this quick Q&A from the Council on Foreign Relations on prosecuting terrorists in post-9/11 America. Next, skim this pre-9/11 overview of domestic terrorism and the legislative responses to it. This document details U.S. law relating to the death penalty, with specific references to how terrorism is treated as a capital offense. Also influencing our laws on dealing with terrorists are the major conventions on terrorism and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. In the case Hamdi v Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court found that a detainee who is a U.S. citizen held on U.S. soil as an enemy combatant "should have a meaningful opportunity to offer evidence that he is not an enemy...

By Emily Messner | April 10, 2006; 07:37 PM ET | Comments (13)

The Facts: Gasoline Prices

This is just a small sampling of the wealth of information out there on the price of gasoline. Plenty more facts will come up with each subsequent post. Start with a primer on how gas prices work. The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration outlines which costs -- crude, taxes, marketing, etc. -- make up what percentages of the price at the pump. (The EIA, a division of the Department of Energy, provides a wealth of government statistics and relevant links.) Also worth a read is this FAQ, or this one. Fact sheets on using various alternative fuels for transportation, from the hydrogen fuel cell to compressed natural gas, come courtesy of the California Energy Commission. The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium, affiliated with West Virginia University, also provides fact sheets on alternative energy sources. Wondering what exactly "clean-burning fuel" and "clean-fuel" vehicles are? Here are the legal definitions. CNN provides...

By Emily Messner | April 3, 2006; 10:18 PM ET | Comments (1)

The Facts: Immigration Info and Stats

The Migration Information Source serves as a good starting point for immigration research, providing statistics in abundance on everything from historical trends to stats on asylum seekers to detailed data on the foreign-born population in the United States. MIS is a project of the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-ideological think tank devoted to studying migration trends around the world. From there, you'll find links to all sorts of interesting items, like this report on the erroneous predictions that NAFTA would reduce illegal immigration. MIS has done quite a bit of research into Mexico-U.S. migration, which tends to be one of the biggest issues in immigration debates in the United States these days. One of the links leads to a paper stressing the importance of bilateral immigration reform (as opposed to the United States trying to stem the flow of illegal immigrants all by itself.) It's also worth visiting the...

By Emily Messner | March 21, 2006; 04:43 PM ET | Comments (47)

The Facts: Congress on Immigration

Immigration bills have been something of a hot item in the Senate lately: * S.2394 on border security * S.2326 on immigration reform, mostly regarding employment * S.2365 on sharing immigration information * S.2377 and S.2368, calling for "the construction along the southern international land border between the United States and Mexico, starting at the Pacific Ocean and extending eastward to the Gulf of Mexico, of at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing," among other border security and enforcement measures All but one of these bills (S.2368) was referred to the Judiciary Committee. The Senate also sent to that committee the House-approved bill (H.R.4437) aimed at toughening immigration laws and strengthening border security. Fortunately, the Senate Judiciary Committee makes it easy to figure out what measures they're considering. The committee is working off a document called the Chairman's Mark. Click here to download the PDF of the Chairman's Mark (497K),...

By Emily Messner | March 21, 2006; 10:48 AM ET | Comments (88)

The Facts: Performance - Enhancing Drugs

I admit, before researching this topic, I figured "performance-enhancing drugs" was just a pretty name for steroids. In fact, steroids are only one form of PEDs* -- others, depending on the sport, can include valium, creatine, and various hormones and stimulants. ESPN provides a detailed look at several different categories of drugs that could be used by athletes in its eight-part series "Drugs and Sports." There's a not-too-technical overview of how PEDs work at HowStuffWorks, and for solid information on the unsavory side effects of PEDs, check out this fact sheet from the Mayo Clinic. Of course, many PEDs are perfectly legal, which is why organizations like the World Anti-Doping Agency define quite precisely what substances are prohibited and, for those not entirely off limits, what amounts are permissible. See WADA's 2006 list of prohibited substances for the specifics. Valium, for instance, could reasonably be prescribed to help a nervous...

By Emily Messner | March 14, 2006; 10:06 AM ET | Comments (22)

The Costs of War

In the comments of the last post, Debater Larry posted this link to a running counter of Iraq war spending. At the moment, it displays a number that is more than $246 billion and rising rapidly. The site also provides links that put the amount into perspective using comparisons; for example, that amount of money could provide every child in the world basic immunizations for 82 years. (An explanation of how they calculated the comparisons can be found here.) Another Debater followed Larry's link and responded, "Wow! Is this true??" One of the missions of this blog is to provide links to the hard facts behind the claims, always in the interest of fostering informed debate. So, here goes: Based on Congressional appropriations figures, the counter appears to be pretty accurate. As of June 2005, DOD had racked up about $160 billion in obligations for the Iraq war (see page...

By Emily Messner | March 9, 2006; 10:44 AM ET | Comments (114)

Finding Facts Amid the Ports Controversy

With something like 90 percent of the world's goods transported by sea, the shipping business wields immense power. It can bring longstanding foes together -- as in this joint venture between China's Communist Party-controlled COSCO and Taiwan's Evergreen Marine. Conversely, conflicts over shipping could potentially tear newfound friendships apart. The divide between the United States and the emirate of Dubai grows wider by the day; perhaps a bit of truthsquad-ing might help reduce the rift. Former Congresswoman Helen Bentley of Baltimore, who was a champion of port security before it was cool, tried to set the record straight on the Dubai deal in a letter to the Baltimore Sun. She pointed out that the Maryland Ports Administration will continue to "run" the port of Baltimore. If the controversial Dubai Ports World deal goes forward, the firm will only operate one of Baltimore's port terminals, and part of another, while bidding...

By Emily Messner | March 2, 2006; 09:50 AM ET | Comments (155)

Is Foreign Government Ownership Necessarily Bad?

"The ferocity of United States legislators' opposition to a United Arab Emirates company gaining control of a number of key American ports is getting out of control," editorializes Singapore's Straits Times. The editorial asks what might have happened had Singapore's PSA, Dubai Ports World's major competitor for British port operator P&O, won the bidding war. PSA is the world's third-largest port operator, a division of Temasek Holdings. "Temasek is a state agency," the Straits Times notes. "Singapore yields to no one in the fight against terror. Would being located in a region where terror is active be a certifiable handicap or an endorsement for preparedness?" An excellent question. Going by the logic of many DPW opponents, it was fine for P&O to operate terminals in U.S. ports because it's British, and there aren't as many terrorists in Britain, so it's not a threat to national security. (We've already mentioned the...

By Emily Messner | March 1, 2006; 05:55 AM ET | Comments (131)

Ports Deal Pros and Cons

So far, the strongest argument I've seen against the ports deal comes from Charles Krauthammer: ....as soon as the Dubai company takes over operations, it will necessarily become privy to information about security provisions at crucial U.S. ports. That would mean a transfer of information about our security operations -- and perhaps even worse, about the holes in our security operations -- to a company in an Arab state in which there might be employees who, for reasons of corruption or ideology, would pass this invaluable knowledge on to al Qaeda types. Certainly, we don't want anyone finding out about the holes in our security systems. But is blocking foreign investment the way to address that problem? Shouldn't we be fixing the holes? If your roof is leaking, you don't just stop letting people into your house -- you get the roof fixed. Besides, there might be employees in a...

By Emily Messner | February 24, 2006; 11:48 AM ET | Comments (278)

Are YOU an Agent of a Foreign Power?

As promised in the previous post, here's a quick rebuttal to the claim that the government can lawfully spy on an "agent of a foreign power" without obtaining a warrant. In his opinion finding against the government in the 1972 warrantless eavesdropping case, Justice Powell wrote: The warrant clause of the Fourth Amendment is not dead language. Rather, it has been "a valued part of our constitutional law for decades, and it has determined the result in scores and scores of cases in courts all over this country. It is not an inconvenience to be somehow 'weighed' against the claims of police efficiency. It is, or should be, an important working part of our machinery of government, operating as a matter of course to check the 'well-intentioned but mistakenly overzealous executive officers' who are a part of any system of law enforcement." ...[It] touches the very heart of the Fourth...

By Emily Messner | January 13, 2006; 06:42 AM ET | Comments (125)

The Facts: Domestic Surveillance

The Bush administration has asserted that the authorization to conduct warrantless wiretapping on U.S. citizens in the United States was implicit in the legislation authorizing the use of force against al Qaeda, passed by Congress shortly after 9/11. Then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle denies that claim, explaining in a Washington Post op-ed that in fact Congress specifically rejected the insertion of a clause that would have allowed the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force in the United States." (See also the news story about Daschle's revelation.) Of course, in order to have an informed debate about this complex subject, we must first have an understanding of the specific facts involved, and the applicable laws. What the Law Says Title 50 of the United States Code, Chapter 36, states: ยง 1802 (1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court...

By Emily Messner | December 27, 2005; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (195)

Point of Interest: How the U.S. Burns $14,166 a Second

The American Interest asked in its winter issue (subscription required), "Has there ever been a power as great as the United States that has been a debtor as opposed to a creditor nation?" We are, indeed, a nation of borrowers, and that might not be inherently bad. I have to admit, though, when I look at the interest piling up by the minute on U.S. debt, I get a little queasy. Across the 30 days of November, we spent nearly $27 billion just on interest payments. Put another way, the United States spent $900 million a day -- a figure higher than the GDP of Leichtenstein -- on interest alone. For fiscal year 2005, we had to cough up $352 billion in interest -- more than the combined budgets of the departments of education, energy, homeland security, interior, justice, labor, state, transportation and veterans affairs. Assuming there were roughly 109...

By Emily Messner | December 15, 2005; 12:14 AM ET | Comments (20)

The Facts: Congress and the Budget

This week, the Debate will be on Congress's handling of the budget. Last month, the House approved $50 billion in spending cuts, largely from programs aimed at the poor, and just last week, members of Congress cancelled out their own efforts at deficit reduction by passing nearly $95 billion in tax cuts. The tax cuts include some necessary items like another temporary fix for the increasingly misdirected Alternative Minimum Tax, plus tax breaks for certain businesses in the Gulf Coast region. The latest tax bill to pass, costing $56 billion, boasted as its centerpiece extensions of reduced tax rates for capital gains and dividends. CNN summarizes some of the provisions in the latest tax bills. The Congressional Budget Office provided this estimate of how the $50 billion in spending cuts would break down. The CBO's August 2005 (pre-Katrina) Budget and Economic Outlook is worth a peek, even if only to...

By Emily Messner | December 12, 2005; 05:29 AM ET | Comments (37)

The Facts: The Case for War

We've got a huge and nuanced Debate topic this time: the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq. The administration says its critics are "rewriting history" while members of Congress say they were misled into voting for the use of force in Iraq when the intelligence wasn't as solid as the administration claimed. Was it just a case of bad intel, or something more sinister? Given that I expect little debate here over the holiday -- I figure the big debates on Thanksgiving will be taking place around the table, not here on this blog -- we'll be extending this debate into next week, leaving us plenty of time to try to come to some conclusions about what happened, and where we go from here. First, here are some documents to give the debate context. I'd highly suggest everyone go back and read the speech President Bush gave on Oct....

By Emily Messner | November 21, 2005; 01:36 PM ET | Comments (232)

The Facts: U.S. Treatment of Detainees

As you might have noticed, the ethics debate took a bit longer than our standard debates -- I should have known there would be too much ethical chicanery in the capital to fit into one week. Lots of good discussion in the comments, including the words of patriot1957: "I'm mad as hell and I don't even know who I'm maddest at. But if the schools haven't taught our citizens how to think and the media won't help, I'm going to stand on every streetcorner I can and slap people awake." The Debate this week is on something else that is making a lot of Americans angry: the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Several excuses have been used to explain why the Geneva Conventions should not apply to certain prisoners. Enemy combatants are not soldiers for a particular nation, some argue, so they are not covered by the Conventions; they...

By Emily Messner | November 9, 2005; 05:23 AM ET | Comments (17)

The Facts: Ethics and DeLay, Rove, Abramoff, etc.

There are so many ethics scandals swirling in the capital right now, one might be tempted to think it must be a really slow news month and everyone's just scraping around for something to talk about. Not so! There happens to be plenty of news, and these particular scandals are concerning enough to stick around even up against so much other big news. Before we tap into the debate over what the various scandals mean, here are some basic facts to keep in mind. First up is the matter of the leaking of Valerie Plame's name. The grand jury investigating the leak is set to expire on Oct. 28, so indictments -- assuming there will be any -- should be handed down in the coming days. Plenty of documents related to the case can be viewed at FindLaw, including Title 50, section 421 of the U.S. Code, setting out the...

By Emily Messner | October 19, 2005; 05:30 PM ET | Comments (17)

The Facts: The Iraq Constitution

First, the document that's key to this whole discussion: The proposed Iraqi constitution. (PDF version here.) Wikipedia defines the proposed constitution this way. Iraqis will go to the polls to vote on the constitution this Saturday, Oct. 15. For purposes of comparison, take a read of the Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period, and then check out the informative analysis and commentary on the Iraq constitution by the Carnegie Endowment's Nathan Brown, a Middle East expert. (The Post hosted a Live Online discussion with Brown earlier today. More of Brown's articles on Iraq and other Middle East policy issues can be found here.) Of course, sectarian disagreements over the constitution have been a big deal, so Reuters provides this breakdown of where the different ethnic groups stand. An academic paper by Rutgers professor Eric Davis on using the lessons of the past to help...

By Emily Messner | October 12, 2005; 03:39 PM ET | Comments (3)

The Facts: Miers Nomination

The first, one-stop shop for info about the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process is washingtonpost.com's Campaign for the Court blog, which has been indispensible these last few months. Also useful is this fact sheet from nationmaster.com providing basics about Miers. Nationmaster has recently added another page dedicated to her nomination and confirmation process. For brief biographical info and links to what few documents there are that might offer some clues about this enigmatic nominee, the Post's Miers dossier is invaluable. About.com also offers a collection of Harriet Miers info (not all necessarily nonpatisan, however.) And the Left Coaster, though a partisan source, lists the documentation for its Miers-related facts, so you can go check them out as you please. Finally, for some general Supreme Court reference materials, see the Facts post from the Roberts nomination. (What's not a good source of facts? The Harriet Miers blog. Has a couple...

By Emily Messner | October 5, 2005; 07:30 PM ET | Comments (2)

Global Warming and the Free Market

I took some flack from a couple of you for not identifying the organizations behind globalwarming.org in my earlier post. Mark W. and Tom were particularly harsh, and I suppose deservedly so. I was trying to save some fodder for later (I'm always tempted to throw everything into one enormous post; fortunately my editor keeps that from happening too often), but those who called me out were right, a note of identification would have been helpful. So here's a whole post on the subject. Globalwarming.org is "a project of the Cooler Heads Coalition" and the site is updated by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI advocates "the development and promotion of free market approaches to environmental policy." Oh, and it received $465,000 from ExxonMobil in 2003, according to Chris Mooney's exhaustively-researched book, The Republican War on Science. The site exxonsecrets.org offers a bio on CEI, or if you don't like that...

By Emily Messner | October 3, 2005; 01:00 PM ET | Comments (2)

The Facts: Roberts Nomination

Originally nominated by President Bush on July 19 to fill the vacancy left by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, John G. Roberts is now Bush's nominee for Chief Justice, following the death of William H. Rehnquist. If Roberts is confirmed in short order, the court will start its session in October with a full compliment of nine judges. O'Connor has agreed to stay on until her replacement is confirmed. For a quick primer on Roberts himself, washingtonpost.com has compiled a dossier that includes his vital stats, a short bio, and some key documents from thecourse of his career. Want information on the whole court? Another primer from washingtonpost.com -- this one interactive -- can be found here. And don't forget to check in regularly with the Post's Campaign for the Court blog, which is updated frequently with new news developments in the nomination process. Other unvarnished facts on this week's...

By Emily Messner | September 12, 2005; 05:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Facts and Rumors: Federal Power in a State of Emergency

First, a note to all the Debaters: Ordinarily, Wednesday would mark the beginning of a new week for The Debate -- it's the day a fresh topic would be introduced for discussion until the following Tuesday. But this is no ordinary week. So we're bending the rules to make room for a few more days of Hurricane Katrina, and we'll introduce next week's issue, the Roberts nomination, on Monday -- just in time for the start of his hearings. But for now, we're still talking about the hurricane, and all the false assertions that have been floating around with regard to who had the power to do what in Louisiana have got to be put to rest. Please allow me to use the text of federal laws and some other reputable sources in order to set the record straight. (My very basic conclusions based on those facts appear in parenthesis.)...

By Emily Messner | September 8, 2005; 09:23 AM ET | Comments (32)

Where Is All the Foreign Aid for Us?

Far too many people have been asking -- here in The Debate, on other blogs, on cable news shows and in casual conversation -- why the rest of the world doesn't shower us with aid, "after all we've done for them." Answer? They do. International organizations including the United Nations, Organization of American States and NATO, as well as dozens of nations around the world, have offered assistance. Individuals from beyond our borders are also contributing. According to Montreal's La Presse (which I was reading over breakfast this morning -- greetings from Canada, by the way), Celine Dion is contributing a million dollars of her own to the American Red Cross. Some of the tsunami-ravaged nations, having expressed their condolences, are now trying to come up with ways they could help in the effort. Even Sri Lanka has donated $25,000 to the Red Cross -- and this is a country...

By Emily Messner | September 4, 2005; 10:58 AM ET | Comments (29)

The Facts: Hurricane Katrina

Even though The Debate is here to delve into the opinion side of the week's big issue, I think it's only fair that you have plenty of good news sources on the subject as well -- if only so you'll know where I'm getting my facts. So, each week, I'll try to pass on some of the key news links I'm combing to frame The Debate. Here are a few that immediately come to mind. The Washington Post has a page with links to all the Hurricane Katrina stories, information on where to donate, and lots of photos, audio and video from the scene. (Full disclosure: I work for the Post. But you probably guessed that already.) The New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Sun Herald -- serving Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss., two of the hardest-hit cities -- provide the local angle as written by those most directly affected. For technical...

By Emily Messner | August 31, 2005; 05:00 AM ET | Comments (34)

 

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