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Sorting out the truth in politics

Amber Alert, ocean unaffected by shutdown

President Barack Obama has repeatedly accused his opponents of playing politics and causing a government showdown.

But Obama's critics are fighting back, especially on social media. Over the past weekend, claims abounded on Twitter that Obama is making the shutdown more severe in order to pressure House Republicans.

Among the more dramatic claims: Obama tried to shut down the Amber Alert system that locates abducted children. And he tried to shut down the ocean.

PolitiFact examined both and found dramatic distortions.

Claim: The Obama administration shut down the Amber Alert program.

If you went to the federal Amber Alert Web page on Sunday, you would have found this message: "Due to the lapse in Federal funding, this Office of Justice Program website is unavailable." That's what triggered the criticism.

But Washington doesn't run the Amber Alert system, and its web is just informational.

States set up their own programs, using guidelines and standards that are shared nationwide. The program is a network of these state-run operations with assistance from a private nonprofit, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The center's spokesman, Bob Hoever, told us that the federal Web page plays no role in actually finding children. Over this weekend when the federal Web page was down, the Amber Alert was activated twice: in Texas on Friday and in Florida on Saturday.

On Monday, the site was back up. Federal officials said a furloughed Justice Department employee was called in to restore the site in order to minimize public confusion.

PolitiFact rated the claim that the Amber Alert program was shut down as False.

Claim: The Obama administration shut down the ocean.

The claim that Obama tried to shut down the ocean circulated heavily on Twitter. Most people linked to an article posted Saturday on the conservative website Breitbart, which in turn linked to a Miami Herald report.

The Herald report told the real story: Boat charter guides received a message from the National Park Service banning them from taking customers to fish in Florida Bay, which is within the boundaries of Everglades National Park. National parks have been closed during the shutdown due to lack of staff.

Dan Kimball, superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks, said the bay is closed due to the shutdown with exceptions for transit and emergencies.

"You can't anchor, you can't fish," Kimball said. "It has to be for transportation purposes."

The national park closure does not, however, mean that the entire ocean — whether in the Keys, the rest of Florida or elsewhere — is shut down. There are still spots in the Keys where tourists can go fishing or swim.

PolitiFact rated the claim that Obama tried to shut down the ocean as False.

Amber Alert, ocean unaffected by shutdown 10/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 9:15pm]
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