PolitiFact: Roundup for the past week

PolitiFact Georgia and the AJC Truth-O-Meter kept busy this past week with fact checks on guns, war and the economy. And we wandered a bit afield to check a claim that came from the moon about a long-ago meal there.

We examined a gun-control group’s claim about the number of children killed each year by guns. Our national colleagues researched a faulty claim about international support for the war in Iraq. We also checked jobs numbers to determine how many have been lost in sequestration. And we went where few men have gone before: to space, for a fact check about a religious observance conducted on the moon more than four decades ago.

Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below. Full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/.

To comment on our rulings or suggest one of your own, go to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/politifact.georgia). You can also find us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/politifactga).

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Facebook post: The very first meal on the surface of the moon was the Holy Communion.

PolitiFact Georgia received this viral Facebook post on July 20, the 44th anniversary of the first moon landing by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Armstrong passed away last year, but Aldrin is still alive, contracting for NASA and on a book tour. We were unable to get an interview with him for the article.

Our research found several sources, including NASA records and Aldrin’s memoirs, that included accounts of the Communion service. The little-known religious observance was conducted in radio silence, meaning that only Aldrin and Armstrong witnessed it. NASA had already been sued by atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair over a Bible reading in space done by astronauts circling the moon in 1968.

The observance was kept quiet then, but we discovered that Aldrin’s church, outside of Houston, still celebrates the lunar Communion service each year on the Sunday closest to the July 20, 1969, moon landing.

We rated the Facebook claim True.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The United States “stood alone in the war in Iraq.”

Our national PolitiFact colleagues completed this fact check of a claim by the Democratic National Committee chairwoman during a CNN interview this month with Wolf Blitzer. When Blitzer asked about President Barack Obama’s decision to strike Syria, Wasserman Schultz defended the president and argued that he has support, unlike when the United States “stood alone” against Iraq. Many members of Congress criticized Obama’s threat to dictator Bashar Assad as a bad diplomatic move. Blitzer noted that even the British Parliament wouldn’t support U.S. military strikes in Syria.

Although Democrats often criticize President George W. Bush for invading Iraq without more global backing, including that of the United Nations, Bush did put together a coalition. Nearly 50 countries, most notably Britain, ultimately supported the invasion, with many sending troops of their own. That’s roughly on par with the support network that Obama has put together for action against Syria, and possibly exceeds it.

We rated Wasserman Schultz’s claim Pants on Fire!

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Mayors Against Illegal Guns: An average of seven children in America are killed by guns every day.

The mayors’ group used this claim in a news release earlier this month to sway U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss to support background checks on all commercial gun sales. Earlier this year, Chambliss voted against allowing a vote on a measure to require background checks for almost all gun buyers.

The coalition should have been more specific by saying it was referring to people under the age of 21. That information would have added significant context for those questioning whether anyone older than 16 or 18 is a child. The Children’s Defense Fund was more specific, noting its data included children and teenagers. Calculating the annual totals based on people age 18 and under produced an average of four children killed by homicides from guns a day, which is substantially less than seven a day.

The coalition’s claim was accurate, but it omitted some important details.

We rated the Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ claim Half True.

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Political Line: “Since sequester began federal employment has been subtracting 6,000-7,000 jobs per month”

This claim appeared in a Twitter post earlier this month from the Political Line political blog. Under sequestration, the across-the-board budget cuts effective March 1, the federal government will cut about $85 billion in spending by the end of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

There has been no official analysis of jobs lost to sequestration, but there is anecdotal evidence that the budget cuts have hurt the federal sector. Using the best data available, the numbers show that some months federal job losses reached and exceeded Political Line’s claim, but in other months, the losses were much less, and there were even job gains.

Reviewing the data over the previous 12 months did show an overall downward trend in federal government jobs, but the monthly totals fluctuate. And overall the job reduction is far less than the statement would indicate during the six months since sequestration began.

We rated Political Line’s claim Mostly False.

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