PolitiFact scribes fact-check measles, pot and human-jellyfish hybrids

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Truth-O-Meter rulings

The goal of the Truth-O-Meter is to reflect the relative accuracy of a statement.

The meter has six ratings, in decreasing level of truthfulness:

TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

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How does PolitiFact Georgia’s Truth-O-Meter work?

Our goal is to help you find the truth in politics. Reporters from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution fact-check statements by local, state and national political leaders, including lobbyists and interest groups. We then rate them on the AJC Truth-O-Meter.

To fact-check a claim, reporters first contact the speaker to verify the statement. Next, the research begins. Reporters consult a variety of sources, including industry and academic experts. This research can take hours or a few days or even longer, depending on the claim. Reporters then compile the research into story form and include a recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling.

The fact check then moves on to a panel of veteran editors who debate the statement and the reporter’s recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling. The panel votes on a final ruling; majority prevails.

Can daily pot smoking be addictive?

Can you get measles simply by walking into a room where someone with the virus was two hours earlier?

The scribes at PolitiFact sought last week to get to the bottom of those questions.

We also looked at state Supreme Court justice Roy Moore’s statement that Alabamians haven’t changed their opinion” on same-sex marriage since voting to ban it in 2006. We checked a statement by Gov. Nathan Deal dealing with his proposal to create a special school district for failing schools and legislation generating headlines for “banning creation of glow-in-the-dark human jellyfish hybrids.”

Abbreviated versions of this week’s fact checks are below. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com/georgia/.

Susan Shapiro on Thursday, January 15th, 2015 in a newspaper commentary

“The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that up to half of daily marijuana smokers become addicted — an estimated 2.7 million people in the U.S.”

Vigorous debate surrounds efforts to legalize marijuana around the nation, where various lawmakers in Rhode Island and other states are considering laws to decriminalize pot.

Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill this year to allow the use of cannabis oil (it does not get you high) to treat seizures and other legislation to permit pot use for medical purposes.

Author Susan Shapiro, who says she is ambivalent about legalizing marijuana, shared a story about what she called her “extreme addiction” to marijuana in a commentary published Jan. 10, 2015, in The Providence Journal.

She included statistics to reinforce her point. “The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that up to half of daily marijuana smokers become addicted — an estimated 2.7 million people in the U.S,” she wrote.

The survey found that 5.4 million people reported using marijuana daily or almost daily. A more detailed table from the same survey shows 2.69 million people — just shy of 2.7 million — with dependence on marijuana and hashish.

Based on that number, and the definitions of addiction from SAMHSA, Hall and Gitlow, we rated Shapiro’s claim True.

Nathan Deal on Thursday, February 12th 2015 in an interview

Ninety-six percent of failing schools are spending above $8,400, the average annual per student expenditure, and 26 percent spend considerably more than that.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature education legislation this year calls for a constitutional amendment to create a special school district solely for perennially failing schools.

Deal’s office says 141 schools — more than 60 in metro Atlanta — currently could land in the proposed district and under state control, having each scored 60 or below for three straight years on Georgia’s annual report card, the College and Career Performance Index (CCRPI).

In a Feb. 12 interview Deal dashed off some statistics to counter those who would say more money is the answer.

“I would say to them that 96 percent of those (failing schools) pay more than the average of the state of $8,400 per child per year, and about 26 percent of them spend considerably more than the state average,” the governor said. “If they say that money alone will fix this, then the statistics and the information that we have does not bear that out.”

Deal’s math is correct, given the limitations of the data. (The state Department of Education doesn’t report per student spending by school, just by school district so his calculations had to assume that every school in a district is funded equally.)

But his statement omitted critical context. Virtually all the failing schools likely spend more money because they receive more money, and they receive more money because a high percentage of their students come from poor families with unique challenges.

We rated the governor’s statement Half True.

Elizabeth Cohen on Monday February 2nd, 2015 in an interview with Anderson Cooper

“If someone is in a room that has measles and leaves and you walk in two hours later, you could get measles from that person.”

Health pundits are spending considerable time spelling out the differences between the Ebola virus and measles.

Measles, which was eliminated from the United States in 2000 due to wide vaccination, is a very different virus, explained CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Unlike Ebola, “you don’t need to be that close to someone or kiss someone or anything like that” to pass it around.

“It’s airborne,” she told Anderson Cooper on Feb. 2. “If someone is in a room that has measles and leaves and you walk in two hours later, you could get measles from that person.”

We thought her example sounded alarming. So, after checking our personal immunization histories, we decided to fact-check her statement.

We didn’t hear back from Cohen when we reached out to CNN, but we found information from a reliable source that backs up her scenario.

Her example is nearly exactly the transmission description for measles from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cohen is right. Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease, and the CDC gives this exact time frame on its website.

We rated her claim True.

Roy Moore on Thursday February 12th 2015 in an interview on CNN

Alabamians “haven’t changed their opinion” on same-sex marriage since voting to ban it in 2006.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo challenged Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to defend a decision that will allow local courts to ignore a federal judge’s ruling striking down the state’s anti-gay marriage law.

“Moore held firm that marriage was defined as between a man and a woman, and said, “81 percent as recently as 2006 said it was the definition. They haven’t changed their opinion.”

But has there been no movement on the issue in Alabama, as Moore claimed? We decided to take a look.

In June 2006, voters in Alabama overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment barring authorities from issuing marriage licenses to “parties of the same sex.” The referendum passed with 81 percent of the vote. Moore’s office confirmed that was the number he was alluding to.

Recent polls show about 71 percent of likely voters oppose same-sex marriage today. That’s in line with other data that show growing support for same-sex marriage in the last decade there, and is similar to the rate of decline in opposition nationally.

The statement by Moore is partially accurate but leaves out important details.

We rated it Half True.

Headline from Raw Story website, Feb. 11.

“Georgia lawmaker pushes bill banning creation of ‘glow in the dark’ human-jellyfish hybrids.”

Let’s be honest. The headline looked like it belonged in Florida.

“Georgia lawmaker pushes bill banning creation of ‘glow in the dark’ human-jellyfish hybrids,” it screamed over a photo of a contorted face adorned in fluorescent paint.

The headline overstates the bill itself. But it captures the intent of the proposal — to ban human embryos with non-human cells injected into them as well as any “human-animal hybrid.”

And, weirdly, it captures some of actual discussion happening under the Gold Dome.

We rated the headline Half True.