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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of April 13-April 19

This week, readers sent us comments about religious exemptions, fine print and colloquial language.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

Impatient for Answers

When will we know whether or not the Muslim people will be exempted from the insurance requirements [“More Malarkey About Health Care,” April 19]? I can understand the Amish since they do take care of their own. I cannot understand any other sect, even Christian Science, since they will, as a last resort use doctors and hospitals. I have seen that personally.

If the Muslim sect is exempted, I will join the Tea Party folks … and I’m sure there are many like me. They all take Social Security and other governmental benefits if they are available to them. They should not be exempt.

I don’t like this wishy-washy “not knowing” which sects will be exempted and I think it should be cleared up RIGHT NOW!

S. Lee Tignor
Hot Springs, Ark.

FactCheck.org responds: As we mentioned, the religious exemption clause in the bill makes reference to a definition from the tax code, which stipulates that exempt groups must forbid any payout in the event of death, disability, old age or retirement, including Social Security and Medicare. Any group that “take[s] Social Security and other government benefits” would not be eligible for exemption. We have not seen any evidence that any group besides certain Amish and Mennonite sects has ever been considered eligible under this definition.

Correction, March 15, 2012: We originally wrote that S. Lee Tignor was from Hot Springs, Ariz., instead of Hot Springs, Ark.


Trust No One

When you see phrases like, “We are content that the phrases such as ‘trick’ or ‘hiding the decline’ were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead” and don’t figure out that there is something wrong then you are playing the patsy [“Some ‘Climategate’ Conclusions,” April 15]. I know colloquial English just fine and nobody is going to tell me that such terms don’t mean what they appear to mean. Don’t forget who is doing the investigating here and where their incentives are. … That kind of answer when confronted with the evidence is something one might expect to come from Humpty Dumpty, not from someone we are expected to take seriously.

David Rose
New York, N.Y.

FactCheck.org responds: The university investigation was performed by a panel of seven professors from the universities of Cambridge, ETH Zurich, Imperial College London, University of Arizona and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Checking the “Fine Print”

I love your website, but I think the use of the term “Fine Print,” in the article “Stimulus Jobs: The Fine Print” [April 14] is misleading.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term “Fine Print” as follows:

1. The portion of a document, especially a contract, that contains qualifications or restrictions in small type or obscure language.
2. Something presented in a deliberately ambiguous or obscure manner.

You cite that the fine print is as follows:

[M]easuring what a policy action has contributed to growth and employment is inherently difficult because we do not observe what would have occurred without the policy. Therefore, it must be understood that our estimates are subject to substantial margins of error.

However on the front page of the website you link to, in full-size regular font, is the following statement:

Identifying the impact of policy actions is inherently difficult, and the estimates must be understood to be subject to large margins of error.

Maybe, you mean the “Fine Print” as opposed to the headline. However, that also seems like a misuse of the term. There was no attempt to hide or obscure the fact that the estimates were subject to large margins of error.

Unfortunately, this misuse takes away from the more important point of the article, which is that contrary to what the president’s economists said, most of the other estimates they have seen fall lower than the estimate published by the White House — but that isn’t the point that was referred to as the “Fine Print.”

Maybe the article should have been titled “Stimulus Jobs: High End Estimates.”

Dan Mix
Batavia, Ill.


Praise for FactCheck

I am a 75-year-old woman and I have long been aghast at the lack of real knowledge people have about our country and its history. Thank you for bringing a forum to the schools [FactCheckED.org] that will help them find the truth of things. I make good use of FactCheck.org.

Betty Case
Morristown, N.J.

I love what you guys do. You give me the hard facts and let me make the decision. No bias or BS. Just downloaded a few of the podcasts and can’t wait to check them out. Thank you!

Michael Keen
Machesney Park, Ill.