When in doubt, fact check. And how to do it | Five for the Weekend

By: - March 13, 2021 6:30 am

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Happy Weekend, all.

And so ends another week. I hope you all had time to go out and enjoy the nice weather and warmer temperatures.

Before you adjourn for the weekend, I wanted to share a few sources with you all for fact checking.

I’ve been asked, “what’s a good way to fact check stuff I see online?” a few times in the past few months, so I wanted to share a few  sources that I think are useful when verifying claims by politicians and social media posts.

I hope you find them a useful addition to your digital routines.

As always, the top five stories from this week are below. 

Cheers to a leisurely weekend,

Cassie Miller, Associate Editor

1. As he fights COVID-19, supporters call for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s release from prison

Days after learning he had tested positive for COVID-19, the Mobilization 4 Mumia streamed a live virtual street meeting calling for the immediate release and freedom of convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal

“Do what’s right, is the call to all elected officials,” sGabriel Bryant, a Philadelphia activist and Mobilization 4 Mumia meeting moderator, said during the session on Saturday.

The group’s Freedom Has Never Been So Close: Global Street Meeting for Mumia Abu-Jamal took place Saturday via Facebook and YouTube.

Concerned family, friends and crusaders gathered online to demand Abu-Jamal’s release from prison due to the recent developments about his health. This new call to action is a diversion from the multitude of requests appealing to local and state government agents to grant Abu-Jamal a new trial over the course of nearly 40 years.

2. COVID cases are down. This isn’t the time to lift mask mandates or refuse the vaccine | Wednesday Morning Coffee

Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control delivered the good news that grandparents from sea to shining sea had been waiting a year to hear: People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely socialize inside with other vaccinated individuals without wearing masks or maintaining social distance.

But just as someone’s out-of-state granny got ready to book that long-awaited flight from Boca to Bucks County, state Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanonpiped up on Twitter to remind us that he’s sponsoring a bill that would “protect Pennsylvanians from mandatory invasive medical screening[s] and vaccinations in the workplace,” such as the COVID-19 vaccine.

And just like that, the universe seemed to say, this is why we can’t have nice things.

3. GOP lawmakers in 28 states, including Pa., have introduced more than 100 bills seeking to restrict ballot access | Analysis

The months after November’s presidential election have been filled with conspiracy theories, lies and myths about the security and integrity of U.S. elections, led by former President Donald Trump and many Republican leaders.

As a result, polls show that more than half of Republican voters wrongly believe that President Joe Biden and his supporters engaged in fraud to steal the election—a view backed by most congressional Republicans and scores of state and local GOP officials.

Pointing to their constituents’ doubts, GOP lawmakers in at least 28 states have introduced more than 100 bills to tighten voting rules, according to a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. The bills would, for example, add new voter registration requirements and scale back or eliminate voting by mail, which voters flocked to during the pandemic. Supporters say these measures would restore public confidence in elections.

4. Capital-Star Q+A: Pa. House Speaker Bryan Cutler talks misinformation, amendments and marijuana

Among the youngest people to oversee the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the next two years will be Speaker Bryan Cutler’s first first full session as the Republican-controlled chamber’s presiding officer.

The 45-year old Lancaster Republican’s role is to moderate debate and call up bills on the floor for votes.

The position can be used to exert control of the chamber’s agenda, as shown by previous Speakers John Perzel, the Philadelphia lawmaker who muscled through gambling expansion, or Mike Turzai, of Allegheny County who used his pulpit to push school choice. But Cutler argued he’s tried to use a lighter touch in a recent conversation with the Capital-Star.

He also addressed misinformation, the state’s judiciary, and marijuana among other topics late last month. The interview below has been edited for clarity and brevity.

5. What the federal stimulus package means for Pa.’s local governments

When COVID-19 shutdowns led Pennsylvania businesses to shed more than a million jobs last spring, elected officials braced for the worst.

Local leaders feared that the job losses would make it impossible to balance budgets that rely largely on income taxes. Municipalities that levy hefty sales taxes or parking fees doubly winced, fearing that slow foot traffic in business districts would tamp down those revenue sources, too.

One year after the pandemic began, municipal finance experts in Pennsylvania say the blow COVID-19 dealt to local governments hasn’t been as severe as they feared.

But the federal stimulus that the U.S. House is expected to send to President Joe Biden this week still could offer local governments a lifeline, those experts say, especially as they brace for ripple effects and pay for deferred expenditures in 2021.

And that’s the week. Enjoy the weekend and we’ll see you back here next week. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared. Follow her on Twitter: @Wordsby_CassieM.

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