Monday, October 22, 2018

FactCheck Monday: Killing Saudi arms deal would cost few if any jobs; N.C. newspaper takes congressman to task

Here's another installment of a series we are running weekly until Election Day, in which we list some of the most relevant items from and other nonpartisan fact checkers. We encourage you to subscribe to their alerts, which you can do here, and republish their findings, which FactCheck lets anyone do for free with credit to them.

In the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder, President Trump resisted calls to cancel weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, saying that such a move would hurt U.S. jobs. But very little: "Overall, the private U.S. defense industry does directly employ a lot of U.S. workers — about 355,500 in 2016, according to the most the recent estimates from the Aerospace Industries Association" Alexia Fernandez Campbell reports for Vox. "But private-sector defense workers make up less than 0.5 percent of the total U.S. labor force, and that includes every person whose job depends directly on the sale or production of airplanes, tanks, bombs, and services for the entire US military. It’s unlikely that many of them, if any, depend directly on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, and its also unlikely that those jobs would vanish if Saudi money disappeared."

Newsapers of all sizes can provide useul analysis of politicians' claims for readers. In Lexington, N.C., a town of about 19,000 just south of Winston-Salem, the local paper weighed in when U.S. Rep. Tedd Budd said Democratic challenger Kathy Manning would "help Nancy Pelosi retake the Speaker's gavel" if elected. But The Dispatch noted in an editorial that Manning said in a TV ad that she would vote against Pelosi for speaker, and wrote on Medium that "I have decided if I want to change how Washington works, I cannot vote for more of the same, and I cannot support Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan to lead Congress." The Dispatch ended the editorial with a wish that politicians wouldn't "use cheap scare tactics and outright falsehoods in their effort to win votes" and promised that if Manning does win and supports Pelosi, "We'll be right back here, again siding with the facts."

Confused about the hubbub surrounding Sen. Elizabeth Warren's DNA test? You're not alone. Trump had repeatedly criticized her for saying in college that she had Native American blood. On Oct. 15 Warren released the results of a genetic test, saying it proved that she has a Native American ancestor six to 10 generations back. The results were immediately misinterpreted by news sources and politicos. "It turns out reporters and politicians are not very good at understanding genetics," Glenn Kessler writes for the Washington Post's Fact Checker column. So Kessler and his colleagues reviewed the results in detail and consulted with genetics experts to set the record straight.

In a nutshell, reporters focused on the part of the report that indicated a range of six to 10 generations ago. The report made that estimate because a Native American-associated segment of Warren's Chromosome 10 means the DNA came from a fairly recent ancestor. But, Kessler notes, not all of a person's ancestors contribute genes equally. Some contribute a lot, and some not at all. "The most important point is this: The results in Warren’s DNA test are static," Kessler writes. "The percentage of Native American DNA in her genome does not shrink as you go back generations. There could be one individual in the sixth generation — living around the mid-1800s, which is similar to Warren family lore — or possibly a dozen or more ancestors back to the 10th generation, which would be about 250 years ago. Her results are consistent with a single ancestor, however."

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