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By timestaff
August 15, 2009

It used to be that the mythbusters at Snopes.com were the go-to-guys for refutations of weird rumors. These days, though, those diligent debunkers can barely keep up. It seems like only yesterday that tongues were wagging about Obama's alleged non-citizenship -- a false rumor the site addressed earlier this month with a typically withering takedown of the forged birth certificate that purportedly proves Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Now the air is thick with talk of "death panels" hidden in the health care reform bills -- a monumentally absurd notion endorsed by assorted Republican politicians, ex-politicians and talk show hosts, as well as by more than a few angry citizens at town hall hall meetings. (Not only are the claims untrue, but the wholly innocent, even laudable provision at the root of the myths that would have reimbursed doctors for counseling patients who wanted advice on living wills and other end-of-life issues has now been stricken from the Senate bill.) Snopes, which took on similar claims back in July, hasn't yet gotten to the latest round of rumors. So others have had to jump in and do a little mythbusting themselves.

Like, for example, AARP. Now, if there were anything to all this talk of "death panels," you'd think the AARP would be raising holy hell. After all, the nonprofit devoted to people age 50 and over has what you might call a vested interest in keeping America's elderly alive and well. But there isn't any substance to these "death panels," so the group has instead taken aim at the rumors. "Much of the debate is being driven by special interests that are deliberately kicking up clouds of dust to obscure the facts," the group notes on a page set up to combat the "misinformation and fear-mongering" that now clouds the debate. AARP's site is eminently useful for anyone who wants to make sense of what's really at stake in the health care reform battle, offering the group's own detailed refutations of the myths and lies, as well as links to mainstream press coverage of the scare tactics adopted by some opponents of reform.

For an even more thorough factchecking of what is and isn't true about health care reform, you can turn to Polifact.com, an online project of the St. Petersburg Times. For a quick overview of some of the disinformation that's being spread around, check out the site's health care Truth-O-Meter page. (Or simply look at the the health care "Greatest Hits, Vol. 1.") If you get tired of reading about what isn't true, and want nothing but the truth, Polifact.com's "simple explanation" of the health care bills now under consideration is the clearest I've seen anywhere

Polifact.com isn't partisan. In addition to refuting some of Sarah Palin's wild Facebook assertions about "death panels," they've also factchecked various pronouncements from Obama himself on health care and found some of them highly questionable -- such as his claim at a town hall earlier this week that AARP had endorsed his reform plans. (In fact, the group, while supportive of many elements of reform, has not officially endorsed any of the plans now out there, as a spokesman for the group quickly made clear.)

Oh, and in case you're wondering, that video that got forwarded to you earlier this week of the guy shooting off a waterside and landing in a tiny pool -- it's fake, too.