tipsheet
Matt Vespa - MRCTV Asks UVA Students About Botched Rolling Stone Piece
Posted: 12/26/2014 8:15:00 PM EST

MRCTV’s Dan Joseph went to the University of Virginia to speak to students about the discredited Rolling Stone piece that delved into the alleged gang rape of Jackie and the school’s response to it. To make a long story short, the school, Jackie’s friends, and Greek life are portrayed in a very negative light.

To make matter worse, the story devolved into an absolute disaster. Other publications, like the New Republic and the Washington Post, noted the shoddy journalism by RS’s Sabrina Rubin Erdely, specifically when it became known that she didn’t contact any of the alleged attackers. Rolling Stone also botched the apology, saying they had “misplaced” trust in Jackie before tweaking it to put responsibility on them for getting it right.

So, what did Dan Joseph find out when he interviewed students on campus? Unsurprisingly, he found that students were angered by RS’s awful journalism. Some felt that this exercise in journalistic negligence didn’t take away from the validity of Jackie’s claims. Then again, while other students refused to question her claims, they didn’t take it as absolute fact either.

One female student said UVA never struck her as a school infested by rape culture. She also felt RS was more concerned with tearing down UVA than supporting Jackie–and that she doesn’t feel for her safety when she goes to parties.

One of the people Joseph interviewed was none other than Alex Stock (“Andy”) from Erdely’s article who noted that the story–and how it reflects on the school–is just not true. He also mentioned that his portrayal in the piece, along with his friends Kathryn Hendley (“Cindy”) Ryan Duffin (“Randall”), is also patently false. Erdely reported them as being distant, apathetic, and more concerned about their social standing at the school on the night of Jackie’s alleged attack. It was actually Jackie who didn’t want to go to the authorities. He also said the school isn’t the rape capital of the country.

When Joseph asked if the accused deserve due process, another female student said, “Well, I think that we need to be careful of believing them over believing the survivor.”

Two other female students in the video noted that there’s anger on campus at RS from the fraternities for not doing their job in checking all the facts; others were mad at RS’s botched apology.

Another freshman said it’s been a stressful time, and noted that not everyone knows the full gravity of the situation. 

Well, bad journalism can do that.

Another student mentioned that it’s probably the “darkest semester” he’s experienced since enrolling at the school.

Yet, even when the story began to collapse, some feminists refused to acknowledge the journalistic malpractice that had taken place here. Enter Feministing’s Chloe Angyal, who actually had the audacity to thank Erdely for writing this article. Oh, and society hates women, or something:

I have to thank you, Sabrina, for writing this. I think you've done a tremendous act of public service, and I'm genuinely very, very grateful. It is hard to read an article like this and avoid the conclusion that we live in a culture that hates women, just hates us. It's hard to read an article like this and conclude that the men in this culture, the boys and men in this culture, are raised to see women as not just less than them but in some cases as less than human. But one thing really stood out to me, which is the statistic about how boys and men in frats are three times more likely to commit sexual violence. But I think as Raul says -- you know what, I just used a euphemism there, and I shouldn't do that. They are three times more likely to commit rape. And I think Raul makes a really interesting point. This is not just about party schools. And it would be at our peril to pretend that this is just a frat problem. Yes, it at frats and football teams, but it also happens on the chess team and in dance companies. This is not just a frat problem. This is an American problem.

Angyal wrote a post on Feministing about why women coming forward about being sexually assaulted should be believed since they rarely lie about rape. It’s a somewhat better read that Zerlina Maxwell’s irresponsible piece where she basically says due process be damned. Speaking of statistics, some of the ones relating to rape and sexual assault are incredibly shaky. 

Yet, that’s not the issue here. The issue is that Erdely wrote a piece that was insanely inaccurate, it didn’t do activists fighting sexual assault any favors, it will make it harder for women to come forward, and it will distort–or ruin– the reputations of individuals and institutions involved. Now, Erdely's article is indefensible; Angyal has rarely tweeted anything about it since Dec. 11.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that Erdely’s account of the alleged attack comes perilously close to fabrication.

Exit question via Charles Cooke of NRO: does truth matter to the feminist left?

If not, addressing this issue will be like navigating through a minefield.  

Sarah Jean Seman - Shocker: Americans Want to Choose Their Own Health Care
Posted: 12/26/2014 6:00:00 PM EST

In a nation driven by the free market, it should come as no surprise that Obamacare is not getting any more popular. People don’t want to be told what they should or shouldn’t, can or cannot buy—and the same goes for their health insurance plans.

According to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday, American’s are as pro-choice when it comes to health care as ever, and they do not want the government mandating coverage:

Seventy-five percent (75%) say individuals should have the right to choose between different types of health insurance including some that cost more and cover just about all medical procedures and some that cost less while covering only major medical procedures. Just 10% disagree, while slightly more (15%) are undecided.

Even more (83%) believe individuals should have the right to choose between different types of health insurance including some with high deductibles and lower premiums and others with lower deductibles and higher premiums. Only six percent (6%) oppose this kind of choice, while 10% are not sure.

Support for these choices is little changed in nearly two years of regular tracking.

Most voters (76%) also believe that employers and individuals should be allowed to buy health insurance plans across state lines, something that is not allowed under the new health care law. That’s the highest level of support measured since April.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed a new law which might limit an individual's choice even more, according to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC):

CMS has proposed a new rule that includes an overly reaching provision allowing CMS to re-enroll anyone who has not made the annual trek back to healthcare.gov in a cheaper plan of CMS’ choosing….

To be clear, a citizen will sign up once for a private plan with a healthcare provider, only to have that plan changed by the federal government. Moreover, CMS will change your plan after the open enrollment period ends, leaving you and your family stuck with a potentially unwanted plan for the year.

Don’t forget, the penalty for not having health care coverage will increase every year. In 2014, the maximum fee per family was $285. In 2015, the fee will increase to $325 per adult or two percent of income, in 2016 this rises to 2.5 percent of income. The penalty continues to rise until it caps at the average national premium for the bronze plan.

Even more comforting news: bronze plan premiums are expected to increase by some 15 percent in 2015.

The phrase “Thanks Obama,” just isn't getting old anytime soon. 

Leah Barkoukis - The Friday Filibuster: Blue Lives Matter
Posted: 12/26/2014 3:10:00 PM EST

The Friday Filibuster: The one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this week in politics.

#BlueLivesMatter: The week started off on an incredibly somber note after two NYPD officers were assassinated in Brooklyn over the weekend. The perp, Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, had a long criminal history as well as reported mental health problems. According to statements he made on his Instagram account, Brinsley was avenging the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Tensions between law enforcement and Mayor DeBlasio were running high after the incident. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani reminded folks that the vast majority of law enforcement want to help the communities they serve, not hurt them. He also took a shot at the politicians who’ve been trying to separate communities from the police, saying their actions are “shameful.” Ron Hosko, former FBI assistant director and law enforcement legal defense fund president, also slammed criminals, the media, and race baiters and said that law enforcement are constantly under attack from those who seek to evade responsibility. Meanwhile, showing incredible generosity, the Yankees will be covering the education costs for one of the officer’s two sons.

In the military: President Obama’s approval rating among active duty service members has plummeted to just 15 percent. And as many as 1,300 more troops will be heading back to Iraq this year to serve in what the administration insists is an “advisory role” to help “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. Meanwhile, the State Dept is offering a $5 million reward to get back an al Qaeda terrorist that the U.S. released from Gitmo in 2006. Townhall’s Guy Benson also recently spoke with a former CIA official who defended the agency’s use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques on suspected terrorists after 9/11, saying that it saved an untold number of American lives. The Warner Bros. recently released a trailer for the upcoming film “American Sniper” about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who became the most deadly sniper in U.S. history during his four tours of duty in Iraq. There’s also an interesting new documentary out about what it’s like to be in the IDF.

Economy: Some relatively good news for the U.S. economy came out this week, with the Commerce Department releasing revised figures showing that the economy surged in the third quarter of the year. Now for the bad news: Fewer Americans are working today than before the recession began.

Campaigns and elections: Despite the endless attacks against wealthy Republican donors during the 2014 election cycle, it turns out Democrats were the party that relied more on the rich to fund their electoral pursuits. And looking ahead to 2016, did Sen. Rand Paul announce he will run for president during a Twitter Festivus celebration?

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“The Interview” saga continues: Last week the FBI determined North Korea was behind the cyber attack against Sony, but they continued to deny it and threatened to strike the U.S. for “recklessly” spreading that rumor. The country also experienced major Internet outages this week just days after President Obama had promised to respond proportionally. And in light of President Obama saying that Sony had made a mistake for not releasing the film (a point Sony’s CEO said Obama was mistaken about), Townhall’s Conn Carroll wonders why the president didn’t call the entertainment network, seeing that other leaders in similar situations have done just that. In the end, Sony released the film online and in select theaters. 

Cuba vows to protect cop killer: While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie urged President Obama to demand that Cuba return cop killer Joanne Chesimard before the U.S. normalizes diplomatic relations, Cuba has defiantly said no, stating their right to protect ‘persecuted’ fugitives.

Inside the Beltway: The pizza industry will continue fighting against one of Obamacare’s more onerous regulations. And the law as a whole will get another day in the Supreme Court, meaning the GOP has until June to replace it. Speaking of next year, here’s nine fights you’ll be seeing in Washington in 2015. It’s too bad retiring Sen. Tom Coburn can’t get his wish.

Immigration: A federal judge dismissed Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s lawsuit challenging President Obama’s immigration overhaul this week. What does that mean for the suit filed by Texas?

Merry Christmas: On the nice list is rock band Madison Rising, which is raising awareness for military families this holiday season. On the naughty list? You guessed it: Barack Obama. The GOP gave the president coal this year, but not for the reason you might think. Finally, we hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

Graphics by Feven Amenu. 

Conn Carroll - 9 Fights You'll See In Washington Next Year
Posted: 12/26/2014 11:56:00 AM EST

Now that Republicans control the Senate, President Obama can no longer hide behind Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). He is going to have to start vetoing some bills in order to protect his existing government expansions. But he can't veto everything. 

There are at least six must pass items that Obama and Republicans must come to an agreement on in 2015. And there are at least three other fights the will be simmering through out year but are unlikely to reach any resolution. So, in chronological order, here are the nine biggest fights you can expect to see between Obama and Republicans in 2015:

1. Tax Extenders: On December 19th, Obama signed the Tax Increase Prevention Act, which retroactively extended more than 50 tax credit programs worth almost $42 billion from January 1, 2014 through December 2014. The credits will again expire on New Year's Day 2015, so there will be some pressure on Congress to renew them again right away. 

However, Congress has routinely retroactively extended these tax breaks before, and the Internal Revenue Service continues to operate as though they will do so again for 2015, so there will not be a lot of pressure to get this done right away.

2. Department of Homeland Security: The CRomnibus, signed by Obama, on December 16th, funds every agency of the federal government, except the DHS, through September 30th, 2015. But the bill only funds the DHS through February 28th. 

House Republican leaders have promised conservatives that they will attach a rider to the DHS funding bill, that will prevent the agency responsible for carrying out Obama's amnesty, the office of United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services, from issuing the work permits Obama promised illegal immigrants. Obama has promised to veto any DHS spending bill that has such a provision. Someone will have to cave.

3. Debt Limit: On February 15th, 2014, Obama signed the Temporary Debt Limit Extension Act, which raised the Treasury Department's borrowing limit through March 15, 2015. The Treasury Department is usually able to fudge some accounts and extend debt limit deadlines, and experts say they should be able to extend this deadline too, possibly all the way through August. 

However, considering that Republicans got virtually nothing from Democrats when the debt limit was raised in February, it is highly unlikely Republicans will get anything from Obama in 2015.

4. Doc Fix: The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 created a cost saving mechanism for Medicare called the Sustainable Growth Rate. The law was designed to slow Medicare spending growth by cutting the payments doctor's receive from Medicare. But Congress has routinely undone these cuts and the latest Doc Fix prevented a 25 percent cut in doctor Medicare payments for 2014 at a cost of $21 billion. These cuts are scheduled to, again, take place starting March 31, 2015.

But just like the IRS ignores the expiration of certain tax extenders, the Health and Human Services Department has continued paying doctor's their expected rate despite inaction from Congress. But HHS can only do this for so long. Sometime around the end of March Republicans will have to find a way to pay for another Doc Fix. Since Congress and Obama would need to agree on a pay-for, either through a spending cut or a tax hike, a long-term fix to the problem is highly unlikely.

5. Budget: Congress is obligated by law to pass a budget by April 15th and, thanks to the most recent Obamacare challenge to reach the Supreme Court, King v. Burwell, this year's battle will be particularly dramatic. If the Court sides with plaintiffs, and finds Obamace insurance subsidies to citizens of states that did not establish health exchanges unlawful, then millions of Americans, mostly in red states, will have to pay full price for expensive Obamacare insurance.

Republicans will want to have a bill ready to fix this problem, and they will want to avoid a Democratic filibuster in the process. They can do this by including instructions in the budget directing one or more committees to pass legislation that changes tax or entitlement programs (like Obamacare) to meet the budget's tax and spending targets. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would then be allowed to pass changes to Obamacare by a bare majority. None of this guarantees Obama would sign Republican changes to Obamacare, but it does neutralize Democrats in the Senate.

6. Highway Bill: The ten month extension to the Highway Trust Fund signed in August 2014, is set to expire at the end of May 2015. Republicans say they want to find a long-term solution to the HTF's funding problem, but finding a pay-for will be difficult. Democrats want to raise the federal gas tax and they may be emboldened by falling gas prices to force the issue on Republicans. Republicans will fight any effort to raise taxes at the federal level and will instead look to cut non-highway spending out of the HTF which current spends billions on mass transit programs which do not pay into the program. Cuts could also come from other areas of the federal government as they did in 2014 when the deal was funded by "pension smoothing" for federal workers, a one-time gimmick. 

7. Export-Import Bank: Conservatives have been trying to kill the Export-Import Bank for generations, including President Reagan who proposed shrinking the corporate welfare program by a third. The bank was due to expire this past fall and corporate lobbyists desperately tried to attach a long-term authorization to the mast-pass government funding bill set to expire at the same time. House Republicans punted on that fight, however, reauthorizing the bank only through the end of June, while funding the federal government through the end of September. 

Now corporate welfare advocates must either find another vehicle to attach Export-Import Bank reauthorization to (the Highway Trust Fund, Doc Fix, and DHS funding bills are all strong possibilities) or reauthorize the program by itself.

8. Appropriations/Continuing Resolution: Since taking over the House in 2010, Republicans have tried to pass all 12 appropriations bills needed to keep the federal government running, but they have never quite gotten the job done. But now that a Republican controlled Senate may actually take up their work, the exercise is no longer symbolic. It will be a heavy lift, but Republican controlled committees could get their work done before the September 30th deadline. If they don't Obama and congressional Republicans will have to agree on another continuing resolution or omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2016.

9. Tax Reform: There is no deadline attached to the issue, but both Republicans and Obama have repeatedly said there is an opportunity to pass tax reform in 2015. The sticking point, as always, will be revenues. Obama is still insisting on higher revenues from both corporate and individual tax reform to pay for higher spending, specifically he wants higher revenues from corporate tax reform to pay for higher infrastructure spending. As long as Republicans stick to their pledges not to raise taxes, any compromise on this front remains unlikely. 

Leah Barkoukis - Pizza Industry Vows to Continue Fight Against Obamacare’s Onerous Menu Labeling Regulation
Posted: 12/26/2014 8:30:00 AM EST

It’s been a month since the Food and Drug Administration announced its final rule for menu labeling, a regulation that’s already proving to be a nightmare for the major chain restaurants and retail food establishments that must comply by Dec. 1, 2015, or face a stiff penalty.

“It got much worse in the final rule,” Lynn Liddle, chairperson of the American Pizza Community and executive VP of communications and investor relations for Domino’s Pizza, told Townhall. “I was surprised, disappointed, and befuddled because there’s all this new stuff in there where I go, ‘I don’t know how we’re gonna do this.’ … We’re gonna need a lot more time to untangle this mess, which I don’t think is viable or workable.”

While the regulation is bad for all industries, pizza has been hit particularly hard. For one, it’s a food industry unlike any other—90 percent of customers get their food delivered, making the idea of in-store displays of calorie information unnecessary and costly, not to mention extremely difficult since it’s such a customizable food.

Liddle said a concession was made on labeling by the slice rather than the whole pizza, but the rule is still disastrous for small businesses across America.

“[W]hat [FDA] did in these final rules is they expanded their definition of a menu and said ‘we’re gonna look at it and say anything a consumer will think of at that moment as a menu,’ so it’s very squishy right now because nobody really understands this thing because they’re saying if you have a picture or a name of a product, along with a price, were gonna call that a menu, so if you take it to the ridiculous that could include television advertising, because in the restaurant industry you always have a picture of product and a price, that’s how the restaurant industry advertises,” she explained.

“We went to [the FDA] with a proposed solution; we didn’t say ‘we want to get out of it,’ we said, ‘we have a better way’ … and that better way was primarily doing this electronically, which by the way we already do voluntarily, so it was a really workable solution … and basically they’ve ignored it,” she said.

While Domino’s is a major pizza chain across the country, the vast majority of stores are franchises, meaning the burden of implementation falls squarely on the backs of small business owners. And failure to have the appropriate signage or serving food that’s outside of the labeled calorie range can carry civil and criminal penalties, Liddle said, but specificity over how it will be policed and what the penalties are remains unclear.

Meanwhile, studies continue to show that menu labeling has little to no effect on consumers’ purchasing habits. In other words, despite the cost to small business owners across the country, menu labeling will have no significant impact on obesity in America, the purported benefit the FDA used to justify the law as part of the Affordable Care Act to begin with.

Liddle sees the rule as a way for its proponents to feel like they’ve done something that will be good for Americans. “I’ve seen a number of article and commentary from people … saying we need to tell people what to eat,” she said. “I think there’s this belief that … Americans can’t or won’t ever help themselves.”

“I don’t think slapping calorie ranges on a pizza menu board that no one looks at is gonna be any kind of a solution [for reducing obesity],” she continued.

It’s been a long road fighting against the rule since it first came out as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and Liddle says she isn’t done yet.

“I don’t think I have the luxury to stop fighting against this because it’s hurting my small business franchisees … and it’s hurting the [entire] pizza industry with an additional cost their customers haven’t asked for,” she said.

“We’re going to keep pushing for solutions we think are most viable, and we’re encouraged because we have nearly 100 members of Congress that have supported our past legislation, so I think we have a lot of people with a lot of common sense on our side.”

Townhall Magazine - RedState: Our Christmas Wish For You and Yours
Posted: 12/25/2014 7:00:00 PM EST

In the December issue of Townhall Magazine, where this article originally appeared, RedState’s Bryan Pruitt offers a few thoughts on the New Year.

As the year winds down and our focus turns toward time with family and friends, our thoughts at RedState are on you, our readers. Whether we reach you through this magazine, online at RedState.com, via Erick’s ubiquitous Morning Briefing, or on our Twitter feed or Facebook page, we value you and your interaction with us. RedState has one of the most dynamic, engaged readerships in the political world. We are only effective because you so often answer the call and hold your elected officials accountable throughout the year, and especially at the ballot box.

The following are some thoughts we have from this year and looking forward to the next. Happy Holidays.

Setbacks and steps forward

Anyone following politics knows the conservative movement has had a few setbacks in this election cycle. Be not afraid. Less covered in the media are our significant steps forward, the elections won with good strategy and great candidates. There will be more of this to come. Keep the faith and stay tuned.

RedState Gathering

Please give some serious thought to making time in your summer schedule to attend the RedState Gathering in Atlanta from August 6-9. If you are an alum of previous Gatherings and have already registered, we are deeply grateful. We anticipate most if not all of the 2016 presidential aspirants will attend. They want your early support and we are working to ensure they earn it.

2015…we mean 2016

Speaking of aspirants for that highest office, there are elements that are frustrating about the fact that our presidential politics begin so much earlier these days. President Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy less than a year before he was elected. President Obama declared almost two years prior. You can expect that candidates for the Republican nomination will begin announcing their intentions soon after the New Year, perhaps even immediately after the midterm election results are known.

There will be plenty of candidates in the field. This is a good thing. Do not believe the mainstream media and liberal pundits when they tell you that competition will weaken the eventual candidate against the Hillary Clinton coronation machine. Pay close attention to the candidates’ positions on issues. Use social media to promote the candidate who inspires you. If you happen to live in a state that doesn’t get a lot of media attention, anywhere outside Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, raise your voice even louder. Every state matters when electing a president.

Run, RedStater, run

There is an often-quoted line (used throughout the television show “The West Wing”), “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

This is usually interpreted to mean showing up to vote. Certainly being an informed voter is part of our civic duty. But as a RedState conservative, we also hope you will take the next step and consider running for office someday. Sure, our democracy can survive with leaders who stay in power for endless amounts of time. But it truly thrives when average citizens take that big step, throw their hat in the ring by putting their name on the ballot, and standing in front of their fellow citizens with fresh ideas and a new face for leadership.

Whether running for dogcatcher or Congress, you can make a difference. You never know when the right opportunity might present itself to challenge an old, entrenched incumbent dedicated only to their D.C. lobbyist friends. Representatives should always represent their constituents, not special interests.

And finally…the things that matter

We wish you the happiest of Christmas seasons. Have a great time! We never really cared for those conservative commentators who take to lecturing the public on the commercialization of a religious holiday. Kids love gifts and Santa Claus is kind of cool in a weird way.

But as they say, be sure to remembering in your own way the reason for the season. Donate anonymously to a charity, give support to those struggling, say a prayer of thanks for the abundant blessing that is the United States of America.

Our family tradition is to read the Christmas story (Luke 2: 1-20) before opening presents on Christmas morning. It’s the best way to start the day if you ask me.

God bless and Happy New Year, the future is bright.

Matt Vespa - New Documentary Puts You 'Beneath The Helmet' Of The Israeli Military
Posted: 12/25/2014 5:00:00 PM EST

What’s it like to be in the Israeli military? For a nation with no strategic depth, the law requires that all Israeli citizens–men and women–to serve once they turn 18 years of age. A new documentary Beneath The Helmet, examines the lives of five members of the Israeli Defense Forces as they go from high-school student to soldiers serving in one of the best-trained militaries in the world.

The film is from the creators of the PBS documentary, Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference. According to their website, the film not only shows the training these young men and women experience in preparation for the defense of their country, it also delves into “the values of peace, equality, opportunity, democracy, religious tolerance and women’s rights.”

Israel is one of the few nations where women can serve in combat roles, sometimes alongside men. Israel has the mixed Caracal Battalion and is currently recruiting women for their second unisex “Lions of the Jordan” battalion, which will be responsible, amongst other things, for making sure the West Bank remains secure.

In a press release, First Lt. (Res.) Aviv Regev, who’s in the film, said, “Beneath the Helmet shows how young Israelis, serving in the army just out of high school, face enormous struggles with their identity and their responsibilities as soldiers.” It brings a face to a military that while praised, is also vilified and misunderstood by much of the world.

So, while you flock to see American Sniper on Christmas Day, make sure to check out Beneath The Helmet as well.

Christine Rousselle - Bill Gates Plays Internet Secret Santa, Gives Charitable Gift
Posted: 12/25/2014 3:00:00 PM EST

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men in the world, joined over 200,000 members of the website "Reddit" to participate in their annual Secret Santa gift exchange. (Full disclosure: I also participated.) In Reddit's Secret Santa, participants are matched to a random "giftee," and the "gifter" can choose whether or not to share their identity. Gates was matched to a 25-year-old woman named Cali, and gave her a Loki helmet (from the movie Thor), a book of pictures of Africa, and a donation in her name to Shot@Life, a charity that provides vaccinations to children in poor countries.

From Business Insider:

For the last four years, thousands of Redditors have participated in a Reddit Secret Santa gift exchange. A whopping 212,894 users signed up this year, including — for the second year running — Bill Gates.

His gift ended up being incredibly thoughtful. User Calid7, a 25-year-old woman named Cali, writes that she was in shock when she discovered that Gates was her Santa.

Not only did he send her a Loki helmet she had listed as her "pie in the sky wish," but he also gifted her a book of gorgeous pictures of Africa (a place she says she desperately wants to visit), a stuffed polio virus microbe, and a donation in her name to Shot@Life, a program that provides vaccines to kids in poor countries who need them.

This is pretty cool, and it's a decently thoughtful gift from Gates. It's cool to see that even someone as rich and powerful as Gates would be willing to sign up to make a random stranger's Christmas, and at the same time help protect children from dangerous diseases. I just feel bad for the person who got Bill Gates as his giftee--what on earth could you possibly get him?!

Guy Benson - Video: 'The 12 Days of Christmas'
Posted: 12/25/2014 12:30:00 PM EST

I always enjoy sharing this performance by Indiana University's Straight No Chaser a cappella group around this time each year. Merry Christmas!


"Five golden rings!"

Conn Carroll - More And More Americans Are Choosing A Sunshine Christmas
Posted: 12/25/2014 11:00:00 AM EST

As most of New York faces a possible Christmas snow storm this week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday that Florida has officially passed the Empire State as the country's third most populous state.

"By adding an average of 803 new residents each day between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014, Florida passed New York to become the nation’s third most populous state," a Census Bureau press release read.

California is still the nation's most populous state with 38.8 million residents, and Texas retained second on the list with 27 million. Six states actually lost population in 2014, and all of them have colder winters, including: Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, New Mexico, Alaska, and Vermont. 

North Carolina, a warmer southern state, also outgrew Michigan to take over the ninth spot on the most populous state list.

Also of interest, of the nine states with the fastest growing populations, all nine (North Dakota, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and South Carolina) have Republican governors.