New Al Qaeda Magazine Urges Bombing More Planes, Lone Wolf Attacks

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is out with a new issue of Inspire, its online English language magazine that’s dedicated to promoting ‘jihad in America.’ And predictably, the group continues to be fixated on airplanes.

“Destination airport, and Guess What’s on the Menu?” is the title to the opening spread of the cover story about how to bomb passenger planes in the slick, professionally designed new issue ofInspiremagazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Releasing the digital magazine on Christmas Eve is unlikely a coincidence; it’s the 5th anniversary of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it was on its landing approach to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

The entire issue is devoted to inspiring lone wolf jihadists in the US and the West, and especially urges attacks on commercial passenger planes. A lengthy section provides detailed instructions on how to build a new bomb AQAP purports can be “hidden” not only on aircraft, but also to blow up other targets with the intent of causing ripples throughout US and Western economies.

The magazine, titled “Neurotmesis: Cutting the Nerves and Isolating the Head,” lists several domestic and international airlines as targets, as well as “direct economic targets,” “economic personalities” and “wealthy entrepreneurs or company owners.”

Also notable in this issue is their detailed instructions for how to make “The Hidden Bomb” and turn kitchens into the new lab for doing so.

“Initially, what we faced as a main problem was: How can a lone Mujahid acquire the required explosive materials. For several months, we conducted a number of experiments. As a result we came up with these simple materials that are readily available around the globe, even inside America - and this is our goal,” AQAP said.

“We spared no effort in simplifying the idea in such we made it 'another meal prepared in the kitchen' so that every determined Muslim can prepare.”

Detailed instructions such as these were used by the Boston Marathon bombers in 2013 to carry out their attack. Dzokhar Tsarnaev admitted to investigators that he and his brother learned to make pressure cooker bombs from an Inspire issue, which ran a feature article titled “How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.” 

Holiday Poll: 75 Percent of Respondents Still See Themselves as Christ-Followers

Despite hints and whispers to the contrary, the Christian sect is seemingly alive and well in the United States of America. Check out this recent Gallup poll:

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What's more, according to the poll, while most respondents would probably admit they don't have active spiritual lives, a plurality still do:

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Weekly attendance rates, however, vary greatly by sect:

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Meanwhile, a Rasmussen Reports poll discovered last spring that an astonishing percentage of Americans actually believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Equally as fascinating, perhaps, almost three-fourths of respondents also told the Pew Research Center in 2013 that Jesus' mother, Mary, was a virgin. This means, among other things, that despite the slight uptick in secularism from last year (see the first graph shown above), Christianity in America doesn't appear to be going anywhere, anytime soon.

Tragic: Faulty Prenatal Tests Often Lead to Abortion

Mothers are aborting their babies based on prenatal test results that reveal their children would be born with genetic defects. A new study, however, proves that these results are wrong 50 percent of the time, meaning these mothers are often aborting perfectly healthy babies. The New York Daily News reported on this tragic trend:

The New England Center for Investigative Reporting found that some women are terminating their pregnancies based on a test result for a genetic condition — even though the center’s study shows that the tests can be wrong 50% of the time. Shockingly, the group also found that the rate of false positives increased as the conditions became rarer.

This rate is devastating for women who are relying on these tests to determine whether or not to keep their unborn babies:

A recent study of 356 women by Natera, which makes the Panorama prenatal test, showed that 6.2% terminated their pregnancy based on noninvasive test results alone.

Illumina, which makes the Verifi test, told the Daily News that it “has always emphasized the need for confirmatory testing.”

Here's just one reason for the inaccurate conclusions:

One of the problems is that test results are often misread. Two Boston obstetricians recently sent cell samples from two nonpregnant women to five testing companies — and three out of the five companies said the women were carrying healthy baby girls.

Unborn children who are diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted a shocking 90 percent of the time. I wonder how many of those children were misdiagnosed? How sad one test determined whether they would live or die.

Also disheartening, is the fact that prenatal tests can also produce false negatives. Parents who assumed their children would be healthy find themselves dealing with serious genetic diseases. A little preparation would have been helpful.

I hope mothers who decide to get prenatal results take this study into account. Don't make a terrible choice based on one, unreliable test.

What Exactly Does The Establishment Want Conservatives To Compromise On?

Utah billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr., does not like Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

“He’s been a tremendous embarrassment to our family, to our state, to our country to have him as a U.S. senator," Huntsman, last seen feeding Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) false rumors about Mitt Romney, told Politico

Huntsman, Politico reports, is actively recruting "establishment" Republicans to challenge Lee in the 2016 primary. Lee's crime? His role in the 2012 shutdown seems to irk Huntsman the most, but other establishment Republicans in the state seem to want him to compromise more with President Obama.

"Strictly speaking on behalf of businesses, the frustration is when you have people who refuse  ... to work together to come up with solutions that can move us forward," Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce CEO Lane Beattie told Politico. "He has to, from a legislative standpoint in Congress, learn what it takes to make a change - make a difference. You can try all the bills in the world, but if you don't get anything done, what's the purpose unless you are influencing someone?"

And it is true. Obama has not signed into law any legislation authored by Lee. Not that Lee hasn't tried to be bipartisan. As Politico notes, Lee has worked with both Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) on housing and criminal justice reform respectively. Those bills just weren't priorities for Majority Leader Reid so they never went anywhere.

But as Republicans take over the Senate, you should expect to see Lee's influence more. Lee's "Conservative Reform Agenda" is highly thought of by Senate Republican policy leaders and you can expect to see legislation based on his ideas move forward on taxes, higher education, transportation, and welfare reform.

Will Obama sign any of these bills? Probably not.

But what exactly does the Republican establishment want to see Obama sign? Tax reform that raises revenue? A higher gas tax? Amnesty for illegal immigrants? More power for the Department of Education to force Common Core on the states?

What exactly do establishment Republicans like Huntsman and Beattie plan to run on in 2016?

How Republicans Can Break the "Obama Coalition" In 2016

Much has been made of the "Obama coalition," the demographic mix that carried President Obama to two electoral victories. The media has reported that Republicans face an uphill battle against this supposedly emergent, dominant electoral force.

In a most recent entry, the Associated Press reports:

Despite Democrats' midterm shellacking and talk of a "depressed" liberal base, many in the party still like their starting position for 2016. Ruy Teixiera, a Democratic demographer, points to a group of states worth 242 electoral votes that the Democratic presidential nominee has won in every election since 1992. Hold them all, and the party is just 28 votes shy of the majority needed to win the White House next time.

However...

"The notion of demographics as destiny is overblown," said Republican pollster and media strategist Wes Anderson. "Just like (Bush aide Karl) Rove was wrong with that 'permanent majority' talk, Democrats have to remember that the pendulum is always swinging."

As someone who lived through the "permanent majority" era promised by Karl Rove, I can say this is definitely true. Progressives who believe that, say, Hillary Clinton will be able to motivate the same coalition and turn them out in the same number might be severely overplaying the nature of the Obama coalition. President Obama's genius was being able to turn voters out to the polls who typically aren't interested in voting. Time will tell if anyone other than President Obama will have that unique appeal.

MRCTV Asks UVA Students About Botched Rolling Stone Piece

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.  

Shocker: Americans Want to Choose Their Own Health Care

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. 

The Friday Filibuster: Blue Lives Matter

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. 

9 Fights You'll See In Washington Next Year

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. 

Pizza Industry Vows to Continue Fight Against Obamacare’s Onerous Menu Labeling Regulation

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.”

RedState: Our Christmas Wish For You and Yours

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.

New Documentary Puts You 'Beneath The Helmet' Of The Israeli Military

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.

Bill Gates Plays Internet Secret Santa, Gives Charitable Gift

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?!

Video: 'The 12 Days of Christmas'


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!"

More And More Americans Are Choosing A Sunshine Christmas

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.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” --Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

The complete transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge is, perhaps like most readers, my favorite part of Charles Dickens’ classic novella. After spending a lifetime in isolation, accumulating wealth for its own sake, he realizes, in the end, what truly matters most: His relationships and friendships with other people.

Since it hit the streets of London, this classic work of fiction has reminded readers for generations that material pursuits and acts of selfishness are totally anathema to the spirit of Christmas, and ultimately unfulfilling, too. As his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, laments during his night-time visit:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

These simple but oft-forgotten lines are why I try to read Dickens’ famous work every year. They remind me how I should strive to live my life, even if I fail or fall short. You are not, after all, defined by what you have, but instead by how you live your life and treat others; and as bad as you might have it, there is always something to be grateful for.

Think of poor Bob Cratchit, whose financial situation is exceedingly bleak, perhaps even perilous. But what he has, in a sense, cannot be measured in earthly terms: a beautiful, loving family with whom to share the joy of Christmas with.

So, my friends, with that being said, I wanted to wish you all a very blessed holiday season with your friends, family and loved ones this year, and a Merry Christmas.

As Tiny Tim might say: “God bless Us, Every One!”

The Presidency Can't Stop Obama's "Golf Tradition"

George W. Bush was frequently mocked for his leisure trips during his presidency, but President Obama may have taken it to a new level with his golfing trips.

As The Hill reports, President Obama's trip to Hawaii this year is a part of a vacation he's been taking since before he was President - and he hasn't discontinued that while having the office of perhaps the most prestigious, stressful job in the country:

He arrived on Tuesday morning at the golf course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, according to a pool report. He is playing with his high school friends Greg Orme and Bobby Titcomb, as well as staffer Joe Paulsen.

Titcomb and Orme are part of a group of Obama's friends who reunite in Hawaii every year, a practice that continued even after Obama became president.

Obama also made golf outings, which opponents have criticized throughout his presidency, on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of the break.

This isn't to say that Presidents can or should never take vacations. But it's to point out that President Obama is almost never criticized for his own refusal to yield on vacations by the mainstream media, while it was a firestorm of controversy for his predecessor.

Obama's NLRB Threatens Decades of Precedent To Help Unions

NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin has brought complaints against McDonald's in response to employees alleging that they were unfairly retaliated against for discussing unionization.

The NLRB siding with a union against a corporate parent of a franchise would completely change how business is done in the United States - and tip the balance towards unions. As Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains:

In July Griffin stated (without offering a legal argument) that McDonald’s USA was a joint employer of those workers who are employed by local McDonald’s franchises, but he waited until last week to bring charges against the parent company. Before his appointment as general counsel, Griffin was one of the unconstitutional recess appointees to the NLRB, whose appointment was overturned by the Supreme Court.

This decision to charge both the McDonald’s franchise and the parent company with these violations overturns decades of precedent. For half a century, the local franchise was considered the only employer. The NLRB defined employers as those who controlled workers’ “essential terms of employment,” namely hiring, wage rates, firing, and job description. The franchises were the employers, not the owner of the franchise.

So the NLRB unilaterally changes the law without any notice or public comment, uses the change in the law to sue a major corporation, and tells the general public that the legal reasoning behind the change cannot be revealed. That’s Kafkaesque. And this from a president who stated in a memorandum on January 21, 2009, that “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”

As Furchtgott-Roth notes, this would be yet another example of the executive branch stretching its authority to get an outcome it wants. It would transform McDonald's restaurants from small businesses into organizations that must negotiate with a union like a giant corporation. As Furchtgott-Roth notes, only one-half of one percent of all McDonald's restaurants have legitimate complaints - and Obama's NLRB is using that small gap to ram through a tank.

MRCTV: Jonathan Gruber For Secretary of Defense

Of course, this is absurd. Jonathan Gruber is one of Obamacare’s architects, who recently got a tongue-lashing by the House Oversight Committee over comments he made about American voters–he called them stupid–and for saying that this, along with a lack of transparency, were essential to getting Obamacare passed. House Republicans had some questions about his comments on transparency when they became known after a series of videos, featuring the MIT professor, became public.

MRCTV’s Dan Joseph decided to see if Gruber’s insanely condescending attitude towards the American electorate is true. Earlier this month, he ventured onto the hallowed grounds of George Mason University to ask students to support his “petition” to make Jonathan Gruber our country’s next Secretary of Defense.

“It’s like magic when he talks; he’s great at convincing people of things,” said Joseph to a student willing to hear him out on this outlandish proposal.

Joseph did get some signatures for the “Gruber for SecDef” campaign, which is tragic to say the least.

Yet, I’m inclined not to think that the American people are stupid, especially when the media barely mentioned him in the news when “Grubergate” was at its height. 

"Soldier's Christmas": How a Rock Band Is Raising Awareness For Military Families This Season

“Music with meaning.” It’s how rock band Madison Rising describes what they’re trying to accomplish, and this Christmas season, they’re putting their efforts to a good cause. They’ve released the song “Soldier’s Christmas,” which draws on lead singer David Bray’s experience as a member of the military and the band’s work with veterans’ groups to both raise awareness of what military families go through during the holidays and raise money directly for the families of the fallen.

“It’s to bring awareness to those families,” Bray tells Townhall, “to say that we are grateful for the sacrifice and what they’ve given. And not only that, but in a music form, it’s a way to get out to people who may not be affected by war, or who may not be in military families, for them to understand the amount of sacrifice people are putting into this.”

“It’s our war. It’s high time we, especially during the holiday season, we get around to these families and we really hold them close.”

Inspiration came for Bray from Karen Vaughn, whose son Aaron was a member of SEAL Team Six and was lost during “Extortion 17,” the bloodiest single event in the war in Afghanistan - when the Taliban attacked a helicopter and killed 30 Americans. The loss of Aaron Vaughn spurred the creation of Operation 300, a charity that supports children of fallen American soldiers. Proceeds from Madison Rising’s “Soldier’s Christmas” will go directly to benefit the children that Operation 300 supports.

“During our tour with Concerned Veterans for America, I’d watch Karen get up on stage and relive this painful memory to bring awareness to the real sacrifices at hand on a day-to-day basis,” Bray says. “After I finished writing the song, I took it to her and I said Karen, I want to write this song for the holidays and I want to do something special with it… I kind of needed her blessing. She is a gold star mother.”

“The reaction I got from her is that it’s a blessing. It’s the same reason she does what she does.”

The music video for the song was put together with the help of Operation 300 and Minus Red, Jim Hanon’s filmmaking outfit that also aims to bring important messages to the people. Madison Rising is also going to be continuing work with Operation 300 and Concerned Veterans for America in the coming months, hoping to bring awareness and raise money for important military causes. And the outreach they’ve received so far has been astonishing.

"We had a staff sergeant reach out the other day who was on the verge of suicide... she suffers from PTSD, horribly," Bray says. "She listened to this song, and one of her remarks was, 'I'm not sure you tried to do this or not, but this song has given me hope and given me reason to live, to continue on, because if I don't tell the story of what happened to my brothers and sisters who I've lost, then they're gone, and they're gone forever. And it's now my duty to go out and tell those stories.'"

"When you get a message like that from somebody, it'll drop your jaw," Bray says.

To learn more about Operation 300, click here. Bray says that Madison Rising will continue working with Operation 300 and Concerned Veterans for America in the future.

Watch the video here:

What Does Sheriff Joe's Amnesty Lawsuit Mean For The Texas Challenge?

A federal judge dismissed Arizona county Sheriff Joe Arpaio's lawsuit challenging President Obama's executive amnesty Tuesday, a decision that has absolutely no bearing on the suit filed by Texas and joined by more than two dozen other states.

Federal District Court Judge Beryl Howell, appointed to her current position on the District Court for the District of Columbia by President Obama just four years ago, found that Arpaio did not establish a "concrete and particularized injury" sufficient to establish the legal standing needed to sue in federal court.

"The plaintiff’s case raises important questions regarding the impact of illegal immigration on this Nation, but the questions amount to generalized grievances which are not proper for the Judiciary to address," Howell wrote.

Arpaio's complaint failed to mention if he was suing in his personal or official capacity, and the judge was forced to clarify the matter at oral arguments Monday. Howell found that even in his official capacity as sheriff, Arpaio failed to identify any harms that were not "largely speculative." No one joined Arpaio in his suit.

Separately, on Monday, Tennessee became the 25th state to join Texas' challenge to Obama's most recent executive amnesty. Texas's suit will be heard by U.S. Fifth Circuit District Judge Andrew Hanen, who not only was appointed by President Bush, but also called Obama's immigration policy a "criminal conspiracy" in a 2013 case that correctly predicted the 2014 illegal immigration border surge crisis.

Texas has filed for a preliminary injunction in their case, an order which could halt Obama's amnesty before the administration starts giving out work permits in May

If Obama's amnesty does go forward, not only will states that voted against giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants,  like Oregon, be forced to to do so, but federal taxpayers everywhere will be on the hook for billions in tax credits to amnestied immigrants and their families

The GOP's Christmas Gift to Obama: Coal

Santa deliverd the weekly Republican address on Friday. Don't worry, I'm not trying to claim the big red guy is politically affiliated. I'm actually referring to Rep. Mike Kelly's (R-Pa.) Christmas message for President Obama, when he used the opportunity to discuss America's need to tap into her vast energy reserves. Holding a piece of coal, Kelly described how it is one of the most significant materials in the world:

“You see, coal is our most abundant and valuable resource. It lights our homes, it keeps our electric bills low, and it puts food on the table for countless families.”

He then cut to the chase. Our president is not taking advantage of this precious resource:

“Instead of forcing our workers to live with less, the president should let us use our God-given resources and talents to help Americans get back to work and make our nation the energy superpower it can be and, quite frankly, that it needs to be."

There's no telling if the president will take a few minutes to watch Kelly's message this holiday season (only the Elf on the Shelf will know), but considering the congressman's address, maybe coal wouldn't be such a bad thing to find in your stocking this year.

Democrats: The Party of the Rich

Prominent Democrats used the 2014 election cycle to attack wealthy donors of Republican causes like the Koch brothers. But a new analysis shows that, in 2014, Democrats are the party that relies more on the rich to fund their electoral pursuits.

As the Associated Press reports:

Among the top 100 individual donors to political groups, more than half gave primarily to Democrats or their allies. Among groups that funneled more than $100,000 to allies, the top of the list tilted overwhelmingly toward Democrats — a group favoring the GOP doesn't appear on the list until No. 14.

The two biggest super PACs of 2014? Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC — both backing Democrats.

In all, the top 10 individual donors to outside groups injected almost $128 million into this year's elections. Democratic-leaning groups collected $91 million of it.

Among the 183 groups that wrote checks of $100,000 or more to another group, Democrats had a 3-to-1 cash advantage. The biggest player was the National Education Association, at $22 million. Not a single Republican-leaning group cracked the top 10 list of those transferring money to others.

This is well-known by those who pay close attention to the political process. Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer has been funding his pet causes for a long time now, but it's still the Koch brothers that the media is obsessed with.

Hopefully this will get the media to take notice. But we're not holding our breath here.

This Christmas, Good Economic News

This week, the Commerce Department released revised figures of the economy's performance, and in their estimation, the economy surged in the third quarter of 2014 - growing at a 5% clip, which is the best such estimate in more than a decade.

As Bloomberg reported:

Gross domestic product grew at a 5 percent annual rate from July through September, the biggest advance since the third quarter of 2003 and up from a previously estimated 3.9 percent, revised figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a 4.3 percent increase in GDP.

This is a revised rate - the Commerce Department previously estimated that the economy had grown at a 3.9% rate in the third quarter.

This doesn't mean that the economy is healthy. Far from it. But the economy has continued rebounding - even after the stimulus' effects are long over, even after the sequester took a huge chunk out of federal spending. It's also doubtful the Commerce Department is intentionally "cooking the books" - this is a revised estimate, after an earlier, more pessimistic one, and one that's dropped right before the biggest holiday season of the year. It's not something that's going to dominate headlines at a politically-potent time.

So it's mild good news. Not jump-for-joy news, but good nonetheless.

Why Does Due Process Go Out The Window With Rape Cases?

Zerlina Maxwell wrote that we should "automatically" (see the URL for the original headline) believe rape victims.  That goes against everything our system of justice stands for, as we base cases on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. I’m not going down that rabbit hole–and neither should any American who believes in law and order. Dates, names, and physical evidence, need to be analyzed, cross-examined, and pieced together to build a case against the alleged perpetrator.

Again, you probably already know this, but some liberals seem to think otherwise. Why is that? Why is it that for other crimes they believe in the process, but when it comes to rape, it’s an automatic guilty verdict for the accused.

Right now, there seems to be this hysteria over sexual assault on campus. I’m not saying rape isn’t a serious issue, but its frequency may be overblown. We’ll get to that a little bit later.

Currently, the reforms and statues aimed at keeping campuses safe from sexual predators seem to be infringing on the civil rights of men. Emily Yoffe at Slate wrote a great long-from piece about the sexual assault epidemic that’s allegedly running rampant in higher education. She used the 2012 story of Drew Sterrett, an engineering student who used to attend the University of Michigan, as her foundation to delve into how college campuses have devolved into a clown circus when it comes to investigating sexual assaults.

Sterrett was a victim of this process; he engaged in what he says was a consensual sexual encounter with a female colleague at school. His roommate noted in a sworn affidavit that it was consensual, even mentioning his frustration that they were being too loud during the act, which was keeping him from sleeping.

Yoffe had a concise description of the legal fiasco that’s unfolding in American higher education:

Unfortunately, under the worthy mandate of protecting victims of sexual assault, procedures are being put in place at colleges that presume the guilt of the accused. Colleges, encouraged by federal officials, are instituting solutions to sexual violence against women that abrogate the civil rights of men. Schools that hold hearings to adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct allow the accuser and the accused to be accompanied by legal counsel. But as Judith Shulevitz noted in the New Republic in October, many schools ban lawyers from speaking to their clients (only notes can be passed). During these proceedings, the two parties are not supposed to question or cross examine each other, a prohibition recommended by the federal government in order to protect the accuser. And by federal requirement, students can be found guilty under the lowest standard of proof: preponderance of the evidence, meaning just a 51 percent certainty is all that’s needed for a finding that can permanently alter the life of the accused.

More than two dozen Harvard Law School professors recently wrote a statement protesting the university’s new rules for handling sexual assault claims. “Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process,” they wrote. The professors note that the new rules call for a Title IX compliance officer who will be in charge of “investigation, prosecution, fact-finding, and appellate review.” Under the new system, there will be no hearing for the accused, and thus no opportunity to question witnesses and mount a defense. Harvard University, the professors wrote, is “jettisoning balance and fairness in the rush to appease certain federal administrative officials.” But to push back against Department of Education edicts means potentially putting a school’s federal funding in jeopardy, and no college, not even Harvard, the country’s richest, is willing to do that.

As for Sterrett, the school found him guilty of sexual intercourse without the Complainant’s consent and was suspended until 2016; the year his alleged accuser graduates. All of this after Sterrett gave a thorough rebuttal, which didn’t suggest any sexual assault had occurred. His accuser’s roommate didn’t notice any behavioral shifts until her mother discovered her diary that “contained descriptions of romantic and sexual experiences, drug use, and drinking.” Obviously, this didn’t set well with the mother, who drove Sterrett’s accuser to campus to meet with the university’s conflict resolution official. Even Sterrett’s accuser’s roommate believes that a rape story could have been “manufactured” in response to the discovery of her diary and the alleged confrontation Sterrett’s accuser had with her mother over the summer of 2012. Oh, and the accuser’s roommate also mentioned in an affidavit that the mother called her repeatedly, told her not to talk to Sterrett, and take her daughter’s side in the proceedings.

Right now, Sterrett hopes to finish his education…someday. His lawsuit is pending.

Yoffe documents this tragic story in more detail, which also includes a lengthy deep-dive into the statistics as well. Spoiler alert: they’re not accurate.

Despite what feminists and liberal Democrats have been espousing for years regarding the rates of sexual assault, it’s a little dubious to say there’s a rape epidemic. The figures they give on rape and sexual assault rival that of the Congo in Africa, where it’s being used as a vehicle of war.

Additionally, there is a very wide range for actions that are considered sexual assault. In a study of over 5,000 female college students, they defined sexual assault as anything from non-consensual intercourse to “rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes.” Most importantly, Yoffe notes that we’re experiencing a great trend in this country: violent crime is down, including sexual assaults; they’re down by more than 60 percent since the mid-1990s:

The Sexual Victimization of College Women, a 2000 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, is the basis for another widely cited statistic, even grimmer than the finding of CSA: that one in four college women will be raped. (An activist organization, One in Four, takes its name from the finding.) The study itself, however, found a completed rape rate among its respondents of 1.7 percent. How does a study that finds less than 2 percent of college women in a given year are raped become a 25 percent likelihood? In addition to the 1.7 percent of victims of completed rape, the survey found that another 1.1 percent experienced attempted rape. As the authors wrote, “[O]ne might conclude that the risk of rape victimization for college women is not high; ‘only’ about 1 in 36 college women (2.8 percent) experience a completed rape or attempted rape in an academic year.”

In a footnote, the authors acknowledge that asserting that one-quarter of college students “might” be raped is not based on actual evidence: “These projections are suggestive. To assess accurately the victimization risk for women throughout a college career, longitudinal research following a cohort of female students across time is needed.” The one-fifth to one-quarter assertion would mean that young American college women are raped at a rate similar to women in Congo, where rape has been used as a weapon of war.

No one disputes that only a percentage of sexual assaults get reported, but the studies that have tried to capture the incidence of unreported rape are miles apart.

Yoffe also mentions David Lisak, who’s acted as a consultant in the military, colleges, and other institutions regarding sexual assault, and his 2002 study that’s become the foundation for curbing the frequency of such brutal attacks in our society. In essence, those who commit rapes on campuses fit the profile of a sexual predator. They’re a small group–and they’re repeat offenders. He noted in an article for Sexual Assault Report that “decent” young men do not (although he admits sometimes they do) engage in this barbarism against women since serial offenders are responsible for 90 percent of attacks of attacks. They’re “multi-faceted,” and their attacks are pre-planned and premeditated.

It’s pretty sick stuff. Lisak found in his 2002 that 6.4 percent of men “met criteria for rape or attempted rape;” Yoffe mentioned that 80 percent admitted to taking advantaged of an intoxicated partner.

Yet, while Yoffe credits Lisak for profiling these predators who are adept at evading capture, she’s quick to note that it isn’t representative of all college men. She also mentioned that his sample included more than just this demographic:

To start, though the study was of college men, it was not of college-age men (who are traditionally ages 18 to 24). Lisak’s participants ranged in age from 18 to 71. The average age of his respondents was 26.5, and more than 20 percent were older than 30. How does a study of men in college include so many older men? Lisak recruited people from where he taught, the University of Massachusetts Boston, an urban commuter school with no campus housing. Many students are older working people returning to or just starting college. Currently, 30 percent of its students attend part time and the school’s four-year graduation rate is 15 percent. By comparison, at the state’s flagship university in Amherst, seven percent of students are enrolled part time and its four-year graduation rate is 60 percent.

I spoke with James J. Cochran, professor of applied statistics at the University of Alabama. He said that because the population of male students at UMass Boston may differ in important ways from the population of male college students across all universities, we must be careful in generalizing results from the UMass Boston sample to the population of male college students across all universities.* People tend to think that a single study is definitive, Cochran told me. But generally what a single study tells you, he said, is that we have “evidence of something interesting, let’s study it more.”

Lisak conducted the study between 1991 to 1998, at several year intervals, setting up tables on campus, where he offered men $3 or $4 to complete a study on “childhood experiences and adult functioning.” In all, Lisak and his co-author recruited 1,882 participants (the school had a total of about 5,800 male students during this period). Lisak and his co-author wrote: “Because of the non-random nature of the sampling procedures, the reported data cannot be interpreted as estimates of the prevalence of sexual and other acts of violence.” I asked Lisak about this caveat in an interview and he said, “That’s a standard disclaimer for any study.”

Hence, we come back to the issue of having healthy criticism when rape claims come forward. The mantra of the feminist left is to believe alleged rape victims because women don’t lie, or something.

After the Duke lacrosse fiasco, where the three young men were allegedly involved in sexually assaulting a stripper, they were declared more than just not guilty, but innocent by North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper. 

To automatically believe one person’s account and disregard others when a serious crime is committed goes against everything codified in our system of justice. At the same time, it’s doubly irresponsible to suggest college is a dystopia for women when the facts and figures on sexual assault are questionable at best. In fact, DOJ reports show that college students are less likely to be victims of sexual assault. 

It does appear that institutions in higher learning are not equipped for the arduous, tedious process that our system of justice takes to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, to prevent innocent people’s lives from being ruined by frivolous allegations, to get the facts straight, and allow due process.

It’s hard to do that when raw emotion and a disregard for our system of justice sets in when it comes to investigating such heinous allegations. Feminists trust women. So do I, but investigations into allegations of sexual assault need to include–and respect– due process of law, especially at the college level.