IRAN: A few key points

From Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen

First, this is not a deal; it is the outline of a deal, and the technical experts for the seven countries (P5+1 and Iran) now have until June 30 to try to hammer out the fine print. As President Obama said in the Rose Garden: “our work is not yet done.  The deal has not been signed.”

Second, the reduction in the number of installed centrifuges, from 19,000 to 6,104, is significant – a reduction of roughly two-thirds – but we should remember that that was roughly the number of centrifuges Iran had installed when Barack Obama became president in 2009. As we have shown, roughly 75 percent of the centrifuges Iran has installed were installed on the Obama-Biden watch.

Also, earlier this week, Dr. Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director of the IAEA – one of the most respected arms control officials of his generation – told reporters that an agreement that enables roughly 6,500 centrifuges to remain in place would not have the effect of lengthening Iran’s “breakout time” (the length of time it would take Tehran to build a bomb if the regime abruptly nullified an agreement and made a mad dash for a weapons capability) from the current estimate of 60-90 days to one year, as the Obama administration claims the agreement does. Heinonen said on March 31: “[I]f there are 6,500 centrifuges remaining, installed and in operation, it might be difficult to get it to one year or longer, the breakout time. It will be clearly below [that]. And then we have to add all the uncertainties, the unknowns to this image: Are there some unknown nuclear materials? Are there some unknown centrifuges?”

Next: The fact sheet released by the State Department in Lausanne provides details of how IAEA inspections would work, including the ability of U.N. nuclear inspectors to have “regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities”; “continuous surveillance” of centrifuge rotors; and access to any sites deemed “suspicious” for whatever reason. But the provisions outlined do not appear to include snap inspections.

As part of the transparency provisions, Iran will “implement an agreed upon set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the possible military dimension (PMD) of its program.” The problem there is that the JPOA, the framework under which these negotiations have unfolded for the last sixteen months, provided that Iran was already supposed to do that – come clean to the IAEA about Tehran’s research a decade ago, into warhead design and re-entry vehicles. And that never happened. The IAEA certified that while Iran complied over the course of the negotiations, and still is, with its obligations to enrich only to certain levels, to dilute higher-enriched stockpiles down, etc., the IAEA has also certified that Iran has stonewalled on the PMD. President Obama in the Rose Garden papered over that: “Iran's past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed” was all he said.

Finally, we refer to the president’s comments before the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in December 2013, when these negotiations were just getting underway. He said then: “[W]e know that they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.  They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.” The abandonment of those positions shows how far the U.S. dialed back its negotiation posture over the course of the talks.

Understanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

It's important to point out about the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- that we make sure it's “apples to apples”-- when talking about the Federal law and 19 other state laws.

The Indiana law *is* different... more broad than all others ... except South Carolina

Law: Religious Discrimination Statute Compared to Other RFRA

BRIEF: Indiana's religious freedom law sets a standard by which cases involving religious objections will be judged. The law says the government cannot intrude on a person's religious liberty unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden and do so in the least restrictive way.

Indiana's law differs from the federal version and the 19 other state RFRAs in the following ways:

*** First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to "the free exercise of religion." The federal RFRA doesn't contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina's.

Sec. 5. As used in this chapter, "exercise of religion" includes any exercise of religion,whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.

Sec. 7. As used in this chapter, "person" includes the following: (1) An individual. (2) An organization, a religious society, a church, a body of communicants, or a group organized and operated primarily for religious purposes. (3) A partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that: (A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by: (i) an individual; or (ii) the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.

*** Second,  the Indiana law contains a provision about rights which have yet to be burdened. The federal RFRA doesn't contain such language

Sec. 9. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.

*** Third, the Indiana law provides a defense in a private suit where the government is not a party. The circuits are split as to whether RFRA can be claimed as a defense in citizen suits-suits solely between private citizens in which the government is not a party.

Sec. 9. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding. If the relevant governmental entity is not a party to the proceeding, the governmental entity has an unconditional right to intervene in order to respond to the person's invocation of this chapter.

*** Fourth, many of the states with a RFRA law also have a law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Indiana does not have o a state-wide law.

In Indiana, about a dozen cities, including Indianapolis, have local nondiscrimination laws that specifically protect gays and lesbians in employment, housing, education and public accommodation, which include business transactions. But in much of Indiana there is no such protection.

20 States with Religious Freedom Restoration Acts: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia.

Religious freedom states that have nondiscrimination laws protecting gays, lesbians and bisexuals: Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, Rhode Island.

Religious freedom states with cities or towns that have non-discrimination ordinances that include either sexual orientation and/or gender identity protections with respect to employment and public accommodation: Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas.

Wounded Warrior has golf clubs stolen from Army Navy Country Club

By Katy Ricalde

For many the golf course is a place of escape, but for Retired Marine Lt. Col. Justin Constantine, who was severely injured in Iraq after a sniper shot him in the head, it was one of the few places he felt he could be himself during his recovery, avoiding stares and forgetting about some of the issues he was facing.

On Sunday, Constantine was hitting a few balls at the driving range at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA where he accidentally left three golf clubs. He went back to retrieve them the next day, but two of the clubs were missing.

Constantine joined the club in 2006 before he deployed to Iraq and although he didn’t have the opportunity to play a lot of golf, he fell in love with the game. His injuries left him disfigured and during his recovery he would play the course on weekdays when few people were around.

He was introduced to the Salute Military Golf Association, which holds clinics and brings local golf professionals in to teach wounded warriors and caregivers the basics of golf and healthy living. With practice, Constantine improved his game and SMGA provided him with a solid base on which to play.

Because of his injuries Constantine has to wear an eye patch when he plays, which makes his stance and swing a little different than normal. PING Golf provided him--and a number of other wounded veterans--with custom-fit clubs complete with his name engraved on them.

Constantine told Fox News that the clubs hold “significant sentimental value” and are “a reminder of the commitment that many across our country have for our wounded warriors and caregivers.”  That, far more than the cost of missing clubs, is why the situation bothers him so much.

The head pro at the Army Navy Country Club is working with Constantine to try to find out what happened and PING golf has offered to replace the clubs that have gone missing.  

Constantine is not looking to cause any trouble—he would just like the clubs returned and says he won’t ask questions—just assume it was a mistake. 

Baier Family Vacation

We know you have missed Bret his week--but not to worry because he will be back on Monday and ready for Special Report. Bret asked us to share a few of his vacation photos with you all and to let you know he has had a great week, but can't wait to get back in the anchor chair!

Bret teaches Paul and Daniel how to snorkel 

Brothers snorkeling together

Paul and Daniel on the beach

The Baier family headed to dinner

Paul and Daniel feed the rays

2016 Contenders: Senator Jim Webb

Supreme Court Hears Arguments Regarding Confederate Flag License Plates

By Special Report College Associate Ford Fischer

Are the images on your license plate private speech or government speech?

While most would agree that a car owner could use whatever bumper stickers they want, custom plate designs have proven controversial.

Texas, which produces over 400 different plates including “Don’t Tread on Me” and other political messages, has denied the Sons of Confederate Veterans group from placing a confederate flag on their government-issued license plates.

The issue is now before the Supreme Court, where the DMV is arguing "a significant portion of the public associate the Confederate flag with organizations advocating expressions of hate directed toward people or groups that is [sic] demeaning to those people or groups."

Representing the state, Texas Solicitor General Scott A. Keller argues that “The First Amendment does not mean that a motorist can compel any government to place its imprimatur on the Confederate battle flag." The premise of their argument is that the first amendment would be violated by forcing the government to print offensive speech.

Ginsberg pointed out that a burger company has an approved license plate. “Is it government speech to say 'Mighty Fine Burgers' to advertise a product?"

Alito and Kagan seemed to express similar views, noting that government billboards do not give the state discretion to choose what organizations are qualified to use it. The plates’ designs don’t represent government approval or endorsement since they merely exist as a revenue enhancer. 

Justice Stephen Breyer, the only member seemingly sympathizing with the DMV, had a hard time finding legal grounding for them.

"I just think you have to have some kind of legitimate reason," Breyer said. "It doesn't have to be much. It could be just a little."

The court is expected to make a decision in late June.

2016 Contenders: Senator Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz became the first candidate to announce his campaign for president for 2016 and you had a chance to hear some of Cruz's thoughts during our '2016 Contenders Series' on Special Report. Here are a few of the questions and answers we didn't have room for in the show--including his view on those who question is eligibility to run for president, more on immigration, on Hillary Clinton and more.

“Draft Biden” Campaign Garners Early Support

By Special Report College Associate Ford Fischer

“Why Biden? Quite simply, WHY NOT BIDEN?” reads the new Run Biden Run website, featuring an open letter to “Draft Biden.” Despite early polls showing Joe Biden nearly 40% behind the front runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, the group hopes to get the current Vice President into the race.

 “While Hillary Clinton is certainly a highly visible, potential candidate, Draft Biden 2016 thinks that voters want an election with real choices, not a coronation,” William Pierce told Fox News. “Vice President Joe Biden is uniquely qualified to tackle the issues America will face over the next decade.”

Pierce is a young Democrat who runs the organization to promote Biden as an alternative to another Bush or Clinton presidency. The group’s open letter asking Biden to run has already collected nearly 4000 signatures.

“At a time in which many feel that Washington is a place riddled with inaction and a political system that is broken, you exhibited a never-wavering optimism and enthusiasm for progression that makes you strive to deliver tangible change” the letter says.

The website claims that he has “more experience than any other candidate, or potential candidate, in the field.” In total, he has accumulated 36 years in congress and will have had eight in the vice presidency. By contrast, Hillary Clinton has had eight years of experience in U.S.. Senate and four as Secretary of State.

Biden has said he will decide whether or not to run by the end of this summer. While he is significantly behind Clinton in the polls, he is the most popular alternative to the former secretary of state, with a slight lead over Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“People know exactly who Joe Biden is.” Pierce said. “They know where he stands on the issues, they know what he thinks. And if you’re not sure, just wait and he’ll tell you exactly how he feels. That kind of candidness, that kind of honesty is missing from our political discourse, and we think that's something that American voters will appreciate.”

Sources: Yemeni bombings likely work of ISIS

By James Rosen

Yemeni diplomats tell Fox News they believe today’s quadruple suicide bombings at two mosques in Yemen were likely the work of ISIS and not Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The sources cited not only the claim of responsibility formally issued by ISIS-affiliated militants and the denial of responsibility formally issued by AQAP, but the fact that historically, AQAP has sought, in its attacks, to limit civilian casualties – and the extraordinary civilian death toll of today’s attacks, including scores of children, points to a different organization. Yemeni officials expect the death toll to rise dramatically overnight, and to approach 150.

As for even more recent AP bulletins reporting that AQAP has seized control of the Southern city of al-Houta, capital of the Lahj province, sources said the proliferation of tribesmen in that area – with some loyal to deposed President Hadi, others secessionist, still others pro-AQAP – makes it very difficult to discern who is doing what.

The Shi’ite Houthi rebels, long based in the north, have no real presence in the south. They seized control of the capital Sanaa in September and effectively run it today. They have seized large numbers of weapons in the country from various armories and depots. The U.S. for its part, only maintains communications with Hadi. Iran has amped up its political support of the Houthis in recent weeks, pledging a massive aid package including the provision of fuel derivatives, power plants, maintenance help, the rehabilitation of deteriorating ports, etc.

The capital is now largely empty of feign diplomats, save for a handful of Arab nations, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Iranians.

The next critical juncture is a set of mediation talks between Hadi loyalists, the Houthis and other parties, set to be held in April in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Until then, analysts foresee a continued, albeit low-intensity conflict, with regional lines being drawn across the country.

The sources described today’s bombings as the worst mass-casualty attack on civilian life in modern memory.

Pew Poll: Americans concerned about privacy amidst domestic monitoring

By Special Report College Associate Ford Fischer

A new study by the Pew Research Center was released this week, detailing the views of Americans about the state of government domestic spying and how they have changed their habits as a result. This study comes nearly two years after details of these programs leaked through former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

An overwhelming majority (87%) of Americans are at least somewhat aware of the surveillance programs. Of these, a strong majority (61%) feels that they have become less confident that these programs serve the public interest. Further, the majority of both parties (70% of Republicans and 55% of Democrat) say they have lost confidence.

A full 57% described the monitoring of US citizens as unacceptable. At issue seems to be whether the targeting is too broad. While most say that have lost confidence in the programs, 82% still feel that monitoring suspected terrorists is still acceptable.

Many Americans say they have changed their behavior as a result of the revelations. Over one third (34%) of those who are aware of the domestic spying have taken steps to shield themselves. According to the poll: “17% changed their privacy settings on social media; 15% use social media less often; 15% have avoided certain apps and 13% have uninstalled apps; 14% say they speak more in person instead of communicating online or on the phone; and 13% have avoided using certain terms in online communications.”

What are your thoughts?

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