Iranian cargo ship headed in direction of Yemen

By Fox News Producer Lucas Tomlinson

Pentagon officials confirm there is a lone Iranian-flagged cargo ship underway headed in the direction of Yemen, presumably to deliver relief supplies to Yemeni citizens affected by the ongoing conflict between the Saudi Arabian-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels inside the country.

“We are aware of an Iranian cargo ship underway presumably bound for Yemen as they have said,” one official told Fox News adding that the ship left Iran Monday.  The cargo ship is currently in the Gulf of Oman, proceeding in the direction of Yemen after making an outbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz according to the official.

Saudi Arabia announced a ceasefire in its air campaign against the Houthis in Yemen beginning at 11 p.m. local/4 p.m. EDT  today.

Another defense official told Fox News, “This cargo ship is not like the last convoy.  It is an Iranian-flagged commercial vessel owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line and does not have an escort at the moment,” he said.

On April 19, the U.S. Navy sent the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt  and her escort, USS Normandy, a guided-missile cruiser from the northern Arabian Gulf where she was launching aircraft to strike ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria to intercept a nine-ship Iranian convoy suspected of carrying rockets to arm Houthi rebels in Yemen. 

The Iranian convoy turned around four days later off the coast of Oman before reaching Yemeni waters and returned home.  The U.S. Navy sent jets from Roosevelt and other escort ships in the battle group to monitor the convoy throughout its transit.   

Two Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy vessels were part of the nine-ship convoy. 

Currently, the lone Iranian cargo ship underway does not have a military escort, according to the Pentagon.

“At this point, there is no reason to believe the ship is anything except what the Iranians say it is—a ship carrying supplies,” said one official.

When Fox News asked the official how he could be so sure the Iranian cargo ship steaming toward Yemen was only carrying humanitarian supplies and not weapons, he pointed to the intelligence gathering capability of the U.S. military.

“We monitor everything.  We monitor the activities of all maritime traffic in the region including this one,” he said.

The Pentagon is not tracking any other ships headed in the direction of Yemen at this time besides the cargo ship, but they are aware of the press reports coming out of Iran today from its state run news agency.

The Pentagon deferred to the State Dept. about any potential verification processes put in place after the ceasefire is announced to ensure that no weapons are shipped to Yemen. 

 

Off The Vine: The Grapevine Stories You Missed

While collecting Grapevine stories often times there are stories that are great/funny/interesting that just don't make the cut for the segment or the whole thing gets axed for other -- apparently more “important”-- news. So here are a few of my favorite pickings that fell off the vine--

The Pen Is Mightier: The VA has killed a North Carolina veteran -- at least on paper. Robert Pressley and his family were shocked to read the opening sentence of a letter from the VA expressing sympathies for Pressley's death, "To prove that I am alive is just insane… because of someone one's clerical error my whole life can be taken away from me and it is." His disability benefits have been cancelled -- along with his healthcare and medical insurance. The VA told FoxNews.com it is trying to determine what happened in Pressley's case and correct the error.

Have His Cake, and Eat It Too: The Prime Minister of Iceland is taking heat for leaving the parliament floor in the middle of a debate while being asked a question -- so he could get some cake. An opposition MP was outraged, “I don’t believe that I have ever witnessed that after an honorable parliamentarian addresses an honorable minister, that the minister leaves the floor before answering… was he speaking with the International Monetary fund or the United Nations? He left to have cake, respectful speaker. I must stay that I find it absolutely incredible.”

Backup Needed: A battle over red light cameras in Texas has once side calling for re-enforcements. A pro-camera PAC has hired an Ohio-based market firm to pay people $18 an hour to act as protesters of an amendment is up for a vote this weekend to outlaw the cameras.  The local Tea Party group is calling shenanigans -- "You basically have a camera company trying to save their monetary hide. They are creating fake groups that they hide behind." Supporters say the cameras save lives -- while critics see them as money-making machines.

Go Directly Back to Jail: A New Jersey man ALMOST got out of jail. While leaving the Monroe County Correction Facility -- Sirbio Sanchez allegedly punched two correctional officers. He then resisted as the guards tried to restrain him. Sanchez is now back in jail.

Rock-Chalk: Fantasy Sports are a governor's signature away from being legal in Kansas. A bill has passed the House and the Senate by wide margins declaring that Fantasy Sports are games of skill and knowledge not luck -- and therefore not illegal lotteries. Republican Rep. Brett Hildabrand, who initially introduced the legalization language, said he did so because, "so many Kansans participate in this and we want to make sure that they're operating on the right side of the law."

President Obama's Trade Agenda

A down day on Wall Street today as we learned the trade deficit took a big step backwards in march ballooning to its highest level in more than six years. This comes as President Obama faces increasing resistance to his trade agenda.

More problems for Clinton Foundation

The acting CEO of the Clinton Foundation admitted to mistakes in how the foundation disclosed its donors, but has insisted the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, a multi-million dollar foundation publicly listed as a donor on the Foundation's website, did not identify its donors because Canadian law bans disclosure of charitable donors without their consent.

Critics have charged learning about donors to the Canadian charity would reveal whether any may have had business before the State Department when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

Now reports have surfaced that say under Canadian law there is no blanket prohibition on charities to ever release donor names. In general, charities registered with the Canadian federal government are subject to provisions in the Income Tax Act, which regulates whether the Canada Revenue Agency (equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service) can disclose taxpayer information, including donor information. It does not regulate whether a registered charity can disclose donor information.

The Boston Globe also reports the Clinton Health Access Initiatives, a part of the Clinton Foundation, failed to disclose its foreign donations during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State.

A spokesperson told the Globe the charity simply deemed it unnecessary, except for one instance--which was an "oversight."

In 2010 Clinton Health Access Initiatives took in close to $27 million in foreign donations and more than double that amount in 2013.

Ed Henry has more on this story for us tonight on Special Report.

Special Report Grapevine: $2.2 billion loss a success?

 
Only in Washington: Only in Washington could you call a $2.2 billion loss a success. Anew audit from the Government Accountability Office says that's how much the feds stand to lose from energy loan guarantee programs. That includes the infamous Solyndra failure and dozens of other green technology programssupplied with about $30 billion in taxpayer fundingand defaulting on about a billion so far. However, the energy department considers the loan program a success since earlier estimates put the losses at $4billion. The  department believes it is quote --
"achieving its statutory mission to accelerate the deployment of innovative clean energy projects and advanced vehicle manufacturing facilities in the U-S, while being a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars."
 
#SAVE THE GUAC: In Florida the rush is on to save your guacamole. Heat sensing drones and dogs are being used to defeat a deadly fungus spread by a tiny beetle. It is being called the greatest threat to the Florida avocado ever. Avocado lovers have adopted the hashtag  "save the guac " in support. Researchers and farmers are fighting to halt the fungus -- before it advances to California -- which produces nearly 90 percent of the nation's avocado supply.
 
Fed Up: Finally, one professor has had enough. Irwin Horwitz of Texas A &M University has flunked his entire business management class and quit mid-semester. He said in a blast email to his students he was disgusted and could not take any more disrespect or threats. "You all lack the honor and maturity to live up to the standards that Texas A&M holds, and the competence and/or desire to do the quality work necessary to pass the course just on a grade level." The university says it will review the professors complaints, but that the failing grades will be re-assessed.
 

The Tangled Clinton Web

A new book by author Peter Schweizer documents tens of millions of dollars donated to the Clinton Foundation and millions in speaking fees to former President Bill Clinton from foreign governments and businesses that had business or policy issues that would end up in front of then Secretary of State Clinton.

Specific donations from a uranium company --Uranium One ---and its officers to the Clinton Foundation were never disclosed. According to Reuters the Clinton Foundation is refiling at least five annual tax returns after errors were found in "how they reported donations from governments."

In the end a Russian company essentially controlled by Vladamir Putin is in charge of controlling a substantial portion of American Uranium. Russia sends uranium to its client state Iran--so American uranium could potentially be sent to the very nation we're negotiating with to try to slow its ability to develop a nuclear weapon. 

We have asked the Clinton campaign and Clinton surrogates for response to this and many other stories laid out in our hour special, but they have not responded. They put out a statement today after the New York Times piece regarding Kazakhstan:

"In a statement, Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign, said no one "has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation." He emphasized that multiple United States agencies, as well as the Canadian government, had signed off on the deal and that, in general, such matters were handled at a level below the secretary. "To suggest the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton, exerted undue influence in the U.S. government's review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless," he added."

n             New York Times.  April 23, 2015

New questions also arise over the Clinton email server that has reportedely been wiped clean--how many of those emails had to do with the Clinton Foundation, speeches or any of this?

Join us tomorrow at 10pmET for a special one hour documentary "The Tangled Clinton Web" on Fox News Channel and watch the above for the story on Uranium One and Kazakhstan.

Parents of Boston Bombing Victim Advocate Life Imprisonment, not Death Sentence

By Ford Fischer, Special Report College Associate

“We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul,” write Bill and Denise Richard in the Boston Globe. Despite the loss of one child and the injury of another, they insist that they do not want the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev was found guilty on all 30 counts related to the bombibg and subsequent violence when he and his brother, Tamerlan, tried to escape. Many of these federal charges carry a maximum sentence of death. With the second phase of the trial beginning soon, the defense will present jurors with evidence that Tamerlan’s influence over Dzhokhar was responsible for the crimes, and that he should only be sentenced to life in prison. The government will argue that the crimes were heinous and that Dzhokar was remorseless.

However, the Richards want to see the death penalty taken off the table altogether. “We urge the Department of Justice to bring the case to a close,” they write. “We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal.”

Death penalty cases tend to be followed by years of appeals, costs, and strenuous legal processes. The family believes that this would keep the defendant in the spotlight and make it impossible to begin healing. “We believe that now is the time to turn the page, end the anguish, and look toward a better future — for us, for Boston, and for the country.”

Massachusetts residents are overwhelmingly against the death penalty. In the case of Tsarnaev specifically, one poll says that only 26 % of Bostonians want to see him executed.

The death penalty was abolished in Massachusetts in 1984 and hasn’t been used since 1947. However, the sentence is possible in this case because the charges are brought federally. 

What do you think? Should Tsarnaev receive the death penalty or life in prison?

Off the Vine: The Grapevine stories you missed!

Busy week in news as the 2016 lineup is filling up. Here are some of the stories that just missed out on being a part of the Grapevine.

By Phil Vogel, Special Report Producer

Feeling Low: Troop Morale is low -- really low. More than half of 770,000 soldiers are pessimistic about their future in the military and a similar number are unhappy in their jobs according findings obtained by USA TODAY. The physical health numbers were not pretty either -- only 14-percent say they are eating right and getting enough sleep. Since 2009, the Army has spends $287-million on a campaign to make troops more optimistic and resilient.  As part of the program, all soldiers -- including National Guard and reserves -- must fill out confidential questionnaires that measure resiliency. The army says the formulas used in the report are obsolete and will continue the positive psychological effort.

2016 Copy Editors Needed: Last week, we told you about Rand Paul's campaign website launching with "Education" misspelled (spelled it Eductation). This week, it was Hillary Clinton's turn for an embarrassing typo. The official press release announcement read, "Her work going door-to-door for the Children’s Defense Fund to her battling to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, she’s fought children and families all her career." There is an important word missing there -- it was quickly fixed and the Presidential candidate got it right during her speaking engagements this week

Complexity Costs: Americans spend $32-billion to comply with the complicated tax system. And that is only the out-of-pocket cash - the National Taxpayers Union Foundation total the lost hours of productivity at 6.1 billion hours -- costing the economy $234 billion. 94% of returns were done with some kind of assistance -- I know mine was.

Old Habits Die Hard: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid must have been feeling nostalgic when he walked into the majority's weekly lunch on Tuesday. The problem is the Mansfield room is the lunching-domain of the Republicans now. The Nevada democrat quickly realized his mistake and exited through another door telling reporters, "wanted to check out the food."

Blast from the Past: Oddly enough, this week was not the first time a mailman has flown a small copter by the Capitol. On May 19, 1938, John Miller demonstrated the feasibility of a shuttle airmail service as part of National Airmail Week. Don't believe me? Here is the picture of proof from the Library of Congress.

Part 2: Bret Baier sits down with businessman Donald Trump

Part 1: Bret sits down with businessman Donald Trump

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As the US and Cuba close in on resolving issues that would allow both countries to re-open embassies for the first time since the US severed diplomatic relations in 1961 the State Department has removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

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