Off the vine: The Grapevine stories you missed!

By Special Report Grapevine Producer -- Phil Vogel

While collecting Grapevine stories often times there are stories that are great/funny/interesting that just don't make the cut. So here are a few of my favorite pickings that fell off the vine--

Language Barrier: A new Social Security Administration Inspector General's report found that disability benefits were approved for hundreds of Puerto Ricans because they do not speak English -- despite Spanish being the dominate language in the territory. Moreover, the SSA doesn't have a system to track the number of beneficiaries who qualify by not being able to speak English. The administration has agreed to gather that data -- and to review the rules determining eligibility for disability benefits.

Making Me Look Bad: An Illinois sixth-grader completed a near-perfect NCAA bracket (perfect Sweet 16, Elite eight, Final Four, and Champion), but has been deemed ineligible for the grand prize due to being underage. ESPN requires participants to be at least 18, so the 12-year old is can’t enter the drawing to claim a $20,000 gift card and a trip to Hawaii. Holtz admitted to the Daily Herald he was irritated but, "still proud of my accomplishment, but I'm not happy with the decision." ESPN told the Associated Press that they are putting together a special prize for the youngster.

Think, Think, Think: Four Floridians got the bright idea to steal honey from a hive. They overlooked the fact that the hive was populated by actual bees -- about 30-thousand bees -- that were not welcoming to the invaders. Some neighbors called 911 and firefighters used a hose to help the bee-covered folk -- who were stung about 50 times each and sent to the hospital for treatment.

Friendly Skies: The Japanese Defense Minister believes aliens exist but is certain no aliens have entered Japanese airspace. "When the Air Self Defense Force detects indications of an unidentified flying object that could violate our country's airspace, it scrambles fighter jets if necessary and makes visual observation," Gen Nakatani said when questioned about the danger of space aliens. Sometimes it is birds or other flying objects are detected -- but no cases of non-Earth visitors. Well that is a sigh of relief.

Worth 1000 Words: This picture is so Joe Biden. A new take on politicians kissing babies?

(Photo: Facebook/Georgina Bloomberg)

The Periscope App: What is it?

Bret sat down with Adam Sharp, Head of Politics and Government at Twitter to talk about the new live-streaming app everyone is talking about. Periscope is a way for ordinary people all over the globe to share video in real time. It is changing the way we see the world and could have a real impact on campaigns and elections as we head into 2016. Many of the potential 2016 candidates have already started using Periscope. Hear what Adam has to say about this new app and find out how you can use it in all its forms--

Jack Nicklaus: Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

By Bret Baier

As Spring is now officially in the air and the azaleas are in full bloom at Augusta National during this Masters week, it’s worth spending a few moments to watch and listen to a great speech about an amazing golfer.   Jack Nicklaus Jr., the son of the golfing great, gave a speech March 24th when his father received the Congressional Gold Medal.    While this speech IS about golf and it IS a tribute to the best in the sport, at its heart – it’s a speech from a son to his father… a speech worth listening to… from a family that is clearly engaged in FAMILY.   There is a great description of Jack Nicklaus’ historic 1986 win at the Masters – Jack Jr. was on his father’s bag that day.   The final nine holes of that tournament will stay with ME forever.  I was there that day in the crowd at Augusta – a high school golfer from Atlanta with goosebumps watching a 46 year old legend win again on golf’s biggest stage – Jack Nicklaus’ 6th green jacket.    I have since watched that ‘86 Masters tournament several times – on an old VHS tape I had (remember that format).  Listening to it from Jack Jr.’s speech – gives it new life.  I was out of the country when Nicklaus was awarded this medal on Capitol Hill.  I just recently watched the ceremony in full.   Congratulations Jack and Jack Jr.!   

Full disclosure – I am a HUGE Jack Nicklaus fan.   I essentially learned to play golf by reading and then repeatedly watching “Golf My Way” (Again with a VHS tape).   And even today, on the wall of my office on Capitol Hill, you can find a Nicklaus signed Augusta National scorecard from 1986 – and a signed picture of the Golden Bear and Arnold Palmer.  For me, he was and still is THE BEST EVER.   So here’s hoping for some of that Augusta National magic this week.  It’s moments like 1986 that create a whole new generation of golf addicts – like me.

Here is a link to Jack Nicklaus Jr.'s speech--

Dianne Feinstein: Literature that Influenced Terror Suspects “Should be removed from the Internet”

By Special Report College Associate Ford Fischer

Thursday, two New York women were arrested for plotting to build a bomb and carry out an ISIS-influenced attack. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California released a statement online condemning the attack and hinted at the idea of banning a book and magazine series that influenced the alleged terrorists.

“I am particularly struck that the alleged bombers made use of online bombmaking guides like the Anarchist Cookbook and Inspire Magazine,” she said in an official statement. “These documents are not, in my view, protected by the First Amendment and should be removed from the Internet.”

The Anarchist Cookbook is a book describing homemade weapons and other domestic fighting tactics, released during the height of the anti-Vietnam war movement. The book is certainly not a favorite of Feinstein’s. In 1997, she sponsored a measure that would make the distribution of any book describing the creation of homemade bombs illegal. The motion failed.

Inspire Magazine is an online English-language al-Qaeda publication, which regularly calls readers to carry out attacks against the United States. According to the Daily News, U.S. Attorney General Barry Grisson noted last year to students at Wichita State University that people who access Inspire Magazine are monitored by the government. “Do not go to this website.” Grisson said. “You will be on our list.”

While monitoring undoubtedly occurs, the libertarian-leaning Reason Magazine was quick to point out the impracticability of Feinstein’s suggestion to rid the internet of such materials.  “There is no chance Feinstein's wishes would come true, or even could come true these days,” Reason’s Scott Shackford writes. “It's nevertheless a reminder that Feinstein is perfectly fine with censorship.”

Ironically, the women in New York were joined over the past two years by an FBI undercover agent who they believed was a fellow jihadist. According to the criminal complaint and request for an arrest warrant against the suspects, the undercover officer gave them a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, which they hadn’t read until then. 

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.



Coming Up

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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