Tuesday morning news: June 18, 2019

Iran says its accelerating nuclear program » Iran said on Monday that within 10 days it will blow past the uranium stockpile limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal. A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said “We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently.”

The U.S. State Department said Monday that Iran’s announcement is not surprising. Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said it’s part of a long pattern of behavior.

ORTAGUS: They did this when we were in the JCPOA, right? They continued to build their missile programs. We relieved sanctions, they took American sailors hostage. We have seen no moderating behavior by this regime. 

Iran had threatened to accelerate its nuclear pursuit unless Europe provides better terms by July 7th. The nuclear pact began to fall apart last year after President Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Ortagus said America is urging allies to—quote—“not yield to nuclear extortion by the Iranian regime.”

Amid mounting tensions, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced Monday that the US will send one thousand additional troops to the Middle East.

U.S. allows already-approved aid to South America, halts new funding » Ortagus also announced on Monday that the U.S. is easing previously announced cuts to aid programs for several Central American nations. But it will also halt new aid to El Savador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

ORTAGUS: We will not provide new funds for programs in those countries until we are satisfied the Northern Triangle governments are taking concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal migrants coming to the U.S. border. 

In March President Trump ordered a stop to $615 million in assistance to those nations. But after a review, Ortagus said previously approved projects will move forward.

$432 million from the 2017 budget pays for health, education, and anti-poverty programs as well as anti-crime efforts in the Northern Triangle.

But the U.S. will withhold $370 million in aid to those countries from the 2018 budget.

Supreme Court sends religious liberty case back to state court » The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out an Oregon court’s discrimination ruling against two Christian bakers.

Aaron and Melissa Klein owned the now-closed Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, Oregon. A customer sued them after they declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding because of their religious convictions. An Oregon judge ruled against the couple, forcing them to pay a $135,000 fine.

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered state judges to reconsider the Kleins’ case in light of the high court’s ruling last year in a similar case out of Colorado.

Jeremy Dys with First Liberty Institute, which represents the Kleins, called it a victory “for religious liberty.”

DYS: The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government. The message from the court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated. 

The high court’s narrowly defined decision last year against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission stated the agency showed anti-religious bias against Christian baker Jack Phillips. But the Supreme Court has not ruled on the wider issue of whether creative professionals have the right to decline serving or taking part in same-sex weddings.

Former Egyptian president dies in a Cairo courtroom » Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi collapsed during a court session on Monday and died. Egyptian state television said the 67-year-old was in a Cairo court for an espionage trial when he blacked out. He had just addressed the court, claiming he had “many secrets” he could reveal.

Morsi belonged to the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. He was elected president in the country’s first free elections in 2012. One year later a military coup drove him out of office.

Gloria Vanderbilt dies at 95 » Gloria Vanderbilt, an heiress to the Vanderbilt family and designer of a famous line of jeans, died Monday after suffering from advanced stomach cancer. She was 95. Her son, CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper, announced the news in a first-person obituary. “What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom,” Cooper said.

In 1978, Vanderbilt introduced her Gloria Vanderbilt–branded jeans. The line generated more than $200 million in sales in 1980 alone. She became a writer and painter in her later years and continued to paint in her last few days.

(Iranian Presidency Office via AP) In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a ceremony at Imam Khomeini International Airport some 25 miles south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. 

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