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North Korea: What happens if Kim Jong-un acts on his threats?

One of the scenarios that most concerns US defense analysts, for example, involves North Korea’s estimated 500,000 to 700,000 rounds of artillery aimed at Seoul, says retired Brig. Gen. Russell Howard, former commander of the 1st Special Forces Group, which has an Asia focus.

Should Kim decide to begin firing them, he says, “in the first few hours of the conflict, it would be pretty ugly.”

At the same time, North Korea could begin “swarming” its sizable contingent of 600,000 Special Operations commandos, adds Mr. Howard, now the director of the Terrorism, Research, and Education Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Complicating efforts to find these infiltrators would be a massive influx of North Korean refugees, in the neighborhood of 3.5 to 4 million into China and another 2.5 million likely moving south into South Korea.

“It’s going to be a human disaster that we’ve never experienced – there are going to be so many refugees,” Howard says. “It would just be a nightmare to try to separate civilians from the battlefield.”



Religious Group ‘Apologizes’ For Linking Marriage Equality Supporters To Nazis

A religious group in Minnesota issued a public half-apology on Friday for an online posting that accused supporters of marriage equality of practicing the “Nazi philosophy of propaganda,” Minnesota Public Radio reported.

It its statement, Minnesota for Marriage said it “regrets that statements considered by many to be offensive” appeared on the website of Minnesota Pastors for Marriage, a faith-based coalition seeking to ban marriage between LGBT couples.

“Although Minnesota for Marriage is not responsible for the content of that website, nor the content on the websites of other supportive coalition members, we nevertheless regret any hurt those statements have caused,” the statement said.

According to WCCO-TV, the post, called a “sermon starter,” accuses the LGBT community of using “biased and discredited studies” to promote an agenda.

“They essentially practice Joseph Goebel’s [sic] Nazi philosophy of propaganda,” the post said, misspelling the name of Joseph Goebbels. “Which is basically this: Tell a lie long enough and loud enough and eventually most mindless Americans will believe it.”



The Meaning of Kim's Midnight Pow-Wow

By Choi Song Min
[2013-03-29 22:32 ]

According to Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA), at 12:30AM on the 29th Kim Jong Eun convened an “urgent operations meeting on the duty of the Strategic Rocket Force.” There, he apparently made an “important decision,” namely that “If [the United States] makes a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, the People’s Army should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea.”

The report made particular note of the fact that Kim signed off on operational plans during the meeting, suggesting that there is nothing now standing between the North Korean military and an attack on the mainland United States.

And, while the international community may harbor few concerns over the security of U.S. possessions, there are worries that Kim Jong Eun may be coming to rely more on his own judgment than on the strategies that characterized the rule of Kim Jong Il. As such, it is perfectly possible that he will maintain the current state of tension, yet without a concrete plan of action for the future. From there it is difficult to predict his actions, and a dangerous provocation cannot be ruled out.

Many believe that Kim’s aim is to wait for the United States to yield in some way that will permit him to stand his forces down and relax the tension. However, this plan is unrealistic, because the U.S. has repeatedly stated that it has no wish to negotiate with North Korea unless there is a set agreement for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in place.



North Korea Tensions: Russia's Lavrov Fears 'Spiral'

Russia has warned of tensions in North Korea slipping out of control, after Pyongyang said it was placing its missile units on stand-by.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the situation could slip "toward the spiral of a vicious circle".

But Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov went further, voicing concern that "we may simply let the situation slip out of our control and it will slide into a spiral of a vicious circle".

While condemning Pyongyang's actions as "unacceptable", he gave a more general warning that "unilateral steps being taken around North Korea that manifest themselves in a build-up of military activity".

He added what was needed was not a build-up of military muscle and a pretext for using military means to achieve "geopolitical objectives", in remarks seen as an implicit criticism of US bomber flights.



Israel Beefs Up Security For ‘Land Day’

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, March 29, 2013 7:27 EDT

Israel deployed significant security reinforcements on Friday in the occupied West Bank including east Jerusalem for demonstrations commemorating the deaths in 1976 of Arab Israelis on “Land Day”.

“Thousands of police reinforcements have been deployed in Jerusalem including in the Old City to prevent disorder,” a police spokeswoman told AFP.

The measures were introduced “following information that groups of Palestinians were ready to engage in violent demonstrations” during the Land Day commemorations.

On Friday morning, access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound was limited to Palestinians over the age of 50 and holders of Jerusalem residency cards issued by Israel. There were no restrictions placed on women, however.



This Year's Land Day Serves As A Reminder Of The On-Going Ethnic Cleansing

On 30 March, Palestinians around the world will commemorate Land Day. It marks a day in 1976, when Israeli security forces shot dead six Palestinians and injured around 100 more, as they protested against Israeli expropriation of Arab-owned land in the country's north.

Israel had announced plans to expropriate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for "security and settlement purposes". A general strike and marches were organised in Palestinian towns within Israel. Attempts to block the protests by imposing a curfew failed, and Palestinians within Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza, and in refugee communities elsewhere in the Middle East, all turned out to demonstrate in solidarity.

The Palestinians who died that day were not those living in the occupied territories, but citizens of Israel. Land Day serves as a reminder that these citizens - who now number over 1.6 million people, or 20.5 percent of the population - still exist. They face a raft of discriminatory legislation that essentially reduces them to the status of second class citizens. More than 50 laws discriminate against Palestinians in Israel. Among these is a law allowing Jews who lost property in East Jerusalem and the West Bank during 1948 war to reclaim it, but not giving the same right to Arab Israelis who lost property in West Jerusalem or other areas during the same war.

Across the world, and particularly in this conflict, land is a singularly vexed and emotional issue. The expropriation of Palestinian land continues unabated in Israel, on both sides of the "Green Line". In recent years, international attention has focused primarily on settlements in the West Bank. These settlements, which are on occupied land, are in clear violation of international law - although the radical settlers, with their own emotional attachment to land, maintain that they have the God-given right to build anywhere in Israel. The continued expansion of settlements, however, is making the possibility of a viable Palestinian state ever smaller.



Ed Rendell’s Plea For Fracking Fails To Disclose His Close Industry Ties

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell took to the New York Daily News op-ed page Wednesday with a message to local officials: stop worrying and learn to love fracking.

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo agonizes over whether to allow the controversial natural gas drilling technique, Rendell invoked his own experience as a Democratic governor who presided over a fracking boom. New York state, Rendell argued, has a major part to play in the nation’s fracking “revolution” — and it can do so safely. He rejected what he called the “false choice” of “natural gas versus the environment.”

What Rendell’s passionate plea failed to note was this: since stepping down as governor in 2011, he has worked as a paid consultant to a private equity firm with investments in the natural gas industry.

The op-ed piece was widely noted in other media outlets, and Cuomo wound up being asked about it during a radio appearance on Wednesday. The New York State Petroleum Council promptly issued a press release hailing Rendell’s “strong and confident argument.”



Employment Increased in 42 U.S. States in February, Led by Texas

By Michelle Jamrisko - Mar 29, 2013

Payrolls grew in 42 U.S. states in February and the unemployment rate fell in 22, showing the labor market improved in a broad swath of the world’s largest economy.

Texas led with an 80,600 hiring increase, the biggest in data going back to 1982, followed by California with 41,200, according to figures from the Labor Department today in Washington. Rhode Island, Vermont, California and New Jersey showed the biggest declines in unemployment rates.

Employers hired 236,000 workers in February, almost twice the 119,000 increase a month earlier, figures from the Labor Department showed earlier this month. The figures help explain why consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, has been holding up in the face of a two percentage-point increase in the payroll tax.

“Labor market conditions continue to improve,” Russell Price, a senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit, said before the report. “The consumer has shown a lot of resilience.” Price is the top forecaster of employment for the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.



Consumer Sentiment in U.S. Unexpectedly Increased in March

By Jeanna Smialek - Mar 29, 2013

Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly increased in March from the prior month as Americans grew more optimistic about the outlook for the economy.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan sentiment index advanced to a four-month high of 78.6, exceeding all estimates in a Bloomberg survey, from 77.6 in February. The median forecast was 72.6 after a preliminary March reading of 71.8.

Americans are finding relief in lower gasoline prices, a rally in the stock market and housing’s recovery, helping alleviate concern about federal spending cuts. A report earlier today showed household spending rose in February by the most in five months as income growth picked up.

“We will start to see the consumer become a little more engaged this summer and into the second half of the year,” Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit, said before the report. “We are going to see some improvement in consumer confidence as we go forward and people put concerns about the sequester behind them.”



Consumer Spending in U.S. Climbs by Most in Five Months

Source: Bloomberg

By Shobhana Chandra - Mar 29, 2013

Consumer spending in the U.S. climbed in February by the most in five months as incomes rose, signaling an improving job market is spurring demand.

Household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, gained 0.7 percent after a 0.4 percent advance the prior month that was bigger than previously estimated, a Commerce Department report showed today in Washington. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 78 economists called for a 0.6 percent rise. Incomes increased 1.1 percent, more than projected, sending the saving rate up from a five-year low.

Labor market progress and an increase in household wealth linked to rising home values and stocks are helping Americans cushion the fallout of higher payroll taxes and costlier fuel. Strength in purchases is one reason economists project the economy picked up this quarter after slowing to a 0.4 percent annual rate in the final three months of 2012.

“The economy is in a very good place right now ahead of the fiscal restraint,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York. “This recovery is sustainable. Consumers are in the driver’s seat.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-29/consumer-spending-in-u-s-increases-by-most-in-five-months.html
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