The Morning Roundup: Tensions Escalate on the Korean Peninsula | News
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Morning Roundup: Tensions Escalate on the Korean Peninsula

Posted by on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 9:01 AM

We might not have much time. Let's get right into it.

1) North Korea flexes its military muscle. Trump sends nuclear submarine as a "show of force."

North Korea paraded around some missiles and held a "large-scale artillery drill" to celebrate its military's anniversary. Not a new thing—but this time, there's a catch. Experts say the country is capable of expanding its nuclear arsenal at an alarming rate. From The New York Times:

Behind the Trump administration’s sudden urgency in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis lies a stark calculus: a growing body of expert studies and classified intelligence reports that conclude the country is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks.

That acceleration in pace — impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago — explains why President Trump and his aides fear they are running out of time. For years, American presidents decided that each incremental improvement in the North’s program — another nuclear test, a new variant of a missile — was worrisome, but not worth a confrontation that could spill into open conflict.

Now those step-by-step advances have resulted in North Korean warheads that in a few years could reach Seattle. “They’ve learned a lot,” said Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who directed the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, from 1986 to 1997, and whom the North Koreans have let into their facilities seven times.

North Korea is now threatening another nuclear test, which would be its sixth in 11 years. The last three tests — the most recent was in September — generated Hiroshima-size explosions.
About that Trump administration's urgency: here's some of a fun story from CNN about an American nuclear submarine arriving along the Peninsula:
The USS Michigan — a guided-missile submarine — arrived in South Korea for what a US defense official described as a show of force amid tensions between the US and North Korea.

The US Navy sub arrived in the port city of Busan, South Korea, on the same day that North Korea celebrates the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army.

A statement from US Naval Forces Korea called the sub's visit "routine" and said it was a chance to highlight the alliance between the US and South Korean navies.

While the USS Michigan is not expected to take part in the joint exercises, its presence in the region is meant to send a strong message to Pyongyang.

US President Donald Trump told Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo earlier this month that the US was sending an "armada" with submarines to the region.
2) N.C. lawmakers make a deal on K–3 class size.

From the INDY's Tommy Goldsmith:
In a response of sorts to concern about possible repercussions of state-mandated K–3 class-size reductions, a Senate committee on Monday night rapidly moved forward a modified bill designed to phase in smaller classes.

The bill, an altered version of HB 13, gives systems more flexibility in reducing classroom size and paying specialties teachers in the school year that begins in July. In presenting the bill, Senator Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, said that the General Assembly will create an additional allotment for music, art, and physical ed teachers in the 2018–19 school year, after the state Department of Public Instruction satisfies legislators that money sent to districts is being spent as intended.

"The General Assembly has appropriated tens of millions of dollars to fund [smaller classes]," Barefoot said. "Imagine our surprise when we discovered that these dollars have been spent on something else."

The modified bill, details of which were announced just before the six p.m meeting in a press release from Senate leader Phil Berger's office, was sent to the Senate Rules Committee by a voice vote with no audible dissent.

Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes said after the meeting that the legislature has not restored school funding to levels seen before the Great Recession. North Carolina school systems' use of regular teacher pay for art, music, and physical education was permitted by the legislature as a result of that period of shortfall, said Holmes, who questioned Barefoot's pledge to put money for specialties teachers in the 2018–19 budget.

"If the General Assembly was genuine, why is that funding not written in with the bill?" she asked.

Republicans praised the bill as restoring accountability to the state's public schools system.
3) The state Senate chases a repeal of the Outer Banks plastic bag ban.

Sorry sea turtles. From the N&O:
Banning plastic shopping bags from Outer Banks beaches – a personal mission of former Democratic Senate leader Marc Basnight eight years ago – would be undone in a bill Republican lawmakers are pushing.

Senate Bill 434 would repeal the bag ban, lessen stream protections and deregulate other environmental procedures as part of the GOP’s ongoing drive to give businesses a break from what they consider unnecessary or overly burdensome rules.

Environmental groups and Democratic senators oppose the bill, which was approved in the Senate on Monday and now goes to the House. The vote was 31-17, mostly split along party lines.
Why do something destructive to the environment when there's an alternative, you ask?
The N.C. Retail Merchants Association says paper bags cost eight times more than plastic bags, and that the law includes a complicated refund process that puts stores in danger of fines and penalties if they don’t comply. A lobbyist for the association said members on the Outer Banks support a repeal of the ban.
4) Arkansas executes two inmates in one night.

From the NYT:
After 12 years without an execution, Arkansas had planned to carry out eight in 10 days, the biggest concentration in the United States in decades, because its supply of one of the drugs has an April 30 expiration date. Four of the executions were blocked by courts, and the timetable has drawn protests and intense criticism from death-penalty opponents, who cited the rushed schedule as evidence of the arbitrary way capital punishment is applied.

The last time a state carried out two capital sentences on the same day was when Texas did it, in August 2000, at a time when executions were more frequent in the United States.
That's it for now. Have a great rainy Tuesday, everyone.

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