NKorea shifts into holiday mode as Obama's top diplomat arrives in Seoul amid missile fears
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Koreans crowded a Pyongyang flower show, packed theaters and pledged loyalty to their leader Friday ahead of a key national holiday, while the top U.S. diplomat landed in rival South Korea for talks on how to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
As U.S. and South Korean troops braced for what some feared may be an imminent North Korean missile launch, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Seoul on Friday for talks with South Korean officials before continuing on to China.
Hours earlier, President Barack Obama demanded an end to the escalating war rhetoric from Pyongyang. In his first public comments since North Korea warned of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, Obama called it time for the isolated nation "to end the belligerent approach they have taken and to try to lower temperatures."
"Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula," Obama said Thursday, speaking from the Oval Office alongside U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
North Korea has not specified plans to fire a missile or carry out another nuclear test, but has warned that it has weapons on standby and would be prepared to strike if provoked by the U.S. and South Korea, its Korean War foes.
Kerry visits South Korea as it braces for possible missile test by the North
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in South Korea on Friday on an unusual diplomatic journey, traveling directly into a region bracing for a possible North Korean missile test and risking that his presence alone could spur Pyongyang into another headline-seeking provocation.
Kerry was kicking off four days of talks in East Asia amid speculation that the North's unpredictable regime would launch a mid-range missile designed to reach as far as the U.S. territory of Guam. Kerry also planned to visit China and Japan.
North Korea often times its provocations to generate maximum attention, and Kerry's presence in Seoul will provide plenty of that, even if the United States is engaged in intense diplomacy with China, the North's benefactor, in an effort to lower tensions. Another dangerous date on the calendar is April 15, the 101st birthday of North Korea's deceased founder, Kim Il Sung.
Kerry's trip coincides with the disclosure of a new U.S. intelligence report that concludes North Korea has advanced its nuclear knowhow to the point that it could arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. The analysis, disclosed Thursday at a congressional hearing in Washington, said the Pentagon's intelligence wing has "moderate confidence" that North Korea has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles but that the weapon would be unreliable.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said afterward that "it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced" at the congressional hearing.
Gun bill clears first Senate hurdle, debate on background checks starts Tuesday
WASHINGTON (AP) — The first hurdle cleared with deceptive ease, the Senate turns to the heart of the battle over curbing gun violence next week when it considers a proposal to expand required federal background checks to gun shows and online firearms sales.
In a bipartisan 68-31 vote Thursday, senators rejected an effort by conservatives to block debate on Democrats' gun control legislation, a measure backed by President Barack Obama. Senators then formally opened debate on the bill, lawmakers' response to the mass shooting in December at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and the most ambitious effort to limit gun violence in nearly two decades.
Thursday's one-sided vote belied what looks to be a difficult path in Congress for gun restrictions. Most Republican senators and many moderate Democrats oppose or are wary of curbs they think go too far, and the view from the GOP-run House is even cooler, where leaders say they want to first see what the Senate does.
"Nothing is going to happen quickly," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a brief interview. "We're going to be on this for a while, and there's nothing wrong with that."
Asked how long debate will last, he said, "Weeks."
Pentagon: NKorea could launch nuclear missile; Obama vows to protect Americans
WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. intelligence report concludes that North Korea has advanced its nuclear knowhow to the point that it could arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, a jarring revelation in the midst of bellicose threats from the unpredictable communist regime.
President Barack Obama urged calm, calling on Pyongyang to end its saber-rattling while sternly warning that he would "take all necessary steps" to protect American citizens.
The new American intelligence analysis, disclosed Thursday at a hearing on Capitol Hill, says the Pentagon's intelligence wing has "moderate confidence" that North Korea has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles but that the weapon was unreliable.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., read aloud what he said was an unclassified paragraph from a secret Defense Intelligence Agency report that was supplied to some members of Congress. The reading seemed to take Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by surprise, who said he hadn't seen the report and declined to answer questions about it.
In a statement late Thursday, Pentagon press secretary George Little said: "While I cannot speak to all the details of a report that is classified in its entirety, it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced" in Lamborn's remarks.
AP source: Immigration bill could exclude hundreds of thousands from citizenship
WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan immigration bill soon to be introduced in the Senate could exclude hundreds of thousands of immigrants here illegally from ever becoming U.S. citizens, according to a Senate aide with knowledge of the proposals.
The bill would bar anyone who arrived in the U.S. after Dec. 31, 2011, from applying for legal status and ultimately citizenship, according to the aide, who spoke on condition because the proposals have not been made public.
It also would require applicants to document that they were in the country before Dec. 31, 2011, have a clean criminal record and show enough employment or financial stability that they're likely to stay off welfare.
Those requirements could exclude hundreds of thousands of the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally from the path to citizenship envisioned by the bill, the aide said.
Although illegal immigration to the U.S. has been dropping, many tens of thousands still arrive each year, so the cutoff date alone could exclude a large number of people. That may come as a disappointment to immigrant rights groups that had been hoping that anyone here as of the date of enactment of the bill could be able to become eligible for citizenship.
Study links ever hotter afternoons, sultrier nights in China directly to greenhouse gases
WASHINGTON (AP) — China, the world's largest producer of carbon dioxide, is directly feeling the man-made heat of global warming, scientists conclude in the first study to link the burning of fossil fuels to one country's rise in its daily temperature spikes.
China emits more of the greenhouse gas than the next two biggest carbon polluters — the U.S. and India — combined. And its emissions keep soaring by about 10 percent per year.
While other studies have linked averaged-out temperature increases in China and other countries to greenhouse gases, this research is the first to link the warmer daily hottest and coldest readings, or spikes.
Those spikes, which often occur in late afternoon and the early morning, are what scientists say most affect people's health, plants and animals. People don't notice changes in averages, but they feel it when the daily high is hotter or when it doesn't cool off at night to let them recover from a sweltering day.
The study by Chinese and Canadian researchers found that just because of greenhouse gases, daytime highs rose 0.9 degree Celsius (1.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the 46 years up to 2007. At night it was even worse: Because of greenhouse gases, the daily lows went up about 1.7 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit).
McCain feted, filibuster averted: Bipartisanship breaks out on Capitol Hill — however briefly
WASHINGTON (AP) — A filibuster averted. A likely accord on immigration reform. A former Republican presidential candidate thanked — publicly! — by the Senate's top Democrat. Lawmakers of both parties lunched together for the first time many could remember, agreeing to agree on the heroism of Sen. John McCain and the tragedy of the Newtown, Conn., massacre.
Bipartisanship broke out on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a newsy development after years of polarization that infuriated the public, brought Congress to a near-halt and the country to the brink of economic disaster. It could all blow to pieces by the time you read this article — fierce disputes remain on gun control and immigration, among others issues. And looming over it all is a midterm election next year with big implications for the divided government and President Barack Obama's legacy.
But let history record that for a full day in battle-scarred Washington there it was: legislative progress, bipartisan bread-breaking and the emotional stuff of human relationships long-mourned and little-seen in recent years.
Obama helped set the harmonic tone in his budget Wednesday, calling for cuts in benefit programs Republicans have been seeking for years, a gesture widely seen as an effort to preserve the prospects of immigration and gun control legislation.
But at the center of all of the civility was McCain, the president's vanquished GOP opponent from the 2008 presidential election. The gruff Washington veteran, Vietnam war hero and, lately, scolder of would-be obstructionists in his own party threw cold water on a filibuster threat by 13 conservative senators who oppose gun control.
Severe storms sock Midwest with snow, tornadoes before pushing into Miss., Ala.; 3 dead
SHUQUALAK, Miss. (AP) — A strong spring storm that socked the Midwest with ice and heavy, wet snow made its way east, raking the South with tornadoes Thursday, with three deaths blamed on the rough weather and thousands of people without power.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said Thursday one person died and several people were injured after a reported tornado struck Kemper County in the far-eastern part of the state.
At Contract Fabricators Inc. in Kemper County, where authorities said one person died and another was injured, bent pieces of tin hung from the heavily damaged building. A tractor trailer was twisted and overturned. Debris from the business was strewn through the woods across the street.
Tabatha Lott, a dispatcher in Noxubee County, said there were "numerous reports of injuries" in the town of Shuqualak, though it wasn't immediately clear how many. Flynn also said there are reports of damaged buildings and many power outages.
The T-shaped system first swept across the nation's midsection Wednesday night and pummeled portions of Missouri, where the National Weather Service said Thursday that an EF-2 tornado appears to have damaged dozens of homes in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood. That category of tornado generally packs winds of 113 to 157 mph.
Learn to write software in 9 weeks? New coding boot camps promise to launch tech careers
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Looking for a career change, Ken Shimizu decided he wanted to be a software developer, but he didn't want to go back to college to study computer science.
Instead, he quit his job and spent his savings to enroll at Dev Bootcamp, a new San Francisco school that teaches students how to write software in nine weeks. The $11,000 gamble paid off: A week after he finished the program last summer, he landed an engineering job that paid more than twice his previous salary.
"It's the best decision I've made in my life," said Shimizu, 24, who worked in marketing and public relations after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. "I was really worried about getting a job, and it just happened like that."
Dev Bootcamp, which calls itself an "apprenticeship on steroids," is one of a new breed of computer-programming school that's proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs. These "hacker boot camps" promise to teach students how to write code in two or three months and help them get hired as web developers, with starting salaries between $80,000 and $100,000, often within days or weeks of graduation.
"We're focused on extreme employability," said Shereef Bishay, who co-founded Dev Bootcamp 15 months ago. "Every single skill you learn here you'll apply on your first day on the job."
Dodgers RHP Zack Greinke breaks collarbone in brawl with Padres; LA wins 3-2 on Uribe's homer
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Zack Greinke had his left arm in a sling and a dazed look on his face as he told his side of the story. Barely two hours before, the $147 million Dodgers pitcher was injured in a wild fight with the San Diego Padres that didn't even end when the game did.
Greinke broke his left collarbone in a bench-clearing brawl during Los Angeles' 3-2 victory Thursday night, leaving the Dodgers so furious that Matt Kemp confronted Padres slugger Carlos Quentin nose-to-nose as the two were leaving Petco Park.
Juan Uribe's pinch-hit home run in the eighth put the Dodgers ahead, two innings after Greinke hit Quentin on the left shoulder with a pitch.
The slugger started walking toward the mound and Greinke appeared to say something. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Quentin then charged the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner, who is 6-2 and 195 pounds. They dropped their shoulders and collided, and Quentin tackled the pitcher to the grass.
Quentin and Greinke ended up at the bottom of a huge scrum as players from both sides ran onto the field and jumped in.