Friday April 5, 2013

SKorea: North moved missile with ‘considerable range’ to coast but not capable of reaching U.S.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- After a series of escalating threats, North Korea has moved a missile with "considerable range" to its east coast, South Korea’s defense minister said Thursday. But he emphasized that the missile was not capable of reaching the United States and that there are no signs that the North is preparing for a full-scale conflict.

North Korea has been railing against U.S.-South Korean military exercises that began in March and are to continue until the end of this month. The allies insist the exercises in South Korea are routine, but the North calls them rehearsals for an invasion and says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself. The North has also expressed anger over tightened U.N. sanctions for its February nuclear test.

Analysts say the ominous warnings in recent weeks are probably efforts to provoke softer policies from South Korea, to win diplomatic talks with Washington and solidify the image of young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Many of the threats come in the middle of the night in Asia -- daytime for the U.S. audience.

The report of the movement of the missile came hours after North Korea’s military warned that it has been authorized to attack the U.S. using "smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear weapons. The reference to smaller weapons could be a claim that North Korea has improved its nuclear technology, or a bluff.

The North is not believed to have mastered the technology needed to miniaturize nuclear bombs enough to mount them on long-range missiles. Nor has it demonstrated that those missiles, if it has them at all, are accurate. It also could be years before the country completes the laborious process of creating enough weaponized fuel to back up its nuclear threats.

Ammunition flying off store shelves as laws, rumors, demand drive nation’s gun owners

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Gun enthusiasts fearful of new weapon controls and alarmed by rumors of government hoarding are buying bullets practically by the bushel, making it hard for stores nationwide to keep shelves stocked and even putting a pinch on some local law enforcement departments.

At a 24-hour Walmart in suburban Albany, the ammunition cabinet was three-fourths empty this week; sales clerks said customers must arrive before 9 the morning after a delivery to get what they want. A few miles away, Dick’s Sporting Goods puts up a red rope after ammunition deliveries so buyers can line up early to get a number, averting races up the escalator to the gun counter. Both stores are limiting ammunition purchases to three boxes a day.

In mid-January, two days after New York became the first state to toughen laws post-Newtown, hunter and target shooter Mark Smith spent $250 to stockpile ammunition, including $43 for a brick of 500 .22-caliber bullets, commonly used for target shooting and hunting small game.

"I had a feeling there was going to be a huge ammunition shortage," said Smith, browsing shotgun shells this week at Dick’s. "Especially .22s. It’s probably the most popular round out there."

Likewise, the .223 ammunition used in popular semi-automatic rifles is hard to find.

Conn.governor signs sweeping gun restrictions into law; some measures take effect immediately

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who four months ago broke the news to shocked parents that their children had been slaughtered in a Connecticut elementary school, signed into law Thursday sweeping new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines similar to the ones used by the man who gunned down 20 child and six educators in the massacre.

Alongside family members of some of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Malloy signed the bill hours after the General Assembly approved the measure to give the state some of the toughest gun laws in the country.

"This is a profoundly emotional day for everyone in this room," the governor said. "We have come together in a way that few places in the nation have demonstrated the ability to do."

In the hours after the shooting Dec. 14, as anxious family members gathered inside a firehouse and waited for news, Malloy told them their loved ones were not coming home. He said later that he didn’t think it was right for the families to wait for the victims to be formally identified.

Now, Connecticut joins states including California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts in having the country’s strongest gun control laws, said Brian Malte, director of mobilization for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington.

Obama’s budget will avoid deep cuts in Medicaid as he presses states to expand aid for poor

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama’s budget next week will steer clear of major cuts to Medicaid, including tens of billions in reductions to the health care plan for the poor that the administration had proposed only last year.

Big cuts in the federal-state program wouldn’t go over too well at a time that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is wooing financially skittish Republican governors to expand Medicaid coverage to millions who now are uninsured. That expansion in the states is critical to the success of Obama’s health overhaul, which is rolling out this fall and early next year.

The president’s budget is to be released next Wednesday.

Perhaps half the nearly 30 million people gaining health insurance under the law are to be covered through Medicaid. But the Supreme Court last year gave individual states the right to reject the expansion. A principal argument against the expansion in state capitals is that Washington cannot be trusted to keep its promise of generous funding for new Medicaid recipients.

In recent weeks, senior White House officials have gone out of their way to reassure activists that Medicaid will be protected in the budget.

Thousands in West Bank protest deaths of 2 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Thousands of outraged Palestinians took to the streets of the West Bank on Thursday, joining funeral processions and demonstrations after two protesters were killed by Israeli troops and a Palestinian prisoner died of cancer in Israeli custody.

The unrest clouded an upcoming visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and underscored the difficult task he faces as he tries to restart peace talks in the coming months.

The demonstrations were among the largest in the West Bank in months, and came amid rising violence. But officials on both sides urged calm, and by nightfall, the situation appeared to be quieting down.

Israeli troops had been on heightened alert since Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, a 64-year-old prisoner, died Tuesday from throat cancer. The Palestinians have blamed Israel for not giving him proper treatment.

Tensions rose further Wednesday when two Palestinian youths were killed in the northern West Bank after throwing firebombs toward Israeli troops. In an apparent show of solidarity with Abu Hamdiyeh, militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets into Israel for three straight days, drawing Israeli retaliation, in the greatest challenge yet to a cease-fire reached in November.

Facebook’s ‘Home’ aims to put social network front and center of Android devices

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) -- With its new "Home" on Android gadgets, Facebook aims to put its social network at the center of people’s mobile experiences.

If users choose to download Facebook’s Home software starting on April 12, the social network will become the hub of their Android smartphones. A phone from HTC that comes pre-loaded with Home will also be available starting that day, with AT&T Inc. as the carrier.

The idea behind the software is to bring Facebook content right to the home screen, rather than requiring users to check apps. "Home" comes amid rapid growth in the number of people who access Facebook from phones and tablet computers. Of its 1.06 billion monthly users, 680 million log in to Facebook using a mobile gadget.

The service is part of Facebook’s move to shift its users’ focus from "apps and tasks" to people, said CEO Mark Zuckerberg during Home’s unveiling at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters on Thursday.

The new product, which resides on the home screen of Android phones, is a family of apps designed to help people share things with their Facebook friends. Rather than seeing a set of apps for email, maps and other services when they first turn on their phones, users will be greeted with photos and updates from their Facebook feeds. There will be ads too, eventually.

Famed movie critic Roger Ebert dies at age 70

CHICAGO (AP) -- Roger Ebert, the most famous and popular film reviewer of his time who became the first journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for movie criticism and, on his long-running TV program, wielded the nation’s most influential thumb, died Thursday. He was 70.

Ebert, who had been a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, died Thursday at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, his office said. Only a day earlier, he announced on his blog that he was undergoing radiation treatment after a recurrence of cancer.

He had no grand theories or special agendas, but millions recognized the chatty, heavy-set man with wavy hair and horn-rimmed glasses. Above all, they followed his thumb -- pointing up or down. It was the main logo of the televised shows Ebert co-hosted, first with Gene Siskel of the rival Chicago Tribune and -- after Siskel’s death in 1999 -- with his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper.

Although criticized as gimmicky and simplistic, a "two thumbs-up" accolade was sure to find its way into the advertising for the movie in question.

On the air, Ebert and Siskel bickered like an old married couple and openly needled each other. To viewers who had trouble telling them apart, Ebert was known as the fat one with glasses, Siskel as the thin, bald one.