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April 1, 2013 at 5:00 PM   |   0 comments

White House doesn't see action by N. Korea

SEOUL, April 1 (UPI) -- North Korea's actions aren't matching its provocative rhetoric against the United States, South Korea and their allies, the White House said Monday.

"[Despite] the harsh rhetoric we're hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilizations and positioning of forces," White House press secretary Jay Carney said during Monday's media briefing.

The United States is committed to keeping peace and security in the region, and has taken prudent actions to do so Carney said.

North Korea has reacted angrily to U.S.-South Korean military drills and the latest round of U.N. and U.S. sanctions after the communist country's Feb. 12 underground nuclear test.

Advanced U.S. F-22 stealth jet fighters were poised in South Korea for war games Monday as North Korea said its nuclear-weapons program was non-negotiable. The U.S. military command in South Korea said it flew the fighter aircraft, known as the Raptor, to Osan Air Base, 40 miles south of Seoul, from Japan's Kadena Air Base near Okinawa, to showcase its most potent weaponry to North Korea.

"The actions we've taken are prudent," Carney said, nothing that they were being offered "to reassure our allies, demonstrate our resolve to the North, and reduce pressure on Seoul to take unilateral action. And we believe this will reduce the chance of miscalculation and provocation."

Carney said North Korea's actions aren't anything new but "we take it very seriously. We take prudent measures in response to it. But it is consistent with past behavior."

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on MSNBC Monday he didn't think the situation would escalate unless "an incident gets out of hand."

"It's my personal belief," said Corker, who just returned from South Korea, "that nothing is going to happen ... ."

He said North and South Koreans were still working together in an industrial area.

"I do not think anything is going to happen unless, somehow or another, an incident gets out of hand," Corker said. "But certainly, us showing strength and togetherness with our allies is very important at this time."

Corker said he's been to Pyongyang several times and met with former leader Kim Sun Il, father of current leader Kim Jong Un.

"There's no question that this is a little more bellicose than in the past and no question these tests that have taken place have created a lot of concern," he said.


DA seeks death penalty in theater massacre

CENTENNIAL, Colo., April 1 (UPI) -- Prosecutors said Monday they'll seek the death penalty for James Holmes, accused of opening fire and killing 12 people in a Colorado movie theater last year.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said his office consulted with numerous victims before deciding to seek the death penalty for Holmes, who appeared to have no reaction to the announcement, The Denver Post reported.

"For James Eagen Holmes, justice is death," Brauchler said.

Holmes is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other offenses in the July 20, 2012, theater massacre in Aurora. Fifty-eight other people were wounded.

He is scheduled to go on trial Aug. 5.

Last week his attorneys disclosed in a court filing Holmes offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. Prosecutors said Holmes failed to meet their requirements for a deal.

In their filing, Holmes' attorneys said they may pursue a mental-health defense and file numerous pre-trial motions if the case goes to trial, the Post reported.

"The issue is not whether they're going to enter an insanity plea on his behalf," said Dr. Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist. "I suspect the issue is more about the exposure that ... places on their client."

Holmes' attorneys shied away from entering an insanity plea last month.

Pitt said the defense may have hesitated because such a plea is extremely risky.

"When you're entering an insanity plea, you're saying 'I did it,' " Pitt said. "'I did it but I wasn't in my right mind when I committed the offenses, and I couldn't appreciate the wrongfulness of my conduct.'"

Attorneys not affiliated with the case said Holmes' lawyers likely will attempt all they can to achieve their main goal in the case.

"In any potential death-penalty case," Denver attorney Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor, told the Post, "the primary goal of the defense attorneys is to save their client's life."


Biden lobbying Senate on gun control

WASHINGTON, April 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has undertaken an intense lobbying effort to get Republican senators to support gun control, officials said.

Biden has already met personally with several senators, including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in an attempt to sway the GOP senators to support measures such as universal background checks and outlawing large capacity ammunition clips.

The Hill said Monday President Barack Obama has enlisted Biden, who has proven a top administration surrogate among his former colleagues in the Senate, to help assure passage of a gun control law in the wake of December's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

How effective Biden has been remains to be seen. None of the senators who've met with the vice president have indicated support for the measure.

"His effectiveness depends on how you define his role," said GOP strategist Ken Lundberg. "So far, his work has been to rally allies and berate opponents. In that role, he's very effective but, as for reaching out to the other side, he's impotent. He's breaking no new ground ... ."


Top criticism of GOP: Inflexibility

PRINCETON, N.J., April 1 (UPI) -- An unwillingness to compromise is the chief complaint Americans have against the Republican Party, results of a Gallup poll released Monday indicated.

When asked to say what they most dislike about the Republican Party, the party's inflexibility was the leading objection voiced by 26 percent of Republicans, 17 percent of independents and 22 percent of Democrats.

Among Republicans, 14 percent said the GOP gives in too easily or doesn't stand up for its positions, results indicated.

The top criticism of Republicans leveled by 20 percent of Democrats is what they characterize as the GOP's focus on the rich or protecting the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

Gallup said 51 percent of Democrats either said there wasn't anything they dislike about the party or who offered no opinion. Thirty-three percent of Republicans said they same of their party.

The most common complaints among Democrats is that their party supports spending too much/increasing the deficit, 10 percent; poor leadership, 6 percent; and putting too much emphasis on government entitlements, also 6 percent, the Princeton, N.J., polling agency said.

Republicans' chief criticism of Democrats is government spending, mentioned by 23 percent, results indicated.

Results are based on nationwide phone interviews with 1,020 adults as part of Gallup Daily tracking March 20-21. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

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