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March 29, 2013 at 8:18 AM
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North Korea puts rocket forces on standby

PYONGYANG, North Korea, March 29 (UPI) -- North Korea's leader Friday ordered rocket forces to be on standby to "strike any time" against U.S. and South Korean targets, official media reported.

The Yonhap News Agency quoted the North's Korean Central News Agency as saying the Communist country's leader, Kim Jong Un, "convened an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army's Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command."

"He finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets, ordering them to be on standby to fire so that they may strike any time the U.S. mainland, its military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea," KCNA said.

The announcement came a day after two U.S. B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew non-stop practice missions from their base in Missouri to the Korean Peninsula, a distance of 6,500 miles, and back in a show of U.S. commitment to its Asia-Pacific allies.

The North Korean media quoted Kim as saying the stealth bomber practice mission was a U.S. ultimatum to ignite a nuclear war at any cost and that Kim "declared the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which is North Korea's official name] would react to the U.S. nuclear blackmail with merciless nuclear attack, and war of aggression with an all-out war of justice."

During a bombing drill over the Korean Peninsula, the

At the White House Thursday, deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, answering a media question on the B-2 mission, said what the United States has been saying "for quite some time now, in the face of the bellicose rhetoric and threats that have been emanating from the North Koreans, is that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in South Korea to ensure that their -- that the interests of the United States and the allies of the United States remain protected."

EPA poised to demand cleaner gasoline

WASHINGTON, March 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will put forward new rules Friday to cut car pollution, despite oil industry protests, administration officials said.

The agency is expected to call for a cutback in the amount of sulfur in gasoline to an average of 10 parts per million from the current required 30 ppm, people briefed on the plan told The Wall Street Journal.

The Washington Post said the two-thirds cut would go into effect in 2017.

A senior administration official told the Post the tighter sulfur standard would raise the price of producing gasoline less than a penny a gallon.

But oil industry officials said the cost would be at least 2 cents a gallon and could add up to 9 cents a gallon in some places -- with the extra cost likely be passed on to consumers.

The senior administration official cited by the Post said the EPA estimates 29 of the 111 U.S. refineries can already meet the tighter standard and 66 can do so with relatively modest improvements.

The oil and gas industry tried to lobby the Obama administration to delay the decision another year, the Post said. The standard was initially expected in early 2012.

Crisis contained, says Cypriot president

NICOSIA, Cyprus, March 29 (UPI) -- Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Friday Cyprus would remain in the eurozone but criticized the bailout deal that made that possible.

Anastasiades, speaking in Nicosia, said the bailout deal from Brussels made "unprecedented demands that forced Cyprus to become an experiment."

"We have averted the risk of bankruptcy. The situation, despite the tragedy of it all, is contained," he said.

The BBC reported that restrictions on bank withdrawals in Cyprus could remain in effect for a month, although there are no longer lines of anxious depositors seeking withdrawals from the country's banks.

Cyprus imposed restrictions on how much money could be taken from bank accounts and how much could leave the country to prevent a run on banks as depositors tried to avoid a tax imposed on larger bank accounts or feared the banks would fail.

Cyprus is the fifth eurozone country to receive a bailout, joining Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

Rubio, Inhofe vow to filibuster gun bill

WASHINGTON, March 29 (UPI) -- Marco Rubio and James Inhofe joined three other U.S. Senate Republicans threatening to filibuster Democrats' gun legislation as violating the Second Amendment.

The Florida and Oklahoma Republicans, respectively, joined Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah in vowing to oppose "any legislation that would infringe on the American people's constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance," said a letter Rubio and Inhofe signed.

The letter, dated a week ago, was sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and was originally signed only by Paul, Cruz and Lee. It still has seven blank lines available for other signatures, a United Press International review of the letter indicated.

A filibuster is a way for senators to delay or prevent a vote on a bill by speaking for as long as they wish on any topic they choose, unless 60 senators bring debate to a close.

Paul -- a closely watched conservative who, like Rubio, is considering a 2016 presidential run -- led a nearly 13-hour filibuster on the CIA's drone policy early this month, forcing the Senate to delay the confirmation of John Brennan to lead the CIA.

The Senate is expected to debate a gun-violence bill after it returns from Easter recess April 8.

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