US tests missile in Pacific as it escalates threats to North Korea
By Mike Head
26 April 2017
While demanding that North Korea halt its nuclear and missile tests and threatening military attack if it does not the Trump administration will today test launch a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from California across the Pacific, in a menacing show of force. According to Air Force Global Strike Command, the operation will test the weapon s effectiveness, accuracy and readiness. In the context of the mounting US military pressure on North Korea and its neighbour China, it is an unmistakeable threat of American preparedness to use nuclear-armed ICBMs. Missile launches were essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities, Colonel Chris Moss, the Vandenberg Air Force Base 30th Space Wing commander said.
For all the political and media hysteria about the danger presented by North Korea s small and primitive nuclear and missile capacity, the provocatively-timed US test again underscores where the real risk of nuclear war resides in Washington and the Pentagon s unmatched arsenal of thousands of nuclear warheads. No target was specified for today s exercise, but an earlier US missile test, launched from a North Dakota base in February, travelled 6,760 kilometres to a test range at Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands in the northwestern Pacific. The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Marshall Islands is just one of the scores of US military bases throughout the Pacific, Japan and South Korea, as well as fleets of warships and submarines, from which devastating attacks on North Korea could be mounted.
On the same day as the missile test, President Donald Trump will hold a rare and suddenly announced White House briefing on the North Korean situation with all 100 members of the US Senate. Adding to the ominous atmosphere, the briefing will be delivered by the top four US war-related officials: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford. (see: Trump summons the Senate to the White House )
In another sign of war preparations, Trump had a publicised dinner on Monday night with two key foreign policy hawks Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. No information was released on what they discussed, but Graham tweeted the next day: Donald Trump is NOT going to let the nutjob in North Korea develop a missile with a nuclear weapon on top that can hit the US. The nutjob was an insulting reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. As these developments unfolded, Washington was encircling the Korean Peninsula with nuclear-capable warships conducting war games with Japanese and South Korean naval vessels. The USS Wayne E. Meyer, a destroyer, began exercises yesterday with a South Korean destroyer in the Yellow Sea, west of Korea. Another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald conducted drills with a Japanese destroyer in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, east of Korea.
The US Seventh Fleet said both exercises demonstrate the US Navy s inherent flexibility to combine with allied naval forces in response to a broad range of situations. In further chilling displays, the USS Michigan, a guided-missile submarine, docked in the South Korean port of Busan and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier task force, accompanied by Japanese ships, is due to arrive in the waters off the Korean Peninsula to stage a combined operation with the South Korean navy. Despite incessant claims by the political elites and corporate media that North Korea was poised to conduct its sixth nuclear test yesterday, the country s 85th anniversary of its army, Pyongyang reportedly only conducted live-fire artillery drills near Wonsan on the east coast.
On Monday Trump summoned ambassadors from the 15 UN Security Council members, including China and Russia, to demand they impose further crippling sanctions on North Korea, featuring an oil embargo, transport bans and punitive measures against Chinese banks allegedly doing business in North Korea. This was despite evidence, such as soaring oil prices in North Korea, that China is already severely constricting supplies. Trump delivered what amounted to an ultimatum, declaring that North Korea was a real threat to the world and a big world problem that we have to finally solve. Publicly, the Trump administration is holding out the prospect of applying enough pressure on China to compel North Korea to abandon its missile and nuclear programs. But Beijing is sending increasingly alarmed signals that it has very limited influence over the Pyongyang regime.
An editorial yesterday in the state-controlled Global Times warned that convincing Pyongyang to cease its nuclear activities was not as easy as saying abracadabra. The game of chicken between Washington and Pyongyang could quickly get out of control with terrible consequences that no side will be able to stop. It described the situation as puzzle filled with bombs and declared: Pyongyang must not strike a match and detonate it. This was not the first time that Beijing has voiced dismay at the danger of a military conflagration that would have a severely damaging impact on China s geo-strategic interests. Two days earlier, a Global Times editorial openly criticised North Korea, and said Pyongyang was making a mistake if it thought that Beijing considered it a sentinel and on guard duty for China. The editorial declared that North Korea s nuclear program was jeopardising China s major national interests and preventing Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons was already Beijing s priority in Northeast Asia.
China s leaders obviously understand that their country, not just its erstwhile ally North Korea, is Washington s target. A US assault on the Korean Peninsula could not only lead to the destabilising collapse of North Korea, near one of China s major industrial regions, but install a US-backed regime on China s border, as the US sought to during the 1950-53 Korean War. The fact that China is in the firing line was highlighted yesterday by testimony at a US Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on the Asia-Pacific region. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior fellow Ashley Tellis described North Korea as a near-term challenge, whereas the challenges emanating from China are long term, enduring and aimed fundamentally at decoupling the United States from its Asian partners. These comments again point to the underlying driving force behind the Korean crisis. Not just in North East Asia but around the world, the ruling US capitalist class is intent on using America s military might to offset its economic decline and block China, or any other potential rival, from challenging the global hegemony it established through victory over Germany and Japan in World War II.
AB 1234 would make campaign finance more transparent: Unfortunately, from party leaders to moneyed interests, the prevailing attitude toward Assemblyman Marc Levine s legislation is, Why close a perfectly good campaign loophole? 
What s wrong with faster deportations? Ask this Dreamer: If there were ever a cautionary tale about the perils of the Donald Trump administration making good on its promise to speed deportations of immigrants, it s the case of Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year-old Dreamer from the border town of Calexico. 
Ben Boychuk: Whether or not the sexual harassment allegations are true, this much is certain: Bill O Reilly was terrible. His ouster from Fox News is another opportunity to be reminded that cable news is terrible.
John Berthelsen: Kim Jong Un is a carefully calculating leader who seems willing to be more confrontational than his father or his grandfather, who invaded South Korea in 1950. Donald Trump was threatening North Korea with an aircraft carrier battle group, which was actually in the Indian Ocean when the commander in chief thought it was priming its jets just offshore from Korea.
Judith A. Wilde and James H. Finkelstein: We have been examining the contracts for presidents of public universities and have documented a dramatic increase in presidential salaries. But more surprising to us has been the growth of corporate-style perks, supplemental benefits and contract protections.
Christina Marie Martinez: It is one thing to declare ourselves the Farm-to-Fork Capital ; it is quite another to bring the essence of that slogan into our communities where we have food deserts.
Charles Munger Jr. and Sen. Sam Blakeslee: The California Assembly and Senate have yet to codify in their operating rules the Constitution s new transparency provisions. Instead, they have created rules that represent a half-measure of what those provisions require, and of what California voters intended when they approved Proposition 54.
Take a number: $200 million
That s the upper range of the estimated cost of the proposed streetcar line linking West Sacramento and Sacramento the recipient of the 2017 Golden Fleece award for wasteful spending from the Sacramento Taxpayers Association. What is more likely to deep-six the project, however, is if the Trump administration nixes a federal grant that supporters hope will pay for as much as half.
The association s third annual awards, bestowed at a dinner Tuesday night, also targeted the role of local governments trying to pass a half-cent sales tax for roads and transit (Measure B narrowly failed last November) and abuse of overtime at the Sacramento Fire Department (also the subject of a critical city audit). Foon Rhee, @foonrhee
San Diego Union Tribune: The state Department of Motor Vehicles has made so many gains in customer service over the years that now don t laugh some motorists find the DMV downright convenient. But a new report by state Auditor Elaine M. Howle paints a disturbing picture of DMV sloppiness in one of its most visible duties: overseeing the distribution and tracking of disabled parking placards.
Stockton Record: We have chronicled recently how locally grown asparagus is waning as it simply has not been feasible to compete with the price of the imported spears. But this is Stockton. And the city identifies with asparagus. So we urge folks to attend the reconstituted Asparagus Festival this weekend at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.
San Jose Mercury News: California public labor unions secrecy lobby is at it again. This time legislation introduced by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-San Fernando, would remove the public s right to see records connected with local government contract negotiations with public employees. It would not make disclosure illegal, but the effect of saying the records need not be released under the Public Records Act would be the same. It s hard enough to get access to records when the right to see them is clear.
Los Angeles Times: Dylan Roof walked into a South Carolina church two years ago, briefly took part in a prayer session and then methodically shot and killed nine people. Roof is white; the victims were black. Roof told police he wanted to start a race war. On Tuesday, Kori Ali Muhammad shot three people to death on the street near downtown Fresno, police said, just five days after allegedly killing a Motel 6 security guard. Muhhamad is black; the victims were white. Police have concluded that Muhhamad was motivated by a hatred of white people, and relatives said he may have believed himself a warrior in a race war. Racial violence, tragically, has been a constant companion over the long arc of this nation s history.
East Bay Times: The U.S. and China have long held radically different visions for the world, but it is clear that both of those visions now agree on one thing: North Korea is a dangerous threat. It s about time. North Korea s provocative President Kim Jong Un is dangerous. For months, Kim has issued threats to use both missiles and nuclear weapons against the United States or South Korea.
Dana Milbank: Restraint was in short supply during oral arguments in the Trinity Lutheran Church case at the U.S. Supreme Court. It was a manufactured controversy, cooked up by conservative interest groups that are hoping to chip away at constitutional provisions in 39 states restricting taxpayer money from going to churches.
Michael Gerson: The worst temptation is dehumanization turning Donald Trump supporters into threatening types. It is a habit of mind that may help consolidate Trump s control of the GOP and thus his prospects for re-election.
Gail Collins: Everybody was talking about the dangers of a confrontation between the United States and North Korea. People debated all the variables. The only thing that did not come up was the possibility that the American flotilla was actually no place near the neighborhood.
Tweet of the day
Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won t succumb to your dog whistle politics. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii @maziehirono, after the U.S. attorney general told a radio host he was amazed that a judge sitting in an island in the Pacific could block the president s travel ban.
- ^ The Take (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ Please sign up for it here (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ Donald Trump s Earth Day wish (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ Why close a perfectly good campaign loophole? (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year-old Dreamer from the border town of Calexico (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ reminded that cable news is terrible (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ the commander in chief thought it was priming its jets just offshore from Korea. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ the growth of corporate-style perks, supplemental benefits and contract protections. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ bring the essence of that slogan into our communities where we have food deserts. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ what California voters intended when they approved Proposition 54. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ 2017 Golden Fleece award for wasteful spending from the Sacramento Taxpayers Association (www.sactax.org)
- ^ the Trump administration nixes a federal grant (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ Measure B narrowly failed last November (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ abuse of overtime at the Sacramento Fire Department (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ @foonrhee (twitter.com)
- ^ a disturbing picture of DMV sloppiness in one of its most visible duties: overseeing the distribution and tracking of disabled parking placards (www.sandiegouniontribune.com)
- ^ So we urge folks to attend the reconstituted Asparagus Festival this weekend at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds (www.recordnet.com)
- ^ It s hard enough to get access to records when the right to see them is clear (www.mercurynews.com)
- ^ Racial violence, tragically, has been a constant companion over the long arc of this nation s history (www.latimes.com)
- ^ both of those visions now agree on one thing: North Korea is a dangerous threat. (www.eastbaytimes.com)
- ^ constitutional provisions in 39 states restricting taxpayer money from going to churches. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ help consolidate Trump s control of the GOP and thus his prospects for re-election. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ Here are some major cards we can play. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ blundering into a new Korean war. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ you placed your faith in a phony. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ the American flotilla was actually no place near the neighborhood. (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ John R. Williams, Rancho Cordova (www.sacbee.com)
- ^ Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii @maziehirono (twitter.com)
A gunman opened fire on two utility workers in a residential St. Louis neighborhood Thursday, killing both of them before fatally shooting himself. The shooting happened around 11:15 a.m. on the western edge of the city. Police say the gunman walked up to the two male workers for Laclede Gas Co. and began shooting, then turned the gun on himself. The reason for the shooting was a mystery. Both Laclede Gas and another utility, the electric company Ameren Missouri, said they pulled workers from the streets for the rest of the day as a precaution.
“We have no motive at this point in the investigation,” police Capt. Mary Warnecke said. “It does not appear words were exchanged.”
Manyika McCoy, 37, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the workers were connecting gas service to a home she was moving into. One was using a jackhammer and another was in a backhoe. She was at her mother’s house nearby when, she said, she saw a man walking purposefully down the street toward the workers.
“I heard pop, pop,” McCoy said. The worker in the backhoe “was saying, ‘Wait, wait,” and the guy just kept shooting at him,” McCoy said. The worker eventually collapsed in the street, she said. The shooting came two days after a man wanted in the slaying of a security guard gunned down three men, including a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee, in unprovoked attacks on the streets of downtown Fresno, California. Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, who is black, was arrested shortly after the rampage, and posts on what appeared to be his Facebook page discussed wanting to kill white people. Police described the St. Louis shooter as black, and both victims as white, but there was no indication the shooting was racially motivated.
Names of the victims and the shooter have not been released. Authorities say the workers were both men, one in his 20s and the other in his 50s. Laclede Gas is a natural gas distribution utility that serves the St. Louis area and portions of southeast Missouri.
“We are shocked and grieving today after two of our Laclede Gas employees were shot and killed this morning at one of our job sites,” Laclede Gas said in a statement. “We are connecting with their loved ones now. And, we are working with police to understand more about this crisis. We are heartbroken, as you can imagine, and ask that you hold these employees, their families, their friends, Laclede Gas workers and our communities in your thoughts and prayers.”
Laclede Gas pulled all non-emergency workers from the streets for the rest of the day as a precaution, the company said. Ameren Missouri Senior Vice President Mark Birk also cited precaution in the decision to bring in all crews working in St. Louis to an operations center. St. Louis has one of the nation’s highest homicide rates. The city recorded 188 killings in both 2015 and 2016 and had 45 this year through April 18, according to police statistics.
New Mayor Lyda Krewson has said creating a safer city is among her top priorities. On Wednesday, her first full day in office, she announced that Police Chief Sam Dotson was retiring, though he will stay on as a consultant for one year.