China calls for calm on Korean Peninsula

With tensions rising on the Korean peninsula, China is calling for calm and urging all parties to avoid “provocative actions.”

President Donald Trump hit the phones Sunday to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with North Korea dominating the conversation. Trump has long called on China to rein in its unruly neighbor.

According to Chinese state media, Xi told Trump China is strongly against any action that would violate UN Security Council resolutions and added that the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue can only be solved if all parties take responsibility and work together.

Abe, after the phone call, told reporters he would “continue to maintain close contact with the US, and maintain an advanced alert monitoring system.”

“North Korea’s nukes and missiles are an issue for the international community, but it is also a serious security threat to Japan,” Abe said.

Xi’s comments come on the back of increasing signs that China may be getting fed up with continued nuclear bluster from long-time ally North Korea and tilting toward the United States.

Tense weekend

The weekend saw mercury rise on the Korean peninsula when North Korea threatened to sink a US aircraft carrier conducting drills in the region.

State-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said the country is ready to illustrate its “military force” by sinking a “nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike.”

The newspaper claimed Pyongyang has weaponry that “can reach continental US and Asia Pacific region” and the “absolute weapon,” a hydrogen bomb. CNN cannot independently verify those claims. The editorial is not unusual for North Korean state media, which often responds to perceived threats from the US and its allies with inflammatory language.

Hours later, Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross said the US would call on North Korea “to refrain from provocative, destabilizing actions and rhetoric, and to make the strategic choice to fulfill its international obligations and commitments and return to serious talks.”

“North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs represent a clear, grave threat to US national security,” Ross added.

The aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, is part of a navy strike group currently conducting drills with two Japanese destroyers in the western Pacific Ocean. South Korea is in ongoing discussions with the US Navy about holding its own joint drills with the Vinson strike group, South Korean Defense Ministry Spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said Monday.

US citizen detained

North Korea also detained a US citizen as he tried to leave the capital Pyongyang.

Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, was detained as he was about to fly out of Pyongyang International Airport on Saturday morning.

He was teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a statement from the school said.

The university said the detention “is related to an investigation into matters not connected in any way with the work of PUST.”

The detention was also confirmed by Martina Aberg, deputy chief of mission at the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.

Gary Locke, a former US ambassador to China, told CNN the detention is North Korea trying to get as many “bargaining chips” as possible to make it more difficult for the United States.

“This is only going to inflame the situation and make it more difficult for us to resolve the overarching issue of getting North Korea to stop developing a nuclear weapon,” Locke said.

However, Michael Madden, a visiting scholar at the US Korea Institute, cautioned against reading too much into the detention, saying the North Koreans may announce charges after the Tuesday celebrations are over.

“There may be politics at play but all of the people detained by North Korea have been in violation of North Korean law,” he said. “”If they (the North Koreans) have something, they’ll let us know.”

At least two other US citizens are currently in North Korean custody.

Another test

Added to the high-tension weekend are fears that North Korea may conduct a nuclear test Tuesday, when the country celebrates the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army. Analysts said earlier this month that North Korea’s only nuclear site is “primed and ready” for another test.

The Pentagon Sunday called on the communist nation to avoid destabilizing the situation further.

Madden believes a nuclear test is unlikely and told CNN North Korea would probably conduct a combined forces exercise instead.

“Kim Jong Un will probably watch some military exercises involving all three of North Korea’s conventional military branches,” Madden told CNN.

In lieu of that, Pyongyang may test another missile.

“We probably would’ve seen a nuclear detonation at this point,” he said. “They don’t generally do nuclear weapons on holidays themselves. They tend to do them a few days before holidays.”

But South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Friday it will be on high alert in case North Korea conducts a test on the holiday.

Pyongyang often uses holidays to carry out actions the US and its allies see as provocative.

It conducted a failed missile test a day after the Day of the Sun, the country’s most important holiday, earlier this month, but not a nuclear test, which some predicted would happen.

Victim’s family on Arkansas execution: ‘Ready for it to be done’

Darla Jones said she can’t imagine what it will be like to watch the man who killed her mother as he is executed by lethal injection on Monday.

She believes that after Jack Harold Jones is put to death, a feeling of anticipation among her family members may likely give way to a mixture of relief and sadness over a loved one lost.

Jack Harold Jones — no relation to Darla Jones — was convicted of rape and murder in 1996 for the death of Mary Phillips, 34, a year earlier in Bald Knob, Arkansas.

Darla Jones and her family members plan to witness the execution, one of two deaths by injection scheduled in Arkansas on Monday.

Jones’ pending death will bring closure for the family of Mary Phillips. They have trudged to clemency hearings over the years, crying and pleading for Arkansas to carry out the execution.

They had hoped their mother’s killer would have been put death by now, Darla Jones said.

“We couldn’t move on and have that closure because they wouldn’t let us,” Jones, 38 of Little Rock, Arkansas, said Sunday. “It’s like they trapped us … thinking about it and going to clemency hearings, and telling them one more time ‘Yes, we still want you to finish this.’ “

Stays granted in some cases

On June 6, 1995, Jack Harold Jones raped and killed Phillips in an accounting office in Bald Knob, where she worked as a bookkeeper. He also beat her 11-year-old daughter, Lacey, and left her for dead.

Lacey regained consciousness as police photographers — who thought she was dead — took pictures of the crime scene. Now Lacey Seal, she is 32 years old.

Jack Harold Jones was among eight inmates Arkansas had planned to execute over 11 days starting on April 17, saying its lethal-injection drugs would expire at the end of the month. Four of the men have received stays for various reasons.

On Thursday, Arkansas executed the first of the eight men, convicted murderer Ledell Lee, 51. He remained silent in the moments leading up to his execution, a media witness said.

Lee was pronounced dead 12 minutes after officials administered the injection. It was Arkansas’ first execution since 2005.

Attorneys for the eight death row inmates had attempted to block the executions on several grounds, including arguing that midazolam, the drug used to make inmates unconscious before two more drugs paralyze and kill them, does not effectively prevent a painful death.

The second drug, pancuronium bromide, paralyzes the inmate. And the third, potassium chloride, causes cardiac arrest and stops the heart.

The lawyers also challenged the state’s decision to carry out the eight executions in the 11-day time frame, which is unprecedented, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Marcel Wayne Williams is the second inmate scheduled to be executed on Monday.

Williams was convicted of capital murder in 1997 for the death of Stacy Errickson, a mother of two. On November 20, 1994, Williams forced Errickson into her car at gunpoint at a gas station in Jacksonville, Arkansas. He made her withdraw money at several ATMs, transactions captured on several security cameras.

Errickson’s body was found two weeks later.

Errickson’s mother and twin brother could not be reached on Sunday.

‘Now the whole world cares’

Darla Jones said her mother was a petite, Christian woman, who married her high school sweetheart. Jones recalled dropping her younger sister Lacey off at the accounting office and heading to a friend’s house for a birthday party on the day her mother was killed.

She said she kissed her mom and told her she loved her.

After her mother’s death, Jones said she became “a makeshift mom, cleaning house, doing dinners,” and taking her two younger siblings to events.

She has attended three clemency hearings since 2007, including one scheduled for this month. Jones said her family has “suffered more than it’s worth.”

“Our wounds have healed, but … they’re making a circus out of it,” said Jones, a real estate agent who also works in sales.

She added: “My mother was such a perfect, great person, that I could see her saying something like: ‘Don’t even bother. I’m in heaven.’ “

The media attention, buzz on social media, opinions of experts and anti-death penalty protests have been overwhelming, Jones said.

“We were in a small town and I didn’t feel like it involved anyone else but us because it was my mom,” she said. “Now the whole world cares.”

She makes an effort to talk about her mother in the present tense with strangers and those she doesn’t know well.

“It’s not a one-answer solution. I have to go on and on,” she said.

She would rather people forget about this part of her life because “it doesn’t define who we are,” she said.

‘Ready for it be done’

On Monday, her brother, Jesse Phillips, 36, her father and two other family members plan to watch the scheduled execution in a viewing area of the chambers of the Cummins Unit prison in Grady, Arkansas.

Jones, Seal and other family members will be in a nearby building on the property watching the execution on closed-circuit television, Jones said.

Seal declined to be interviewed.

“She’s ready for it to be done,” said her husband, Darrin Seal, 36, of Piggott, Arkansas. “It’s going to bring some closure to the entire family.”

Jones said she’s unsure how much of the execution she will watch. She will look at the screen “to physically see him there, just so I’ll know that it’s real,” she said.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the entire thing. I don’t think that’s a visual I can handle as a mother … as a young adult that has a lot of life to live,” she said.

But she knows holidays with family members will feel different after the execution.

“From now on, it’ll be just positive things, just the regular, good old stories,” Jones said.

Fatah Announces ‘Day of Rage’, Urging Palestinians to Clash with Israeli Forces

The Fatah movement in the occupied West Bank, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), called for Palestinians to express their unity by performing Friday prayers at the many solidarity tents that have already been set up across the West Bank in support of the some 1,500 hunger strikers, who entered their 6th day […]

How fight over Obamacare could shut down the government

The fight over Obamacare’s future is now threatening to shut down the federal government.

Congress must pass a spending bill by the end of this week or the federal government will run out of money.

And Democrats, whose votes are needed to approve a budget, plan to use their leverage to force Republicans to stabilize Obamacare. They want the budget deal to fund a set of Obamacare subsidies that are crucial to keeping insurers in the program.

Here’s how Obamacare figures into the government spending battle.

Subsidies make health care affordable for those with low-incomes:

The House GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare may be shelved for now, but Republicans still hold tremendous power over Obamacare’s future.

The most pressing issue is the funding of subsidy payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reductions, or CSRs. These make health care more affordable for lower-income Obamacare enrollees by reducing their deductibles and co-pays. Those with incomes under $29,700 for a single person are eligible. The payments can cut deductibles to as low as $227, on average, instead of nearly $3,500 for the standard silver Obamacare plan.

These subsidies are important to insurers, too. A little over 7 million people, or 58%, signed up for policies with cost-sharing subsidies on the Obamacare exchanges for 2017. The payments are made directly to insurers and will cost the federal government an estimated $7 billion this year.

Republicans sued Obama to block the subsidies:

The subsides have been at the center of a court battle since 2014, when House Republicans sued the Obama administration to try to stop them. GOP lawmakers have argued that Congress never appropriated funds for the payments. A district court judge agreed last year, ruling the subsidies were illegal.

The Obama administration filed an appeal, and the subsidies continue to be paid while GOP lawmakers and Trump officials agree on a settlement.<is “agree=”” on=”” a=”” settlement”=”” the=”” correct=”” phrasing=”” to=”” use=”” here?=”” should=”” it=”” be=”” “figure=”” out=”” or=”” “try=”” seek=”” agree=”” settlement.”=””>

Speaker Paul Ryan said he expects the payments to continue while a deal is worked out. Trump has offered mixed signals.

An administration official said the payments will continue, but Trump told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month that he hadn’t made a final decision. He wants to use the subsidies as a bargaining chip to force Democrats to negotiate on the larger Obamacare repeal and replace efforts.

Insurers, however, want more certainty that the subsidies will be paid before they commit to participating in the exchanges next year. Some have already announced they are dropping out, and more are likely to downscale or withdraw if the matter isn’t settled soon.

Insurers say premiums will soar without subsidies:

Carriers must file their Obamacare plans and rates to state regulators in coming weeks. If the cost-sharing subsidies disappear, insurers will have to hike their premiums by an average of 19% to make up for the loss, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week that Democrats would insist that a final package include funding the subsidies.

A wide-ranging coalition of groups, including insurers, providers and business leaders, are also pressing Republican lawmakers to fund the subsidies. They say it’s the most critical action needed to stabilize the individual market for this year and next.

A Behind the Scenes Look at Spring Spearing

Published April 24, 2017 By Carri Chapman, Kim Swisher Communications. LAC DU FLAMBEAU INDIAN RESERVATION – Every spring, when the ice comes off the lakes, Ojibwe Tribes begin their tradition of walleye spearing. This method of harvesting fish including walleye and muskellunge is an annual custom for Ojibwe families to obtain food for their families and […]

The post A Behind the Scenes Look at Spring Spearing appeared first on Native News Online.

Sinte Gleska University Welcomes Longest Walk 5.2

Published April 24, 2017 MISSION, SOUTH DAKOTA – Members of the Longest Walk 5.2 were joined by Rosebud residents for a prayer walk through town, continuing their mission of calling attention to drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence in native communities. The group started at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe homeless shelter, where they circled up […]

The post Sinte Gleska University Welcomes Longest Walk 5.2 appeared first on Native News Online.

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Administration Building Groundbreaking

Published April 24, 2017 AKWESASNE – The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe invites the public to join them for a formal groundbreaking of a new 54,000-square-foot Tribal Administration Building being held at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, Onerahtókha/April 24, 2017 at Generations Park in Akwesasne, New York. When completed in September 2018, the three-story $15.5 million building will […]

The post Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Administration Building Groundbreaking appeared first on Native News Online.