Monday Note: April 1

The 1981 White House Ester Egg Roll
By
Paul Brandus
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No foolin! It’s April 1st and at the White House, clowns (the non-political kind) and other characters will gather on the South Lawn for the annual Easter Egg Roll – the annual event going all the way back to 1878. Some 30,000 people are expected. No, this has no connection with the federal budget cuts that have suspended White House tours – the Egg Roll is largely funded by private donations, we’re told.

Speaking of Fools…the House and Senate remain on Spring recess. They’ll be back next week. But don’t worry about your lawmakers working too much: they get another week off the first week of May, poor things.

Economic Calendar

The main economic event this week: Friday's reports on jobs and unemployment for March. Analysts expect +193K jobs were created, with unemployment remaining 7.7%

. The broader unemployment rate preferred by many economists was 14.3% in February.

Meantime, if you missed it on Friday, the Labor Dept. came out with its monthly report on state unemployment. California, Mississippi, and Nevada have the highest jobless rates in the nation: 9.6%; the lowest are North Dakota (3.3%), Nebraska (3.8%); South Dakota and  Vermont (4.4%). All told, unemployment rates fell in 22 states in February and rose in rose in 16.

North Korea Tensions

The U.S. this morning has upped the stakes on the Korean peninsula, moving F-22 stealth fighters to South Korea for military exercises. The move follows other shows of force - training missions near the 38th parallel with B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers. It's all meant to intimidate the communist North, which warns that a "state  of war" exists with South Korea and the U.S. 

Could there REALLY be a new Korean War? It’s important to remember that the Korean War between 1950 and 1953 – that took 38,000 American lives - officially never ended. All we signed back in 1953 was a truce, so a state of war still exists – and If you’ve ever visited the DMZ – between North and South Korea you know how tense it is – and that’s BEFORE these latest threats from the North that have American officials so concerned.

U.S. intelligence is looking for signs that the North Koreans are truly going to do something here – the analysis so far seems to indicate that it’s just tough talk – but here’s the concern: Kim Jong Un, the young, new leader in the North – is trying to show who’s boss – may feel he needs to keep upping the stakes. North Korea watchers aren’t sure how he evaluates information or whether he thinks about things in the same way we do – so the bottom line is American officials worry about North Korean miscalculation or error of judgment – even so they think the odds of an actual conflict are low.  – but there is
when it comes to North Korea there is always room for error.

Just last week the U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to defend the South against an attack from the North.  The United States has pledged since 1953 to defend South Korea – this has not changed – and today some 28,500 U.S. troops are based in South Korea; there are 35,000 in neighboring Japan – including the Seventh Fleet. And in the past week a B-52 from Guam and B-2 stealth bombers flying all the way from Missouri – have reminded the North Koreans that the U.S. can easily strike in many ways.

Could North Korea really hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear weapon?  There’s no real evidence it is capable of doing so. But South Korea and Japan are certainly at risk. North Korea could also pass nukes on to Iran or to terrorist groups. The North Koreans have sponsored terrorist attacks overseas in the past – and Iranian observers are thought to have been present at the most recent nuclear test.

-Paul Brandus

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Apr
23

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