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World/National News

April 14, 2013

Nation and world news

Behind North Korea’s threats is a complex and curious logic

To the outside world, the talk often appears to border on the lunatic, with the poor, hungry and electricity-starved nation threatening to lay waste to America’s cities in an atomic firestorm, or to overrun South Korea in a lightning attack.

Enemy capitals, North Korea said, will be turned “into a sea of fire.” North Korea’s first strikes will be “a signal flare marking the start of a holy war.” Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal is “mounted on launch pads, aimed at the windpipe of our enemies.”

And it’s not all talk. The profoundly isolated, totalitarian nation has launched two rockets over the past year. A February nuclear test resulted in still more U.N. sanctions. Another missile test may be in the planning stages.

But there is also a logic behind North Korea’s behavior, a logic steeped in internal politics, one family’s fear of losing control and the ways that a weak, poverty-wracked nation can extract concessions from some of the world’s most fearsome military powers.

It’s also steeped in another important fact: It works.

Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2014 under scrutiny in gun debate

President Barack Obama’s push for tougher gun measures and expanded background checks has placed several moderate Senate Democrats facing re-election next year in a bind, forcing them to take sides on a deeply personal issue for rural voters.

The choice: Either they stick with Obama and gun control advocates — and give an opening to campaign challengers and the National Rifle Association to assail them — or they stand with conservative and moderate gun owners back home worried about a possible infringement on their rights.

Five Senate Democrats — Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Max Baucus of Montana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina — are seeking another term in states carried by Republican Mitt Romney last fall. For the next few weeks, at least, the spotlight will be on how they maneuver as the Senate debates gun-control legislation pushed by Democrats in response to the deadly Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting.

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