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Monday, April 1, 2013

I have been procrastinating all day long, trying to tell all of my followers that this is the last entry of 'politics - what I see and what I do not understand.' I have been doing this for four years and have loved every minute of the experience. I am by all accounts, immersed in my blogging until all else around me does not exist. I have done this every day from the time I get up till I go to bed. 

My family, whom I love, they do not understand my passion nor do they share it. They have expressed their concern that I do not spend time with them, that I am married to my computer, I have fights with the television, yell at Congress when I watch cspan, and lately have been depressed and stressed out to the max. I confess to all of their complaints and to being stress depressed out. My doctor got involved about two weeks ago when it had gotten to the point that I had crashed and burned.   Doctors have great little pills, that make you calm and start acting normal, if anyone knows what normal is. And it is not so radical for people to take medication for all sorts of malaise.As my doctor put it at least I came in[even though pushed], that is to my credit.

I KNOW TMI [too much information], but I have been honest in my blogging, and I am going to be honest about why I am ceasing this blog.

I am taking a sabbatical, I am going to Miami in May and spend several months lying in the sun, riding bikes, taking long walks and clearing my head. who knows I might be back. I have grandchildren and a great grand baby, it is time for me to spend time with them.  I have three grandsons in Miami, and three grand-daughters in Pa.

I am not giving up blogging, just changing directions. My next great adventure will be 'My personal journey through the Bible.'  Not as stressful, and it will be a learning adventure. And you can follow along with me. I hope that you do, again I thank you for allowing me to educate you and more important me.
And this is not April Fools.

House completes veto override on voter-ID bill

This article was published today at 2:26 p.m. Updated today at 4:40 p.m.
the-arkansas-house-completed-an-override-of-senate-bill-2-concerning-voter-identification-on-monday-april-1-2013
The Arkansas House completed an override of Senate Bill 2, concerning voter identification, on Monday, April 1, 2013.

The Arkansas House on Monday completed an override of Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a bill that will require Arkansas voters to present photo identification before casting ballots.
The override passed the chamber, 52-45.
The Arkansas Senate completed the first leg of defeating Beebe's veto of Senate Bill 2 on Wednesday, voting 21-12 to override the veto. Each chamber, both Republican-controlled, needed a simple majority vote.
The Arkansas House delayed the override vote last week, failing to bring up the matter before the House convened Monday.
Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, brought the override vote before the House.
Meeks said the bill has been one of the more, if not the most debated bill this session, and told his fellow lawmakers that their vote on this legislation would come up during re-election campaigns.
Meeks brought up concerns about voter fraud and said the legislation would answer some of those concerns.
"Senate Bill 2 protects the integrity of the vote in Arkansas," Meeks said.
Meeks told Democratic members of the House that he understood they were in a position of having to support their party's leader, but asked them to set aside their party affiliations in this vote.
"We work for the citizens of Arkansas," Meeks said.
Meeks was the only member to speak for the legislation. Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, was the only member of the House to speak against Senate Bill 2.
Walker said Meeks' concerns with voter fraud were unfounded and that he supported Beebe's veto.
Walker said the debate on voter identification goes back to the civil rights movement and said, "you won't find any House members of my color supporting this bill."
Beebe vetoed the bill last Monday because it was "an expensive solution in search of a problem" and would infringe on voters' rights. Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, will require the state to provide free photo IDs to voters who do not have one. The estimated state cost is $300,000.
Monday's vote by the House completed the third successful override of a Beebe veto this session by Arkansas lawmakers. The previous two overrides both dealt with abortion-ban legislation.
In an interview with Arkansas Online following the override, Arkansas American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Rita Sklar said she was disappointed with Arkansas lawmakers, as a whole.
"It's been a very bad legilslative session for democracy in Arkansas," Sklar said.
The Arkansas ACLU has said the legislation is unconstitutional and said it would look at its options after a decision from lawmakers.
"I think we're headed to court," Sklar said.
Sklar said the greatest affect of Senate Bill 2 would be felt by senior citizens, minorities, immigrants and women.
Sklar could not give a time table on when action would be taken against Senate Bill 2, but said the ACLU attorneys would study the issue and be prepared. Sklar said she was confident on the potential outcome in court.
"We don't undertake anything we think we can't win," she said.
Poll workers are currently required to ask voters for identification, but voters are still allowed to vote if they do not have an ID.
The bill will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, but only if the state has the money to issue voter ID cards.
Read more in Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Exxon's Arkansas spill raises new scrutiny of Keystone pipeline

By Bloomberg News
This article was published today at 1:24 p.m.

An oil spill that polluted an Arkansas town is drawing new scrutiny to the risks of transporting fuel across a national labyrinth of pipelines as President Barack Obama weighs whether to approve Keystone XL.
Environmental groups point to the rupture of the Exxon Mobil Corp. pipe Friday in Mayflower, about 22 miles northwest of Little Rock, as a reason why Obama should reject Keystone. Industry groups contend that pipelines remain the safest way to transport oil and other fuels, and that existing regulations are adequate.

"Without question, this underscores the risks of transporting this stuff," Jim Murphy, senior counsel at the National Wildlife Federation, said in a phone interview.
The U.S. State Department is weighing whether to recommend that Obama approve the Keystone project. The agency is reviewing the plan because it crosses an international border. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that the White House takes the safety of the pipeline system "very seriously." He said the Environmental Protection Agency is working with local officials and Exxon on the Arkansas spill.
Republicans and some Democrats in Congress argue Keystone will create thousands of jobs and improve U.S. energy security. The Senate on March 22 approved 62-37 a nonbinding resolution encouraging development of the project. If built, the pipeline each day could carry more than 800,000 barrels of diluted bitumen, or dilbit, from Alberta to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Exxon's pipeline, known as Pegasus, can carry 96,000 barrels a day. The 20-inch line runs to Nederland, Texas, from Patoka, Illinois.

Grandfather clause' in Connecticut gun bill angers Sandy Hook families



Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters file
Mark and Jackie Barden, parents of Daniel Barden, 6, a victim of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, holding a picture of their son on Jan. 14. They spoke out against the compromise legislation Monday, April 1, in Hartford, Conn.

Lawmakers and families of the victims of the deadly shootings last year at a Connecticut elementary school were divided Monday over compromise legislation that would ban some but not all high-capacity ammunition magazines in the state.

Lawmakers announced Monday afternoon that they had reached a deal on a bipartisan measure designed to limit high-powered weapons, 3½ months after 20 children and six other people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Related: Connecticut lawmakers reach deal on 'most comprehensive' gun limits in US

The Legislature will convene Wednesday, with a vote expected as early as this week.

The would ban the sale of magazines able to handle more than 10 bullets. Adam Lanza, the gunman in the Dec. 14 shootings, used magazines accommodating 30 bullets.

But in a compromise, the lawmakers included a "grandfather clause" allowing people who already own such magazines to keep them, subject to registration.

Families of the Newtown victims objected, sending a letter to legislative leaders Monday saying more children might have survived had Lanza been carrying smaller magazines.

Lanza "fired 154 shots in approximately 4 minutes, killing 20 children and 6 educators. Miraculously, in the time that it took him to reload in one of the classrooms, 11 children were able to escape and are alive today," they said in the letter, which is reprinted below.

"We are left to wonder, what if the Sandy Hook shooter had been forced to reload not 6 times but 15 times. Would more children, would our children, be alive today?"

Mark Barden, whose son Daniel died in the shootings, said at a news conference Monday in Hartford: "The more times you have to reload, the more opportunities there are to escape and to stop the shooting. In the amount of time — it was somewhere around four minutes — he was able to fire 154 rounds. I think that speaks volumes about reducing the size" of magazines.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy sided with the parents.

"I have been clear for weeks that a ban on the possession and sale of high capacity magazines is an important part of our effort to prevent gun violence — simply banning their sale moving forward would not be an effective solution," Malloy said in a statement Monday.

"This morning, we heard from victims' families on that very point. They've asked for an up or down vote on that provision and, whether it's in the larger bill or as an amendment, the families, and every resident of our state, deserve a vote."

Following is the letter parents of the Sandy Hook victims sent Monday to Connecticut legislative leaders:
Dear Senators and State Representatives,
We, the parents of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School together with the parents and spouses of educators killed that day in Newtown, are writing today regarding gun legislation currently under consideration by Connecticut's legislature. We are grateful for your leadership on this issue and for the efforts of the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety to craft a comprehensive package of legislation to keep our communities and children safer from violence. We feel strongly, however, that the current proposed action on large capacity ammunition magazines is inadequate and must be strengthened.
We feel a very personal connection to this issue. The Sandy Hook shooter carried 10 magazines that held 30 bullets each. We now know that he left many smaller magazines at home. He fired 154 shots in approximately 4 minutes, killing 20 children and 6 educators. Miraculously, in the time that it took him to reload in one of the classrooms, 11 children were able to escape and are alive today.
We are left to wonder, what if the Sandy Hook shooter had been forced to reload not 6 times but 15 times. Would more children, would our children, be alive today?
The current proposal under consideration in Hartford would allow the sale of magazines with a capacity of 10 bullets or fewer. The proposal, however, grandfathers existing large capacity magazines leaving a gaping loophole on, what we believe, is the most dangerous feature of an assault weapon. Individuals will easily be able to purchase high capacity magazines in other states, bring them to Connecticut and claim to have owned them before the law took effect. Proving that the purchase or transfer took place post-enactment will be difficult, if not impossible.
Additionally, the "grandfathered" possession of large capacity magazines is not in the public interest and exposes our communities to an unacceptable risk of additional mass shootings. We must do more. If there is reason to stop the further sale of magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, a principle with which we wholeheartedly agree, it makes sense to take steps to prevent the potential damage that existing magazines could cause. How can we not remove large capacity magazines from Connecticut if we know that it might save even one more child or teacher or parent?
On behalf of the loved ones who were violently taken from us, please reconsider your approach to large capacity magazines as part of the comprehensive package of gun legislation. We are calling today for an up or down vote on the issue. Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Clerical error set Colorado slaying suspect free nearly 4 years early


Colo. Dept. Of Corrections / AP, file
This undated photo released by the Colorado Department of Corrections shows paroled inmate Evan Spencer Ebel.

If it weren't for a clerical error, Colorado's state prisons chief might still be alive today.
Court officials acknowledged in a statement Monday that a processing error allowed the now-dead ex-con Evan Spencer Ebel to be released January 28 — four years before he was supposed to be.
Ebel is suspected of killing Tom Clements, executive director of the state Department of Corrections, on March 19. Clements was shot dead apparently after answering the doorbell at his home outside Colorado Springs.
Ebel was later killed on March 21 in a shootout with cops in Texas after a car chase. The bullets he used then matched those used in the Clements killing, officials have said.
But Ebel shouldn't have been a free man in the first place.
In 2008, Ebel pleaded guilty to assaulting a prison guard while serving time for breaking into a car, having an illegal gun and carjacking a man. His four-year sentence was supposed to have been served "consecutively" after the the eight-year sentence he had been serving.
But a court clerk entered the sentence as "concurrent" to the one he was serving, which led to Ebel's January release, Colorado Department of Corrections officials said Monday.
Ebel is also suspected in the March 17 killing of a Domino’s pizza delivery man outside Denver. Authorities have speculated that Ebel used the man's uniform to get Clements to come to the door. Following the deadly shootout in Texas, a Domino's uniform was found in the car Ebel was driving.
Denver NBC station KUSA first reported on Friday that Ebel may have been released too early.

First Thoughts: April's shower of activity on Capitol Hill

Brace yourselves for April’s shower of activity on Capitol Hill… Waiting on Marco Rubio on immigration reform… Two paths for Obama’s upcoming budget… Will SCOTUS gay-marriage cases unleash chaos?...  Boehner, RNC blast Young, forcing him to apologize for slur… But as the GOP tries to improve its standing with Latinos, is it the tone or the policy?... SC-1 GOP run-off takes place tomorrow… And our second round of SENATE MADNESS begins!!!

NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro highlight the stories that will shape political news in April, including immigration, the gun control debate and the release of President Obama's budget.

*** April’s shower of activity on Capitol Hill: This month is shaping up to be a busy -- and consequential -- month in Washington. When Congress returns from its Easter/Passover break next week, the Senate is expected to consider the Democrat-backed gun legislation that a handful of GOP senators have threatened to filibuster (and that’s still missing Republican support). Also around the same time, the eight bipartisan senators working on immigration reform are on track to announce an agreement on the bill they’re drafting.  “I am very, very optimistic that we will have an agreement among the eight of us next week,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. Added Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ): “We've still got a ways to go in terms of looking at the language and making sure that it's everything we thought it would be. But we're closer, certainly.” And on April 10, President Obama is scheduled to finally send his budget to Congress. Yet of these three different moving parts, the one we bet we’re still talking about come May and the summer is immigration reform. How April goes could very well determine if Obama signs that reform into law in the next few months.
Sen. Marco Rubio voices tempered optimism, but the Gang of 8 on Capitol Hill seems to be making progress on a guest worker plan. NBC's Tracie Potts reports.
*** Waiting on Marco Rubio: And that brings us to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), another member of the bipartisan group of senators working on immigration reform. As Schumer and Flake expressed optimism about its prospects, especially after organized labor and the Chamber of Commerce reached an important agreement on guest workers as part of the package, Rubio tapped the brakes. “I’m encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers. However, reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature,” he said in a statement issued yesterday. “We will need a healthy public debate that includes committee hearings and the opportunity for other senators to improve our legislation with their own amendments... In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret.” It’s a legitimate question to ask: What is Rubio up to here? If his role is to sell the legislation to conservatives, he can’t afford to be seen as rushing it through, so his tapping of the brakes is smart. On the other hand, if you’re an immigration-reform advocate, you have to be a bit concerned about the totality of the statements coming from him and office. (Remember, Rubio is a recent convert on comprehensive immigration reform.) Make no mistake: Rubio is the difference between the Senate bill getting 60 votes or 75 votes. And if it gets 75 votes, it has a MUCH better chance of clearing the House with a path to citizenship.

*** Two paths for Obama’s upcoming budget: As Obama is set to unveil his budget next week, it raises these two questions: Will it simply reaffirm what Senate Democrats recently passed? Or will it lay out a potential path to compromise with House Republicans? After all, White House budgets typically come BEFORE the Senate and House act on theirs. But Obama’s budget is coming AFTER the two chambers already passed their respective budgets. And it puts the White House in a bind. If it lays out a potential path to compromise (offering “chained CPI” on Social Security, for example), then that could tick off Senate Democrats who could wonder why they had to take the vote they did. But if it simply reaffirms what Senate Democrats produced, then that would open up the White House to criticism that it’s not trying to find a way forward in resolving Washington’s budget impasse. We’ll find out what message the White House is trying to send on April 10.

*** Supreme Chaos? On Sunday, LA Times columnist Doyle McManus made a smart point analyzing last week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on gay marriage. “If the Supreme Court decides the two gay marriage cases it heard last week the way most court watchers believe it will, expect legal and political chaos,” he writes assuming that the court essentially punts Prop. 8 back to California. McManus then asks, “What happens to two gay men who marry in New York and then move to Salt Lake City? Will they still be married? If they have children, will the kids have two parents under Utah law? And will their federal benefits, such as survivors' Social Security benefits, travel with them, even though they've moved to a state where their marriage isn't valid? Will they file their federal tax returns jointly but state returns separately? And don't even think about the issue of divorce. This kind of legal patchwork virtually guarantees that politicians in states that don't recognize gay marriage will be debating and legislating the issue for years, making for an even more confusing situation. The ensuing chaos could harm more than just gay couples; the Republican Party stands to lose too.”


Larry Downing / Reuters
The Capitol Dome is seen on Capitol Hill, Nov. 9, 2012. To the left is the U.S. House of Representatives.


*** Boehner, RNC blast Young, forcing him to apologize: After Rep. Don Young (R-AK) referred to immigrant laborers as “wetbacks” and after his non-apology for those remarks (“I meant no disrespect”), Republican leaders denounced Young on Friday. “Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. “I don’t care why he said it – there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus added, “The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party… Offensive language and ethnic slurs have no place in our public discourse.” Those statements prompted Young to offer an apology. "I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska.  There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words,” he said. The GOP criticism of Young, especially from the RNC, deserves a lot credit for a party trying to improve its standing with Latinos and minority voters. The rebuke was swift, and Young took a while to get the message. Perhaps he realized if he hadn’t issued the second -- and more complete -- apology there would have been calls for resignation?

*** But is it the tone or the policy? Yet as Republicans try to improve their standing with Latinos, this LA Times piece is a sobering reminder for them. “Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest backers of President Obama's healthcare law. In a recent national poll, supporters outnumbered detractors by more than 2 to 1. Latinos also overwhelmingly see guaranteeing healthcare as a core government responsibility, surveys show. Yet congressional Republicans continue to make repeal of the 2010 Affordable Care Act a top agenda item and have renewed calls for deep cuts in health programs such as Medicaid, which are very popular with Latinos.” And that raises this important question to consider: What’s more important for Republicans as they try to win over minority voters -- tone or policy?

*** SC-1 run-off takes place tomorrow: Tomorrow brings us the special GOP congressional primary run-off in South Carolina featuring former Gov. Mark Sanford vs. Curtis Bostic. And more and more, it looks like Sanford is well on his way toward winning the run-off. But does Sanford winning give Democrats a better-than-expected chance in the May 7 general? That’s a question that both Democrats and Republicans are asking themselves.

*** Senate Madness -- the 2nd round begins: Our Senate Madness contest continues, this time with second-round match-ups from our 19th Century and Mixed Era brackets. In the 19th Century, it’s #1 Daniel Webster vs. #8 William Seward, #4 Stephen Douglas vs. #5 Sam Houston, #3 Charles Sumner vs. #11 James Buchanan, and #2 John C. Calhoun vs. #7 Thomas Hart Benton… In the Mixed Era, it’s #1 Henry Clay vs. #9 Sam Ervin, #4 Robert La Follette vs. #12 George Norris, #6 William Borah vs. #14 Scoop Jackson, and #2 Henry Cabot Lodge vs. #7 Arthur Vandenberg. Tomorrow, we’ll feature the 2nd-round match-ups from the 20th Century and Modern Era brackets.

Connecticut lawmakers reach deal on 'most comprehensive' gun limits in US


Jessica Hill / AP file
David Wheeler, father of Sandy Hook School shooting victim Benjamin, listens to a legislative hearing of a task force on gun violence and children's safety at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn., on Jan. 30, 2013.

Connecticut lawmakers on Monday said they had reached an agreement on compromise gun control legislation that they said would be one of the toughest in the nation, 3½ months after 20 children and six other people were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school.
The bill includes a ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines like those Adam Lanza used to fire 154 shots in four 4 minutes Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, a new registry for existing high-capacity magazines and background checks for private gun sales, NBC Connecticut reported.
While the measure would ban the sale of ammunition magazines able to handle more than 10 bullets, Gov. Dannell Malloy and parents of the Sandy Hook victims objected to a "grandfather clause" that will allow current owners of such magazines to keep them.
But state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a Democrat representing New Haven, told NBC Connecticut that the bill, which could be voted on as early as Wednesday, would still impose some of the nation's toughest gun control laws on Connecticut residents.
At a news conference Monday, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Republican whose district includes Newtown, agreed that the deal was "the most comprehensive package in the country because of its breadth," The Associated Press reported.
In what was being described as a first in the U.S., gun owners would have to register current magazines accommodating more than 10 rounds with the state by January, The New Haven Register reported.
The measure would also require universal background checks for all firearm sales — many states don't require them for private sales, such as those between family members or collectors — and would add 34 more weapons to the state's list of banned semi-automatic assault-style weapons.
The Register reported that the bill would also strengthen penalties for gun trafficking and would expand the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners to include a mental health professional and a retired judge.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, a Democrat representing Hamden, told reporters the measure was meant to send a message to Washington that "this is the way to get this job done."

The fortress island fixed in North Korea's sights


Ian Williams/ NBC News
Shell-encrusted beach defenses - large metal spikes embedded in concrete to obstruct landings – stand on the beaches of South Korea's Baengnyeong Island.  The small island is South Korea's northernmost island and sits quite literally in North Korea's crosshairs.

BAENGNYEONG ISLAND, South Korea -- On the face of it there's nothing particularly exceptional about the Harmony Flower, a black and yellow 565-seat ferry that leaves the South Korean port of Incheon at 8.50 a.m. every day, heading northwest into the Yellow Sea.
Hikers in bright windproof jackets sit amid school children returning to their island home after a field trip to the mainland. A group of elderly Koreans settles in a circle on the floor for a game of cards.
Yet this must be one of the most precarious ferry routes in the world, plying the waters between two states still technically at war, and where the rhetoric from North Korea has raised tensions to levels not seen in years.
The Harmony Flower skirts North Korean territory, cruising beside disputed waters on its four-hour journey from Incheon to Baengnyeong, South Korea’s northernmost and most isolated island.
It's a sunny day, but cold, and with a bitter wind. A few hardy travelers brave the outside deck as the craggy outline of Baengnyeong comes into view through the early afternoon haze.
Baengnyeong, a 20-square-mile island, sits quite literally in North Korea’s crosshairs.

Baengnyeong is South Korea's northernmost and most isolated island. Since 1999, the island has been the scene of the most military incidents between the two Koreas. NBC News' Ian Williams takes viewers on a tour of the island.
Since 1999, this area has been the scene of most military incidents between the two Koreas. The North’s mainland looms to the east and north of Baengnyeong. At its closest point, it is just ten miles away.
Some 5,000 people live on Baengnyeong with roughly the same number of South Korean soldiers.
“The soldiers are quite tense at the moment,” said Hong Sang Chul, a driver, fishermen, shop owner and occasional tour guide, from high in one of the island’s watchtowers.
Local people have been told to keep off the beach after dark, but at low tide during daylight hours they take tunnels through the wall to collect mussels off the shell-encrusted beach defenses – large metal spikes embedded in concrete to obstruct landings.
Sea of fire
The disputed waters used to be a popular fishing ground, naturally replenished during times of tension when the fishermen stayed at home. Recently Chinese boats have been coming in growing numbers.
“There are usually around two to three hundred Chinese fishing boats out there,” Hong said. “But a week ago they all left. They decided it was too dangerous to fish here.”
Baengnyeong is like a fortress, the coast lined with tall concrete walls, 30 feet thick in places and topped by layers of razor wire. It’s punctuated with watch towers every few hundred feet.


Ian Williams / NBC News
Baengnyeong is like a fortress, the coast lined with tall concrete walls, thirty feet thick in places and topped by layers of razor wire. It's punctuated with watch towers every few hundred feet.
Radar stations sit on top of the hills to give early warning of any North Korean attack, and red signs warn of coastal mine fields.
On top of one hill is a vantage point overlooking North Korea, beside which sit a decommissioned tank and a gun emplacement. A sign beside the gun informs that it has a range of 15 miles.
These weapons are for the benefit of visitors; the serious and more modern weaponry is hidden.

North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un has issued almost daily threats, including the threat of nuclear strikes on Washington, D.C., and Seoul. In addition, Pyongyang has put its troops on combat readiness, warning that war "may break out at any moment." NBC's Ian Williams reports.
Earlier this month, the North Korean dictator was shown on television inspecting a missile base, and peering through binoculars at Baengnyeong. He threatened to turn it into a sea of fire.
“He was over there, that’s where Kim Jong Un was standing,” said Hong, pointing a small island, just off the main North Korean coast.
A little further round the coast is a large memorial to 46 sailors who died three years ago in the sinking of a South Korean patrol boat, the Cheonan, a little over a mile from the coast here, the apparent victim of a North Korean torpedo attack.
Another island, Yeonpyeong, to the south of here, was attacked that same year with a sudden barrage of artillery from the North that killed four people and injured 44 others. Both attacks came without warning.
South Korea, with a new and more hard-line president, has vowed to hit back hard and is unlikely show the same restraint as last time.
Hong has lived through years of threats and theatrics. But this ratcheting up of tensions feels new.
“Of course it worries me,” he said. "I am worried."

US Navy shifts destroyer in wake of North Korea missile threats

As North Korean state TV shows constant images of the army bombarding South Korea, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un is saying his missiles are at the ready and has cut off emergency communications. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

The U.S. Navy is shifting a guided-missile destroyer in the Pacific to waters off the Korean peninsula in the wake of ongoing rhetoric from North Korea, U.S. defense officials said.
The USS McCain is capable of intercepting and destroying a missile, should North Korea decide to fire one off, the officials said.
Still, U.S. defense officials insist that there is nothing to indicate that North Korea is on the verge of another launch.
The White House on Monday said the United States hasn’t seen large-scale movements from North Korean military forces in the aftermath of harsh rhetoric from the reclusive government.

As North Korean state TV shows constant images of the army bombarding South Korea, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un is saying his missiles are at the ready and has cut off emergency communications. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
"I would note that despite the harsh rhetoric we are hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilizations and positioning of forces," Carney said
The McCain in December 2012 was moved to be in position to defend against a impending North Korean rocket launch.
On Sunday, The United States sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea as part of military exercises in a move aimed at further deterring threats from North Korea against its neighbor.
It was unclear if the McCain was also part of the ongoing military drills.
It was earlier reported that the USS Fitzgerald, another guided missile destroyer, would be moved to the area, though it was only among the ships under consideration for the deployment.
Also Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye appeared to give her country's military permission to strike back at any attack from the North without further word from Seoul, saying she took the North's escalating threats "very seriously," South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
"As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I will trust the military's judgment on abrupt and surprise provocations by North Korea," she said, according to Yonhap.


Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald / U.S. Air Force via Reuters, file
Two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters fly near Andersen Air Force Base in Guam in this handout photo dated August 4, 2010.


The deployments and Park's remarks came as tensions approached an all-time high between Pyongyang and Washington.
Kim Jong Un has ratcheted up the rhetoric against both South Korea and the United States in recent months, and in February violated U.N. sanctions by ordering a nuclear weapons test.
On Saturday, North Korea said it had entered a "state of war" against South Korea, according to a statement reported by the North's official news agency, KCNA.
In an interview on CNBC Monday, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States needs to be "very concerned" by North Korea’s recent weapons test and "level of bellicosity" and do everything necessary to defend U.S. allies and interests.
Panetta said while Kim Jung Un’s actions appear aimed at his internal situation the U.S. should “take nothing for granted” and be prepared.  The greatest danger right now, he said, appears to be the possibility of a miscalculation.

NBC's Jim Maceda reports on U.S. Navy movements of destroyers into the Pacific amid threats from North Korea. 

"The reality is we don’t have as much insight as we should," Panetta said of Kim's motives.
The stealth aircraft – two F-22 Raptors -- were deployed from Japan to the Osan Air Base in South Korea from Japan where they will remain on “static display” as part of the military drills, Pentagon spokesman George Little said. The F-22s are not expected to actively participate in any exercises, however.
This is the fifth time F-22s have deployed to South Korea. Exercise Foal Eagle began on March 1 and will continue until the end of April.
Kim has also recently threatened to "settle accounts" with the U.S. and posed near a chart that appeared to detail bombings of American cities.
The F-22 jets' arrival follows other recent displays of air power by the U.S. in South Korea. Last week B-52 bombers and B-2 stealth bombers were sent to the country for the annual exercise.
In North Korea, meanwhile, KCNA reported on an Easter service at which it said "the participants renewed the firm resolution to put the warmongers [the US and South Korea] into the red hot iron-pot of hell as early as possible."
North Korea's stance, however, can be notoriously difficult to interpret.
In a later release Monday on KCNA, Pyongyang announced the adoption of a law "consolidating" its position as a nuclear power that would use its weapons only “to repel invasion or attack from a hostile nuclear weapons state and make retaliatory strikes.”
Among the law's pledges were that North Korea would store its weapons responsibly, that it would not use them against non-nuclear nations, and that it would participate in nonproliferation talks -- though the last clause came with the condition that there was “improvement of relations with hostile nuclear weapons states.”

Jessica Lynch: Iraq still haunts my dreams 10 years after rescue

Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch reflects on the decade since her rescue in Iraq, saying she still has nightmares about her ordeal and revealing she feels "the most pride" about being a mother.
Ten years after her dramatic rescue as a prisoner of war in Iraq made headlines, Jessica Lynch continues to persevere in the face of injuries and survivor’s guilt related to her ordeal.

“About every night I have some kind of dream where there’s someone chasing me,’’ she told TODAY’s Janet Shamlian on Monday. “It’s hard. It really is mentally and physically draining. I’m very blessed and happy to be here, and I think that’s what counts the most, and if I tell myself that I’m OK, I eventually I start (thinking), ‘You know what? I can do this.’’’

Lynch, now 29, became a household name in 2003 when she became the first American POW to be rescued since the Vietnam War. The Army private and her 507th Maintenance Company were ambushed in Nasiriya only days into the Iraq War, and she was captured and held by Iraqi soldiers at a hospital there before being rescued by U.S. Special Forces troops who stormed the facility. Lynch is now a mother, teacher and motivational speaker in her hometown of Charleston, W.V., and is working on a master’s degree.

“Every day I wake up, I have that ‘never give up’ attitude,’’ she told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Monday. “As much as I have the up and down days, it doesn’t matter as long as you keep it in your mind that you can do anything, that’s what it’s all about is perseverance.’’

Lynch suffered several broken bones during her capture and has undergone countless hours of physical rehabilitation for her legs and arms. She has had 21 surgeries since her rescue and told Guthrie she still wears a brace on her left leg and experiences pain in her right foot.

“I do the best that I can, and I’m just thankful that I’m here,’’ she told Guthrie.


REUTERS file
Undated footage from a combat camera video shows U.S. PFC Jessica Lynch on a stretcher during her rescue from Iraq.

In the aftermath of her rescue, there were numerous extravagant media reports that painted her as a hero and had incorrect details of her capture and rescue. She worked to set the record straight, testifying before Congress that she never fired her weapon during the firefight because her M-16 rifle jammed and that she was knocked unconscious when her vehicle flipped.

“I know that there was a lot of fabricated, misconstrued stories, but I did what I had to do,’’ Lynch told Guthrie. “I came out and tried to tell the world what really happened. I set the record straight as much as I can and what people still want to believe or not believe, that’s on them, but I felt it was important to just let the truth be known. I did Congress and testified to really just let everyone know none of this happened, this is the real story.’’

Lynch has also dealt with the survivor’s guilt. During the 90-minute firefight in Nasiriya in which she was captured, 11 members of her company were killed. One of them was her best friend, Lori Piestewa, who was taken to the Iraqi hospital with Lynch after being captured and died on the bed next to her.

“It’s so hard to continue every day knowing that Lori didn’t make it home with me,’’ Lynch said. “The reason that she went over there was to be with me and our other comrades, and sadly she didn’t get to come back home, so (I’m) just having to deal with the fact that my best friend didn’t get to come back and I did. She had two beautiful kids. It’s just really hard to know they’re going to have to grow up without their mom.’’

Fortunately for Lynch, it was not long before she had a couple of new loves in her life Рfirst a new fiancé, Wes Robinson, and on Jan. 9, 2007, a 7-pound, 10-ounce baby girl.

The couple named the baby Dakota Ann in honor of Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, Lynch’s tentmate and former Fort Bliss roommate, who was killed in the attack that injured Lynch. Ann was Piestewa’s middle name and Dakota came from the fact that Piestewa was part Native American.


Bob Bird/AP file
Jessica Lynch with her
daughter Dakota following
the South Charleston,Va.
Christmas Parade on
Dec. 10, 2011.


“There I’m not Jessica Lynch, I’m not prisoner of war Jessica Lynch, I’m Dakota’s mommy,’’ she told Shamlian.

Now that it’s been a decade since the ordeal that has become part of her story, Lynch is looking to move forward with her life.
“I’m kind of happy that we’re finally to this 10-year mark so that I can finally put Iraq in the past,’’ she told Guthrie. “I know that it will always be with me. It’s nice to make that mark of  ‘I’ve made it this far.’

It’s always going to be with my life, waking up every day and dealing with the injuries. I go on and I strive and I do the best that I can.’’

THEN
On March 23, 2003, just three days after the start of the invasion of Iraq, a U.S. Army supply convoy took a wrong turn and was attacked in Nasiriyah, a key town on the road to Baghdad. Eleven U.S. soldiers were killed and six captured, including Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old from West Virginia. She suffered spinal fractures, nerve damage and a shattered right arm, right foot and left leg when her Humvee crashed.

IRAQ TEN YEARS LATER: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

'Buckwild' star Shain Gandee dead at 21

Updated at 5:06 p.m. ET: Shain Gandee, a star on the MTV reality program "Buckwild," has died, NBC affiliate WSAZ confirmed on Monday.

MTV
Shain Gandee.
The 21-year-old and his uncle, David Gandee, were reported missing on Sunday, according to the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office. The two were said to have been last seen at a Sissonville, W.Va., bar around 3 a.m., and they then planned to go four-wheeling.
According to Kanawha County Commission President Ken Carper, the bodies of Shain and two others were found in a truck in Sissonville on Monday.
The Kanawha County Sheriff's Office has identified the second person as 48-year-old David. There's no word yet on the identity of the third person.
Family members began to search for Shain and his uncle on Sunday before officially reporting them missing.
Shain, along with "Buckwild" co-star Shae Bradley, appeared on TODAY in January, to defend their then-new show from critics who feared their on-screen antics would reinforce negative stereotypes about West Virginians.
Shain's defense of the show now strikes a sad tone. "You only live once, so live it up," he said.
Last month, MTV renewed the show for a second season. However, in the wake of Shain's death, production on the show has been suspended, a network spokesperson told The Clicker. No further details were available.
In a statement to TODAY, MTV said, "We are shocked and saddened by the terrible news about Shain Gandee, and those involved in this tragic incident. We are waiting for more information but at this time, our main concern is for the Gandee family and their friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Shain had a magnetic personality, with a passion for life that touched everyone he met and we will miss him dearly."

Immigration Reform for Thanksgiving

Apr 1, 2013 1:31pm
 
ap schumer mccain kb 130401 wblog Immigration Reform for Thanksgiving

Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo
Analysis by ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jim Avila:

The Senate Gang of 8 led by Arizona Sen. John McCain and New York Sen. Charles Schumer is poised to introduce a comprehensive immigration bill as soon as next Monday, April 8, according to sources briefed on the timetable. As  Schumer, a Democrat, said over the weekend the big moving parts of a bill have been agreed to in principle and details are being worked out this week.
Labor and business have agreed on a guest worker plan, and the senators in the Gang of 8 from the right and left have agreed on how “border security” will be defined. Although Schumer did not reveal the metrics involved, sources tell ABC News the definition of a secure border will largely entail how much money will be spent on new equipment from drones to planes to vehicles, and how many new border patrol agents will be hired before “a path to citizenship” is agreed upon.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned over the weekend that after the bill is introduced there still have to be hearings and an opportunity for members of the entire Senate to add amendments. Sources close to Rubio tell ABC News he has not changed his mind on the principles of a secure border and path to citizenship agreed to in January.
The current timetable according to Hill sources is the Senate introduces its bill next Monday, holds hearings and votes by July. The House version will likely be introduced the week of April 14. The House Gang of 8 is still waiting to hear if leadership will endorse its bill. Sources close to the House members working on its version tell ABC News its version is likely to be “a couple inches to the right of the Senate’s” and voted upon in the fall.
A realistic timetable for a bill emerging from the House and Senate conference would then be Thanksgiving.
That may seem like a long time for those not versed in the ways of Capitol Hill. But that is actually lightning speed. It’s quite unusual for legislation to be introduced and passed in the same calendar year

Watch Live and Follow Online: The 2013 Easter Egg Roll

Today, the President and First Lady will host more than 30,000 people from all 50 states on the South Lawn of the White House for the 135th annual Easter Egg Roll. The curated live stream (above) is new this year, and features historic facts about egg rolls past and will highlight select events throughout the day.

Check out the complete Easter Egg Roll line-up, and go to WH.gov/live to watch additional live streams, including a feed from the Storytime Stage, where this year's readers include NASCAR’s Danica Patrick, Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson, Elmo, Abby, Gordon and Rosita from Sesame Street, the full cast of Super Sprowtz, The Wanted, and actress Quvenzhan√© Wallis, or you can tune in to the Rocking Egg Roll Stage to see performances from Jordin Sparks, Austin Mahone, Coco Jones, Sesame Street, and The Wanted. You can also watch cooking demonstrations of healthy family favorites from top chefs at the Play with Your Food station, and of course you can follow all the day's action on social media using the hashtag #EasterEggRoll or on Storify, below.


Why we get pleasure from pranking


Reading this story will totally change your freaking life.
Ha. (Gotcha.) 

The rascally antics of April Fools' Day are exploiting yet again a realm that, somehow, has not been fully pranked-out by practical jokesters — the Internet, where today you may spot certain trending tomfoolery weeks in the planning. (And they say we have less free time.)
Like hundreds (thousands?) of fake Justin Biebers simultaneously tweeting via The Bieb’s icon and name.
Or, maybe (though highly, highly doubtful) Facebook will take the playful advice of many fans who suggest that, for one day, the site swap its status and search boxes so that all your friends can see who you’re about to stalk.
And, of course, there was loads of online chatter late last week about the upcoming launch of a sweet, new bacon-flavored Scope.
Why do we do these silly things? Why — and not just on April 1 — do we find such pleasure in punking our pals? According to Jonathan Wynn, a cultural sociologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, many of us get a swift psychological kick out of being the fooler and, for some, even the fool.
“Within a group, the jokester has always held a kind of magical status. I think of court jesters who were able to tease the king. These are people who gain an element of status as having a key role as being a prankster,” Wynn said.
On the painful end of the gag, (otherwise known as "the butt"), some victims of community trickeration may grow immediately uncomfortable because they realize they're so susceptible to being duped — or, more broadly, that they are just plain vulnerable, according to a 2007 paper authored by three college professors and published in the Review of General Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association.
For many caper casualties, however, there is a sort of charm that comes with being targeted by well-schemed hijinks.
When hierarchical groups such as law enforcement agencies or frat houses use certain tried-and-true shenanigans to momentarily embarrass newbies, the rough-housing is ultimately meant to bust down social boundaries and welcome fresh people into the group. In other words, it's meant to be flattering.
"It's about how well you respond. It’s clearly a test," Wynn said. "If you can respond graciously to a prank, you become initiated as a member of the group."
Just remember that as you're pulling up your pants and wiping the whipped cream out of your ear holes. Or, simply utter the immortal words of Kevin Bacon in "Animal House" - "Thank you, sir! May I have anothe

White House April Fools’ Day Prank

Apr 1, 2013 12:41pm
ht kid whitehouse mi 130401 wblog White House April Fools Day Prank


Image credit: The White House
The White House had a little April Fools’ Day fun this morning, with the help of Kid President.

It all began with a tweet from the official White House twitter feed telling everyone to be on the lookout.  ”At 10:00 a.m. ET, the White House will release a special video message from the President,” it read.
When viewers tuned in online, they saw the White House briefing room and heard “Hail to the Chief.”
And then…
Kid President popped up from behind the podium.
“It looks like you were expecting somebody else,” the 9-year old YouTube sensation said, as he leaned on the podium. “Well April Fools’ on all y’all.”
“I’m Kid President and I hope everyone has an awesome day!” he said.
Robby Novak, a.k.a. the Kid President, is a special guest at today’s White House Easter Egg Roll. “I made it to the White House! I’m here! Peace,” he exclaimed as he flashed two peace signs.
 

How the US oil, gas boom could shake up global order


As energy production in North America climbs, NBC News' Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel explores what it will mean to oil-producing countries in the Middle East.
 

By Richard Engel and Robert Windrem, NBC News

Without fanfare, China passed the United States in December to become the world's leading importer of oil – the first time in nearly 40 years that the U.S. didn’t own that dubious distinction. That same month, North Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania together produced 1.5 million barrels of oil a day -- more than Iran exported.



America’s drive for energy independence

As those data points demonstrate, a dramatic shift is occurring in how energy is being produced and consumed around the world – one that could lead to far-reaching changes in the geopolitical order.

U.S. policy makers, intelligence analysts and other experts are beginning to grapple with the ramifications of such a change, which could bring with it both great benefits for the U.S. and potentially dangerous consequences, including the risk of upheaval in countries and regions heavily dependent on oil exports.

But many experts say the U.S. would be the big winner, in position to reshape its foreign policy and boost its global influence.

"People already are looking at the U.S. differently, seeing the U.S. as much more competitive in the world,” said energy analyst and author Dan Yergin, saying that he first noticed the change in the world view of the U.S. at the World Economic Forum in January in Davos, Switzerland.
Slideshow: Drilling down and out in Texas 

Jim Seida / NBC News
 

Watch a drilling crew at work near the small town of Garden City, Texas, as they drill an oil well that eventually will extend more than a mile deep and a mile sideways in the Permian Basin.


As detailed in the first two installments of Power Shift, an NBC News/CNBC special report, the United States is reaping the benefits of an energy boom created by new drilling technologies that have unlocked vast domestic oil and natural gas reserves. Coupled with decreasing demand due to energy efficiency and continued cultivation of alternative energy sources, an increasing number of experts believe the U.S. could achieve energy independence by the end of the decade – realizing a dream born during the gas crisis of 1973.

But who would be the global winners and losers in such a scenario?

Most U.S. policy makers and experts agree that the U.S. and its allies – particularly its North American neighbors -- would be the biggest beneficiaries.

Boom helps Iran sanctions stick
In fact, they say, the West already has realized one major benefit: the success of international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Carlos Pascual, the State Department’s coordinator for international energy affairs, noted last month at the CERAWEEK energy conference in Houston that increased U.S. oil production, coupled with a boost in exports from Iraq and Libya, has kept oil prices stable despite the loss, because of sanctions, of up to 1.5 million barrels a day in Iranian exports.

“What this has taught us, and helped underscore, is that within the world we live in today, hard security issues and energy policy issues have become fundamentally intertwined,” he said.



Where US energy is produced

NBC News
Interactive map: Where the US produces its energy. Click to enlarge.

Yergin, who also is a CNBC energy consultant and author of the energy-focused nonfiction best-sellers "The Quest" and "The Prize," put it this way: "People talk of the future impact. The increase in U.S oil production has already had an impact: Sanctions wouldn't have been effective without U.S. oil production. … We've added (within the last year) almost as much as Iran was exporting before sanctions.”

Hossein Moussavian, a former Iranian ambassador to Germany and nuclear negotiator who's now a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, said "the radicals" in Tehran failed to foresee the changing energy picture, believing that sanctions wouldn't be imposed and that, if they were, they wouldn't work because oil prices would surge.

"The Iranian mistake was to believe … the threats of referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council, imposing sanctions, was just a bluff," he said.

In the longer term, observers say that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and many of its member nations are likely to be the biggest losers if the U.S. continues to cut oil imports, likely decreasing oil prices in the process.

"A dramatic expansion of U.S. production could … push global spare capacity to exceed 8 million barrels per day, at which point OPEC could lose price control and crude oil prices would drop, possibly sharply," the U.S. intelligence community's internal think tank, the National Intelligence Council, said in its “Global Trends 2030” report in December. "Such a drop would take a heavy toll on many energy producers who are increasingly dependent on relatively high energy prices to balance their budgets."

With some analysts predicting that oil prices could drop as low as $70 to $90 a barrel – down from the current price of nearly $110 per barrel of Brent crude oil – a “scramble” among OPEC members for market share could ensue, said Edward Morse, an energy analyst with Citigroup and co-author of a recent report on titled “Energy 2020: Independence Day.”

An International Monetary Fund analysis indicates that many major oil-producing states need more than that lowest price level to meet their budgets and would be forced to increase output or reduce spending, which could trigger unrest. Among them, according to the report: Iran, Libya and Russia, at $117 a barrel; Iraq, $112; Yemen, $237; and the UAE, $84.

Iraq, which has had production from its rich oil fields curtailed by war or sanctions for half of the 53 years of OPEC’s existence, poses another challenge to the organization.

Now that it’s finally free of such interference, its production is increasing by between 500,000 and 900,000 barrels a year, making it the second fastest growing oil-producing country in the world after the U.S.

“And, by God, no one’s going to impose any quota limitations on them,” said Morse, referring to Iraq’s OPEC partners. “So part of the challenge to OPEC is internal as well as external.”

Can Saudis maintain market-maker role?
Analysts say OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia, which controls vast reserves of oil and needs $71 a barrel to meet its budget, according to the IMF, will do everything it can to remain the market-maker. But in that role, it will face new challenges, they say.

“Over time, it should become increasingly challenging for Saudi Arabia to ‘overproduce’ and bring down prices to punish wayward OPEC members; without this disciplinary mechanism, it is unclear whether OPEC can remain cohesive,” according to the Citigroup report.

For its part, OPEC professes to be not unduly alarmed by the U.S. oil and natural gas boom. It highlights the "considerable uncertainties" surrounding wells drilled using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and associated technologies.

Yergin said he believes that the Saudis will be able to withstand the turbulence, and that they will provide a buffer for the organization’s lesser producers.

“It's too quick to write the obit for OPEC,” he said. “… The Saudis will figure it out. They are re-orientated to Asian markets, turning left instead of right.”


New technology is creating a boom in energy extraction in the Permian Basin. For most residents, it's a welcome boost to the economy.

But some members of the oil cartel -- particularly Nigeria and Angola -- already are feeling the impact of the U.S. production surge, according to the Citigroup report. U.S. imports from the two countries dropped to 700,000 barrels a day at the end of 2012, down from 1.6 million barrels in 2007. That’s because U.S. production of light, sweet crude -- the kind of oil the West African nations produce -- has burgeoned in recent years. Citigroup forecasts that by the end of 2013, the market for Nigerian oil at Gulf Coast refineries could entirely dry up.

Longer term, say by 2020, cheaper heavy oil from Canada, freed from the so-called oil sands by new recovery technologies, could push similar oil from Venezuela out of the U.S. Gulf Coast market, (assuming the Obama administration approves construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry it), according to forecasts.

Mexico also is expected to increase production, offering the U.S. access to another convenient and friendly provider.

"The Eagle Ford formation in Texas extends into Mexico and if you look at the Gulf, you'll see thousands of black dots marking oil platforms on the U.S. side but nothing on the Mexican side,” said Yergin. “That's changing. There is a political consensus among the three major parties on energy. You will see less immigration from Mexico. Mexico could become more of a BRIC (the term used for fast-developing economies like Brazil, Russia, India and China) than Brazil."

Besides guaranteeing a stable domestic energy supply, those energy resources add tools to the U.S. diplomatic toolbox, said David L. Phillips, director of the Peace-building and Human Rights Program at Columbia University.

"Why permit ourselves to be held hostage to regimes hostile to our national interests and who give safe harbor to those who would do us harm?" he asked. "… The glaring example is Venezuela. (Hugo) Chavez was so strongly anti-American and he was providing energy to our enemies. They should pay the price for non-cooperation."

Current and former diplomats note that the U.S. also could use its increased natural gas production to weaken rival Russia’s near monopoly on natural gas exports to Europe, via its state-controlled energy giant Gazprom. Already, declining prices fueled by the U.S. boom have benefited the European market.

"What has emerged is a competitive market that allowed the utilities of Western Europe to renegotiate their contract with Gazprom, affecting both prices and financing terms," said the State Department’s Pascual.

Adding to the pressure, the U.S. firm Cheniere Energy last month signed a 20-year deal to export enough liquefied natural gas to the British utility Centrica PLC to heat 1.8 million homes starting in 2018 – the first pact of its kind.

Growth slowing in China, India
As for China and India, both of which are expected to import increasing amounts of energy for years to come, analysts see indications that economic growth is slowing in both countries.

“In a pattern similar to the abrupt slowdown in demand growth seen in the Asian Tigers in the 1990s, Chinese demand growth has slowed to a more tepid 3 (percent) to 5 percent rate as compared to the double-digit growth seen in the early 2000s,” said a Citigroup report by analyst Seth Kleinman released last week.

That slowdown is in part due to the diminishing competitive edge that China enjoys over the U.S., Yergin said.

“Chinese wages are going up 20 percent a year. U.S. energy efficiency and increased production helps the U.S. in the mix on the global competitive landscape, he said, noting that Dow Chemical recently announced it will invest $4 billion in U.S. petrochemical production. “…That doesn’t happen without the U.S. advantage in energy.”

Citigroup's Morse and other analysts said the slowing Chinese economy and energy insecurity could prompt China to more militarization in the Far East -- a dangerous development in a region already beset by nationalist disputes and where the U.S. is expected to focus increasing attention. But none suggests that the Chinese are likely to challenge the United States as a global power, saying Beijing has neither the military assets nor the desire. Its strategy remains regional and attuned to "short-range engagements," Morse wrote.

The impact of the rebalancing of global energy production could be more severe in other nations.

Trevor Houser, a former energy analyst in the Obama administration State Department, worries about the prospect of failed states.

"If you look at the consequences of more U.S. production and reduced sales from OPEC, some would see that as a benefit," said Houser, now a partner with New York-based Rhodium Group, a global market analysis firm. "But starving those economies of oil revenue will surely have disruptive effects. It is not necessarily a good development for U.S. foreign policy and geopolitical stability in general."


AP file/Hassan Ammar
A U.S. F-18 fighter jet, left, lands on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as a U.S. destroyer sails alongside during exercises in the Persian Gulf in 2012.

Houser also said that U.S. energy independence could lead to isolationist policies, but will not insulate Americans from global price disruptions.

"The price Americans pay at the pump will still be determined by events in the global oil market, yet falling U.S. oil imports (are) going to reduce political support for safeguarding those global markets, and no one is willing or able to step up to the plate to replace us,” he said. “... The U.S. economy will still be vulnerable if someone blows up a Saudi port."

More from Power Shift, an NBC News/CNBC special report:

Part 1: Energy boom dawning in America

Part 2: Oil, gas sector fuels US economy

That issue – specifically, “Do we leave the Middle East once our energy needs are secure?” – came up at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, said Yergin, recalling that “an oil minister came up to me and said, ‘Please don’t leave us.’”

Pascual, the State Department official, argues that such fears are overblown.

"These changes in no way change the U.S. commitment to global security, to peace and stability in the Middle East and to security in the transit lanes,” he said, referring to oil shipping routes. “Some people have asked is the United States going to become disinterested. The answer is no. It is absolutely in our self-interest to stay engaged.”

Richard Engel is NBC News' chief foreign correspondent; Robert Windrem is a senior investigative producer.

Coming next Monday: Digging into the environmental consequences of 'fracking'