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John Longmire 

Roberta and Gary Gordon will perform at the Varsity Center this weekend in the Water for Kenya concert. 

De Soto man charged with first-degree murder of a 76-year-old man


MURPHYSBORO — A De Soto man was indicted on first-degree murder charges Monday in the death of a 76-year-old man, according to Jackson County State’s Attorney Michael Carr.

James Michael Deese, 52, was charged with the murder of Frank Stonemark of De Soto in a three-count indictment. Along with first-degree murder, Deese was charged with concealment of a homicidal death, a Class 3 felony, and concealment of death by moving a body, a Class 4 felony.

The charging documents allege that Deese killed Stonemark by strangling and choking him on or about Oct. 29. The second count alleges Deese attempted to conceal Stonemark's death with knowledge that he had died from homicidal means. The third count alleges Deese moved the body from the place of death with intent to conceal information regarding the place and manner of the death.

If Deese is convicted of first-degree murder, the sentence carries a possibility of 20 to 60 years in prison. Probation is not allowed and there isn’t an early release program, Carr said.

Concealment of a homicidal death carries a potential sentence of two to five years. Concealment of death carries a sentence of one to three years. Counts two and three are probationale offenses.

Deese is in custody on a $1 million bond. He made a first appearance in court on Friday, and has a preliminary hearing set for 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, in Jackson County.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Walkers take advantage of an afternoon without rain as they utilize the Campus Lake path on Wednesday in Carbondale. Rain is expected again today.

Trump is hopeful, but some skeptical ahead of US-NK talks

WASHINGTON — An enigmatic North Korean leader takes a secretive train trip to China to affirm fraternal ties and declare a commitment to denuclearization.

It sounds like Kim Jong Un's visit this week, but his father and predecessor Kim Jong Il made similar declarations on a trip to Beijing, months before he died in 2011. Yet North Korea's nuclear weapons development only speeded up.

President Donald Trump expressed optimism Wednesday after the younger Kim's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying there's "a good chance" that Kim will "do what is right for his people and for humanity." But there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that the U.S.-North Korean summit slated for May will produce the breakthrough that Washington wants.

Meanwhile, increased activity at a North Korean nuclear site has once again caught the attention of analysts and renewed concerns about the complexities of denuclearization talks as Trump prepares for a summit with Kim.

Satellite imagery taken last month suggests the North has begun preliminary testing of an experimental light water reactor and possibly brought another reactor online at its Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center.

Both could be used to produce the fissile materials needed for nuclear bombs.

Also, Officials from North Korea and South Korea arrived today for talks in Paju, South Korea, to prepare for an April summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

After a year of escalating tensions, Trump agreed to talks after South Korean officials relayed that Kim was committed to ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons and was willing to halt nuclear and missile tests. 

That has tamped down fears of war that elevated as Trump and Kim traded threats and insults and North Korea demonstrated it was close to being able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile.

Kim's meeting with Xi offered some reassurance to Washington that "denuclearization" will be up for negotiation if the first summit between American and North Korean leaders in seven decades of animosity takes place.

But while Trump has elevated expectations of what that sit-down would achieve, North Korea has yet to spell out what it wants in return for abandoning a weapons program that Kim likely views as a guarantee for the survival of his totalitarian regime.

The readout of Kim's remarks to Xi as reported by China's state news agency Xinhua strongly indicates Pyongyang is looking for significant American concessions.

"The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved," Kim was quoted as saying, "if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace."

To many North Korea watchers, that sounds like old wine in a new bottle.

In May 2011, the elder Kim, who was making what would be his final trip to China, told then-president Hu Jintao that the North was "adhering to the goal of denuclearization."

That came months after North Korea had revealed a uranium enrichment plant that gave it a second path for making fuel for atomic bombs.

Abraham Denmark, a former senior U.S. defense official, said the North's latest offer to "denuclearize" still appears contingent on U.S. creating the right conditions. In the past, Pyongyang demanded that U.S. withdraw troops from the peninsula, end its security alliance with South Korea and the nuclear protection it offers its ally.

"It's possible that Kim Jong Un has a different meaning in mind," said Denmark, now director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center think tank. "So far it sounds like the same old tune."

Ending six years of international seclusion, Kim was spirited into Beijing by special train under tight security like his father before him. He met with Xi, seeking to repair relations that have been frayed as China has supported tough U.N. sanctions and slashed trade with its wayward ally.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Kim's first foreign trip was a "historic step in the right direction" and proof that U.S.-led campaign of "maximum pressure" of economic sanctions was working. Trump said that the pressure would be maintained for now, but offered an optimistic view of how he could achieve peace and denuclearization that eluded past administrations.

"Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting!"

There's another way of looking at it.

It could be North Korea not the U.S. that is calling the shots. When Kim offered an olive branch to South Korea in the new year, he also warned that the entire U.S. was within range of the North's atomic weapons. With that capability in hand, he may now going on a diplomatic offensive, using it as leverage to win aid and security guarantees rather than with an intent of giving it up.

Trump's own choice as national security adviser John Bolton is famously skeptical of diplomacy with North Korea. Just a month ago, he made the case for a pre-emptive military strike on the North. That raises questions about whether he might advocate for the same should Trump's summit with Kim fail.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he's worried that in his talks with Kim, Trump will focus on the intercontinental missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland and not the shorter-range missiles that threaten Japan and may "end up accepting North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons."

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California company fully funds Donors Choose projects, including several in Southern Illinois

TUNNEL HILL — It was a good day Tuesday for educators across the country as technology company Ripple funded more than 35,000 teacher projects on, 10 of which were from Southern Illinois schools.

“Last night, Ripple fully funded every single live classroom project. That’s over 35,000 projects in one enormous $29 million dollar act of generosity,” a blog entry on the Donors Choose website reads. Donors Choose is a crowdfunding website open exclusively to educators to help with everything from classroom supplies to professional development.

“We at Ripple, we all have teachers to thank for giving us the education and opportunities that have helped us to get where we are today in our careers,” Monica Long, senior vice president of marketing for Ripple, said in a video announcing the donation on the Donors Choose website. “We want to pay that forward so that more teachers are able to give those types of opportunities to kids across America.”

Donors Choose founder Charles Best wanted to underscore the announcement in the video.

“Ripple is funding all, all (emphasis Best’s), 35,000 classroom project requests on our site,” he said. This has never been done before, Best said.

“I still didn't believe it last night,” said Brian Chaney, a middle school math, science and social studies at New Simpson Hill School in Tunnel Hill. His request was for $454 to attend a three-day training this fall about 3-D printing.

“It wasn’t going to happen,” Chaney said of his district being able to foot the bill for the professional development.

“At that price point, we can't afford that, and there’s no way I could shell out that much just for professional development,” he said. Chaney said he got to do some training last year with some of the cost being picked up by Vienna School District, however, that wasn’t an option this year.

Chaney said neighboring Vienna High School has the printers and have extended an opportunity for his students to use them from time to time. There’s one hitch in that, though — he doesn't know how to use them, at least not well. However, he said this training would give him “the knowledge and skills to incorporate it into curriculum.”

Chaney wasn’t the only teacher in Southern Illinois to get funding Tuesday. A music teacher at Century Junior Senior High had four requests for her music program filled — a fresh classroom set of ukuleles, as well as reeds and lyres for her band students, should be on their way soon. In the same school, another teacher was awarded money to purchase new “flexible seating” furniture for her classroom, helping provide more seating options for students beyond traditional desks.


A screenshot from

A Benton elementary school teacher got a request funded to purchase “manipulatives” to enhance her math lessons, while an Elverado Intermediate School teacher had two requests funded, one for $537 worth of books for a visiting author event, and another $163 project was to purchase copies of “The Westing Game.”

A request for an iPad was also fulfilled for Murphysboro Logan Elementary kindergarten teacher Amy Brock. Like Chaney, she was taken aback by the notice she received about her and other projects.

“It blew my mind, actually,” she said. Her request was for $384.

Brock said this was her second funded project through the site — the first was for a set of three iPad minis for her classroom. Brock said while her school has iPads to be used by teachers, they have to be shared. For her room, she wanted more access to the technology.

“I wanted more of a flexibility throughout the day as I need to use them,” she said, adding that the new iPad will be part of her disciplinary program as well as for parent communication and classroom incentives.

While Brock was thrilled to see the donation, she said she also wished it weren’t necessary.

“That would be a blessing to have that's not needed,” she said, adding that even while she has now had four iPads purchased for her classroom, she still has had to buy protective cases on her own.

Brock said she, like many other public school teachers, aren’t able to get everything their students might need to succeed from their district offices.

“There’s other things as teachers we purchase all the time,” she said, like classroom books and even at times notebooks and pens.

This wasn’t a slam on administrators, though. She said it comes down to Illinois and “the shape our state is in (financially).”

With her first request, Brock said she got the blessing of her bosses before putting it online. She said administrators have been excited to see this kind of funding stream become available.

“We are trying to be creative to meet other resources and (get these things for our students),” she said.

The school funding formula in Illinois was overhauled last year to be more equitable for low-income districts, but through a series of legislative hold-ups and reorganization, schools have yet to be paid for the current academic year. Before this, the state’s historic budget impasse created inconsistent funding streams for schools as legislators fought over how to fund the state.

Brock expressed her gratitude to Ripple for not only her gift, but also for the amazing gift it made to educators around the country.

“It’s just amazing to me that a company, Ripple, donated $29 million for public education,” she said.

Donors Choose offers a transparent funding system for donors — instead of money being handed directly to users, those making requests submit an itemized shopping list that is fulfilled by representatives from Donors Choose and is then shipped to the teachers.

San Francisco-based Ripple is known for using blockchain technology to provide “one frictionless experience to send money globally,” according to its website. It is also associated with cryptocurrency XRP, which can be used with the payment infrastructure Ripple builds.