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In the World … 

South Korea wants to reopen communication with North Korea amid missile crisis

By Christine Kim/Reuters/May 16, 2017

South Korea said on Wednesday it wanted to reopen communications with North Korea as new President Moon Jae-in seeks a two-track policy involving sanctions and dialog with its reclusive neighbor to rein in its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea has made no secret of the fact that it is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland and has ignored calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally.

Its latest ballistic missile launch, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, was on Sunday which it said was a test of its capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead,” drawing Security Council condemnation.

“Our most basic stance is that communication lines between South and North Korea should open,” Lee Duk-haeng, a spokesman for the South’s Unification Ministry, told reporters. “The Unification Ministry has considered options on this internally but nothing has been decided yet.”

Communications were severed by the North last year, Lee said, in the wake of new sanctions following North Korea’s last nuclear test and Pyongyang’s decision to shut down a joint industrial zone operated inside the North.

North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North defends its weapons programs as necessary to counter U.S. hostility.

Moon won an election last week campaigning on a more moderate approach to the North and said after taking office that he wants to pursue dialog as well as pressure to stop the North’s weapons programs.

Moon’s envoy to the United States, South Korean media mogul Hong Seok-hyun, left for Washington early on Wednesday. Hong said he would discuss North Korea with high-ranking officials in Washington.

Hong said South Korea had not yet received official word from the United States on whether Seoul should pay for an anti-missile U.S. radar system that has been deployed outside Seoul.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants South Korea to pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system which detected Sunday’s launch.

China has strongly opposed THAAD, saying it can spy into its territory, and South Korean companies have been hit in China by a nationalist backlash over the deployment.

The United States said on Tuesday it believed it could persuade China to impose new U.N. sanctions on North Korea and warned that Washington would also target and “call out” countries supporting Pyongyang. Speaking to reporters ahead of a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also made clear that Washington would only talk to North Korea once it halted its nuclear program.

Trump has called for an immediate halt to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests and U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said on Tuesday that China’s leverage was key and Beijing could do more.

Trump warned this month that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible, and in a show of force, sent the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to Korean waters to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.

And in Canada…

Trans Mountain opponents can’t hold Alberta economy hostage: Rachel Notley

By Staff - The Canadian Press/May 16, 2017

The Federal Court of Appeal has granted the Alberta NDP government intervener status in lawsuits filed against Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which Alberta Premier Rachel Notley defended Tuesday.

Several First Nation bands and B.C. municipalities filed the lawsuits in an attempt to stop the project, which already has federal and B.C. approvals.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in Edmonton, Notley said the project means tens of thousands of new jobs for people across the country, not just in Alberta. She said opponents in B.C. can dislike the project - but they can’t stop it.

“Of course, we understand that some oppose the twinning of the pipeline and I respect their opinions,” she said during the news conference at the legislature.

The fate of the project had been cast into some doubt by the results of last week’s B.C. election, with the Green party - which opposes the development - holding the balance of power in a minority government.

Notley has maintained that the election results don’t jeopardize the project because it already has the regulatory approvals in place.

“It’s our view that there are no tools available for a province to overturn or otherwise block a federal government decision to approve a project that is in the larger national interest,” she said.

“If there were such tools, Canada would be less a country and more a combination of individual fiefdoms fighting with each other for advantage. And let me be very clear - that does not help any of us, any of the provinces to advance our economic interests on the world stage. Thankfully, Canada is more than 10 provinces and three territories.”

Having said that, Notley said provinces still have the right to pursue things that are in their own citizens’ best interests.

Notley supports the $7.4-billion project proposed by Texas-based Kinder Morgan to triple the amount of crude that flows from the Edmonton area to the B.C. Lower Mainland.

The federal government approved the project late last year, so Notley doesn’t believe a political shift in B.C. is much of a factor.

The Alberta and B.C. New Democrats may share the same party name, but the similarities end there when it comes to Trans Mountain.

The B.C. NDP’s campaign platform promised to use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the Trans Mountain project from going ahead but did not outline how.

It’s fairly common for members from different provincial wings of the same party to help in each other’s campaigns, but this year Notley dissuaded her workers from doing so.

In announcing his blessing for the Trans Mountain expansion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the Notley government’s efforts to combat climate change through a carbon tax and other measures.

In filing for intervener status, the Alberta government said it would defend the province and its key industries in court.  u

With files from Karen Bartko, Global News

Check your wallet: RCMP warn of 'splice-and-tape' counterfeit bills

Josh Elliot, CTV /May 16, 2017

Canadians are being warned to watch out for $5 bills cunningly held together by strips of tape and foil, in what police are calling a "splice and tape" trend among counterfeiters.

The sticky-tape switcheroo is affecting Canada's new $5 polymer bills, which have been touted as harder to counterfeit than the old paper banknotes. Police say counterfeiters are removing the clear panel near the side of the bill, which also contains two shiny, embedded holographic strips. The clear plastic is being replaced with tape, and tinfoil is being used as a substitute for the holograms.

Investigators suspect the real $5 panels are being repurposed to create higher-denomination counterfeits, while the cobbled-together $5 bills are being put back into circulation. The result is two Frankenstein-like sets of bills, with each containing elements of real and fake banknotes.

Holograms on the $5 bill show Sir Wilfrid Laurier's portrait at the top of the clear panel, and the Mackenzie Tower, which constitutes the West Block of Parliament, at the bottom. Tiny fives are written across the front and back of the panel.

Other bills depict Sir John A. Macdonald ($10), Queen Elizabeth II ($20), William Lyon Mackenzie King ($50) and Sir Robert Borden ($100) in their holograms, along with various structures from Parliament Hill along the bottom.

RCMP Cpl. Vinh Ngo, of the Federal Serious and Organized Crime unit, said the problem is widespread. "I think it's everywhere really," Ngo told CTV Vancouver. "There are no certain geographical patterns."

He added that there are "some elements" of organized crime involved in the counterfeiting.

An estimated $46 billion worth of banknotes are currently in circulation, with the most commonly-duped bills being the $20 denomination. The RCMP website says cash is the most common means of payment for transactions under $25, and the second-most common means for transactions between $26-$100.

"These types of crime are driven by greed and financial gain," said Const. Jason Doucette, of Vancouver Police. Doucette suggested the low-budget counterfeits might indicate a larger scheme. "There's not a lot of financial gain in doing one $5 bill, so I suspect there's more to come."

When presented with the fake $5 bills, several Canadians in Vancouver couldn't immediately tell the difference.

"This is what these individuals prey upon - people not verifying the bank note," Bank of Canada analyst Farid Salji said.

Salji says Canadians should always check two or more of the security features on their bank notes, so they don't get duped by a Frankenstein bill. "Never rely on one," he said.

The Bank of Canada website includes thorough breakdowns of each polymer banknote, including its history and security features.

Knowingly creating, possessing or circulating counterfeit currency is illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Anyone who suspects they might have a bogus banknote is encouraged to turn it in to police or a bank.