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North Korea leader Kim Jong Un orders production of more rocket engines,
warhead tips

By Staff Reuters/Aug. 22, 2017

SEOUL - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the production of more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips, the North’s official media said on Wednesday in a report otherwise lacking threats against Washington after weeks of heightened tension.

A report about Kim’s visit to a chemical institute came not long after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to make a peace overture to Pyongyang, welcoming what he called the recent restraint shown by the reclusive North.

Kim was briefed about the process of manufacturing intercontinental ballistic missile warhead tips and solid-fuel rocket engine during his tour of the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defence Science, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and dozens of missile tests since the start of last year, significantly raising tensions on the heavily militarized Korean peninsula. Two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles in July resulted in a new round of tougher global sanctions.

The last missile test on July 28 put the U.S. mainland in range, prompting heated exchanges that raised fears of a new conflict on the peninsula.

Tillerson, however, noted what he called the restraint the North had shown lately and said on Tuesday he hoped a path could be opening for dialog some time in the near future.

South Korea and the United States are conducting an annual joint drill involving computer simulations of a possible war on the Korean peninsula, exercises that the North routinely describes as preparation for invasion. The drills started on Monday and will run through to Aug. 31.

The KCNA report said Kim had given “special thanks and special bonus” to officials of the institute, calling them heroes. A photograph showed Kim in a grey pinstriped suit, smiling before a large flow chart that described some kind of manufacturing process.

However, there was none of the fiery rhetoric of recent weeks, when Kim threatened to fire missiles into the sea near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam after U.S. President Donald Trump earlier warned North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

New U.S. sanctions announced on Tuesday target Chinese and Russian firms, as well as individuals, for supporting Pyongyang’s weapons nuclear and missile programs.   u

North Korean shipments to Syria chemical weapons program intercepted: UN report

By Michelle Nichols Reuters/Aug. 22, 2017

UNITED NATIONS – Two North Korean shipments to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country’s chemical weapons program were intercepted in the past six months, according to a confidential United Nations report on North Korea sanctions violations.

The report by a panel of independent U.N. experts, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council earlier this month and seen by Reuters on Monday, gave no details on when or where the interdictions occurred or what the shipments contained.

“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea),” the experts wrote in the 37-page report.

“Two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria. Another Member state informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria,” according to the report.

KOMID is the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation. It was blacklisted by the Security Council in 2009 and described as Pyongyang’s key arms dealer and exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. In March 2016 the council also blacklisted two KOMID representatives in Syria.

“The consignees were Syrian entities designated by the European Union and the United States as front companies for Syria‘s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a Syrian entity identified by the Panel as cooperating with KOMID in previous prohibited item transfers,” the U.N. experts wrote.

SSRC has overseen the country’s chemical weapons program since the 1970s.

The U.N. experts said activities between Syria and North Korea they were investigating included cooperation on Syrian Scud missile programs and maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles air defense systems.

The North Korean and Syrian missions to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The experts said they were also investigating the use of the VX nerve agent in Malaysia to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea‘s leader Kim Jong Un in February.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and the Security Council has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear weapons tests and four long-range missile launches.

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect Syria may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.

During the country’s more than six-year long civil war the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said the banned nerve agent sarin has been used at least twice, while the use of cholorine as a weapon has been widespread. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons.

And in Canada

Thousands of Atlantic salmon escape fish farm near Victoria after nets damaged.
Company blames 'exceptionally high tides' coinciding with solar eclipse for net pen failure.

By Lisa Johnson, CBC News/Aug. 22, 2017

Thousands of Atlantic salmon have escaped into Pacific waters east of Victoria after nets containing an estimated 305,000 fish were damaged at a U.S. fish farm in the San Juan Islands on Saturday.

The company, Cooke Aquaculture, blamed "exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week's solar eclipse" for the failure of the net pen near Cypress Island.

The nets "broke loose" from their anchor Saturday afternoon, said Ron Warren, assistant director of the fish program for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Warren said strong tidal flows - which are tied to the lunar cycles, not the eclipse itself - could be a factor in the damage, along with the amount of fish in the pens, which he estimated at more than 1.3-million kilograms.

"A lot of fish, a lot of weight … certainly could have aided in the compromise of the structure itself."

In a statement on Monday, Cooke Aquaculture said it didn't know how many fish escaped, but estimated it was "several thousand." No company official was available for an interview on Tuesday.

Warren pinned early estimates at 4,000 to 5,000, but said the company still on Tuesday has not been able to anchor the net pens due to strong tidal currents.

Atlantic salmon are not native to Pacific waters, but are a major aquaculture species in Washington state and British Columbia.

Their presence in fish farms - and potential to escape from net cages - has been a hotly debated part of the West Coast fish farm industry for years, due to concerns about whether the foreign fish could cause harm to the five wild species of Pacific salmon.

Concern over Atlantic escapes

The concern with an introduced species, like Atlantic salmon on the West Coast, is whether it could become invasive - not just present, but damaging to the native ecology.

Washington officials put Atlantic salmon on their list of invasive speciesthat are not regulated, but are considered "highly threatening" over worries they could harm native fish stocks through competition, predation or disease transfer.

"Atlantic salmon, regardless of whether they have successful spawning, they're competing [against wild fish] for the food source that's there," said Warren, noting threatened wild populations of chinook and steelhead trout in the area.

"That's a concern for us and we're going to be monitoring the best we can."

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is encouraging recreational and commercial fishers to catch Atlantic salmon if they find them, and even changed the rules to allow commercial fishers to sell the fish legally, due to the size of the escape.

'Potentially invasive species'

In Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada monitors for escaped Atlantic salmon, according to a statement, but doesn't use terms like "invasive" or describe them as any particular threat to local fish.

University of Victoria ecologist John Volpe said the problem is it is unknown what the impacts are.

"In my mind it's really a dereliction of duty in terms of the regulating mechanisms in this country to not have an answer to that question, given that our coast of British Columbia here is literally awash in these potentially invasive species," he said.

"Nothing good is going to come of these releases, and the ... magnitude of negative impacts might be very, very severe."

Volpe, who has found evidence of Atlantic salmon spawning in B.C. waters, said there has been a "chill" on researching the topic in Canada.

No one from the Fisheries and Oceans department was available to comment, though a spokeswoman said the agency's program monitoringAtlantic salmon sightings had no new reports this week.

A 2015 report by the department looking for Atlantic salmon found none in the Vancouver Island streams that were surveyed. 

Bear follows 2-year-old boy into B.C. home
Josh Dehaas/CTV News/Aug. 22, 2017 

A British Columbia mother says a black bear followed her two-and-a-half-year-old son up a staircase and through a patio doorway into their home on Saturday.

Eleri Froude of Gibsons, B.C., says she first was alerted to the presence of the bear inside her home around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday when her son said, “Mom, look!”

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do now?’” she said. “That was when my friend turned around and said, ‘Get the kids and get them in the bedroom.’”

Froude locked herself and her children in a bedroom while the friend attempted to scare the bear away by yelling and banging pots. He also used a chair to push it back out the door it came in from.

Sunshine Coast RCMP say the friend was only able to shut the door after giving the intruder a punch in the nose. The friend then took some frightening photos of the snarling bear on the other side of the glass in the door.

RCMP say they tried to scare the bear away with an air horn and water bottles, but the bear soon returned to the house, “tried to open the door to the garage and chased a male down the street.”

Police say they consulted with a conservation officer before deciding that the up-to-250-pound (113 kilogram) bear should be killed.

RCMP said it’s the eighth bear they have had to kill on the Sunshine Coast already this summer, after receiving reports of about 500 bear-human encounters.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Ben Miljure