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North Korea warns of food crisis before Kim-Trump summit | North Korea News

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North Korea has warned it is facing a food shortfall of some 1.4m tonnes this year and has been forced to almost halve rations, blaming high temperatures, drought, floods and United Nations sanctions, according to a memo by Pyongyang’s mission to the world body.

The release of the undated two-page memo, seen by Reuters news agency on Thursday, comes days before a second summit next week in Vietnam’s Hanoi between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.

Washington has been demanding that North Korea give up a nuclear weapons programme that threatens the United States, while North Korea has been seeking a lifting of punishing sanctions, a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War and security guarantees.

The 15-member UN Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

“The DPRK government calls on international organisations to urgently respond to addressing the food situation,” read the North Korean memo, which the country’s UN mission described as a follow-up to joint assessment with the World Food Programme (WFP) between November 26 and December 7, 2018. The official name for North Korea is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

There was no immediate comment by WFP.

The memo said North Korea’s food production last year was 4.951 million tonnes, 503,000 tonnes down on 2017. The UN confirmed these figures as official government data provided at the end of January and said North Korea’s food production included rice, wheat, potatoes and soy beans.

North Korea said it would import 200,000 tonnes of food and produce about 400,000 tonnes of early crops, but that it would still be left with a gap and from January would cut daily rations to 300 grams per person from 550 grams.

UN officials and aid groups in North Korea were consulting the government to “further understand the impact of the food security situation on the most vulnerable people in order to take early action to address their humanitarian needs”, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.

He said the UN and aid groups were only able to help one third of six million people estimated to be in need last year due to a lack of funding. A UN appeal for $111m in 2018 was only a quarter funded, Dujarric said.

The UN estimates a total of 10.3 million people – almost half the population – are in need and some 41 percent of North Koreans are undernourished, Dujarric said.

Along with extreme weather, the North Korean memo also blames UN sanctions for restricting the delivery of farming materials and hindering fuel supply for the agricultural sector.

US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said earlier this month Washington had eased rules on humanitarian assistance to North Korea and was working to clear a backlog of UN approvals.

Benjamin Silberstein, co-editor of North Korean Economy Watch and an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the harvest had been bad but there was no sign of an emergency.

“Of course it’s at least partially about the sanctions,” Silberstein said. “Just look at the way the letter is worded. They want to make it sound like sanctions equals starvation so the US should really be benevolent and give them up,” he said.

Humanitarian aid nearly ground to a halt in 2018 as the US stepped up enforcement of UN sanctions, even though the Security Council North Korea sanctions committee has said sanctions “are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population”.

“While Security Council sanctions clearly exempt humanitarian activities, there have been unintended consequences on humanitarian operations,” Dujarric said.

Margareta Wahlstrom, president of the Swedish Red Cross, told Reuters after a trip to North Korea in November that, as far as the areas in which they operated were concerned, the maze harvest was only 65 percent of what should be normal due to the combination of an influenza outbreak, a heat wave and a typhoon.

Russia is considering sending 50,000 tonnes of wheat in humanitarian aid to North Korea to help it cope with natural disasters, the Interfax news agency cited senior Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev as saying last week.

Kim Young-hee, a North Korean defector and an expert on the North Korean economy at Korea Development Bank in Seoul, did not think the memo was asking for food.

“The memo seems like a message saying ‘although UN sanctions do not affect people’s lives directly, they affect the whole economy and people’s livelihoods are getting worse. So wouldn’t it be good if sanctions were eased?’,” she said.

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25 Best Senators’ Memories From 25 Years at Canadian Tire Centre

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There is a special birthday in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata this weekend.

Canadian Tire Centre turns 25. Its doors first opened on Jan. 15, 1996, for a Bryan Adams concert. The Senators played their first game in their new arena on Jan. 17, 1996, when they lost to the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life has at that arena. I don’t know how many Sens games I have been to there — I would ballpark it somewhere between 600 and 700. But I thought it would be fun to look back and share my 25 most memorable moments at the arena. I am not counting numerous concerts as great moments in the building — I often joke that the four best concerts I have ever seen there are Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks and Garth Brooks. I am not counting the 2009 World Juniors either. I am sticking entirely to the Sens.

25. Paul MacClone

Mike Watson was just sitting in his company seats, minding his own business, watching the Ottawa Senators take on the Florida Panthers on a January night during the 2012-13 season. The casual discussion among reporters after the game was how he broke Twitter.

Watson’s friends had told him that he looked like then-Senators’ head coach Paul MacLean. When he got face time on the new high-definition scoreboard, in the front row and directly behind the coach, the crowd buzzed and cheered.

Senators coach Paul MacLean had a doppelganger behind the bench.

The shot of Watson behind the bench spread quickly on social media. Surely, everyone thought, he must have been planted in that seat. He wasn’t. The last time he had sat in those seats, Cory Clouston was the coach, and no one noticed him.

As the season went on, the MacLean doppelganger became a local celebrity and was somewhat of a mascot during Ottawa’s playoff run.

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With spare parts and derring-do, Ottawa’s own Rocketman reinvents skating

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An Ottawa man is turning heads on frozen stretches of the Ottawa River with a homemade device he jokingly refers to as his “jetpack.”

In reality, Brydon Gibson’s gas-powered, propeller-driven invention is more Rona than NASA.

“I got my hands on some weed whacker motors and I figured strapping one on my back and making skating a little bit lazier would [be] a good idea,” said Gibson, 24.

He bolted a 38-centimetre propeller to a wooden frame, fashioned a throttle out of a brake handle and cable salvaged from a 10-speed bike, then added padded straps cut from a dollar store backpack. He laced up his skates, and suddenly Gibson was zipping along at speeds reaching 40 km/h. 

“I was actually getting a little scared at one point because I was going a little too fast,” the inventor admitted.

There are no brakes, but there is kill switch to cut the power “when something goes wrong,” said Gibson. “It’s actually a little finicky.”

This is not the first iteration of Gibson’s invention. As a teen, he built an electric propulsion device in his parents’ basement, though it never got to the testing phase.

“Ever since I was a kid … I’ve been taking apart things I found on the side of the road, making a mess of my parents basement, spreading electronics everywhere,” he said.

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‘It is frustrating’: U.S-educated nurse from Ottawa hits barriers to getting licensed in Ontario

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Before she accepted a swimming scholarship to attend Boston’s Northeastern University, Ottawa’s Rachael Geiger made sure it had the kind of nursing program she wanted. The school’s baccalaureate nursing program offered a fifth year of co-operative placement after four years of study — something Geiger thought would leave her well prepared for a career as a nurse when she returned home after university.

But it hasn’t worked out that way.

Two and a half years after graduating summa cum laude from Northeastern, the 25-year-old is unable to work as a registered nurse in Ontario.

Geiger said she was initially surprised, especially since she wrote the same licensing exam in Massachusetts as is written in Ontario, the NCLEX-RN exam. She is licensed to practise in Massachusetts and Illinois.

“I never thought it would be such a challenge.”

She and her family are frustrated at how difficult it has been for her to get registered to be able to practise in Ontario. That frustration is heightened by the fact that nurses have seldom been in such high demand in Canada and around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic strains health systems and shortages loom. Local hospitals are among those trying to recruit nurses. The Canadian Nurses Association has been warning that Canada will experience extreme shortages in coming years.

“It is frustrating to sit and see all the news about nursing shortages and not be able to help,” said Geiger.

Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the professional association that represents registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in the province, said she was “more than surprised” to hear of the difficulty Geiger has had.

But Grinspun, who initially studied nursing in Israel and then the U.S. before becoming one of the country’s nursing leaders, said the system of allowing foreign trained nurses to work in Ontario is unnecessarily slow and complicated and leads many valuable nurses to simply give up or find another career. Grinspun herself challenged the system when she first came to work in Ontario.

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