Sunday, May 31, 2009

RCI Cyberjournal


Dollar soars

Border tensions


Opel, the European wing of General Motors, could soon be under new management, once all the details of a tentative deal are settled. The deal will see Opel purchased by Magna International. The Canadian auto parts manufacturer and two Russian partners have pledged to inject more than 700 million dollars into the company, for a majority stake. Germany will back loans of more than two billion dollars. The deal is intended to protect GM's European operation, if, as expected, the US parent company files for bankruptcy protection on Monday. Frank Stronach, the 76-year-old chairman of Magna, who began his automotive career in 1957 by supplying a metal bracket for sun visors on GM cars, says he wants to build Opel cars in Canada. Canadian Auto Workers union president Ken Lewenza says he's optimistic the deal could eventually mean more manufacturing jobs in Canada, but he points out the North American market is struggling with overcapacity as it is.


The Canadian dollar is returning to heights it hasn't seen in almost eight months. It closed the week's trading Friday at 91.60 cents US, having gained almost seven cents in relation to the US currency in just over two weeks. The loonie's rise during the month of May marked the sharpest monthly increase in its value since 1950. One prominent Canadian economist is predicting the Canadian currency will be at par with its US counterpart by the end of the year. That's good news for importers, and for Canadians who travel abroad, but not for Canadian exporters who see their goods rising in price.


A senior Canadian official says Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is pressuring the United States to live up to its international trade obligations. In a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day said, although President Barack Obama has pledged to abide by international rules, his good intentions have been derailed at the state and local levels. He says that under provisions of the new Buy America Act, things are being done that are closing the door to Canadians. But, Mr. Day warns against retaliating, saying that will only make matters worse.


The number of Canadians with confirmed cases of H1N1 flu rose dramatically this past week. Health Canada says, as of Friday there were 1,336 cases in nine provinces and two territories - 218 more than on Wednesday. The biggest increases were in the two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec. This influenza virus is blamed for two deaths in Canada. The World Health Organization reports that, globally, there are over 15-thousand cases in 53 nations, with 99 deaths recorded.


The Canadian province of Quebec, which is predominantly French-speaking, has reached an agreement with France to allow the practice of law in either jurisdiction. Any lawyer admitted to the bar in either Quebec or France is eligible, once they pass a common qualifying exam. Similar arrangements already exist for accountants, engineers and architects. In announcing the agreement for the lawyers, the Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, expressed the hope that eventually some one hundred professions and trades will enjoy the same reciprocity.


The minister of health in the Canadian province of Quebec, Yves Bolduc, says the government is working as quickly as possible to get factual information out to the public regarding cancer tests that may have been compromised. A study published this week revealed faults in the province's breast cancer testing, a situation similar to that which occurred earlier in another province, Newfoundland and Labrador, where at least 386 patients received the wrong test results. Mr. Bolduc is scheduled to meet with oncologists and pathologists on Sunday to decide how to address the issue. Premier Jean Charest, speaking Saturday in Montreal, pleaded for patience, and said the health authorities were working as fast as they can to get answers.


Tensions are mounting in the Mohawk First Nation reserve of Akwasasne, a native territory which straddles the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. More to the point, it also borders the United States. Beginning on Monday, Canadian border guards situated there and elsewhere will start carrying weapons for the first time. But the leaders of the Mohawk community insist Canada has no right to place armed guards on their territory, and that Canadian officials have rebuffed several attempts to find a compromise, including a requested delay in the arming of the guards. In a letter sent last year to Canadian officials, Grand Chief Tim Thompson described the presence of armed border guards as a direct assault on Akwasasne's sovereignty, tantamount to an act of war.


The widow of a Canadian businessman who was murdered in Puerto Rico in 2005 has failed in a bid for compensation. The judge dismissed her lawsuit, ruling that that Aurea Vazquez Rijos repeatedly failed to comply with court orders, and delayed her deposition too many times. Ms Rijos was seeking $1-million in damages and half of her husband's estate. Adam Anhang, a Winnipeg native who moved to Puerto Rico a year before the attack, was beaten and stabbed to death in 2005, as he walked with his wife along the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. American officials have accused his widow of arranging the murder.


South Korean officials say there's evidence North Korea may be preparing to transport another long-range missile to a test launch site in the northeast. Seoul says spy satellites have spotted signs of the move. The report comes as the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates issued his harshest warning to the North since its recent nuclear test last month. He told an Asian conference of defence ministers in Singapore that Washington will not stand idly by while North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on targets in Asia or America. However, he said he did not consider North Korea to be a direct military threat to the US, at this point.


Pakistan's military says it's regained control of the largest city in the Swat valley from the Taliban. A senior official says Mingora is under full military control. Fighting intensified a week ago as the army strengthened its presence in the town, conducting house-to-house searches for Taliban militants. Pakistan launched its offensive against the Taliban after a peace deal broke down earlier this month. More than 2 million people have fled the region, and an unknown number of militants and civilians have died. Journalists have been banned from the area.


Iran has executed three men in connection with the bombing a Shia mosque just two days ago. The bombing killed 25 people during evening prayers in the south-east mainly Sunni-Muslim city of Zahedan. The trio had been arrested before Thursday's bombing, but, according to Iranian officials, had confessed that they had provided the explosives for it. Authorities claim they were tried and had legal representation.


Iraq's former trade minister has been detained in connection with a corruption scandal. Reports say Abdul Falah al-Sudany got advance word on an arrest warrant against him. He went to the Baghdad airport and boarded a flight to Dubai early Saturday. But the passenger plane turned around after half an hour and returned to Baghdad, where al-Sudany was arrested by plainclothes security officers. He's suspected of fraudulent activity in connection with Iraq's public food ration program, which is one of the world's largest. Millions of dollars meant to buy food imports were embezzled, or taken in kickbacks, by officials at the Trade Ministry and the Grain Board.


Despite their best efforts, marine scientists and volunteers in South Africa could not steer all 55 beached pilot whales back into the water. So they were to euthanize as many as 35 of them. Another 10 died of stress. The whales were stranded Saturday on a beach near Cape Town. Rescuers had battled to keep the beached adults and calves wet, and also used earth-moving equipment to try to save them, but many of the animals swam or were pushed back ashore by the high waves. The marine mammals weigh between four and five tonnes and measure up to 5.5 metres (18 feet).


For the first time in 17 years, the fourth round of the French Open women's draw will have some Canadian flavour. Aleksandra Wozniak continued her magical French Open run Saturday, earning a hard-fought 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain in third-round action. The 21-year-old from Blainville, Quebec, is the first Canadian woman to survive into the second week at the French Open since Patricia Hy-Boulais in 1992. Wozniak is also the first Canadian to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam event since Maureen Drake qualified for the round of 16 at the 1999 Australian Open. Wozniak's opponent in the round of 16 will be second-seeded Serena Williams, who rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.


Canadian champion Mandy Moran of Calgary came within four points of earning her first career Grand Prix diving medal on Saturday placing fourth on women's three-metre springboard at the FINA Grand Prix in Madrid. Qulin Zheng of China won the gold medal with 317.20 points, Olivia Wright of Australia was second at 297.40 and Lin Qu of China third at 293.05. Moran finished the competition with a strong reverse dive but just missed reaching the podium earning 289.55 points. She was also fourth earlier this season at the Grand Prix event in Germany. Hailey Casper of Calgary advanced to the semifinals and placed eighth overall. In the men's 10-metre preliminaries, Kevin Geyson of Winnipeg was ninth. Competition ends Sunday with the semis and final on men's tower and the women's three-metre synchro.


Canada-Wales rugby union international match (Toronto): Canada 23 Wales 32


A second-half goal from Simeon Jackson gave Canada a 1-0 away win over Cyprus in an international friendly on Saturday. Jackson scored in the 53rd minute when he picked up a pass at the top of the box from a quickly-taken free kick that seemed to catch the Cypriot defence off-guard. The pass put Jackson alone against Cypriot goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides and the Canadian forward made no mistake slotting the ball past a diving Georgallides. The goal sparked a slow Cypriot offence to life, but Canada did well to defend its goal and neutralize Cypriot attacks. Canada's 2008 player of the year Julian de Guzman was a standout in midfield, controlling the centre for Canada with strong play with sharp passing.

SUNDAY, MAY 31ST, 2009

Vancouver: Sunny. 22. Edmonton: Showers. 17. Calgary: Showers. 19. Saskatoon and Regina: Sunny. 20. Winnipeg: Showers. 19. Toronto: Sunny. 13. Ottawa and Montreal: Showers. 10. Fredericton. Showers. 21. Halifax: Clearing. 19. Charlottetown: Sunny. 19. St. John's: Rain. 17. Whitehorse: Sunny. 19. Yellowknife: Sunny. 13. Iqaluit: Rain or wet snow. 3.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

RCI Cyberjournal

Federal government in deficit.

Canadian astronaut arrives at international space station.

University to make medical isotopes.


Canada's government confirmed on Friday that after years of enjoying a budget surplus, its finances fell into a deficit in March. The Finance Department put the deficit in the last month of the fiscal year at CDN$3.6 billion. The overall deficit for the fiscal year was CDN$2.2 billion. In the previous fiscal year, there was a surplus of CDN$11.4 billion. In March, the government saw a drop in corporate taxes of almost 49 per cent.


A Russian spacecraft carrying a Canadian astronaut, Robert Thirsk, and two colleagues from Russia and Belgium has docked at the International Space Station. The arrival of the three astronauts doubles the size of the space station crew to six---it's largest number ever. The three new arrivals left Earth two days ago from the Baikonur space agency in Kazakhstan. They'll undertake experiments at the space station for several months.


McMaster University plans to improve its nuclear facility to make medical isotopes, filling a gap left by the temporary closing of the Canadian nuclear reactor in Chalk River that produces almost half of the world's medical isotope production. The university in Hamilton, Ontario, will finance the improvements with part of the CDN$22 million that it is receiving from the federal and Ontario governments. The McMaster reactor is the only Canadian one outside of Chalk River capable of producing the isotopes. The Chalk River reactor is shut for three months for repairs.


Alberta says that years of searching will be needed to locate 132 Chinese workers who were paid only a small fraction of their wages earned at an oilsands project near Fort McMurray. The workers who have since returned to China are owed more than CDN$3 million. The government says it's determined to find the workers to ensure they are paid what they are owed under provincial law. They were employed in 2007 by a Chinese contractor. It's alleged that part of the workers' salaries was taken by the contractor's company, an affiliate of China's state-owned energy giant, Sinopec.


North Korea has again warned that it will respond to any new United Nations sanctions imposed as a result of North Korea's underground nuclear test earlier this week. The test shocked the international community. North Korea warned that it would take self-defensive measures. On Friday, North Korea test-fired another short-range missile, the sixth this week.


China suspects that the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, has been transmitted within the country for the first time. The Chinese Health Ministry says the case involves a 24-year-old woman in the southern city of Guangzhou. She tested positive on Thursday after developing a fever. Before the latest incident, there had been 13 confirmed cases of swine flu in mainland China. All of them caught the virus overseas. The flu is said to have originated from Mexico. There have been an estimated 100 deaths worldwide. Most occurred in Mexico. Canada has registered two flu-related deaths.


India's economy increased more than expected in the latest quarter, leading some economists to predict that India has seen the worst of the global downturn. Growth reached almost six per cent, nearly a full percentage point higher than forecast. But one economist said that the growth was due almost entirely to government spending. India's economy largely coped with the global downturn better than many other countries.


Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops say that they killed at least 35 militants on Thursday in clashes and air strikes in Zabul province. Fighting in Afghanistan has increased in recent weeks as Taliban insurgents have stepped up bomb attacks. Canada is part of the NATO-led military operation Afghanistan.


Africa's environment ministers have agreed on a plan to deal with global climate changes that could affect millions of Africans. At its meeting on Thursday in Nairobi, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment called on Western industrialized nations to cut carbon emissions further and to transfer their environment technology to developing countries. Conference delegates also urged Canada and other Group of Eight countries to fulfill the G8's intention to build a climate change centre in Africa. Africa produces little of the emissions that harm the environment, but the United Nations predicts that global climate change over the next ten years will lead to a severe water shortage for millions of Africans.


U.S. President Barack Obama has called on Israel to stop the expansion of its West Bank settlements as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. He says that Palestinians must help the peace process by providing security in the West Bank and reducing anti-Israeli sentiment in schools and mosques. Mr Obama made the comments during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington on Thursday. Israel has previously rejected a request to stop building in settlements in West Bank. Palestinians contend that Jewish settlement building is aimed at denying them a state.


On the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday, the Composite Index closed down 22 points to 10,370. The Canadian dollar closed at 91.60 U.S. cents, up 1.90 of a cent. The euro was worth CDN$1.5438, down 1.05 of a cent. The price of a barrel of oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose US$1.23 to US$66.31.


Canada's largest bank is reporting a loss of CDN$50-million for the past three months. Royal Bank attributes the loss to a downturn in the U.S. economy and to the market value of banks in the country. It's the first time since 1993 that Royal Bank has reported a loss. Earnings are down four per cent from a year ago, and 17 per cent compared with the first three months of this year.


Canfor Corporation is closing three sawmills in British Columbia indefinitely, a move that will put nearly 600 people out of work. The quick rise of the Canadian dollar---about 14 per cent since the first quarter---is making it more difficult to export lumber in a depressed market. B.C. forestry companies must also contend with addition of 15 per cent tax as a result of the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber deal. The closure of the three mills represents about 11 per cent of the company's lumber capacity.


The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies is expressing dissatisfaction with
the Canadian air company, WestJet Airlines, for planning to cut booking commissions paid to travel agents. Starting July 1, WestJet will cut commissions to four per cent from nine per cent.


The Canadian entrepeneur Jim Balsillie has unveiled his vision for Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, where he hopes to bring a third NHL team to Ontario. Balsillie plans to install luxury boxes, lounges and restaurants and a video scoreboard. The enlarged arena would seat as many as eighteen thousand spectators. But his bid to buy an NHL team still faces opposition from NHL management.


Matt Hill, a Canadian who is attending a U.S. university, won the NCAA Division One men's golf title in Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday.


Here is Canada's weather on Saturday. British Columbia will be sunny. The high temperature in Vancouver will be 21 degrees Celsius. The Yukon: mainly sunny. Whitehorse, 14. Northwest Territories: rain. Yellowknife, seven. Nunavut: light rain. Iqaluit, one. Alberta: variable cloudiness. Edmonton, 18. Saskatchewan: mainly sunny. Regina, 27. Manitoba: sunny. Winnipeg, 15. Ontario: variable cloudiness. Toronto, 18. Ottawa, 17. Quebec: cloudy periods. Montreal, 15. New Brunswick: rain showers. Fredericton, 17. Nova Scotia: overcast. Halifax, 17. Prince Edward Island: overcast. Charlottetown, 17. Newfoundland: rain. St. John's, 14.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Climate-refugee problem attracts global attention; Dalai Lama says Tibet needs autonomy

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News report pegs civilian death toll in Sri Lanka at 20,000

The Times of London has published a report with photographic evidence that suggests the civilian death toll in the final days of Sri Lanka's offensive against the rebel Tamil Tigers was 20,000 -- three times the figure released by the government. Authorities denied the report. Aid agencies lack access to the area in question, hampering efforts to confirm the death toll. The Times (London) (5/29) , BBC (5/29)

Death to potatoes."

Anti-Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rally chant. Get the full story.

UN Dispatch: Come September, we may see Nicolas Sarkozy throw some fries on his sammy and Angela Merkel crack open an Iron City Light. The White House announced today that Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will host the next G-20 Summit.

UN Dispatch

United Nation
  • Egyptian's Unesco campaign falters
    An apology for a series of anti-Israeli remarks, including one last year suggesting that Israeli books in Egyptian libraries be burned, may not be enough to salvage the candidacy of Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny to be the next Unesco head, according to this article. Austria, Bulgaria and Ecuador are among the other countries proposing candidates. The New York Times (5/28) Email this Story
  • Other News
Development Health and Poverty
  • Drug-resistant malaria on the rise
    Scientists say that malarial parasites in Cambodia are showing early signs of resistance against the artemesinin family of anti-malarial drugs. Scientists are scrambling to contain a global outbreak of drug-resistant malaria strains, which they say they have confirmed in two separate clinical trials. The World Health Organization warned of early signals to decreased effectiveness in Southeast Asia in 2006. BBC (5/29) Email this Story
Development Energy and Environment
  • Climate-refugee problem attracts global attention
    Growing concerns over the fate of as many as 200 million climate refugees in the coming decades are raising the issue's profile among international policymakers and diplomats, with the United Nations General Assembly prepared to vote on a resolution linking climate change to global security. Stark differences of opinion among countries remain on what, if any, action should be taken. The New York Times (5/28) Email this Story
  • Other News
Security and Human Rights
  • Gaza residents' desperation continues
    Hardscrabble existence is the norm for residents of the Gaza Strip, trapped between the twin pressures of Israeli and Egyptian border closures and the dictates of Hamas. Domestic violence, drug use and unemployment are all reportedly on the rise, while access to education and medical care is in decline. The New York Times (5/28) Email this Story
  • Dalai Lama backs autonomy for Tibet
    Chinese rule is "something like a death sentence," robbing Tibet of its cultural and social legacy, and autonomy is the best answer, the Dalai Lama said this week. Giving regional Tibetan authorities policy-making power on education, religion and use of natural resources, while keeping foreign affairs and security concerns under Beijing's leadership, would protect Tibet's unique characteristics, he believes. The New York Times (5/28) Email this Story
  • Other News
Peace and Security
  • South Koreans take to the streets to mourn former President Roh
    The streets of Seoul were filled with tens of thousands of supporters of former President Roh Moo-hyun, who jumped off a cliff after allegations of corruption arose surrounding his administration. Some 15,000 riot police were deployed as officials feared that protesters might use the event for a political demonstration. BBC (5/29) Email this Story
  • In Iran, retail politics has a distinct flavor
    Political opponents of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are crying foul at the recent government handout of 400,000 tons of potatoes, saying it is an attempt to buy votes. Without a 50% showing in the vote, Ahmadinejad would face a one-on-one runoff. The Times (London) (5/29) Email this Story
  • Other News
Africa Regional Vice PresidentsWorld Vision InternationalAfrica
Deputy Director - Asia DivisionHuman Rights WatchNY, DC, London, or Asia
Associate General CounselHuman Rights WatchNew York
Deputy Director, Sustainable Food and Agriculture SystemsInternational Relief and Development (IRD)Arlington, VA

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