Thursday, March 17, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 16 March 2011
Canadian International Financial Sports Weather

Commons committee meets as election looms

OTTAWA: A Committee of Canada's House of Commons began three days of hearings on Wednesday into whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party government and a cabinet minister are in contempt of Parliament. The hearings before the Commons Procedure and House Affairs Committee come as all parties prepare for an election that could be triggered as early as next week -- either over Tuesday's budget or a Liberal confidence motion. The hearings follow last week's unprecedented double rebuke of the minority government by the Speaker of the Commons, Peter Milliken. He ruled that the government breached parliamentary privilege by refusing to fully disclose cost estimates for its tough-on-crime agenda, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets. He also ruled that International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda breached parliamentary privilege by misleading MPs about an altered government document. There could be a vote in the Commons next week on whether the government and Ms. Oda are in contempt of Parliament.

PM warns opposition about possible election

OTTAWA: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning his political opponents that it would be economically dangerous to force a federal election after the earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan. The tragedy has prompted fears it will hurt not only Japan's economy but also the economies of its trading partners around the world, including Canada. Mr. Harper says his first concern is make sure the Canadian government is ready to provide any help Japan might request. There has been speculation in Canada that a federal election might be called in the coming months. The last election was held in October, 2008 and the Conservative Party was re-elected with a minority.

Medical team returning from Japan

VANCOUVER: A Canadian medical team is returning home after rushing to Japan in the wake of last Friday's earthquake and tsunami. The Canadian Medical Assistance Team (CMAT) has been pinned down in Tokyo for the last several days, unable to reach the hardest-hit regions of north-eastern Japan because of escalating risks from three damaged nuclear power plants north of Tokyo. A release on the team's website said the six-member teamwas not equipped to deal with a nuclear emergency and made the difficult decision to return to Vancouver. However, CMAT organizers said they will continue to prepare and stage the team's response from facilities in Vancouver and Seattle, Washington. Members hope to return to Japan as soon as the situation has stabilized. CMAT is also continuing efforts to raise $20,000 for a high-volume water purification system to provide clean drinking water for devastated cities such as Sendai, 400 kilometres north of Tokyo.

Minister sounds the call for oilsands energy

EDMONTON: Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepertsaid Tuesdaythe slowdown in Libyan oil exports and the disaster at a Japanese nuclear power site will increase focus on the importance of developing the the province's oilsands. He says those events have increased awareness about sources of safe, reliable energy. He made his comments during a speech at the World Heavy Oil Congress in Edmonton.

Preparations up and running for Afghan exit

KANDAHAR: The Canadian military has begun preparing for its departure from Afghanistan later this year. A special team must decide what to do with all the Canadian gear and goods at the Kandahar airfield when the combat mission ends in July. Military officials are also negotiating to sell Canada House, the recreational centre at the airfield. A monument to Canadians killed in Afghanistan will be moved to Canada. Officials compare the task to moving a small town, adding that while some equipment will be brought back home, others will be sold or donated. Canada will end combat operations by the end of July, but up to 950 troops and support staff will stay in Afghanistan on a training mission until 2014.

Suspect killed, Mountie wounded in Alberta shooting

FORT McMURRAY: A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer has been wounded and a suspect killed in a shooting in northern Alberta. Officialssaid the shooting occurred after officers responded to a 911 call early Wednesday morning from an apartment building in Fort McMurray. They said RCMP members went into the building, encountered a man with a gun and shots were fired. The wounded Mountie was taken to hospital with injuries that aren't believed to be life-threatening. The constable who shot the suspect was not injured.

Police make arrests in anti-police demo

MONTREAL: More than 250 people were arrested Tuesdayatan anti-police protest. Police officers in riot gear and others on horses moved in when some of the protesters started throwing chunks of ice and rocks at store windows. Police eventually fired used tear gas and formed a human barrier to block off the crowd then moved in to make arrests. There was a similar demonstration against police brutality in Toronto, but it was more orderly and no arrests were reported.

Minor earthquake strikes Quebec

MONTREAL: A minor earthquake, with a 4.7 magnitude, was detected in western Quebec on Wednesday. Natural Resources Canada says the quake was centred in Lachute, between Ottawa and Montreal, and struck at 1.36 pm. The ground started shaking and stopped after about 10 seconds. The quake was felt as far away as the western suburbs of Montreal, in Cornwall, Ont., and by some people in Ottawa. There were no immediate reports of damage.

Two Canadians nominated for Orange Prize

LONDON: Canadian authors Emma Donoghue and Kathleen Winter have made the long list for Britain's 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction. Ms. Donoghue, who was born in Dublin and lives in London, Ont., is in the running for "Room," which follows a young boy who lives in a garden shed with his mother. The Montreal-based Ms.Winter is a finalist for her debut novel, "Annabel," about a hermaphrodite child in Labrador in the 1960s. The Orange Prize honours published fiction written in English by a woman. It is worth about C$47,000. A total of 20 authors made this year's long list, unveiled Wednesday. The short list is due out April 12 and the winner will be announced June 8 in London.



Japan's emperor gave a rare address to the nation Wednesday as millions struggled in desperate conditions. The television appearance by Emperor Akihito emphasised the gravity of the crisis gripping Japan. The official toll of the dead and missing after the quake and tsunami flattened Japan's northeast coasthas risento more than 12,000 with the number of confirmed dead at 4,277. But reports continued to come in which indicated that the final toll could be much higher, with the mayor of the coastal town of Ishinomaki saying the number of missing there was likely to hit 10,000.


Japanese officials are considering their options as radiation continues to leak from the damaged Fukushima nuclear facility on the country's East Coast. The plant was hit hard by last Friday's devastating magnitude 9.0 earthquake. Emergency technicians working to prevent a meltdownwere withdrawn from the complex following a surge in radiation but later returned and addedhelp. Officials are trying to use helicopters to dump water onto the most troubled reactors in an effort to cool them down. But the aircraft had trouble approaching the area because of high radiation levels. There have been three explosions and two fires at the nuclear plant since it was damaged last Friday. There are six reactors at the plant, and one safety agency estimates 70 per cent of the rods in the number-one reactor and 33 per cent in the number-two reactor have been damaged. Meanwhile, Japanese officials are facing increasing criticism over poor communication and co-ordination. The governor of Fukushima prefecture said Wednesday the anxiety and anger that people in the area are feeling has reached a boiling point. He'criticized preparations for an evacuation if conditions at the nuclear plant worsen and said evacuation centres do not have enough hot meals and basic necessities.

Far East

Japan's neighbours have ordered radiation monitoring of shipments from Japan. But officials in China, Russia and South Koreasaid Wednesdaythey do not anticipate immediate effects of contamination. Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, has assured residents of the West Coast province of British Columbia that they do not face risk of radiation drifting from Japan.

United States

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Wednesday the United States still wants to expand nuclear plant construction despite the Japan disaster and sees nuclear power as a key part of clean energy efforts. He made the comment in testimony before a House subcommittee hearing about President Barack Obama's request for energy funds in the fiscal year 2012 budget. Mr. Chu defended the US nuclear industry, which provides about 20 percent of America's power.


Analysts said Wednesday that two decades after the Soviet collapse, Russia is still using nuclear power stations that concern experts, but the Japan quake and nuclear crisis will not prompt a rethink of its reliance on atomic energy. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday unexpectedly announced a review of nuclear power in Russia in light of the damage in Japan, but this is not expected to result in a major u-turn. Russia's nuclear agency, Rosatom, is one of the world's leading contractors for building nuclear power plants abroad and has been constructing stations in Bulgaria and India.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia President Dmitry Medvedev vowed Wednesday to press on with plans for Russia to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant despite the Japanese nuclear accident. Russia and Turkey signed a $20-billion agreement last May for the construction of the first Turkish nuclear power plant in Akkuyu in the south of the country.


Belarus and Russia signed an expected deal Tuesday on the building of a nuclear power plant. The deal was announced during a visit to Minsk by Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who said the plant will be safer than those in Japan.


Chinaon Wednesdaysuspended approvals for proposed nuclear power plants following Japan's nuclear crisis. Chinese officialswere also conducting safety checks of atomic plants. Premier Wen Jiabao told Chinese residents that they had nothing to fear about radiation drifting from the Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant. China wants nuclear power to play a big role in its plans to reduce dependence on coal over the next decade. China is building about 28 reactors, or roughly 40 percent of the world's total under construction.


President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday the crisis atthe Japanese nuclear plant has prompted him to stop Venezuela's plans to develop nuclear energy. Mr. Chavez announced last year that his government was carrying out initial studies to start a nuclear energy program. Russia had agreed to help Venezuela build a reactor during a visit to Moscow last year by Mr. Chavez, who also said he believes the problems at the Japanese nuclear plant will make other countries reconsider the need for atomic energy programs.


Government forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi attacked rebels in their last western bastions Wednesday and threatened their capital Benghazi in the east. Gadhafi loyalists killed two rebel fighters and two civilians when they assaulted Libya's third city of Misrata. Libyan state television said the army would soon move against Benghazi, but the road from the rebel headquarters east to Tobruk near the Egyptian border was still under rebel control Wednesday. Hundreds of people were streaming over the border after fleeing Ajdabiya, Benghazi and other cities. Meanwhile, efforts to secure a no-fly zone over the country to prevent attacks by Col. Gadhafi's air force faltered in the United Nations Security Council.


Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Wednesday several Arab countries have pledged to take part in possible military action in Libya. Writing on his blog, Mr. Juppe said France and Britain have sought targeted air strikes for two weeks. He cited two conditions: a mandate for such force from the UN Security Council and "effective" participation by Arab states. Mr. Juppe wrote that the second point was being fulfilled: "Several Arab countries assured us that they will participate." He didn't elaborate. He said it "isn't enough" for countries to say Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must quit and called for them to help opponents of his "dictatorship." Supporters of a no-fly zone over Libya introduced a UN resolution Tuesday aimed at stopping Col. Gadhafi's planes from bombing civilians. Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy's office denied a claim by Mr. Gadhafi's son that the French leader received funding from Libya for his election campaign. Seif al-Islam Gadhafi told EuroNews television that "we have all the details and we are ready to reveal everything" about his country's financing of Sarkozy's campaign in 2007. Seif Gadhafi made the comments after being asked his opinion of Mr. Sarkozy, who has led the diplomatic push for tough action against the Libyan regime in its battle against rebel fighters.


Troops on Wednesday forced hundreds of protesters from a camp that had become the symbol of an uprising by the island's Shiite Muslim majority. Hospital sources said two policemen and three protesters were killed in the assault that began a day after Bahrain declared martial law to stop the sectarian unrest. Dozens of protesters were wounded. Over 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shiites who complain of discrimination at the hands of the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family. Calls for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed the Sunni minority. The United States, a close ally of Bahrain, has called for restraint in the island kingdom.


Dozens of people were wounded Wednesday when police opened fire with live rounds on anti-government demonstrators in Yemen's western port city of Al-Hudaydah. Police intervened, firing tear gas and bullets, after pro-regime loyalists attacked protesters with batons and rocks. The violence erupted following a pro-government demonstration by supporters of the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) party in Al-Hudaydah. Protests across Yemen against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule, inspired by similar popular uprisings across the Arab world, have been marred by violence that has left some 40 people dead.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Egypt Wednesday to urge its military rulers to prepare for a transition to democracy following Hosni Mubarak's ouster from power last month. Mrs. Clinton is the most senior US official to visit Egypt since Mr. Mubarak's resignation. She also visited Cairo's Tahrir Square, the centre of the protests that led to the ouster of Mr. Mubarak. In Tunisia on Wednesday, dozens of youths protested a visit of by Mrs. Clinton, shouting "no to foreign intervention" and "Clinton get out." The hour-long rally on Tunis' main thoroughfare, organized via Facebook, ended peacefully, hours before Mrs. Clinton's arrival Wednesday night. However, more youth protests are planned, including in front of the US.


An Israeli air strike Wednesday against a Hamas security facility in the Gaza Strip killed two Palestinian militants and wounded four others. The attack came a day after Israel said its navy intercepted a cargo ship carrying a massive arms shipment sent by Iran and destined for Gaza militants. Israel maintains that Iran is arming Israel's enemies with rockets and other arms. Israel's navy says it found sophisticated land-to-sea missiles and instruction manuals in Farsi on board the vessel. Officials said the Farsi manuals prove there was Iranian involvement.


Government supporters armed with batons dispersed protesters calling for the release of political prisoners on Wednesday. It was the second time in two days that a small protest in Damascus has been forcefully dispersed. Witnesses said about 100 people gathered near the Syrian Interior Ministry, but they fled when dozens of government supporters chased them with batons. The witnesses estimated that about five people were arrested. Syrians have tried to stage demonstrations inspired by those sweeping the Arab world. But intimidation and other factors have quashed much of the momentum.


A car bomb near a hospital in the city of Kirkuk killed at least two people and injured 33 others on Wednesday. Police said the explosion damaged the hospital and nearby buildings. The oil-rich, multi-ethnic and multi-religious province of Kirkuk has been the scene of many attacks over the years. In other incidents across Iraq on Wednesday, seven people were wounded by three separate home-made bombs in Baghdad. Violence across Iraq has fallen dramatically since its peak in 2006 and 2007, but bomb attacks and kidnappings are still common.


Police fired tear gas Wednesday against protesters burning tires outside the US consulate in Lahore after the release of a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistani men last year. The clashes involved around 200 people. There were small protests in other main cities as well. Police made several arrests in Lahore and struck other people with batons. Raymond Allen Davis was released earlier Wednesday after the US paid $2.3 million to the victims' families.


A prison official said Wednesday a Pakistani Christian jailed for blasphemy had died in prison. The prison official said that prison doctors had ruled out murder. He said Qumar David died of a heart attack on Tuesday after complaining of chest pain. An autopsy is due to be carried out on the body in the presence of his family members. But Mr. David's lawyer, Pervez Chaudhry, said he was "100 per cent" certain it was murder but was unable to offer evidence. Two prominent Pakistani politicians have been murdered this year for their campaign to change blasphemy laws that make it a capital offence to insult Islam. Human rights groups say Christians convicted under the law have been murdered in jail by extremists.


Police on Wednesday searched the office of an environmental activist who led a high-profile campaign against building a highway through a forest near Moscow. Yevgenia Chirikova said that two policemen who said they came from the Volga region arrived at the Moscow office of her and her husband's engineering company on Wednesday morning and confiscated paper contracts with several companies. She said the contracts were with electricity substations, but linked the search to her campaign to protect oak woodland outside the Moscow suburb town of Khimki. Ms. Chirikova said the Moscow region police had earlier asked the bank where her company has an account to provide documents showing transactions, and that clients of her company had been summoned for questioning by police.


France has published the written essays of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison inciting subversion. In his book, the 56-year-old Liu does not call for the overthrow of China's Communist Party. But in the book, Liu accuses China's growing wealthy classes of having sold out in exchange for their silence in the face of the regime's systematic human rights abuses. He also writes that the Communist Party has retained from the Maoist era methods that are particularly effective to change historical facts. Liu warns that if the Communist Party persists in blocking any kind of political reform there could be a violent crisis.


Australian officials said Wednesday that China has not attempted to block exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer from speaking in Australia next week. Her last visit to Australia in 2009 strained diplomatic ties between the countries. At the time. China repeatedly asked Australia to refuse a visa for Ms. Kadeer who attended an international film festival that screened a documentary about her life. China retaliated weeks later by cancelling a senior Chinese minister's trip to Australia. Ms. Kadeer, who lives in the United States, fights for the rights of China's ethnic Uighur Muslims. China accuses her of inciting violence in her native Xinjiang province.


Wednesday's markets

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index closed down 22.14 points at 13,524.82. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 242.12 points to 11,613.3 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 50.51 points at 2,616.82. The Canadian dollar settled at 100.83 cents US, down 0.80 of a cent. The US dollar stood at 99.18 cents Cdn, up 0.78 of a cent. Pound sterling closed at C$1.5895, up 0.68 of a cent and US$1.6026, down 0.58 of a cent. The euro was worth C$1.3782, up 0.05 of a cent.

Manufacturing sales hit 29-month high

OTTAWA: Canadian manufacturing sales climbed to a 29-month high in January. Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that sales increased 4.5 percent to almost $47.7 billion. Statistics Canada said while the gains were widespread through 17 of 21 industries, the increase was mostly concentrated in the transportation equipment sector.

TD bank raises economic forecast

TORONTO: One of Canada's major banks has raised its economic forecast slightly for 2011. TD bank says it now expects the economy to grow by three per cent. That's half a percentage point above their previous forecast. The brighter outlook is due to a strong start to the year, a more optimistic outlook for Canada's biggest trading partner, the United States, and higher demand for commodities. TD suggests that growth will be particularly prominent in the Prairies and Newfoundland and Labrador, helped by stronger financial positions from the governments in those regions, and strength in commodity prices. The TD forecast follows a report from the Bank of Canada earlier this month that the economy grew by 3.3 per cent in the final quarter of last year -- a full point higher than the central bank had projected.


National Hockey League

Tuesday's results: Washington defeated Montreal 4-2, Pittsburgh defeated Ottawa 5-1 and Phoenix defeated Calgary 4-3.

National Hockey League

A watchdog group in Phoenix, Arizona announced Tuesday it will sue the city of Glendale if the proposed deal to sell the Phoenix Coyotes to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer goes through. The Goldwater Institute says the deal is unconstitutional under Arizona law, because it illegally subsidizes a private business and puts taxpayers at risk. Pundits say if the deal falls through, the Coyotes would likely move back to Winnipeg.

National Hockey League

NHL general managers meeting in Florida announced Tuesday they would like to see a tighter enforcement of rules on charging and boarding. However, they stopped short of recommending a ban on all head hits. Besides stricter penalties for charging and boarding, the general managers called for longer suspensions in instances where there is an illegal head hit, particularly for repeat offenders.

Professional tennis

Canada's Milos Raonic lost to fellow wild-card entry Ryan Harrison of the US 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 Tuesday in the third round at the BNP Paribas Masters at Indian Wells, California. Raonic, who suffered from a back spasm in his second-round win over World Number 15 Mardy Fish on Sunday, battled for two hours 29 minutes and saved three break points before finally losing to Harrison.


Thursday's forecasts

Vancouver is cloudy with a chance of showers. The forecast high temperature: eight degrees Celsius. Calgary has morning cloud followed by a mix of sun and cloud with a high of seven. Regina is cloudy with a chance of morning flurries followed by afternoon cloud, a high of minus-three. Winnipeg is cloudy with a chance of flurries, a high of zero. Toronto has sunny skies followed by evening showers, a high of 11. Ottawa is sunny with cloudy periods followed by evening showers, a high of nine. Montreal has a mix of sun and cloud followed by evening showers, a high of eight. Fredericton is sunny with cloudy periods, a high of nine. Charlottetown is cloudy with a chance of morning showers followed by a mix of afternoon sun and cloud, a high of six. Halifax is cloudy with a chance of morning showers, a high of seven. St. John's is cloudy with morning flurries and afternoon rain, a high of four. Whitehorse has a mix of sun and cloud, a high of one. Yellowknife is cloudy with a chance of morning flurries followed by a mix of sun and cloud, a high of minus-10. Iqaluit is sunny and cold, a high of minus-34, a windchill of minus-51.

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