Friday, March 25, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 24 March 2011
Canadian International Financial Sports Weather


Canada is increasing its military contribution to the allied force maintaining a no-fly zone in Libya. Defence minister Peter McKay says that more personnel are being sent to the region, boosting Canada's total military contingent to 435, and more aircraft are being sent as well. Two maritime patrol planes are en route to the region to conduct intelligence missions. As far as the ongoing military campaign is concerned, Mr. McKay said allied warplanes bombed air defences near Tripoli Thursday, as well as a Gadhafi loyalist compound near the besieged rebel city of Misrata, forcing Gadhafi troops to withdraw their tanks. As far as Canadian assets are concerned, two CF-18 fighter jets conducted two further air interdiction patrols over Libyan air space, but, he stressed, there were no strikes in either case. The minister said the Gadhafi regime is continuing its military action despite the pressure, but insists the air campaign is severely limiting its ability to conduct operations against the Libyan people. Mr. McKay did concede, however, that the regime continues to attack and kill civilians. According to a doctor quoted by the AFP news agency, at least 109 people have been killed in the rebel-held city of Misrata and more than 1,300 wounded in a week of attacks.


There is every likelihood that Canadians will be voting in a federal general election this spring. The Liberal opposition in the House of Commons has introduced an unprecedented motion declaring the government was in contempt of Parliament when it refused to provide the costing for a number of its more controversial programs. The motion, to be voted-on on Friday afternoon, would be equivalent to a vote of confidence in the government. Should it pass, the Harper Conservative government would have no option but to seek the dissolution of Parliament, leading to a general election. The Conservatives had tried unsuccessfully to engineer their defeat on the basis of the latest budget, which was tabled this week. The opposition parties had indicated they would vote against it. But the government could not manage to arrange the budget vote before Friday's contempt motion comes to a vote.


A Canadian medical researcher is among the recipients of this year's Gairdner Wightman Award, one of the most prestigious medical honours in the world. Michael Hayden, who is at the University of British Columbia, was chosen for his work on Huntingdon's Disease. Among his other achievements, Dr. Hayden developed the world's first predictive test for the degenerative neurological disorder - the first such test for a genetic disorder of any kind. The Gairdner Awards, Canada's top prize for medical research, have been predictive in their own right. In the past ten years, winners have gone on to win 19 of 26 Nobel prizes for medicine or physiology. The award comes with a $100-thousand cash prize.


Lighthouse keepers on Canada's Pacific west coast have been given an 11th hour reprieve. The federal government has decided to suspend a plan to automate all of Canada's coastal lighthouses. They provide the beacons used by shipping to avoid running aground. The suspension decision follows a study conducted by the Canadian Senate. It concluded that the cost savings that would be generated through automation would not offset the increased risks to shipping. In 1970, there were 264 staffed lighthouses in Canada. Today, there are just 50. But those 50 will keep their keepers, for the time being.



According to Turkish officials, agreement has been reached to have NATO assume sole command of the military operations over Libya. Right now, command is in the hands of the United States. US President Barack Obama, trying to extricate Washington from two wars in Muslim nations, Iraq and Afghanistan, had insisted Washington wanted to hand over responsibility for the Libya campaign to NATO within days rather than weeks. Turkey, a NATO member, insisted NATO should have sole control of Libya operations to prevent offensive operations that could harm civilians. The deal came after a four-way telephone conference among US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Turkey, France and Britain. In the theatre of operations, blasts and anti-aircraft fire rattled Tripoli Thursday as allied air raids against Moammar Gadhafi's forces entered a sixth day. A British officer said Libya's air force was mostly obliterated. Witnesses reported a huge blast Wednesday night at a military base in the Tajura residential neighbourhood, about 30 kilometres east of the capital, while anti-aircraft fire was heard as warplanes thundered over Tripoli. Libya's official JANA news agency said coalition raids on Tajura killed "a large number" of civilians. The statement could not be independenclty confirmed. Meanwhile, an armada of NATO warships patrolled Libya's coast to enforce an arms embargo against Col. Gadhafi.


US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says he can't predict when the international military enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya might end. Mr. Gates says no one thought the assault would last only two or three weeks, but he could not say how the coalition operation might be resolved. Mr. Gates says the goals of the operation against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are clear -- establishing a no-fly zone and preventing Col. Gadhafi from slaughtering his own people. But he had no answer when asked about a possible stalemate that could occur if Gadhafi hunkers down, and the coalition has no UN authorization to target him. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Col. Gadhafi can quickly end the crisis in his country by leaving power. Mrs. Clinton said the US wants the Libyan government to institute a cease-fire, withdraw forces from cities and prepare for a transition that doesn't include Col. Gadhafi. US President Barack Obama has ruled out a land invasion to oust Col. Gadhafi.


A hospital official in Derra, Syria, reports 37 dead in protests. Security forces opened fire on hundreds of youths at the northern entrance to Deraa on Wednesday, after nearly a week of protests in which seven civilians had already been killed since Friday. Today, Thursday, around 20-thousand people marched in the funerals for nine of those killed, chanting freedom slogans and denying official accounts that infiltrators and "armed gangs" were behind the killings and violence in Deraa. The protesters in Deraa, a mainly Sunni city, have shouted slogans against the government's alliance with Shi'ite Iran, breaking a taboo on criticizing Syrian foreign policy. Meantime, President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public pledge Thursday to look into granting Syrians greater freedoms. But Syrian opposition figures said the promises did not meet the aspirations of the people and were similar to those repeated at regular Baath Party conferences, where committees would be formed to study reforms that do not see the light of day.


Dubai police have foiled a bid to smuggle 16,000 guns from Turkey to Yemen's northern province of Saada, the stronghold of Shiite rebels. Dubai's police chief said Thursday six Arab residents of the United Arab Emirates of which Dubai is a member have been arrested. The weapons were discovered in a shipping container in a Dubai warehouse about two weeks ago hidden behind boxes of furniture wrapped in plastic. The chief said the shipment passed through an Egyptian port before reaching the Gulf emirate. Yemen has been embroiled in a month of protests seeking to ouster President Ali Abdullah, who has ruled for 32 years. A government crackdown on the opposition has killed dozens.


Officials with Japan's nuclear safety agency said Thursday three workers had been exposed to radioactive elements at the stricken Fukushima Daichi plant and that two of them were injured and sent to hospital for treatment. The officials said the workers were injured while laying electrical cables Thursday at Unit 3. The plant has been leaking radiation since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out its crucial cooling systems, leading to explosions and fires in four of its six reactors. About two dozen people have been injured since then. On Thursday, workers continued their struggle to regain control of the plant. A Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official said after setbacks and worrying black smoke forced an evacuation on Wednesday, workers were back inside on Thursday. The number of dead and missing from the earthquake and tsunami continues to rise. Japanese officials say over 9,700 have died and another 16,500 people are missing. At least 500,000 people remain homeless. They are being housed in temporary shelters without heat, warm food or medicine. Japanese officials say some 660,000 households still don't have water and over 200,000 others are without electricity. The government estimates damages at up to $309 billion, making this the most costly natural disaster on record. In Tokyo, bottled water was being distributed after residents cleared out store shelves. Anxiety over food and water surged when Tokyo officials said Wednesday that radioactive iodine in the city's tap water was above levels considered dangerous for babies. New readings showed the levels had returned to safe levels in Tokyo, but were high in two neighbouring prefectures, Chiba and Saitama.


Israeli aircraft struck militant targets in the Gaza Strip on Thursday in response to rocket and mortar fire. The fighting has stoked concerns that a grave new round of hostilities will fill the vacuum left by an impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. No injuries were reported in either the fire on Israel or the Israeli attacks on militant training sites, rocket-launching operations and smuggling tunnels. Two years of relative calm have frayed in recent weeks with acts of violence against Israelis -- including a deadly bombing in Jerusalem on Wednesday -- and Israeli reprisals against Gaza militants, which in one case killed four Palestinian civilians. The violence is the fiercest between the two sides since Israel went to war in Hamas-ruled Gaza more than two years ago to try to curb years of frequent rocket attacks.


A strong earthquake struck Burma (Myanmar) near the Thai border on Thursday, killing at least two people, including a child. Terrified residents fled their homes, tall buildings swayed and hospitals and schools were evacuated after tremors spread as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China. The US Geological Survey recorded the quake as magnitude 6.8. A powerful aftershock was later measured at magnitude 5.4. The epicentre was close to the borders with Thailand and Laos and was just 10 kilometres deep.


Loyalists of Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak clashed with opponents in Cairo on Thursday as they sought to have his name removed from public institutions. Around 200 Mubarak supporters carrying pictures of the ousted president threw stones and glass bottles at political opponents during clashes outside the Abdeen Court in central Cairo. Around 300 people had gone to the courthouse to back a request to have Mr. Mubarak's name removed from metro stations, libraries, streets, schools and other public establishments. They clashed with loyalists who said they went to the courthouse to show their support for the "war hero." Police and army officers stepped in to break up the clashes and restore calm. There were no reports of casualties.


Pressure is mounting on Laurent Gbagbo to relinquish power in Ivory Coast. The West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS has called on the UN Security Council to adopt strict sanctions and to bolster the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission there. The bloc wants the UN mission thre to be given the mandate to use all necessary means to protect life and property and to facilitate the immediate transfer of power to Alassane Ouattara, recognized by the UN and the world community as the legitimate winner of the November elections. The incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to recognize that result, saying it was rigged. Since then the West African country has lurched towards civil war. ECOWAS comprises 15 West African states, including Ivory Coast.



The TSX composite index closed down 57 points to 14,029.37. The TSX Venture was down 13 to 2304.58. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 84.46 points (0.70 percent) to 12,170.56. The broader S&P 500 rose 12.16 (0.94 percent) to 1,309.70, while the tech-centric Nasdaq Composite added 38.12 (1.41 percent) to 2,726.42. The Canadian dollar settled at 102.44 cents US on Thursday, up 0.47 of a cent. The U.S. dollar stood at 97.62 cents Cdn, down 0.45 of a cent. Pound sterling closed at C$1.5723, down 1.06 cents and US$1.6106, down 1.36 cents. The euro was worth C1.3831, down 0.03 of a cent.


Bombardier, the Canadian-based international aviation company, has signed an agreement with the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. Bombardier will provide marketing, customer service and aircraft maintenance for the company's present fleet. The two companies have also agreed to collaborate on the development of two new Bombardier aircraft models..


The number of people receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits in Canada declined by 13,300, or two per cent, in January to 640,200. It was the sixth decline in seven months. Statistics Canada reports the number of beneficiaries decreased in seven provinces, with the biggest drop coming in Ontario. The agency says there were 242,400 initial and renewal claims received in January, down 4,900 (two per cent) from December. The number of EI recipients fell by 8,400 in Ontario, 1,600 in Quebec and 500 in Alberta. Claims increased in all other provinces and territories, most notably in New Brunswick where they jumped by 1,100.



Wednesday's results: San Jose defeated Calgary 6-3 and Vancouver defeated Detroit 2-1.


Canada's Amber Holland scored a big win Thursday at the world women's curling championship in Denmark. Holland's rink defeated South Korea 9-2 in the second to last match of the round-robin. The team is 6-and-4 and faceD Germany later Thursday. A win would likely give Canada a spot in the medal round. On Wednesday, Canada defeated Switzerland 7-4, and lost to Sweden 5-4. Going into play Thursday, Sweden was alone on top at 9-and-1. China, Denmark and Russia were tied for second at 6-and-3 .


Wednesday's result: Phoenix defeated Toronto 114-106.


The figure skating world championships are heading to Moscow. The International Skating Union selected Russia's bid to host an event displaced by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The championships were originally scheduled to be held this week in Tokyo. They'll get underway in Moscow on April 24.



Rain and 9 for Vancouver. Variable skies with snowflurries in Edmonton, with a high of minus 5. In Calgary, snowflurries and minus 3. Sunshine across much of Saskatchewan, with minus 7 in Saskatoon and minus 6 in Regina. Sunny in Winnipeg and Toronto, with highs of minus 1 in both locales. A mix of sun and cloud for Ottawa, high minus 4. A few flurries for Montreal, high minus 2. Flurries continue over the Maritimes, with highs of 3 in Fredericton, 2 in Halifax and minus 1 in Charlottetown. Snow and zero in St. John's. Partly cloudy in Whitehorse with a high of 5. A few flurries and minus 1 for Yellowknife. And for Iqaluit, snow and minus 13.

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