Saturday, March 26, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

GOVERNMENT FALLS ON CONTEMPT VOTE


Canadians will be voting in a spring federal election, following the defeat of the Conservative government in the House of Commons. MPs voted 156-145 in favour of an opposition Liberal motion citing Stephen Harper's minority Tories for contempt of Parliament, and expressing non-confidence in the government. The contempt charge marks a first for a national government anywhere in the Commonwealth. The Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, also in opposition, supported the Liberal motion. Prime Minister Harper is set to visit the Governor General's residence Saturday morning to ask him to dissolve the 40th Parliament, thus launching the election campaign - the fourth in seven years. The date of the election has yet to be announced, but will most certainly fall in May. The Conservatives have been in power since 2006, with two successive minority governments.

SPEAKER RETIRES


The defeat of the Conservative government on Friday coincided with the end of Peter Milliken's career as Speaker of the House of Commons. It's a post he's held for ten years - longer than any previous Speaker in Canadian history. Emerging from the ranks of the Liberal Party, the 64-year-old expert in the procedures and practices of Parliament was hailed by both sides of the House for his fairness and good judgment. After 3,707 days presiding over an often raucous and unruly House of Commons, Mr. Milliken is retiring.

CANADIAN TO LEAD NO-FLY MISSION


A Canadian officer will take over command of the NATO mission in Libya. Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard has been designated as head of the alliance's military campaign. He will work with NATO's naval and air commands to enforce the no-fly zone that aims to protect Libyan civilians. NATO on Thursday agreed to take control of enforcing a no-fly zone. The United States is expected to relinquish command this weekend. Lt-Gen. Bouchard, who was born in Chicoutimi, Quebec, was most recently the deputy commander of NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

SEAL DISPUTE TO WTO


The World Trade Organization will arbitrate a dispute been Canada and the European Union over the import of Canadian seal pelts. Over Canada's objections, the European Union closed its borders to seal products last year when an EU court allowed the ban to proceed. The EU says its law banning seal product imports respects its international obligations while responding to the concerns expressed by its citizens over the manner in which the seals are killed. Exports of seal pelts and other seal products from Canada to the EU are worth only a few million dollars, but Canada is keen to preserve the livelihoods of people in coastal and northern communities who depend on the annual seal harvest. The issue will now go before a panel of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body, a process that could take as long as 18-months.

DOER SAYS HE'S WORKING HARD IN OIL SALES


Canada's ambassador in Washington says he's been working hard to sell Americans on Canadian oil. Gary Doer says few Americans know that Canada is their biggest supplier of oil - bigger even than Saudi Arabia. Mr. Doer, a former premier of the prairie province of Manitoba, says he's been trying to offset the negative perceptions of the Alberta oilsands by appealing to American concerns about high unemployment. Mr. Doer made the comments to the Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters Association in Montreal on Thursday. He noted that 900 US companies employing tens of thousands of workers currently supply Alberta's oilsands. A report done for the US government also concluded the Keystone XL pipeline being proposed by TransCanada Corp. would reduce America's dependency on Mideast oil and create 20,000 high-paying jobs in the US. Environmental groups, however, call the pipeline an ecological disaster waiting to happen and say the oilsands produce dirty oil that requires huge amounts of energy to extract.

INCREASE IN OILSANDS ANTI-POLLUTION EFFORTS ANNOUNCED


Canada's federal government has announced a stepped-up effort to protect against pollution from Alberta's oilsands industry. Environment Minister Peter Kent says new monitoring stations will be set up along the Athabasca River from Fort McMurray to Wood Buffalo National Park. Mr. Kent says the increased monitoring will cost about $20 million a year. He said industry will pay most of the costs. He says the new system will combine air and water monitoring data in response to concerns that some pollutants are falling from smokestacks. The announcement is in response to recommendations from a federally appointed panel of scientists. The panel was created last fall after several scientific reports found oilsands contaminants in the Athabasca river at levels toxic to fish.

ANKYLOSAUR UNEARTHED IN ALBERTA

The province of Alberta has yielded many fossils over the years, but the latest discovery - a 110-million-year-old dinosaur - comes as a surprise. It was discovered this week in northern Alberta, in an area that was covered with water millions of years ago and which today is being exploited for oil. Donald Henderson, a curator at Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum, which is devoted to dinosaurs, said that because the area was once a sea, most finds are invertebrates such as clams and ammonites. The ankylosaur that was found by an oil worker is expected to be about 5 meters long and 2 meters wide. Mr. Henderson said it is the earliest complete dinosaur uncovered in Alberta.

NATO-LIBYA


NATO has agreed to take control of enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya as coalition air strikes were launched for a seventh straight day on Friday. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday that after lengthy negotiations the 28-member alliance reached a deal to enforce the no-fly zone. The man named to head the NATO command is Canada's Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard. Meanwhile, coalition warplanes pounded Colonel Gadhafi's forces in the strategic eastern town of Ajdabiya, boosting rebel efforts to launch new offensives. Plumes of smoke filled the sky as the pace of air strikes escalated. Terrified residents were fleeing the city, 160 kilometers south of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Anti-aircraft fire raked the Libyan skies overnight, with at least three explosions shaking the capital Tripoli and the eastern suburb of Tajura.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - LIBYA


The United Arab Emirates will deploy 12 planes to help the mission to protect civilians in Libya. The UAE becomes the second Arab country after Qatar to send planes to aid the military operation. Qatar is expected to start flying air patrols over Libya by this weekend. No other members of the 22-member Arab League have,so far, publicly committed to taking an active role. The Arab League urged the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

JAPAN


In Japan, nuclear safety officials say they suspect a reactor core at one unit of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant may have damaged by the earthquake and tsunami that struck two weeks ago. That raises the possibility of more severe radioactive contamination to the environment. The new safety scare is a setback to urgent efforts to restore power to the all-important cooling systems at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The reactor is a particular concern because it is the only one of six at the ageing facility to use a potentially volatile mix of uranium and plutonium. A hydrogen explosion badly damaged the unit's outer building on March 14, and a partial meltdown is also suspected. Two workers at the plant were hospitalised Thursday with radiation burns after stepping in highly radioactive water in the basement of the number three reactor's turbine building. Japan's police agency says the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has topped 10,000. The agency lists almost 17,500 people as missing. Hundreds of thousands of survivors are still camped out in temporary shelters, while some 660,000 households don't have water and more than 209,000 don't have electricity.

IVORY COAST


The UN refugee agency said on Friday that up to one million Ivorians have now fled fighting in the main city Abidjan alone, with others uprooted across the country. Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman of the UNHCR told a news briefing in Geneva that the massive displacement is being fuelled by fears of all-out war. Ivory Coast has descended to the verge of civil war following a disputed election in November last year which Alassane Ouattara is recognised internationally to have won. Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down, saying the results were rigged. France and Nigeria called on world powers to sanction the incumbent leader and his inner circle and ban heavy weapons in Abidjan.

BURMA


The official casualty toll in the earthquake that struck in Burma Thursday is now at 75 dead and more than 100 injured. Nearly 400 homes collapsed in four villages and towns close to the epicentre, with nine government offices and several monasteries also destroyed. Aftershocks continued into Friday. The quake comes two weeks after Japan was hit. Myanmar and Japan sit on different tectonic plates, separated by the vast Eurasian plate. No tsunami warning was issued after the Myanmar quake as seismologists said it was too far inland to generate a devastating wave in the Indian Ocean.

YEMEN


Hundreds of thousands of rival demonstrators gathered for separate rallies in Yemen's capital on Friday. The demonstrations come a week after loyalists of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh killed more than 50 people. Anti-regime protesters poured into a square near Sanaa University where they have been camped since Feb. 21st. Regime loyalists crowded a nearby square in response to a call from the longtime president. The army and opposition activists set up separate checkpoints at entrances the square near the university, searching people entering and leaving the epicentre of the revolt against Mr. Saleh's three-decade rule. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in south Yemen's main city of Aden on Friday against Mr. Saleh's rule and thecountry's state of emergency.

SYRIA


Tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country Friday in the most widespread civil unrest in years. According to witnesses, they shouted their support for the uprising in the southern city of Daraa, defying crowds of government backers and baton-wielding security forces. The capital Damascus was tense, with convoys of young Syrians roaming the streets in their cars, honking incessantly and waving pictures of President Bashar Assad and Syrian flags. The convoys briefly blocked streets in some areas. Outside Damascus's famous Ummayad Mosque, scores of people gathered, chanting pro-Assad slogans when a small group of people began shouting opposing slogans in support of the Daraa martyrs. In Daraa, security forces appeared to be trying to reduce tension by dismantling checkpoints and ensuring there was no visible army presence on the streets for the first time since last Friday, when the protests began. Rattled by the unrest, the Syrian government Thursday pledged to consider lifting some of the Mideast's most repressive laws in an attempt to stop the weeklong uprising from spreading and threatening its nearly 50-year rule. But the promises were immediately rejected by many activists who called for demonstrations around the country on Friday in response to a crackdown that protesters say killed dozens of anti-government marchers in Daraa.

ISRAEL


The Israeli military is deploying a new missile defence system along the country's borders. Defence Minister Ehud Barak described it as the first battery in a system designed to protect Israel from rocket attacks. He said it would be years before the system is fully equipped. The "Iron Dome" rocket system uses cameras and radar to track incoming rockets and shoot them down within seconds of their launch. It was developed in Israel at cost of more than $200 million. Violence along the Gaza border has escalated for several weeks. Last Saturday, Gaza militants bombarded southern Israel. Also this week, Israeli shelling missed its target and killed three children and their uncle in Gaza. As the violence increased on the border, a bomb exploded at a bus stop in Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing a British tourist and injuring dozens of Israelis.

JORDAN


Government supporters hurled large stones at a pro-reform demonstration by students in the Jordanian capital Amman on Friday, injuring at least 57 protesters. Witnesses said about 200 people attacked the sit-in, in which around 2,000 youths from different movements, including the powerful Islamist opposition, took part to call for reforms to the current regime and more efforts to fight corruption. Despite the attack, the second of its kind in as many days, students remained at the demonstration next to the Interior Circle, or Gamal Abdel Nasser Square, in the capital. On Thursday night, government supporters attacked the young protesters with stones, injuring at least 30 people.

BAHRAIN


A prominent Shiite cleric in Bahrain says "brutal force" used against protesters seeking to loosen the Sunni monarchy's monopoly on power will not drown out their demands for reform in the Gulf kingdom. Sheikh Isa Qassim says Bahrain's Shiite majority will continue demanding rights and dignity despite the rulers' resolve to crush the month-long uprising in the Gulf state, the home of the US Navy's 5th Fleet. The cleric was speaking at a Friday sermon in Duraz, a Shiite village and an opposition stronghold northwest of the capital, Manama. Thousands attended the service despite a ban on public gatherings. Security was tight, with police and army deployed around the island. Helicopters and two fighter jets circled above.

PAKISTAN


Thirteen people were killed when gunmen opened fire Friday on two vehicles carrying Shiite Muslims in Pakistan's lawless tribal region in suspected sectarian violence. Another 11 people were wounded when the vehicles were ambushed in Bagan, in Kurram district near the Afghan border. A security official said the victims "were all Shiite Muslims." The area has a history of sectarian clashes between Pakistan's majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shiites.

MEXICO


Mexican authorities said Thursday they had arrested the local leader of the dreaded Zetas drug cartel along with seven other suspects in the Caribbean beach resort of Cancun. The defence ministry said in a statement that Victor Manuel Delgado Medrano, "a member of the Zetas criminal organization and head of the territory of the city of Cancun," had been captured. It said a woman, assumed to have been kidnapped, was freed during the operation, which also uncovered several weapons. The ministry did not provide further information on how the men were caught or what charges would be brought against them. The Zetas gang was founded in the 1990s by elite soldiers who quit to become hit men for the Gulf cartel, with which they are now at war over lucrative distribution routes. Mexico has been convulsed by drug violence, with nearly 35,000 people killed in the four years since President Felipe Calderon launched a massive military operation to try to wipe out the cartels.

HUNGARY


Prosecutors say three men on trial for a series of deadly attacks against Roma in Hungarian villages planned their actions with "military caution." Prosecutors say the men, charged with murder, used shotguns and fire bombs in nine late-night strikes between July 2008 and August 2009. Six people, including a young man and his five-year-old son, were killed and five others seriously wounded. A fourth man is on trial for lesser charges connected to the attacks. Relatives of the victims, survivors of the attacks, Roma politicians and dozens of journalists attended Friday's first session of the trial. A verdict is not expected before December. Prosecutors say the accused were motivated in part by vigilantism.

RUSSIA


The last known living relative of Vladimir Lenin, Olga Ulyanova, has died at the age of 89. She was a niece of the Soviet founder. A professional chemist, she wrote several books about her uncle and family. Lenin died in 1924. He had no children.


MARKETS


The S&P/TSX composite index gained 10.02 points to 14,039.39 while a stronger U.S. dollar pushed the Canadian currency down 0.58 of a cent to 101.86 cents US. Pound sterling closed at C$1.5738, up 0.15 of a cent and US$1.6031, down 0.75 of a cent. The euro was worth C$1.3823, down 0.08 of a cent. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 50.03 points, or 0.41 percent, to end at 12,220.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 4.14 points, or 0.32 percent, to 1,313.80. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 6.64 points, or 0.24 percent, to closeat 2,743.06. The May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost 20 cents to US$105.40 a barrel.


CURLING


Canada's Amber Holland is off to the playoffs at the world women's curling championship. The Regina rink earned a tense 8-6 tie-breaker victory over Switzerland today. With the win, the Canadians will face Denmark in the Page 3 versus 4 playoff contest tomorrow.

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE


Thursday's results: Boston shut out Montreal 7-0, Ottawa defeated the New York Rangers 2-1 in a shootout, Toronto defeated Colorado 4-3 and St. Louis shut out Edmonton 4-0..... In other NHL news, Former Sabres forward Rick Martin was remembered for his goal-scoring intensity and playful personality during a memorial service in Buffalo on Thursday. French Connection linemate Gilbert Perreault called Martin a great entertainer. His other linemate, Rene Robert, celebrated Martin by pulling out a can of beer and a cigar, saying "this one's for you my friend." The 59-year-old Martin died of complications due to heart disease while driving his car in suburban Buffalo 11 days ago.

SNOWBOARD


Canada's Dominique Maltais clinched the women's snowboard cross Crystal Globe after finishing fourth Thursday in Arosa, Switzerland in the next-to- last World Cup race of the season. Maltais, finished just off the podium, with Bulgaria's Alexandra Jekova winning gold, American Callan Chythlook-Sifsof finishing second, and Britain's Zoe Gillings finishing third. Canadian Carle Brenneman was fifth. Maltais dominated the overall standings with 4,800 points with the final race of the season scheduled for Friday.

CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE


The Calgary Stampeders have signed Canadian running back Jon Cornish to a contract extension. Cornish averaged 7.3 yards per rush last season -- tops in the CFL among running backs with at least 50 carries. Cornish is entering his fifth season with Calgary.

CYCLING


Alberto Contador's contaminated-beef defence will again be put to the test. Cycling's governing body decided Thursday to appeal the Tour de France champion's doping acquittal. Contador was cleared after testing positive during a rest day in last year's race. He blamed the finding on eating contaminated beef.


SATURDAY, MARCH 26TH


Rain and 11 in Vancouver. Variable skies with flurries in Edmonton and Calgary, with highs of minus 2 and minus 1. It's back to sunshine for points east: Winnipeg 1, Toronto zero, Ottawa minus 1, and Montreal zero. The sun will peek through over Atlantic Canada, but accompanied by snowflurries, with highs of minus 2 in Frederiction, plus 1 in Halifax, minus 3 in Charlottetown and minus 1 in St. John's. Variable skies for Whitehorse and Yellowknife, with highs of 7 and zero. Iqaluit, snow and minus 4.