Friday, March 18, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Foreign Affairs issues advisory

The Foreign Affairs Department is advising Canadians in Japan to stay at least 80 kilometres from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant. The department also says Canadians should think about leaving Tokyo and other earthquake-devastated areas of Japan. Foreign Affairs has chartered two buses to take Canadians away from the areas hardest hit by last week's earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But unlike a growing number of countries, Canada is not evacuating citizens from Japan on special flights.

Ambassador: "We will one day stand up"

Japan's ambassador to Canada Kaoru Ishikawa says the Japanese know what Japan looked like on Aug. 15, 1945, and he has no doubt they will overcome this time. Japan is the only country in the world to have been the victim of an atomic attack, an event that is in the living memory of many Japanese. Mr. Ishikawa was speaking in Montreal during his first official visit to the province of Quebec since becoming ambassador to Canada last year. Referring to Canada, the ambassador said: "We need your moral support. We need the encouragement. We need the compassion. But we will one day stand up."

Groups pressure Ontario on nuclear reactors

Greenpeace has joined Ontario nurses in making an "urgent appeal" to the province to indefinitely delay public hearings on building new nuclear reactors. Greenpeace analyst Shawn-Patrick Stensil says fears of a nuclear meltdown in Japan should be enough for the province of Ontario to reconsider the safety of nuclear power. Meanwhile, Doris Grinspun of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, is urging the governing provincial Liberals and the opposition to give "sober second thought" to their nuclear energy plans. Ms. Grinspun cites health risks, high costs and the availability of safer alternative energy sources. But the Ontario government shows no signs of slowing down its plans to build two new units at Darlington nuclear station on the shores of Lake Ontario, east of Toronto.

Tamil refugee ordered deported

A Sri Lankan migrant who arrived off the West Coast of Canada last year among nearly 500 passengers on the MV Sun Sea has been ordered deported from Canada. The order was issued after he admitted he voluntarily joined the Tamil Tigers as a young man, about two decades ago. His lawyer, Shepherd Moss says his client was assigned to protect Tamil citizens passing into Tiger-controlled territory, and he insists he didn't participate in combat. Mr. Moss says the man asked to leave several years later, and was punished before he was eventually discharged from the banned terrorist group, known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Immigration and Refugee Board member Daphne Shaw Dyck says she's required by the law to issue a deportation order, making the man the second Sun Sea passenger to be ordered removed from Canada after admitting membership in the Tamil Tigers.

RCMP investigating former Harper aide

A man who spent years as one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's top advisers is now under investigation by the RCMP. Bruce Carsen left the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) nearly two years ago to head the Canada School of Energy and Environment - a federally-funded think tank in Calgary, Alberta. He has now stepped away from that job while police investigate allegations that he unlawfully lobbied Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the minister's office on behalf of a water company looking to sell filtration systems to native reserves.

MacKay ends Afghanistan tour

Canada's Defence Minister Peter MacKay has concluded a multi-day tour of Afghanistan. It has taken him to several sites where the Canadian military could be stationed after combat operations wind down in July. The Canadians, who have been in the country since early 2002, will then begin a new training phase of their mission. The minister says there will be a medical component to the training, in addition to ongoing efforts to strengthen the Afghan National Security Forces.

High court to decide on Niqab

The Supreme Court of Canada will decide if a woman may testify in court with her face covered. A lower court ruled earlier that witnesses who wear the face-covering niqab must remove it on the stand, but only if wearing it truly jeopardizes the accused's right to a fair trial. Two men, both relatives of the woman, who stand accused of sexually assaulting her, argue her veil violates their right to face their accuser in court. The case was taken to the country's highest court which has agreed to hear it.

Value of boreal forest recognized

A study commissioned in the United States urges Canada to do all it can to protect its vast boreal forest. The northern woodlands stretch right across much of Canada, from the Atlantic into Alaska and contain the world's highest concentrations of large wetlands, lakes, and rivers without dams. The report, funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, says Canada's boreal watershed has been less affected by development than those in Russia and Europe, because much of it is less accessible. But the authors warn that technology is overcoming that natural protection. They insist that the region's wetlands and peatbogs are of international importance in the battle against climate change by storing up to 25 year's worth of man-made carbon emissions.

Air India suspect sues

One of the two suspects acquitted in the bombing of an Air India flight in 1985 is suing both federal and provincial justice officials. Ajaib Singh Bagri contends his charter rights were violated by the failed prosecution. He was arrested and tried for murder in the deaths of more than 300 people killed when Flight 182 was blown up over the coast of Ireland. Mr. Bagri is hoping to recoup those legal costs, plus damages. To date, no one has been convicted in the bombing.

Air Canada shrinks US presence

Air Canada is scaling back some of its operations in the US as a way to counter rising fuel costs. It will suspend six unprofitable routes starting May 1st. They include Calgary-Chicago, Calgary-San Francisco, and Montreal-Washington Dulles.

Libya-UN authorizes action

The UN Security Council has approved a resolution that authorizes member states to take all necessary measures to protect civilians from attacks by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces. The vote late Thursday was 10 to zero in favour of the measure with five abstentions, including Russia and China. The vote could open the way for the imposition of a no-fly zone, or even strikes by Western militaries on Gadhafi's ground troops and armour. In Libya, troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi pushed toward the insurgent stronghold of Benghazi Thursday and launched air raids on its outskirts. But a rebel spokesman denied a state television report that government troops were on the outskirts of Benghazi itself, the city where the revolution started. The state television also reported that government troops had taken Zueitina, an oil port on the coastal highway, 130 kms from Benghazi, but the rebels said they had surrounded the pro-Gaddafi units on the approaches to the town. Al Arabiya television reported clashes around Ajdabiyah, a strategic town on the coast road, killed around 30 people. In Libya's third city, Misrata, about 200 kms east of Tripoli, rebels and residents said they were preparing for a new attack by Libyan troops, who had shelled the coastal city overnight.


The official number of dead and missing after a devastating earthquake and tsunami that flattened Japan's northeast coast has topped 15-thousand. But there is every likelihood that number will rise as recovery operations continue. The mayor of one coastal town in Miyagi prefecture said late Wednesday that the number of missing there alone was likely to hit 10-thousand. Meanwhile, the US Navy delivered special protective suits and masks to Japan on Thursday to help workers struggling to contain damage at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. France is sending a plane carrying some 100 tonnes of boric acid, an element that dampens radiation. Japanese military helicopters are dumping tonnes of water onto the Fukushima plant in a bid to cover nuclear fuel rods stored in a deep tank. Water levels in the pool have fallen to dangerous levels through evaporation. The Defense Ministry says it has not confirmed whether the water reached the storage pool, though it has reached the inside of the building that houses it. Earlier in the day, police used high-pressure water canons to douse the No.3 reactor from the ground. But the water failed to reach the target, and the operation was suspended due to high radiation levels.


Bahrain rounded up dissidents Thursday as it came under mounting diplomatic pressure to end a bloody crackdown on Shiite-led protesters. Five hardline Shiite activists and one Sunni were rounded up during the night, after a day of violence which left five dead in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. Among those arrested was Hassan Mashaima, a leader of the hardline Shiite Haq group that is seeking to overthrow the Sunni monarchy that has ruled the Shiite-majority island state for 230 years. US President Barack Obama, whose country is a close ally of Bahrain, called King Hamad to express "deep concern," while British Prime Minister David Cameron urged the king to pursue "reform, not repression." King Hamad declared a three-month state of emergency on Tuesday and hundreds of armoured troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have entered the country to help restore security. Bahrain is the home of the US Fifth Fleet and a major regional financial hub. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the intervention of Saudi-led Gulf forces to prop up the Al-Khalifa royal family as "foul and doomed."


Russia's rearmament drive - estimated at $650-Billion - has been described as "misguided". The head of a prestigious Moscow institute that is designing one of Russia's latest ballistic missiles said the new drive could potentially leave the country decades behind the West. Yury Solomonov said the new program intends to "reproduce things that were made decades ago for absolutely unlikely scenarios." The program sees Russia building 100 new ships and acquiring 1,000 helicopters along with 20 submarines and more than 600 warplanes. But analysts say much of the money appeared earmarked for missile programs that seek to ensure Russia's ability to penetrate a new European missile shield proposed by NATO.


Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in exile in South Africa for the past seven years, was to fly out of Johannesburg Thursday night en route to Port-au-Prince. The decision by the ousted leader - twice democratically elected - to return home has caused concern in Washington that his presence will disrupt the scheduled runoff election this weekend. For his part, Mr. Aristide fears the winner of the election might reverse the long-awaited decision to allow his return to Haiti. Both are right-wing candidates long opposed to him. Mr. Aristide is due to arrive in Port-au-Prince at noon on Friday.


Officials say civilians and police were among 35 people killed when US missiles ploughed into a militants' training compound Thursday in Pakistan's northwest. The strike hit in the town of Datta Khel, 40 kilometreswest of Miranshah. It is the main town in tribal North Waziristan. Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayanicondemned the strike as "unjustifiable". He said it hit a meeting of tribal elders, a jirga of "peaceful citizens".


A Tibetan Buddhist monastery in south-western China remained sealed off by police on Thursday after a young monk set himself on fire and died, triggering protests there. Rights groups said the monk's self-immolation on Wednesday - the third anniversary of anti-government unrest in the area - and subsequent death sparked demonstrations near the Kirti monastery. They were broken up by police.


More than 10-thousand anti-government protesters have rallied in Armenia's capital. Opponents of President Serzh Sargsyan have several demands, including the release of their incarcerated colleagues, and snap elections. Their leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, says revolts in the Arab world have inspired the protest movement, but is vowing any change in government will be peaceful. That represents a change of tactics for the combative Ter-Petrosian, who in earlier protests warned of a forceful overthrow. Thursday's rally in Yerevan is the latest in a wave of demonstrations that began in February on the third anniversary of the 2008 violent suppression of a protest after a disputed presidential election.

Closing markets

The Toronto stock market was sharply higher as traders bought up stocks beaten down during a string of losses and hoped that Japan can get a grip on its nuclear crisis. The S&P/TSX composite index ran ahead 221.33 points to 13,746.15. Wall Street also ended higher Thursday after three days of declines. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 159.70 points, or 1.38 percent, at 11,773.00. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 16.71 points, or 1.33 percent, at 1,273.59. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 19.23 points, or 0.73 percent, at 2,636.05. The Canadian dollar settled at 101.39 cents US on Thursday, up 0.56 of a cent. The U.S. dollar stood at 98.63 cents Cdn, down 0.55 of a cent. Pound sterling closed at C$1.5917, up 0.22 of a cent and US$1.6138, up 1.12 cents. The euro was worth C$1.3831, up 0.49 of a cent. Oil gained $3.44 to US$101.42

Wholesale sales

Wholesale sales rose 1.5 per cent in January to $46.7 billion, mainly due to higher sales of motor vehicles and parts and miscellaneous goods. Statistics Canada also reports wholesale sales were up 1.6 per cent by volume in January. It was wholesale's sixth straight monthly increase, with five of seven subsectors advancing, representing nearly 80 per cent of total sales. Machinery, equipment and supplies and farm products posted the only declines in January. The motor vehicle and parts subsector, up 4.9 per cent to $7.9 billion, posted the largest increase. The advance in motor vehicle and parts was entirely the result of a seven per cent sales increase among motor vehicle wholesalers.

Non-resident investments

Non-resident investors added a further $13.3 billion of Canadian securities to their holdings in January, led by increased acquisitions of Canadian bonds. Statistics Canada reports Canadian investors purchased $2 billion in foreign securities over the same period, mainly U.S. stocks. Acquisitions of Canadian bonds by foreign investors amounted to $10.1 billion in January, following a record high investment of $95.9 billion in 2010. Non-residents resumed investment in provincial bonds, purchasing $1.8 billion in January, mainly new short-term bonds denominated in U.S. dollars. Non-residents added a further $1.9 billion of Canadian money market instruments to their portfolios in January, a third straight month of strong investment. Non-residents have accumulated Canadian stocks for six straight months, buying $1.3 billion in January.


There's a possibility that Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty may be able to return from his neck injury in time for theplayoffs. Team doctors say he's scheduled to begin rehab March 26th. He's expected to resume training - with contact - in three to five weeks. Wednesday's results: Toronto defeated Carolina 3-1 and Vancouver defeated Colorado 4-2.


Mike Weir isn't expected to hit another competitive golf shot until the Masters. The Canadian lefty continues to be bothered by a cyst on his left wrist and announced Thursday that he's withdrawn from next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Masters will be held April 7-10 at Augusta National. Weir missed the final four months of last year with torn ligaments in his right elbow and has struggled in his return to the PGA Tour.

Major League Soccer

Vancouver Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit has been called up by the US national team and could miss their second game of the Major League Soccer season. The US plays two friendlies this month, and if DeMerit makes the team, he'll miss Vancouver's first road game at Philadelphia on March 26. DeMerit is battling a groin injury, and is questionable for the Whitecaps' MLS opener Saturday against Toronto.

Friday, March 18, 2011

There will be lots of sunshine over much of the western half of the country on Friday, but Vancouver will endure a rainy day, with a high of 8. Under mainly sunny skies, Edmonton will reach 3, Calgary 5, Saskatoon and Regina 1, Winnipeg minus 5 and Toronto plus 11. From there eastward, it'll be a wet day, with highs of 9 in Ottawa, 9 in Montreal, 6 in Fredericton, 5 in Halifax and 2 in St. John's. Whitehorse, minus 3 with variable skies. Sunshine at both Yellowknife and Iqaluit, with highs of minus 15 and minus 22.