Wednesday, March 9, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

FOOD PRICE HONEYMOON NEARING END


Canadians are being warned to expect to pay more for the food they eat. While global food prices have reached an all-time high, Canadians have been spared to a large extent because of a strong currency and fierce competition among food retailers. But economists are now predicting that prices will move up by five to seven per cent by the end of the year. Key commodity ingredients like wheat, corn, sugar and vegetable oil have gone up as much as 50 to 100 per cent over the last year. Those increases are predicted to filter through the system in the months ahead. Maureen Fitzhenry, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Wheat Board, says the price of wheat has nearly doubled in the last few months, but the cost of wheat itself only makes up for about 15 cents of the price of a loaf of bread. The rest comes from processing, packaging, preservatives, overhead, transport costs and other factors. She says higher fuel expenses are more likely to affect consumers than the higher price of wheat.

CANADIANS TOP SURFERS


Canadians are spending more time online than anyone else, and the growth in Internet usage in Canada is being led by users who are 55 and older. According to measurement firm comScore, Canadians spent 43.5 hours online a month in the fourth quarter of 2010. That was nearly double the worldwide average, and eight hours more than users in the US, the second-most plugged-in nation. Canada's web population grew about 2 per cent in the last year to nearly 25 million, thanks to a 12 per cent growth spurt in the number of older users, a phenomenon seen right across the world. Social media usage by older users also spiked significantly.

CANADIANS SOUGHT IN MAFIA ROUNDUP


Arrest warrants have been issued in Canada as part of an Italian crackdown on organized crime. Police in Germany and Italy arrested 35 alleged mafia members on Tuesday, and have secured three arrest warrants in Canada and two in Australia. The targets of all the warrants are accused of recycling illicit funds from Italy into shops and small construction businesses.

PEDOPHILE SENTENCED


A judge in Pittsburgh has sentenced a former Canadian police officer to 10-and-a-half years behind bars. 60-year-old Paul Maher pleaded guilty to travelling with intent to engage in illicit sex with a 14-year-old girl. In reality, Maher, formerly of the Ottawa police department, was corresponding online with a police officer.

KNOCKED-OFF


Two European fashion house have launched legal action against companies in Vancouver and Toronto, alleging trademark violation. Louis Vuitton and Burberry claim that the firms are importing counterfeit fashions from China bearing their brands. The lawsuit, seeking millions of dollars in damages, names Vancouver-based Singga Enterprises and Carnation Fashion Company, along with Altech Productions of Toronto.

WOMEN BLOCKED


A survey of close to 300 private and public Canadian organizations reveals that the vast majority - 82 per cent - have no clear strategy for encouraging women to enter leadership positions. A spokesman for Mercer Canada, the employment agency which conducted the survey for International Women's Day, said it was surprising to find the glass ceiling so strong in a country like Canada which, she noted, is recognized as an open culture. Canada lagged behind both the US and the rest of the world. In the US, 70 per cent of companies surveyed lacked strategies for promoting women, compared to 71 per cent internationally.

JOBS OUTLOOK BRIGHTENS


The outlook for Canadians looking for work appears to be brightening. According to the latest quarterly survey prepared by Manpower, a job placement agency, the number of Canadian employers planning new hires in the second quarter of the year is up slightly from the comparable period in 2010. The survey showed mining as the strongest sector for hiring, followed by services, transportation and utilities, and construction.

MOST OIL WORKERS FREED


All but one of 23 oil workers kidnapped Monday in Colombia are now free. The governor of the state in which the abductions occurred was still hazy on the details of the release, but credited pressure from army troops. He said 21 men were released and another managed to escape and is now in the care of the army. The fate of the 23rd man is unknown. The oil workers, believed Colombian nationals, were employed by a subcontractor for Canada's Talisman Energy. They were taken by armed men Monday from a site about 600-kms east of Bogota. Officials said rebels and criminal gangs operate in the region, home to coca leaf cultivation.

OPPOSITION PARTY PREPARES FOR BUDGET VOTE


The leader of Canada's opposition New Democratic Party, Jack Layton, is due to leave hospital within days after undergoing hip surgery. Deputy leader Thomas Mulcair says Mr. Layton is expected to be ready for the March 22nd federal budget. There's speculation that the New Democrats might support the budget while the two other opposition parties, the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois, will vote against it. If the New Democrats decide to join the two opposition parties and defeat the budget, the minority Conservative Party government would be forced to call a general election. The last one was held in October, 2008.

YOUTH CRIME BILL CRITICIZED


Child advocates in Canada say the federal government's proposed tough-on-crime bill targeting youth will result in more offences. The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates, says jailing more young people and handing out adult sentences is not the answer to reducing crime. The Council says provinces must invest in programs that will prevent youth from committing crimes in the first place. It wants the bill eliminated.

GOVERNMENT IGNORES POVERTY REPORT


The Canadian government has no plans to act on a House of Commons report on how to fight poverty. The Commons human resources committee took three years to assemble a list of 58 recommendations that would give the federal government a major role in the anti-poverty effort. The report calls for a new federal transfer payment to complement provincial anti-poverty programs and pushes for a national housing strategy. But Human Resources Minister Diane Finley says the government is already doing what it takes to fight poverty. She says the government has improved the labour market and invested in housing through its Economic Action Plan.


LIBYA


Moammar Gadhafi's forces have launched a final onslaught on the western Libyan city of Zawiyah. Rebels still control the central square, but loyalist forces are using tanks and aircraft to bombard the town. Many buildings, including mosques, had been destroyed, and rebel forces have calling on residents over loud hailers to help defend their positions. Zawiyah, a town of about 200-thousand, has been the focus of heavy fighting for days. The town is one of only two big population centres still defying Gadhafi's rule outside the main rebel stronghold in the east of Libya. In the east, warplanes continue to bomb rebel positions around the oil port of Ras Lanuf. In Washington, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed Tuesday to plan a "full spectrum" of action on Libya, including a possible no-fly zone, surveillance and a relief effort. Britain and France have been drawing up a draft UN Security Council resolution on a no-fly zone which could be presented as early as this week.

KENYA


The International Criminal Court has summoned six leading Kenyans to face crimes against humanity charges for the deadly postelection violence that tore through the country after its disputed 2007 presidential vote. Among those called to appear in court were Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, former higher education minister William Ruto, Minister of Industrialization Henry Kiprono Kosgey and Cabinet secretary Francis Kirimi Muthaura.

IVORY COAST


Soldiers backing Ivory Coast's rogue leader Laurent Gbagbo opened fire on civilians again today, killing at least four people. According to medics and other witnesses, the four were killed following a rally by hundreds of supporters of Alassane Ouattara, who was Gbagbo's challenger in November's run-off. Despite mediation, sanctions and the threat of intervention, the incumbent has refused to hand power to Ouattara, who is internationally regarded as the winner of the run-off election. Tuesday's killings follow the shooting deaths of seven women at a rally last week.

PAKISTAN


25 dead and 154 injured. That's the latest casualty count in a car bombing Tuesday in Faisalabad in Pakistan's Punjab province. The car, packed with an estimated 40 kilograms of explosives, was parked next to a filling station. Authorities say it was not a suicide bombing. Faisalabad city is near the home of a Christian government minister who was killed in a hail of bullets in Islamabad last week over his opposition to the country's strict Islamic blasphemy laws.

CHECHNYA


On the occasion of International Women's Day, the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, dismissed suggestions that he is imposing strict Islamic rules on women in the Russian republic. Rights activists have said that Kadyrov's government has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that forces most women to wear headscarves. Kadyrov denied exerting any pressure on those reluctant to adhere to Islamic dress. He said if he did that he would be "removed tomorrow". Kadyrov has also defied Russian law by encouraging Chechen men to have more than one wife. Kadyrov has ruled Chechnya with an iron hand since succeeding his father, who was killed in a rebel bombing in May 2004. He has been strongly backed by Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.

ISRAEL


Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak says Israel is likely to offer Palestinians a state within temporary borders. The comment indicates for the first time an emerging Israeli plan for breaking the deadlocked peace negotiations that collapsed last September. However, the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected provisional statehood. But Mr. Barak told The Wall Street Journal that Israel or the United States would have to give assurances that a full-fledged agreement on permanent statehood would follow. No details of the plan were given.

AFGHANISTAN


Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai is warning his people that the coming year will be difficult as US-led forces start handing over responsibility for the country's security to Afghan forces. He says some of the difficulties willinclude the attempt to start peace talks with the Taliban, Afghanistan's future relationship with the United States, and the transition from coalition troops to Afghan forces. The Afghan government has pledged to take over security gradually starting this year with the goal of overseeing the entire country by 2014. Canada, a member of the Afghan NATO-force, is pulling out its forces this summer and will replace them with training teams.

CHINA


A research group say China is building its military capability at a rapid pace despite the global financial crisis. The International Institute for Strategic Studies says that the 7.5 per cent growth in the Chinese defence budget in 2010 was greater than most countries. However, the Institute says China remains a regional power with regional concerns that include the status of Taiwan and disputes in the East and South China Seas. The report also mentions that the world's military powers were watching China closely as it begins to explore operations beyond its regional sphere.

MEXICO


A shoot-out between rival gangs in Mexico Monday has left 18 people dead in Tamaulipas state. Tamaulipas, located on the border with the US state of Texas, has been hit hard during the past year by the drug violence surging across Mexico. More than 34,000 people have been killed in clashes between rival cartels and security operations since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a massive military crackdown on the drug gangs in 2006.

GUATEMALA


The head of a Guatemalan commission on murdered women is concerned that the killings of women continue unabated in the country. Alba Trejo says to reduce the violence, the government has to enforce the laws. The rights group Amnesty International says 685 women were killed in 2010. The group says that women are dying as a consequence of the state's failure to protect them.


MARKETS


The S&P/TSX composite index fell 79.38 points to 14,012.97. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 124.35 points to reach 12,214.38. The S&P 500 index rose 11.69 points to 1,321.82, while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 20.14 points to 2,765.77. The Canadian dollar advanced 0.15 of a cent to close at 102.94 cents US on Tuesday. The U.S. dollar stood at 97.14 cents Cdn, down 0.15 of a cent. Pound sterling closed at C$1.5700, down 0.65 of a cent and US$1.6162, down 0.42 of a cent. The euro was worth C$1.3507, down 0.89 of a cent.

HERITAGE OIL


Uganda and Tullow Oil have resolved a tax dispute that was delaying efforts to build a refinery in the west of the country, officials familiar with the negotiations told AFP Tuesday. The dispute arose last year after Canada's Heritage Oil sold its Ugandan assets to Tullow, but refused to pay $404 million dollars in tax that Kampala said the Canadian firm owed in the $1.45 billion transaction. Heritage argued that since capital gains tax law was not in place when it began operations, it was not obliged to pay. It nonetheless paid $121 million and deposited the rest in an escrow account pending arbitration of the dispute. When finalised, the deal will allow the Anglo-Irish firm Tullow to sell one third of its assets in Uganda to France's Total and China's CNOOC, clearing the way for a $10-billion refinery in Uganda's oil rich Lake Albert region.

TALISMAN


South African petrochemical giant Sasol has signed a $1.1-billion (770-million-euro) deal to buy a 50-percent stake in a shale gas field owned by Canadian energy firm Talisman, Sasol said Tuesday. The deal, the companies' second in three months, will see Sasol and Talisman split ownership of Talisman's Cypress A shale gas assets in the western province of British Columbia, a 57,000-acre (23,000-hectare) field with an estimated 11.2 trillion cubic feet of (317 billion cubic metres) of natural gas, Sasol said in a statement. The two firms signed a similar deal in December to split ownership of Talisman's nearby Farrell Creek shale gas assets, which hold an estimated 9.6 trillion cubic feet of gas.

QUEBECOR


Quebecor Inc. reported a lower quarterly profit of $43.5 million with the cost of launching its wireless division to attract cellphone customers affecting its fourth-quarter results. Quebecor (TSX:QBR.A) said it earned 68 cents per share, down from $1.15 per share in the same quarter last year on a profit of $73.8million.

SCOTIABANK


Scotiabank has surprised observers by becoming the second Canadian bank to boost its dividend payments this year. It announced plans to bump its quarterly dividend payments by three cents to 52 cents per share. Scotiabank also reported that its profit rose to 1.17-billion dollars in its fiscal first quarter, an increase from 988-million a year earlier.


National Hockey League


No Canadian-based teams played on Monday.

The Brier


Jeff Stoughton and Kevin Martin survived early scares and continued to lead the way at the 2011 Brier after comeback wins Tuesday morning. Down 3-1 after three ends to Jamie Koe of the Territories, Manitoba's Stoughton roared back for a 10-4 win to run his record at the Canadian men?s curling championship to 6-0. Meanwhile, Martin, had a much tougher time. Down 3-0 after the first end to Shawn Adams of Nova Scotia and 6-4 after five ends, the Alberta skip got a crucial steal of one in the seventh and cracked a three in the ninth for a 9-7 victory to improve to 5-1. On Monday, Martin's impressive run at the Brier came to an end. He lost to Newfoundland and Labrador's Brad Gushue 9-4 to snap a 30-game winning streak at the event.

Major League Baseball


Canadian Justin Morneau Tuesday batted for the first time since a concussion knocked him out lastJuly 7. The 2006 AL MVP played first base for the Minnesota Twinsin a "B" game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit into a fielder's choice in his first at-bat and then drove in three runs with a double down the line, drawing a loud cheer from the small crowd. The native of New Westminster, BC, was kneed in the head sliding into second base against the Toronto Blue Jays just before the all-star break and has been working his way back.

National Football League


The NFL and the players' union continued their mediated talks on Tuesday to avoid a work stoppage. The major issues are how to divide $9 billion US in revenue, expanding the regular season to 18 games, a rookie wage scale and health benefits for retired players. After two extensions, the league's collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of Friday.


MARCH 9, 2011


Vancouver, rain with a forecast high temperature of 10 degrees Celsius. Sunny with cloudy periods, a high of plus 5, in Calgary. Clearing skies and minus-8 in Regina. Cloudy, minus-6, in Winnipeg. Cloudy with snow changing to afternoon rain and plus-2 in Toronto. Afternoon snow, minus-3, in Ottawa. Sunny with cloudy periods, some evening snow in Montreal, a high of zero. Sunny and minus-2 in Fredericton. Sunny with cloudy periods, minus-5, in Charlottetown. Sunny and minus-2 in Halifax. Flurries and freezing drizzle, minus-1, in St. John's. Cloudy with sunny periods, a chance of flurries, minus-12, in Whitehorse. Sunny, minus-27, in Yellowknife. A mix of sun and cloud, minus-20, in Iqaluit.