Friday, April 1, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Libya - no Canadian boots


The Nato mission in Libya surfaced Thursday as Canadian political leaders continued their election campaigns. Canada has contributed warplanes, a naval frigate and personnel to the military action, and the mission is currently under the command of a Canadian general. Prime Minister Stephen Harper underlined Thursday that there will be no Canadian boots on the ground in Libya, but he would not say if he believes allies should arm rebels to overthrow dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He says contributing ground troops was never part the mission authorized by Parliament. NDP Leader Jack Layton said he's already warned the prime minister that he's concerned about mission creep and his party would oppose the inclusion of ground troops. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Canada should be working the diplomatic backrooms to get Gadhafi to leave.

Seaway unplugged


The St. Lawrence Seaway, a series of man-made channels, locks and canals connecting the port of Montreal to North America's Great Lakes, has been reopened after a freighter, the BBC Steinhoelft, became stuck early Thursday in Montreal. After losing control, it became wedged between two city bridges, blocking five other vessels trying to get through. Tugboats were deployed and freed the 138-metre long freighter at about 2-pm EDT. There were no injuries nor spills in the incident.

Canada's reputation eroded: Amnesty


Amnesty International is calling on all political party leaders in Canada to use the current federal election campaign to restore Canada's commitment to rights at home and abroad. A new report by the human rights organisation says Canada's reputation as a human rights champion has been eroded in recent years. It cites the government's failure to criticize Israel's human rights, its cuts in funding to certain aid agencies that disagree with the government, and its refusal to repatriate Toronto-born convicted terrorist Omar Khadr from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Election debate - no Greens

Elizabeth May is out - of the debate. The Canadian broadcast consortium behind the televised pre-election leaders' debates has decided not to invite the leader of Canada's Green Party, on the basis it holds no seats in Parliament. The English language debate involving the leaders of the other four main parties will take place on April 12th, and the French language debate on the 14th. Both will be staged in Ottawa.


Bublé betrothed


Canadian crooner Michael Bublé has married Argentine TV actress Luisana Lopilato in a civil ceremony. The Grammy-winning singer of "Crazy Love" and his new wife posed for a mob of fans after tying the knot in downtown Buenos Aires today. They plan a full ceremony with 300 guests next month at a mansion outside Buenos Aires.

Cops back from Afghanistan


Senior Canadian police commanders have concluded a trip to Afghanistan to identify the skills their officers will be teaching Afghans once Canada's training mission begins this summer. Two weeks ago, after his visit to the war-torn country, Defence Minister Peter MacKay acknowledged there was some urgency to define the details of the training mission. At the time, he said the mission would focus on security, medical and literacy skills. A final decision rests with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. RCMP deputy commissioner Bob Paulson, who was a part of the delegation to Afghanistan, says he believes the biggest challenge for Afghan police officers will be engaging with the local population.

Canadian firm named in Guatemalan rape suit


A group of Guatemalan women claim they were assaulted and gang-raped by security and police forces near the operations of a Canadian-owned mining company in 2007. The 11 women are seeking $55 million in damages. The women's claim, as reported by the Vancouver Sun, is that they were assaulted in January of that year near an HMI Nickel site. It happened, they say, during armed evictions of local residents in El Estor, Guatemala. HMI Nickel is a subsidiary group of Toronto-based HudBay Minerals. Both companies are named in the lawsuit. A spokesman for HudBay, however, said the company did not have interests in that region in 2007 and denies the claims.

Travellers to Saudia Arabia barred from blood donation


Anyone who has spent time in Saudi Arabia between the years 1980 and 1996 will no longer be eligible to donate blood collected by Canadian Blood Services. The agency, which collects blood everywhere in Canada - except in the province of Quebec - has imposed the ban after learning of a "probable case" of the rare and fatal degenerative brain disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, in a Canadian resident who lived in Saudi Arabia between 1980 and 1996. They stressed that the person in question was neither a blood donor nor recipient. Saudi Arabia joins several European countries with similar restrictions on blood donation. People who spent three months or more in the United Kingdom or France between 1980 and 1996, or if they have lived in Western Europe for a cumulative total of five years since 1980, are also prevented from donating blood.


Libya - Nato takes charge as minister defects


The Canadian commander of the NATO mission in Libya has issued a blunt warning to the Gadhafi regime. Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard says that anyone attacking civilians would be "ill-advised" to continue. As NATO took over command of all air operations over Libya, Gen. Bouchard said the bloc had already deployed more than 100 fighters and support aircraft to monitor the no-fly zone and prevent attacks on civilians. But the NATO commander was also confronted by claims from a Vatican envoy that air strikes in Tripoli during the night had killed 40 civilians when a building that was struck collapsed. Gen. Bouchard said an investigation is underway, but he was confident that the alleged incident occurred before NATO assumed command from the United States. In the fighting, rebels massed for a counter-attack against Moammar Gadhafi's forces in eastern Libya on Thursday. Despite almost two weeks of Western air strikes, Gadhafi's troops have used superior arms and tactics to push back rebels trying to edge westward along the coast from their eastern stronghold of Benghazi toward the capital, Tripoli. Meanwhile, Libya's foreign minister has defected to Britain. Moussa Koussa is the highest-ranking Libyan official to abandon his post in the face of the attacks on Colonel Gaddafhi. But Mr. Koussa could face criminal proceedings in connection with terrorist activity carried out by the Gaddafhi regime. Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague says that Mr. Koussa has not been granted immunity from prosecution. US President Barack Obama, meanwhile, is facing questions about reports that he's secretly authorized CIA agents to carry out ground operations in Libya. Mr. Obama had publicly insisted that no American ground troops would be sent to Libya.

SYRIA


Syria is forming a judicial committee to study the abolition of the country's emergency law which has been in force since 1963. President Bashar al-Assad is facing domestic pressure unprecedented in his 11-year rule as protests demanding greater freedoms in the country enter their third week. Protesters have called for more rallies across Syria after weekly Muslim prayers on Friday. Activists estimate more than 130 people have been killed in clashes with security forces, mainly in the southern governorate of Daraa and the northern city of Latakia. Officials put the death toll at closer to 30.

AFGHANISTAN


In Afghanistan, NATO soldiers killed two Afghan civilians today after opening fire on a car which the force said had tried to attack a patrol in the city of Kandahar. Civilian casualties in military operations are highly sensitive in Afghanistan as coalition troops including those from Canada try to stop a Taliban-led insurgency ahead of a planned handover of security to Afghan forces. Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai rejected an apology by the commander of the foreign forces, US General David Petraeus, over the deaths of nine children in an air strike in a remote village.

PAKISTAN


A suicide bomb attack against an Islamic party chief killed at least 13 people Thursday in northwest Pakistan. The attack occurred in the town of Charsadda, close to the convoy of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party. Mr. Rehman and members of his group were not harmed. It was the second attack on Mr. Rehman and his supporters in as many days. On Wednesday a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up near a police checkpoint, killing 10 people and wounding more than 20 in the town of Swabi, some 60 kilometres east of Charsadda. Mr. Rehman was on his way to a public meeting in Swabi when that blast happened. It was not immediately clear why Mr. Rehman, a federal Member of Parliament and chairman of Pakistan's parliamentary committee on Kashmir, was being targeted.

JAPAN


The head of a group of independent radiation experts says Japanese authorities grappling with a nuclear disaster must hand out iodine tablets now and as widely as possible to avoid a potential leap in thyroid cancers. France's CRIIRAD group says Japan has underestimated the sensitivity of the thyroid gland to radioactivity and must lower its 100 millisieverts threshold for administering iodine. Corinne Castanier says failure to do so quickly could lead to an even higher jump in thyroid cancer cases in coming years than is anticipated. Meanwhile, Japan's health ministry says it has ordered more tests after a cow slaughtered for beef near the tsunami-stricken nuclear plant was found to have radioactive contamination slightly higher than the legal limit. Officials stressed that the meat was not ever put on the market. Contamination has already been found in vegetables and raw milk near the plant, which has been leaking radiation since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. Also, high levels of radioactive iodine-131 that are 10-thousand times the government safety standard have been found in groundwater below Japan's stricken nuclear plant. And US carriers American and Delta said they were suspending flights to Japan. The decisions come amid fears that Japan's quake, tsunami and persistent nuclear crisis will strike a blow to the aviation industry, which last year counted on trans-Pacific travel as one of the brightest points of growth.

RUSSIA


Since his death in 1924, Vladimir Lenin's embalmed body has lain in state in a mausoleum in Moscow's central Red Square. It's open to the public, although it no longer attracts the huge crowds of the Soviet era. Now, a group that advises the Kremlin on human rights has recommended to President Dmitry Medvedev that Lenin's body be buried as part of a number of steps that it says Russia should take to distance itself from its Communist past. The proposals, published on the website of Memorial, a rights group, said Russia should forge a new identity based on its cultural heritage of writers and poets. The proposals also include a ban on officials' denying the crimes of the Stalin regime, and a ban on street names that honour officials responsible for repression.

RUSSIA


President Dmitry Medvedev has launched a campaign to oust allies of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin from company boards. An order for state officials to stand down from corporate directorships by mid-2011 is among a list of concrete measures. Others include appointing investment envoys across the country and allowing minority shareholders in public firms full access to the companies' books. The Kremlin says the new plan is aimed at improving Russia's poor investment climate. But analysts say it has clear political goals. They say they're designed to thrust Mr. Medvedev to the forefront of Russia's leadership with less than a year to go before presidential elections. The analysts say that the president has repeatedly criticised state corporations for their inefficiency and corruption, but never before has he come out so strongly against Putin allies.

VENEZUELA


Venezuela is dismantling a notorious police force. Officials say a fifth of all crime in the country is committed by members of the security forces including the Metropolitan Police in the capital, Caracas. They have been accused of offenses such as homicides, kidnapping for ransom and armed robberies. Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami says more than half the police unit had already resigned but that some of the others would be retrained and given the opportunity to join the new National Bolivarian Police. Many Venezuelans associated the Metropolitan Police with abuse and extortion. Three senior Metropolitan officers are serving 30-year sentences convicted of killing supporters of president Huigo Chavez during a brief coup against the president in 2002.

MEXICO


The US and Mexican governments are offering multimillion dollar rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for last month's shooting of two US immigration agents. Both countries set up telephone hotlines for individuals to call if they have information. In February, two unarmed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were driving in an armored vehicle on a highway from San Luis Potosi to Mexico City when they were ambushed by suspected drug gang members. One agent was killed while the other was wounded in the leg. Mexican authorities have already detained more than 30 people in connection with the shooting. Mexico's government is trying to crackdown on the drug cartels. During the past four years there have been an estimated 35,000 drug-related killings in Mexico.


MARKETS


The S&P/TSX composite index moved up 32.52 points to 14,116.1.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down 30.88 points (0.25 percent) at 12,319.73. The broad-based S&P 500 index fell 2.43 points (0.18 percent) to 1,325.83, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 4.28 points (0.15 percent) at 2,781.07.

The Canadian dollar settled at 103.14 cents US on Thursday, up 0.19 of a cent. The U.S. dollar stood at 96.96 cents Cdn, down 0.17 of a cent. Pound sterling closed at C$1.5560, down 0.57 of a cent and US$1.6048, down 0.30 of a cent. The euro was worth C$1.3746, up 0.27 of a cent.

GDP


Canada's economic growth is continuing on an upward trajectory. The gross domestic product rose by a half point in January, matching December's growth. Statistics Canada says it was driven by manufacturing and, to a lesser extent, by transportation and wholesale trade.

BOMBARDIER


Bombardier capped a weaker year by beating analyst expectations in the fourth quarter to nearly double profits as its aerospace division revved after being hammered by the effects of the global recession. The Montreal-based train and plane manufacturer, which reports in US dollars, said it earned $325 million or 18 cents per share, in the three months ended Jan. 31. That compared with net income of $179 million or 10 cents a share a year ago.


Sidney Crosby


Canadian Olympic hero Sidney Crosby, sidelined for almost three months with a concussion, said Thursday's return to skating with his Penguins team-mates was a "small step" in his recovery. Crosby last played in an NHL game on January 5th. He participated in Pittsburgh's no-contact skate Thursday as the team prepared for a game against Tampa Bay. "It was a lot of fun to be back out there," Crosby said. "It's just a small step, with a lot to go." Crosby has not yet been cleared for full practice and the Penguins have said they do not expect him back in the NHL regular season. A return to competiton in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs has not been ruled out.

Baseball


The Toronto Blue Jays open the regular season tomorrow against Minnesota. Canadian slugger Justin Morneau will be in the lineup for tomorrow's regular season opener for the Minnesota Twins. Thefirst baseman played in just eight spring training games while working his way back from a concussion. The New Westminster, BC, native missed the last three months of the 2010 season due to the head injury.

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Swimming


World record holder Annamay Pierse of Edmonton withstood a strong challenge from Martha McCabe of Vancouver on Wednesday to win the gold medal in the women's 200-metre breaststroke at the world championship swimming trials in Victoria, BC. Both swimmers will be on the Canadian team for the FINA World Aquatic Championships this July in Shanghai. Ten Canadian swimmers in all earned a place at the tournament.


Friday, April 1, 2011


Unsettled weather for much of the country on Friday: Variable cloudiness with showers for Vancouver, with a high of 10. Sunshine for Alberta, with highs of 6 in Edmonton and 4 in Calgary. Variable cloudiness with snowflurries for Saskatchewan, with highs of 3 in Saskatoon and 1 in Regina. Rain and 6 in Winnipeg. Toronto, 9 and rain. Ottawa, 6 and rain. Montreal, 3 and rain or wet snow. Fredericton, 7 with rain or wet snow. Halifax, 6 with rain or wet snow. Charlottetown, 6 with a few flurries. St. John's, sunny and 4. It'll be mainly sunny, with 4 in Whitehorse. Variable skies with a few flurries and 1 in Yellowknife. Similar conditions in Iqaluit, but colder. High minus 13.