Thursday, April 7, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 6 April 2011
Canadian International Financial Sports


Wednesday was another busy day on the campaign trail for the federal party leaders as they attempted to woo voters for the May 2 general election. Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in the Toronto area, where he outlined a plan to make it easier for newcomers to get foreign credentials recognized in Canada. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was in small-town Quebec courting the rural vote. Mr. Ignatieff moved swiftly Wednesdayto drop a Quebec candidate for past derogatory comments about natives, Muslims and gays. Mr. Ignatieff took the action after the New Democratic Party revealed that Andre Forbes, the Liberal candidate in Manicouagan riding, was a founder of a group called the Association for the Rights of Whites, and has a long history of controversial statements. The issue threatened Mr. Ignatieff's main message to Quebec voters -- that they must vote Liberal to end the divisive rule ofPrime Minister Harper. NDP leader Jack Layton was in British Columbia, stressing programs to help keep seniors at home and out of hospitals or long-term care facilities.


A new report concludes that Canada's universal health-care system is financially unsustainable without major changes. The report says Canada is suffering from "chronic health-care spending disease." It was prepared for the C.D. Howe Institute by former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge and Richard Dion, a former economist with the Bank of Canada. They conclude that the cure will involve some combination of unpalatable options, including a` "sharp reduction" in other programs and services provided by government, increased taxes, increased spending by individuals--either through some from of co-payment on insured services or by shortening the list of services covered by public health insurance--and what they term a "major degradation" of publicly insured health care standards, including longer wait times and poorer quality services, along with development of a second-tier privately funded system to provide better quality care for those willing to pay for it. The report says the share of national income devoted to health care has risen by 70 per cent since 1975, to 12 per cent from seven per cent. And it projects that will rise to as much as 19 per cent over the next two decades due to an aging population and shrinking workforce. Under an optimistic scenario, health care will still eat up more than 15 per cent of the national income. Mr. Dodge and Mr. Dion say Canadians need to have "an adult discussion" about how to manage the problem. They add that--so far--that discussion has not been taking place during the current election campaign, even though polls suggest health care is among the top issues on voters' minds.



A US defence analyst is backing Canada's Parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, in saying a new fleet of stealth warplanes will cost almost double what the Canadian government was projecting. Winslow Wheeler of the Centre for Defense Information in Washington, says the cost of the F-35 jet will be about $148 million per airplane, an estimate that was close to Mr. Page's suggested price. Canada plans to buy 65 planes. The Stealth jet purchase is a contentious issue during the current federal election campaign. The opposition Liberal Party wants to scrap the deal, saying it's not the way to go while the country is in deficit. Mr. Wheeler worked for three decades on security issues for the US General Accounting Office and members of the US Senate.


Manitoba is joining neighbouring Saskatchewan in researching a controversial therapy for multiple sclerosis called Liberation Therapy. Manitoba's government says it will put up $5 million for clinical trials for a procedure that involves clearing blocked neck veins. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says the two provinces will work together. The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation is looking at the proposals and is expected to make a funding decision this spring. The disease, which damages nerve cells in the brain and spinal chord, afflicts up to 75,000 Canadians.


Canada's chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, says he's confident Parliament will consent to testing online voting by 2013. He calls online voting the future of Canadian elections and says it could be used in a by-election within two years. The opposition Liberal Party says in their election platform that they would direct Elections Canada to develop online voting. Mr. Mayrand says Internet voting could increase voter turnout by making the process more convenient, particularly for young voters. In the last general election in 2008, only 37 per cent of Canadians under the age of 40 cast a ballot.


A new report suggests one out of every five homeless women in Manitoba's capital of Winnipeg has been the victim of sexual assault. The report also says 40 per cent of 300 homeless people questioned have been physically assaulted, yet about three quarters of them did not report the violence to police. The Winnipeg Street Health Report was released on Tuesday. It is based on interviews done last summer after researchers contacted people through the city's social-service organizations. The work received about $50,000 in funding from the federal government and was done for the Main Street Project, a shelter for homeless people. The report found that 43 per cent of those who responded had trouble getting their clothes washed and 23 per cent had a tough time finding somewhere to bathe. Paula Hendrickson, the Main Street Project's director of programs, says the report highlights different aspects of being homeless, such as the result of showing up for a job interview in dirty clothes.


The government of Britsh Columbia says it plans to present animal cruelty legislation that will send a powerful message. The maximum penalty will be increased to $75,000, two years in jail, or both. The move follows the public anger in January over allegations that up to 100 sled dogs were shot and dumped in a mass grave in the ski resort areas of Whistler last April. The slaughter led to an ongoing criminal investigation by the Society of Prevention to Cruelty for Animals and prompted a provincial government review of the dog-sled industry. That review came up with 10 recommendations, all of which the provincial Liberal Party government has endorsed.


The native group that lost its legal bid to stall a hydroelectric megaproject in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is appealing the court ruling. The NunatuKavut Community Council says it wasn't properly consulted about the $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls project. Formerly known as the Labrador Metis Nation, the group says it represents about 6,500 people descended from the Inuit of southern Labrador. The group has filed a land claim that covers territory that would be flooded if the lower Churchill River is dammed. NunatuKavut says it should be compensated, and wants to stop environmental hearings that started a month ago. A provincial Supreme Court judge ruled last month that the group failed to show its aboriginal rights would be harmed if the hearings continue.


A funeral was held Wednesday in Mabou, NSfor Elizabeth Beaton, a well-known member of the traditional music community in Cape Breton. Mrs. Beaton, a native of the Mabou area, died Saturday at the age of 92. Mrs. Beaton, a piano player, and her late husband, fiddler Donald Angus Beaton, were a staple at dances and festivals across Cape Breton from the 1950s to the 1970s. Their first recording, The Beatons of Mabou, is considered by some to be one of the finest Cape Breton fiddle albums ever recorded. The Beaton family includes grandson Rodney MacDonald, a former Nova Scotia premier and also a noted fiddler.


The Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled a pair of collector coins commemorating the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The two coins marking the planned April 29 royal marriage -- a $20 silver coin and a 25-cent piece -- go on sale Apr. 18 and May 2 respectively. However, the mint is taking orders immediately. The design of the $20 coin, created by portrait artist Laurie McGaw of Guelph, Ont., includes an engraving of William and Kate gazing lovingly into one another's eyes. Embedded in the coin is a sapphire-coloured crystal, reminiscent of the 18-carat sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring worn by Ms. Middleton. The coin is also engraved along its edge with HRH Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton in English and French, and there is also a heart hidden among its maple leaves. The nickel-plated 25-cent piece -- which will cost $25.95 -- has a coloured photo reproduction of the royal couple based on a photograph taken at the 2008 wedding of a friend in Austria.



Workers at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant have plugged a hole that was releasing highly radioactive water into the ocean. The water leak, a result of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, was thought to be a source of increasing radiation levels in the sea. That concern prompted Japan to announce its first seafood radiation safety standards following the discovery of fish with high levels of contamination. Several of the plant's reactors had their cooling systems disabled bythe disaster. A 20-kilometre exclusion zone around the plant has forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate. The 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami has left more than 12,000 dead and over 15,000 missing.


There were fierce gun battles Wednesday in the capital, Abidjan. Forces loyal to presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara launched a heavy attack on the bunker where Laurent Gbagbo was defying efforts to force him to cede power. Militias close to Mr. Gbagbo and his presidential guard put up a stiff resistance, even as most soldiers from the regular army had heeded a call to lay down their arms. There were conflicting reports about the outcome of the fighting. A spokesman for the pro-Ouattara fighters said they had been repelled but were regrouping for a second assault. Mr. Gbagbo has ruled Ivory Coast since 2000, but according to UN-certified results lost an election to Mr. Ouattara last November. Mr. Gbagbo has refused to give up power. He appeared to be on the point of surrender on Tuesday but told French radio on Wednesday that he was not negotiating and had no intention to resign. In The Hague, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said Wednesday in a statement he plans to launch a formal probe into alleged mass killings in Ivory Coast. Several hundred people were reportedly massacred in the western town of Duekoue last week, with forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara blaming each other. The next step will be for the prosecutor to use his independent power to request authorisation from the court to initiate an investigation.




The head of Libya's rebel army has accused NATO of being too slow to order air strikes to protect civilians, allowing Muammar Gadhafi's forces to slaughter the people of the besieged city of Misrata. However, NATO officials said their seven-day-old air campaign is now focused on Misrata, the only big population centre in western Libya where a revolt against Col. Gadhafi has not been stopped. NATO now leads air strikes targeting Col. Gadhafi's military infrastructure and policing a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. There are also reports that Col. Gadhafi's forces are using human shields and hiding his armaments in populated areas. The move is said to be restricting NATO's ability to strike. NATO has said that when human beings are used as shields there's a policy of non-engagement. Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have failed to make progress with the rebels adamant that Libya's leader for the past 41 years leave. But the government is offering concessions but insisting Col. Gaddafi stay in power.


A boat carrying as many as 300 migrants from Libya capsized in rough seas off the Italian coast early Wednesday, leaving 250 people unaccounted for. Survivors told of desperately trying to reach rescue boats as those unable to swim screamed in the darkness and pulled one another under the water. If the number of dead is confirmed, it would prove the deadliest crossing to Italy in recent memory, and the worst refugee disaster since a wave of migrants began arriving on Italian shores in January following popular revolts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The Italian coast guard rescued 48 people Wednesday and a fishing boat picked up another three after the boat began taking on watershortly after 1 a.m.


Human rights groups on Wednesday stepped up pressure for action by the UN rights council on the popular unrest in the Middle East, warning in particular that a crackdown in Bahrain had reached critical levels. The groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, called for a special session by the 47-member council on the situation in Syria, adding to similar calls in recent weeks on Yemen and Bahrain. They also expressed disappointment at weak Western backing for such moves despite European and US-led action by the council on Libya, Ivory Coast and Iran in recent months with the support of Arab, African or Islamic states.


Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis swarmed the flashpoint city of Taez on Wednesday in a fresh call for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign. The demonstrations came as Arab ambassadors in the Gulf region met with Yemeni government and opposition figures to urge them to join mediation talks. Meanwhile, the United States also called on Mr. Saleh to negotiate with his opponents. However, there is no sign of a shift in position by Mr. Saleh despite the pressure. He has insisted for weeks he will leave once he has overseen parliamentary and presidential elections this year. More than 100 people have now been killed in the many weeks of protests aimed at overthrowing Mr. Saleh.


A special panel has summoned the son of ousted president Hosni Mubarak for questioning in the latest corruption probe against figures of the former regime. Gamal Mubarak will appear before the panel next week. The panel was set up to investigate illicit gains. It will question Gamal Mubarak about complaints brought against him that he gained his wealth illegally. Gamal Mubarak held a senior position in the ruling party and was believed to have had presidential ambitions, which he denied. Meanwhile, authorities on Wednesday arrested a former housing minister on suspicion he was involved in the illegal sale of state lands for cut-rate prices. Mohammed Ibrahim Suleiman was the latest senior member of Hosni Mubarak's to be taken into custody. The officials are being investigated on corruption-related charges, with many allegedly using their positions within the government to broker sweetheart deals. Mr. Suleiman served as a minister of housing from 1993 until 2006. Critics say that during this period, state-owned lands were sold at cut-rate prices to businessmen close to the ruling party. Mr. Suleiman's successor, Ahmed Maghrabi, is also being investigated.


A politician close to the regime said Wednesday the Syrian parliament is preparing to adopt major reforms in May, including an end to emergency rule. The politician said a special parliament will be held the first week of May. The lifting of emergency rule, in place since 1962, has been a central demand of anti-government protestors who have been calling for political reform and more freedoms since mid-March.


Iran's clerics have denounced Saudi Arabia for putting down anti-government protests in the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. In recent weeks, Saudi troops have been helping the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain suppress a Shiite-led protest movement that seeks equal rights and a political voice. Iran is predominantly Shiite. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told clerics Wednesday in the holy city of Qom that Bahraini protesters should keep resisting Bahrain's monarchy. Earlier this week, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, demanded that Saudi Arabia pull its troops out of Bahrain.


Two roadside bombs in Baghdad killed three people and wounded 11 others late Tuesday. Police said the explosions took place only minutes apart in the Shiite-dominated Utaifiya neighbourhood. The bombs were planted near a cafe and a Shiite mosque. Violence across Iraq has dropped sharply during the last three years, but deadly attacks still occur nearly every day.


NATO-led forces killed two civilians in a road accident and shot dead a third civilian after an angry crowd threw stones at their military convoy following the crash on Wednesday. The incident comes at a tense time in Afghanistan following the deaths of at least 24 people, including seven United Nations staff, in a series of recent protests against the burning of a copy of the Koran by a pastor in the United States. An estimated 130,000 foreign troops, including those from Canada, are fighting a nearly 10-year Taliban insurgency. Limited international troop withdrawals are due to start from July. Canada is pulling out its troops in July and will leave a training team in their place.


Chinese artist Wu Yuren has been released after being held for nearly a year after helping to lead a protest in Beijing. He is free until a verdict is given in his case. He faces charges of obstructing policy His Canadian wife, Karen Patterson, says he remains under heavy surveillance and must check in with police on a daily basis. His release occurred on the same day that officials arrested artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Mr. Wu was one of the leaders of a group of artists, including Mr. Ai, that staged a march in central Beijing in Feb. 2010 to protest assaults on several people who tried to oppose the demolition of a popular art district in the capital. Mr. Ai's mother said Wednesday she was concerned the government was preparing to prosecute him for his criticism of the state. The 53-year-old Ai has not been in contact with his family since Sunday after he was arrested at Beijing airport by security agents. He was about to board a flight to Hong Kong. His arrest has drawn condemnation from Taiwan, Western governments and Chinese human rights advocates.


Counter-culture legend Bob Dylan made his long-awaited China debut Wednesday after finally getting approval to bring his charged songs of protest and struggle to a nation where dissent is muzzled. Mr. Dylan played the Worker's Gymnasium in central Beijing to a warm reception from a mixed crowd of Chinese and foreign expatriates who brought the music icon out for a pair of encores after a roughly two-hour set. Mr. Dylan heads next to Shanghai on Friday and then Hong Kong for two more shows next week on a tour commemorating 50 years since his first major performance on Apr. 11, 1961. After Mr. Dylan was reportedly banned from playing in China last year, China's culture ministry last month gave the green light, but only if his songs were vetted by censors. Mr. Dylan is best known for the politically-inspired songs of his early career, including "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and his anti-war anthem "Blowin' in the Wind" -- neither of which made it into his Beijing set. However, dressed in a grey panama hat and black suit, Mr. Dylan did play some of his edgier tunes, such as the protest song "Hard Rain", but he made no comment on China or the significance of his appearance here.




In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index fell 67.88 points to close at 14,202.65. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 32.85 points at 12,426.75. The Nasdaq composite index was up 8.63 points at 2,799.82. The Canadian dollar settled at 104.12 cents US, up 0.37 of a cent. The US dollar stood at 96.04 cents Cdn, down 0.35 of a cent. Pound sterling closed at C$1.5688, down 0.12 of a cent and US$1.6335, up 0.47 of a cent. The euro was worth C$1.3766, up 0.56 of a cent.


A new analysis appears to undermine the Conservative Party government's rationale in pressing ahead on corporate tax cuts. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says its analysis finds that companies who benefited most from a massive reduction in taxes during the last decade underperformed on job creation. The left-leaning think-tank tracked the job creation record of 198 of Canada's top companies from 2000 to 2009. During that period they reported a 50 per cent increase in profits and paid 20 per cent less in taxes. But from 2005 to 2010, those companies grew their employment by five per cent, less than the six per cent average for the entire economy. The decade also saw a decline in the rate of corporate investment in machinery and equipment, another reason the government argues taxes should be reduced.


The effects of the earthquake in Japan are now being felt by an automobile plant in Canada. Chrysler is cutting overtime at plants in Ontario and Mexico to conserve parts from Japan. It's the first time Chrysler has linked production cuts to the March 11 earthquake in Japan that damaged suppliers. Meanwhile, the Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota says it's inevitable that they will be forced to temporarily shut down all of its North American plants because of parts shortages from Japan. Toyota makes four vehicles in Ontario. Two other car companies, Ford and Nissan, have also said several North American plants would be closed for part of this month but have not released details.


In Asia Wednesday, Japan's Nikkei Index lost 31 points to close at 9,584. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 134 points to close at 24,285.



Hayley Wickenheiser and Meghan Agosta will lead Canada at the IIHF World Women's Championship in Switzerland later this month. The two star forwards are on the 21-woman roster named on Wednesday. The team includes three goaltenders, six defencemen and 12 forwards. Sixteen of the players were on the squad that won Olympic gold in Vancouver last year. Team management released 15 players from the Canadian selection camp. Canada opens the world championship against Switzerland on Apr. 16.


Tuesday's results: Montreal defeated Chicago 2-1 in overtime, Ottawa defeated Philadelphia 5-2, Washington defeated Toronto 3-2 in the shootout and Edmonton shut out Vancouver 2-0.


Canada's Jeff Stoughton closed in on a playoff spot at the Ford World Curling Championship with a 9-4 win Wednesday over Jiri Snitil of the Czech Republic. The top four teams at the conclusion of the preliminary round Thursday night advance to the Page playoff. Ties for fourth are solved by tiebreaker games. Undefeated at 8-0, Canada was assured of at least a tiebreaker with another game to play Wednesday versus Sweden's Niklas Edin (5-2). In the Page playoff, the top two teams meet Friday with the winner advancing directly to Sunday's final. The loser falls to Saturday's semifinal to face the winner of the playoff of the third and fourth seeds. Thomas Dufour of France joined Scotland's Tom Brewster at six wins with an 8-7 decision over Switzerland's Christoff Schwaller. The Swiss were still in the playoff hunt at 5-3. Norway's Thomas Ulsrud, the Olympic and world silver medallist, kept his thin playoff hopes alive at 4-4, following a 9-2 win over Denmark.





Tuesday's result: Toronto defeated Oakland 7-6 in 10 innings.


Tuesday's result: New York defeated Toronto 131-118.


The Winnipeg Blue Bomber struggled on the field last year but were a financial success off it. Club President Jim Bell said Wednesday the club posted a $409,191 profit in 2010 despite posting a league-worst 4-14 record. The financial news was a huge turnaround from 2009 when the club lost $1.2 million after finishing with a 7-11 record.

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