Saturday, April 30, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal


A pregnant woman and her husband who both used to live in Montreal are among those killed in a bomb blast at a bustling tourist cafe in Morocco. An Israeli consul official confirmed Friday that Israeli-Canadian Michal Zekry and her husband, Messod Wizman, died after the blast Thursday in Marrakech. Fourteen others were also killed in what the Moroccan government now says was a remote-controlled bomb. The couple, who lived in China, were visiting Wizman's parents in Casablanca and had taken a day trip Marrakech. They left their three-year-old son behind with his grandparents. A long-time friend of Zekry's says the couple moved to China a few years ago so Wizman could pursue a business opportunity. The Moroccan government says two Canadians, two French citizens, a Dutchman and two Moroccans were among the dead. The names of the victims were not released. Canada's Foreign Affairs Department is only confirming one Canadian death in the explosion. Morocco's interior minister said Friday the style of the bombing matches al-Qaida's.


Former Canadian media mogul Conrad Black has reportedly sold his mansion in the US state of Florida for $23 million. Mr. Black was freed on bail last summer after serving nearly two and-a-half years in a Florida prison. A Chicago court is still dealing with appeals of his 2007 convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice. Mr. Black is asking the US Supreme Court to cancel his two remaining convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice. Last year, an appeals court in Chicago struck down Mr. Black's other two fraud convictions. If America's highest court will not hear the case, the two convictions against Mr. Black will stand. He's free while the appeal process runs its course.


More than 80,000 Ontario farm workers in the province of Ontario have lost the right to unionize. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday that a provincial ban on farm unions is constitutional. In November 2008, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a United Food and Commercial Workers union charter challenge against the ban. The Ontario government appealed the ruling to the high court, which allowed the government's appeal, denying Ontario agriculture workers the right to join unions and bargain collectively. UFCW Canada represents more than 250,000 Canadian workers and has been advocating for farm worker's rights for over two decades.


Three days before Monday's general election, Canada's left-leaning New Democrats appear to be gaining on the incumbent Conservatives. A Nanos survey released Friday suggests that support for Jack Layton's New Democratic Party has risen to 31.2 percent. That's only five percentage points behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives at 36.4 percent. The official opposition Liberals led by Michael Ignatieff, meanwhile, trailed with 22.0 percent support, followed by the separatist Bloc Quebecois at 5.7 percent and the Green Party at 4.0 percent. A Decima survey released on Thursday found similar results. With the surge of popularity for the NDP, other party leaders are becoming more critical of NDP policies. Both Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff say Mr. Layton is making to many promises what would be to costly for taxpayers.


A Toronto man facing terrorism charges after allegedly planning to join a Somali group linked to al-Qaida has been granted bail. Mohamed Hersi appeared in a Brampton court Friday and bail was set at $200,000. Mr. Hersi was arrested at Toronto's Pearson Airport last month on his way to Cairo via London. Police allege the 25-year-old planned to join the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, which is trying to overthrow Somalia's transitional government. Canada has labelled the group a terrorist organization. Mr. Hersi's lawyer says his client had no intention of becoming a member of al-Shabaab and was set up by a man who tried to befriend him.


The original robotic Canadarm used aboard US space shuttles will make its final trip into space on Saturday. The giant robotic arm introduced almost 30 years ago, will be aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. The chief engineer behind the 15-metre arm, James Middleton, says it's been a tremendous success. Endeavor was scheduled to launch on Friday. However, technical difficulties forced the flight back a day.


Officials in the prairie province of Manitoba say it may be several months before significant flood waters recede from the western part of the province. Officials say a lot of water has been coming into the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan, which has caused record flood levels in some areas. But Manitoba's flood protection means very few properties have been affected. Almost 2,000 people have had to leave their homes because they were cut off by water. Some 80 provincial highways have been affected and some 600 municipal roads are closed.


Gun-control advocates are urging Canadians to vote in Monday's federal election for either the Liberal Party or the Bloc Quebecois. They say the two parties helped defeat a Conservative government's private member's bill last September that would have abolished the long-gun registry. Members of the New Democratic Party were allowed to vote as they saw fit on the bill. The Conservatives say money spent to keep the registry running is unjustified and the database information is incomplete and unreliable. But most police forces across the country wanted the registry to remain in place.


A Moscow court on Thursday found two members of a small ultra-nationalist group guilty of the 2009 murder of a renowned Russian lawyer and a journalist close to the opposition. A jury found Nikita Tikhonov, 31, guilty of committing the twin murder, and his companion Yevgenia Khasis, 26, of complicity in the crimes. The court also said the pair had "unidentified accomplices". A ruling is expected on May 5. Human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, 34, and 25-year-old journalist Anastasia Baburova, who worked for the Novaya Gazeta, were gunned down in broad daylight on the way to the Moscow metro after a press conference on January 19, 2009. The murders caused outrage in Russia and in the West, where authorities are openly alarmed that killers and their masterminds often go unpunished in this kind of violence. Tikhonov and Khasis were arrested in October 2009 in a joint operation by investigators, special FSB services and interior ministry agents.


Tunisia's official news agency says that more than 800 inmates have escaped from two prisons after fires were set in some cells. The agency says that that 522 inmates from the prison in Kasserine escaped after a fire in two cells. Another 300 inmates escaped from the Gafsa prison. The two towns are both in Tunisia's centre-west region, some 150 kilometres apart. Personnel at the prison in Gafsa were on strike at the time. Tunisia has been hit with social unrest since the country's long-time autocratic ruler was ousted Jan. 14 in an uprising. Some 11,000 inmates escaped from Tunisian prisons during the unrest shortly after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile.


The UN's top human rights body has approved an investigation of Syria's bloody crackdown on its uprising and demanded that the nation immediately release political prisoners and lift restrictions on journalists and the Internet. Friday's action came during a special session of the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council on a vote of 26-9 with 7 abstentions. Five others did not participate in the vote. Opposition among many Arab and African nations forced the US-drafted resolution about the UN-led investigation to be watered down to omit Syria's unopposed candidacy for the council. Activists say that since the uprising in Syria began in mid-March, inspired by revolts across the Arab world, more than 450 people have been killed nation-wide.


China is again defending its position on human rights after criticism by the United States. China's Foreign Ministry says the Chinese people are most qualified to speak on China's human rights situation and the Chinese judicial system would continue to handle cases in accordance with law. China was reacting to a US envoy's criticism on Thursday. US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner accused China of serious failings on human rights. He made the criticism in Beijing after Sino-American talks on rights issues. He was highly critical of China's recent crackdown on dissidents, lawyers and activists and their arrests. Chinese authorities have launched their toughest campaign against government critics in years after anonymous online appeals emerged in February calling for weekly protests to emulate those that have shaken the Arab world. Meanwhile, China on Friday released prominent human rights lawyer Teng Biao. Mr. Teng was among the most prominent rights lawyers detained in a crackdown on dissent in February. No immediate reason was given for his release.


Chile's Supreme Court has reduced the sentences of five military men convicted in the disappearances of nine people under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. The court also acquitted a sixth officer related to the disappearances of the Revolutionary Left Movement activists in the months following the Sept. 1973 coup d'etat that toppled leftist president Salvador Allende. The court's ruling grants the men probation, allowing them to stay out of jail. Among them is Humberto Julio Reyes, who was deputy secretary of foreign relations in Pinochet's military regime between 1973-1990. His 10-year sentence was reduced to three years with probation. Two colonels, a general and a sergeant saw their 15-year sentences reduced to five years each. They also will be granted probation.


Leaders of Latin America's most aggressive free trading nations, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, agreed on Thursday to expand their existing commercial ties with rich Asian markets. The document known as the Pacific Alliance creates a framework for integration" that will eventually allow for the freer movement of goods, people and services. Trade experts say the Pacific Alliance could progress more quickly than existing regional trade blocs such as Mercosur, which is led by Brazil and includes Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. It has been around for years but has made fewer advances breaking down trade barriers.


Egypt will permanently open the Rafah border crossing to ease the blockade on Gaza. The decision has upset Israel which is concerned about regional security. Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi says closing Gaza's only crossing that bypasses Egypt has largely kept Rafah closed, opening it exceptionally for humanitarian cases from the besieged Gaza Strip. Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in 2006, further tightening it the following year when the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the territory from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Since 2007, Gaza's 1.5 million people have relied on a web of tunnels beneath the Rafah border for most of their needs. A 2005 agreement brokered by the United States put the Palestinian Authority and Israel in charge of Rafah, with observation from the European Union.


A Fatah official said Friday the head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, will meet next week in Cairo with Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas to sign a unity deal. It will be the first time the two men have met since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, forcibly ousting Fatah from the coastal territory after days of street fighting. Both parties have agreed to form a transitional government ahead of elections to take place within the next year. The announcement caused criticism from Israel which said it would damage chances for peace. But Mr. Abbas said the interim government would not dictate policy when it came to negotiations with Israel which would remain the mandate of the Palestine Liberation Organisation that he heads.


Army troops and police fired live bullets at rioting demonstrators Friday. At least two people were killed and 120 others were wounded in the largest anti-government protest in sub-Saharan Africa this year. Rioters burned tires in downtown streetsof Kampalaas security forces fired tear gas and guns. A Red Cross spokeswoman said 15 of the wounded and been hit by live bullets. Battles between protesters and police were also reported elsewhere around the country. The protests are the first serious demonstrations in sub-Saharan Africa since a wave of anti-government protests swept leaders in Tunisia and Egypt out of power. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for a quarter-century, has vowed repeatedly that his government will not be taken down by protests.


There are reports that forces loyal to leader Muammar Gadhafi have been shelling an area near the airport in the city of Misrata. Libyan rebels say at least two men died in the morning fighting. The two-month battle for Misrata has killed hundreds and prompted warnings of a humanitarian crisis. The city is increasingly the focus of fighting as the other key front in the rebel-held east settled into a stalemate. Protests in Libya escalated into war when Libyan troops fired on demonstrators and protesters seized several eastern towns. The protests were inspired by the revolts that toppled long-time autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia


President Ali Abdullah Saleh is threatening to withdraw from a Gulf Cooperation Council transition deal to end the violence in Yemen. He has accused Qatar of a conspiracy. He singled out Qatar among the six-nation Council and accused it of causing unrest in Yemen where more than 145 people have been killed in the past three months as protesters demand the immediate ouster of the president. The foreign ministers of the Council that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are to meet in Riyadh on Sunday to finalise the Yemen transition deal before presenting it to the parties for ratification. The plan proposes the formation in Sanaa of a government of national unity, Mr. Saleh transferring power to his vice president and an end to the deadly protests in Yemen that began in late January. The president would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, to be followed two months later by a presidential election.


A Syrian human rights group says at least 24 people were killed across Syria on Friday as thousands of people took to the streets across the country, calling for President Bashar Assad's downfall and pledging support for the citizens of the besieged southern city of Daraa. Daraa is at the heart of the country's six-week uprising. The regime has unleashed the army, backed by tanks and snipers, to crush the protest movement.


Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton were married Friday at London's Westminster Abbey. More than a million people lined the streets of London and the televised ceremony was expected to be seen by about two billion people around the world. Buckingham Palace announced Friday that Prince William and his bride will receive the title of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Canada's Governor General, David Johnston, and his wife were among the invited guests at the wedding. Millions of Canadians were expected to watch the ceremony. Canada's government sent a gift that respects the couple's wishes. The couple requested that gifts in their name be sent to one of the organizations on a list of charities. Canada's government will donate $50,000 to the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary. Canada will be the couple's first trip abroad after their marriage.


In Toronto, the S&P/TSX Composite Index closed up 50.39 points, at 13,944.79. In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 47.23 points, at 12,810.54 and the Nasdaq closed up 1.01 points at 2,873.54. The Canadian dollar closed at 105.66 cents US, up 0.51 of a cent. The US dollar stood at 94.64 cents Cdn, down 0.46 of a cent. Pound sterling closed at C$1.5806, down 0.19 of a cent and US$1.6701, up 0.61 of a cent. The euro was worth C$1.4015, down 0.81 of a cent.



Thursday's result: Vancouver defeated Nashville 1-0 to take a 1-0 lead in games in their best-of-seven second-round playoff series.




Thursday's result: Toronto defeated Texas 5-2.




A Russia newspaper reported Friday that Russia is on the verge of agreeing a $5 million deal with the sports experts behind Canada's success at the Vancouver Games to win gold for the hosts at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The Vedomosti daily said Russia's Olympic Committee will announce the agreement in the coming days with Allinger Consulting. The company will be tasked with ensuring the hosts win no less than 14 golds at the 2014 Games in the Black Sea resort. The move to hire foreign experts comes after Russia won only three golds at the 2010 Games, a debacle for a country that considers itself a sporting superpower and a concern at the highest level in the leadership. The firm is led by former Canadian speed skater Cathy Priestner-Allinger and her husband Todd who were behind the "Own the Podium" programme that turned the 2010 Winter Games into a massive success for Canada. Canadian media have already reported that Priestner-Allinger has stepped down from the programme's advisory board in Canada to prevent any conflict of interest in the talks with Russia. The report quoted a Russian Olympic official as saying the contract was worth $5 million. The Russian Olympic Committee was not available for further comment, but the report said the principle of the deal was confirmed by Russian Olympic Committee deputy chief Akhmed Bilalov. Under the agreement, Allinger would draw up a step-by-step training programme for the Russian squad, compile a list of potential medallists and monitor individual training sessions. It will also provide a quarterly report on the latest developments in sports science and create a group of specialists to find the best equipment.