Saturday, April 23, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal


Police in the Canadian city of Montreal say they've made one of their biggest illegal drug seizures ever. They report seizing 77 kilos of heroin hidden in a container on a ship that arrived from Pakistan. The heroin has a street value of $50 million. The police say a Turkish organized crime gang was trying to smuggle the heroin into Canada. One suspect is under arrest.


Canada's postal service says about 200 contract employees will lose their jobs. Canada Post says they will start losing their jobs in July as the federal agency turns over most of its call centre operations to an outside company. The layoffs will be in the cities of Winnipeg, Ottawa, Fredericton, and Antigonish, NS. Canada Post says its in-house call centre costs significantly more than industry standards.


A spokesman for Canada's Indian Affairs department says the government is working on long-term solutions to water problems on remote reserves, especially in the western province of Manitoba. Many have no running water. Manitoba's Island Lake Tribal Council says it asked Indian Affairs to help address the water crisis on its four reserves northeast of Lake Winnipeg. The Council had recommended several solutions at a cost of $8 million.


Canada's Conservative Party has launched a new attack ad against NDP leader Jack Layton, the presumable result of his rise in public opinion polls in recent days. The ad attacks him for having agreed to a coalition deal with the Bloc Québécois in 2008. The ad shows images of Mr. Layton and Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe. The ad comes as the national election campaign enters its final full week. Some surveys have put the NDP ahead of the Liberals and Bloc in Quebec.


More protests are expected in Syria today, one day after President Bashar al-Assad made a conciliatory move by signing a decree to lift almost fifty years of emergency rule. He also signed decrees to abolish the state security court and allow citizens to hold peaceful demonstrations. The state security court operates outside the ordinary judicial system and prosecutes suspects considered a threat to the government's authority. Its verdicts cannot be appealed. The decrees signed by Mr. Assad are aimed at stopping more than a month of unprecedented protests across the country. One prominent rights activist welcomed Mr. Assad's action but called for more changes. Rami Abdul Rahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says his group will monitor closely the security forces during the coming days to see if they violate the law. Meanwhile, Beirut-based Syrian cyber activist Malath Omran, a key player behind the protests, says ending emergency rule will change nothing in Syria. He says the people now want a change of regime. Mr. Assad's regime has offered a series of concessions to the pro-democracy movement since the first protests in Damascus on March 15.


The U.S. state department has called upon the Haitian government to respond to concerns about last-minute changes to the results of Haiti's legislative elections on March 20. The department says it can find no explanation for the reversals of the results of 18 races for the Chamber of Deputies and Senate and wants the outgoing government of President René Préval to provide one. The president-elect, Michel Martelly, called on Thursday for an independent investigation. He says at least 17 candidates who were leading when the preliminary results were announced now turn out to have lost. He blames the governing Unity party for the alleged irregularities and has urged Mr. Préval not to ratify the results provided by the Provisional Electoral Council until the investigation is complete.


Mexican say the number of bodies found in unmarked graves in Tamaulipas state rose to to 177 from an earlier estimate of 145. Officials say the total includes 122 passengers from a bus that was srtopped near the town of San Fernando, 160 kilometers from the U.S. border. San Fernando is the same municipality where last year the Zetas drug cartel kidnapped and murdered 73 immigrants from Central and South America on their way north to try to illegally cross into the United States. There has been a big increase in violence in Tamaulipas in the past year and officials blame it fighting between the Zetas and the powerful Gulf cartel.


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked for Russia's support for a second term in his job. Mr. Ban made that pitch at a meeting in Gorki with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. Mr. Ban told his host that he wants to count on Russia's strong support so that he can continue his work. According to the Reuters news agency, the U.S. and other Security Council members support a second term for Mr. Ban. The secretary-general is formally elected by the UN General Assembly. In fact, Russia and the four other permanent Council member decide.


Yemen's military reports it has arrested dozens of soldiers and officers who defected from embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The soldiers and airmen took part in a demonstration against the president at an airbase in the southern province of Lahj on Tuesday. None of those arrested were with the 1st Armoured Division. Its commander, a former associate of Mr. Saleh defected to the rebels on March 21. The commander has deployed his tanks in the streets of the capital Sana'a to protect the demonstrators. Other defectors have included ruling party members, lawmakers, cabinet ministers, diplomats and members of Mr. Saleh's tribe. A group of Gulf Arab states has been trying unsuccessfully in recent weeks to negotiate a political solution to end the standoff. Yemeni rights groups say 130 people have died since the protests began in February.


The International Committee of the Red Cross warns that the humanitarian situation in the beleaguered Libyan city of Misrata is bad and growing worse. The head of the Red Cross mission in Benghazi says that the present lack of water, electricity, food and medical care could turn critical. He says the western city's main water main has been cut and and residents are getting water from a desalinization plant that was used for industrial purposes. The official also reports that Misrata's main hospital is having trouble coping with large numbers of wounded and killed and suffers a shortage of medicines. Rebels and forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Ghadaffi have been fighting for control of the city for seven weeks.


Syria on Friday experienced its deadliest day since anti-government protests began a month ago. Human rights groups say that at least 27 people were killed by government security forces in various parts of the country. Other unconfirmed reports say that the number killed could be as high as 49. Police used deadly force as tens of thousands of Syrians demonstrated in the streets. In Damascus, security forces fired teargas to disperse 2,000 protesters in the district of Midan. Human rights groups estimate that more than 220 protesters have been killed since the unrest began in southern parts of the country. Although President Bashir al-Assad recently promised to lift emergency laws in place for almost half a century, his security forces still retain wide powers.


There's no lack of anxiety for Canucks fans on Friday in Vancouver. The Canucks were on the losing end of a 5-nothing blowout against Chicago in Game 5 Thursday night. The Blackhawks have now outscored Vancouver 12-2 in the last two games. Vancouver still leads the series 3-2.


British Columbia on Saturday: sun, high C14 Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories: sun. Nunavut: snow. Whitehorse 10, Yellowknife -11, Iqaluit -10. Alberta, Saskatchewan: sun. Manitoba: rain. Edmonton, Regina 11, Winnipeg 14. Ontario, Quebec: rain. Toronto 19, Ottawa 18, Montreal 15. Maritimes: rain. Newfoundland and Labrador: sun. Fredericton, St.John's 9, Hallifax, Charlottetown 10.