Sunday, April 17, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal


VANCOUVER: Campaigning for the federal election on May 2, Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Saturday defended recent pay raises for his political staffers even as he promised to cut the federal budget. In one case, a staff member's annual salary increased by CDN$35,000, to CDN$190,000. Mr. Harper's Conservative Party has also approved an increase of 50 per cent for high-ranking staff's severance packages. Mr. Harper says that the new salary guidelines tie political staffers' pay to salaries in the civil service. If re-elected as the government, the Conservative Party plans to cut CDN$4 billion a year from the federal budget.


REGINA: Saskatchewan's former premier, Allan Blakeney, died of cancer on Saturday. He was 85. Mr. Blakeney served as Saskatchewan's tenth premier from 1971 to 1982. A Rhodes scholar, Mr. Blakeney entered politics in the 1960s, working as a public servant in the government of Saskatchewan's premier Tommy Douglas. Along with Mr. Douglas, Mr. Blakeney was a central figure in the introduction of medicare in Saskatchewan, serving as minister of health.


The human rights tribunal in the province of Quebec has ruled that a group of Chinese immigrant workers faced discrimination in the workplace. The workers sold backpacks and other children's articles for a company in Montreal. The tribunal ruled that the company's president disciminated against 15 Chinese workers in 2006. He was found guilty of verbal abusing the workers. The tribunal awarded the workers CDN$150,00 in compensation and also ordered the president to introduce a policy of integrating immigrant workers into the company.


MONTREAL: The leader of Alberta's Wildrose Alliance party, Danielle Smith, says that Quebec's reliance on federal funds is preventing the province from achieving its full economic potential. Ms. Smith spoke on Saturday in Montreal at a gathering of about 400 members of a new right-wing party, the Quebec Freedom Network. Ms. Smith advised the gathering that Quebec must develop ways to increase its economy independently of the federal government. Her message was greeted enthusiastically. In her speech, Ms. Smith also defended Alberta's controversial oilsands projects, which are widely criticized for producing severe pollution. She said that Quebec should develop its shale gas industry as a way to generate jobs. Fearful of pollution, Quebec's government has temporarily banned shale-gas development. The Wildrose Alliance has four members inAlberta's 83-seat legislature.


Alaw against multiple marriages is now in the hands of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in British Columbia. Arguments for and against the polygamy law wrapped up on Friday, but a ruling isn't expected for several months. The federal and provincial governments defended the law saying polygamy can lead to physical and sexual abuse, teen brides and child trafficking. Opponents of the law say it violates religious freedom.


MONTREAL: The sovereignist Parti Quebecois in the province of Quebec is holding its first party convention in seven years. On the convention's first day in Montreal, 1,700 delegates discussed a number of resolutions including one to strengthen laws promoting the use of French. Delegates also reviewed the performance of party leader Pauline Marois. Ms. Marois has worked to reinforce her support among hard-line delegates who thought that she was too lenient about enforcing French-language rights in the mainly French-speaking province. It was expected that delegates would easily vote to keep Ms. Marois as party leader.


Canada's federal government wants to extend a deadline to require all new light bulbs sold in Canada to be energy efficient. A government notice saysthat an extension of two years to the ban would allow time to allay consumer concerns about new light bulbs. Consumers have raised concerns about one of the most common energy-efficient bulbs -- compact fluorescent lamps--because they contain small amounts of mercury and are not readily recycled. Canadians have 75 days to comment on the proposal. The government announced the ban in 2007, calling it a demonstration of its commitment to fight climate change. British Columbia and California have already imposed the new standard for energy-efficient light bulbs, and Ontario is considering the same.


An opinion survey indicates that Canadians view China and India as important economically and politically but at the same time are uneasy of the world's two most populated countries. The survey for the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada found that Asia's growing power is increasingly viewed as a threat instead of an opportunity. About two-thirds of Canadians polled saw Asian economies as essential to the Canadian economy and felt that China's power will eclipse that of the United States within a decade. The number of Canadians who accept a Chinese government-controlled company acquiring a controlling stake in a major Canadian firm declined from 18 percent to 16 percent.


China is advising Europe to reduce debt risks and to strengthen consolidation of its weaker economies. Yi Gang, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, says that debt-ridden countries must seek political consensus and make cooperation mechanisms more effective. Mr. Yi spoke on Saturday at the opening of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting in Washington. Among those attending is Canada's finance minister, Jim Flaherty. Mr. Yi noted that the IMF had advised advanced countries to reduce their debt to 60 perc ent of gross domestic product by 2030. He urged big advanced countries to address problems of economic imbalance. The meeting is particularly concerned about the debt ratio of the United States, which is expected to rise to 99.5 per cent this year and to 105.6 per cent by 2013.


Nigerians voted on Saturday in their first fully democratic presidential election in 12 years. Goodluck Jonathan is seeking to retain the presidency that he inherited as vice-president last year when President Umaru Yaradua died in office. Mr. Jonathan faces challenges from a former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, and a former anti-corruption head, Nuhu Ribadu. Both challengers are from the country's Muslim north, while Mr. Jonathan is from the predominantly Christian south. A team of international observers is in Nigeria to ensure that irregularities that plagued the country's past elections are avoided. One of the team's co-leaders is Canada's former prime minister, Joe Clark, who monitored in Abidjan. He noted at the start of voting on Saturday that there appeared to be much less violence and disruption of voting than in past elections. He called it a break with the past that puts Nigeria on a more constructive course.


President Bashar al-Assad appeared to bow to public pressure on Saturday and announced that he would lift the emergency law in place for almost 50 years. In a televised address, he said that the law would be lifted by next week. But in a blow to protesters seeking more democracy, Syria's security force and its authoritarian government will remain in place. The emergency law bans public gatherings of more than five people. It served to quash any public dissent. But last month, Syrians began taking to the streets in protest, inspired by popular uprisings that ousted autocratic leaders in Egypt and Tunisia. Mr. al-Assad has been president since 2000. He succeeded his father, who ruled for 30 years.


A judge Friday ordered the remains of former president Salvador Allende exhumed for an investigation into whether he was murdered in a 1973 coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet or took his own life.The judge ordered the measure after receiving a request from Allende's relatives. The exhumation should take place in "the second half of May." The probe is part of the investigation into hundreds of human rights complaints against Pinochet's 1973-1990 military dictatorship. Allende was a socialist narrowly elected to office in 1970. At the time, conservatives in Chile and Washington feared his attempts to pave a Chilean path toward socialism, including the nationalization of US mining interests, could usher in a pro-Soviet communist government.


As Cuba's Communist Party opened a summit in Havana on Saturday, President Raul Castro warned his nation that hard economic decisions lay ahead. In a long speech to about one thousand delegates, Mr. Castro said that Cuba had ignored its economic problems for too long, spending more than it earned. He said that he's rejected dozens of suggested reforms that would allow the concentration of property in private hands. But he strongly supported changes that represent a major shift for Cuba's socialist system that would include the elimination of the ration book and other subsidies, as well as the decentralization of the economy. The monthly ration book of basic foods is considered a cherished subsidy, but Mr. Castro said that it represents a financial burden and a disincentive for work.


Five NATO soldiers and four Afghan soldiers have died in a suicide bomber attack near a military base in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Officials said the bomber was wearing an Afghan army uniform when he approached the entrance to the joint Afghan and coalition forces military base in Laghman province just west of Jalalabad and blew himself up. Four translators were also wounded. NATO has not released the names of the dead soldiers pending notification of their next of kin.


Policesaid Saturday they had increased security measures in their headquarters across the nation after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque inside a police compound. The bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body at a mosque in Cirebon, West Java province, where many police were performing Friday prayers. At least 26 people were injured by the low-level explosion, including Cirebon's police chief, and the attacker was killed instantly. The Cirebon attack was the first suicide bombing inside a mosque in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. Last month, bombs hidden in a hollowed-out books were sent to several addresses including those of liberal Muslim figures and a counter-terrorism official, but no one was killed. The last significant bombing in Indonesia was carried out by two suicide bombers who killed seven people at two luxurious Jakarta hotels in July 2009.


A strong earthquake of magnitude 5.8 hit central Japan on Saturday morning. The quake struck 83 kilometres north of Tokyo and shook buildings in the Japanese capital. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the tremor did not disrupt the emergency crews who are working around the clock to cool crippled reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month. That earthquake -- the biggest ever recorded in Japan -- struck on March 11, triggering a huge tsunami and leaving 13,591 people dead, with another 14,497 still unaccounted for. Radiation leaks at the Fukushima plant have resulted in bans on produce from the affected area and hurt the fishing and farming industries because of public fears over radioactivity in food.


A Hamas official said Saturday two suspects have been arrested in connection with the abduction and murder of an Italian activist this week in the Palestinian territory. The official said the suspects were still being interrogated and authorities are also searching for other militants from the al-Qaeda-inspired group believed to have carried out the slaying. Vittorio Arrigoni was kidnapped by members of a small extremist group on Thursday. Hamas forces found his body Friday. It was the first such kidnap-slaying of a foreigner in the Gaza Strip since the militant group Hamas took power in the territory in 2007.



Security officials said Saturday that Islamist extremists attacked an army post and killed at least 13 soldiers watching the Algerian president's televised speech promising reforms. Two militants in the group were killed by soldiers at the post in Kabyle, some 130 kilometres east of Algiers. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced constitutional reforms Friday night "aimed at deepening the democratic process" amid upheavals in neighbouring North African countries. The speech was Mr. Bouteflika's first since the start of upheavals that have rocked authoritarian regimes in the Arab world since late last year. The president pledged to see through the legislative and constitutional changes "to strengthen democracy." Algeria's 1996 constitution was amended in 2009 to allow Mr. Bouteflika, who is 74, to seek a third term. He said he would ask a new constitutional panel of members of recognised political parties and experts in constitutional law to come up with proposals that would be submitted to parliament or a referendum.


Loud explosions rocked the besieged rebel-held Libyan city of Misrata where the death toll mounted on Saturday. The battle raged as a rights group charged Moammar Gadhafi's forces are using banned cluster bombs. The blasts were accompanied by bursts of gunfire heard coming from the city centre following NATO flyovers and possible air raids after a a lull in shelling and shooting. The US-based Human Rights Watch said its researchers reported the use of internationally banned cluster munitions against Misrata, the rebels' last major bastion in the west of Libya. Meanwhile, the Libyan state news agency JANA said Colonel Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte was targeted by NATO warplanes on Friday as rebels advanced to the outskirts of the city. And rebels in eastern Libya reinforced positions beyond the town of Ajdabiya on Saturday.


Security officials said Saturday Jordanian security forces had arrested 70 Islamists after violent protests in which many people were hurt, most of them policemen. The suspects were members of the ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim Salafist movement. They were rounded up during raids Friday in the town of Zarqa and nearby Rassifeh, hours after Islamist protesters attacked police. A member of the Salafist movement meanwhile said that 22 prominent figures of the Islamist group, including its chief in Jordan, Abdul Shahatah al-Tahawi, were among those detained. More than 90 people, most of them policemen, were hurt Friday when Islamist Salafist demonstrators armed with swords, daggers and clubs attacked police in Zarqa during protests.


Police and army soldiers have launched a manhunt in India's restive northeast a day after suspected insurgents ambushed a lawmaker's convoy, killing six police and a civilian driver. W. Keishing, an independent lawmaker from Manipur state, escaped unhurt from Friday's roadside attack on the outskirts of Imphal, the capital of Manipur state. A police official in Imphal said Saturday that no one had claimed responsibility for the attack, but troops were scouring the area. Another six police in escort vehicles were wounded in the attack. At least 17 separatist rebel groups are active in Manipur state.


Thousands demonstrated Saturday against President Ali Abdullah Saleh after he criticized the participation of women in anti-government protests on Friday. Mr. Saleh said in a speech that the mingling of men and women at "Change Square," where daily anti-government protests take place in the capital, was against Islamic law. On Saturday, demonstrators countered that his comments were an insult to women and the people of Yemen as a whole. Thousands of women marched in the capital, Sanaa, and several other cities to denounce the comments. The revolutionary youth who have been behind the two months of anti-government protests urged the people to come out to the streets in millions on Sunday for a day of "honour and dignity."


An Egyptian court has ordered the dissolving of the country's former ruling party and the confiscation of its assets, meeting a major demand of the protest movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. The Supreme Administrative Court has announced the verdict on Saturday, ordering the National Democratic Party to disband and hand over its assets and offices to the state. Lawyers had raised a suit demanding its dissolution, accusing the party of corruption. The move was the latest concession by Egypt's military rulers to demands of the protest movement, coming days after the ousted Mubarak and his sons were put under detention for investigation on allegations of corruption and involvement in the killing of protesters.


Thousands protested Russia's ruling regime in central Moscow on Saturday calling for transparent elections as the pro-Kremlin Nashi movement staged a massive anti-corruption demonstration. Organizers said up to 3,000 people protested on Moscow's Bolotnaya square near the Kremlin in a protest organised by the unregistered oppositional Party for People's Freedom. Moscow police estimated the turnout at 900 people. People chanted "Russia Without Putin" and other slogans, waving banners reading "Let's Take Back the Right to Choose". The two-hour protest was preceded by a large demonstration in another part of central Moscow staged by the pro-Kremlin Nashi movement.

Nashi said in a statement that 50,000 young people from 20 Russian cities "demanded answers to inconvenient questions about corruption" in personal videos, which were then shown on a big screen at the demonstration. Witnesses estimated the actual turnout at no more than 30,000.


The Dalai Lama is urging restraint as Chinese security forces continued a standoff with Tibetans at a Buddhist monastery in southwest China. The standoff was apparently related to an incident last month in which a monk set himself on fire to protest Chinese domination of Tibetan culture. Hundreds of ethnic Tibetans gathered at the Kirti monastery on Tuesday when authorities began sending monks for government-mandated re-education. Armed police then locked down the monastery with 2,500 monks inside. Speaking in his home in exile in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama warned that the clashes at the monastery could prompt a huge crackdown on Tibet's people.



Canada began the women's world hockey championship in Winterthur, Switzerland, on Saturday with a 12-0 victory over host Switzerland. Toronto's Cherie Piper had three goals. Goaltender Charline Labonte earned the shutout. Canada faces Kazakhstan on Sunday. The Canadian women are the reigning Olympic champions. At the men's under-18 hockey championships in Dresden, Germany, on Saturday, Colin Smith scored the winner with less than five minutes left in regulation time as Canada edged Finland 5-4. Eric Locke and Ryan Murphy also scored for Canada. Canada is undefeated through two games. In the National Hockey League playoffs on Friday, Vancouver defeated Chicago 4-3to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.




The Toronto Blue Jays lost, 4-1, to Boston on Saturday. Toronto starter Jo-Jo Reyes lasted only three innings, and give up four earned runs.



Canadians Jennifer Abel and Emilie Heymans won a silver medalon Friday in the three-metre synchro event at the World Series diving circuit meet in Sheffield, England. Zi He and Minxia Wu of China placed first. Francesa Dallape and Tania Cagnotto of Italy were third.


Here is Canada's weather on Sunday, April 17. British Columbia will be mainly sunny. The high temperature in Vancouver will be ten degrees Celsius. The Yukon: snow flurries. Whitehorse, two. Northwest Territories: variable cloudiness. Yellowknife, minus eight. Nunavut: variable cloudiness. Iqaluit, minus 15. Alberta: mainly sunny. Edmonton, two. Saskatchewan: snow flurries. Regina, zero. Manitoba: variable cloudiness. Winnipeg, five. Ontario: a few showers. Toronto: five. Ottawa, seven. Quebec: rain showers. Montreal, nine. New Brunswick: rain. Fredericton, 11. Nova Scotia: rain. Halifax, nine. Prince Edward Island: rain. Charlottetown, ten. Newfoundland: increasing cloudiness. St. John's, two.