Friday, May 13, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal


The Canadian general commanding NATO's campaign against Libya says the alliance has appealed to Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi to stop using human shields. Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard has told the Canadian Press news agency that the appeal has had some success. He says an increasing number of Libyan soldiers are refusing to take hostages against NATO air strikes and are laying down their weapons, despite fear of punishment. Claims have been put forward that Ghadafi has ordered that women and children be forced into strategic buildings that could become air targets. The dictator's command compound was struck by missiles on Wednesday night. Gen. Bouchard says NATO wasn't trying to kill Ghadafi but rather bombed the site because of its military importance. He says human shields were nearby but that they weren't hurt.


Cables leaked by the Wikileaks whistleblowing website could be embarrassing for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. One cable from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa says he promised in January 2010 to consider the possibility that Canada would stay in Afghanistan after the scheduled troop withdrawal to help train Afghan soldiers. The publicly stated plan was that the combat mission would end this summer and the troops would come home. The Conservative government kept the promise secret until the new plan was announced last November. According to the cable, Mr. Harper was worried Canada's departure from Afghanistan would look like a "withdrawal." A second cable from the embassy suggests that the Conservative government's emphasis on Arctic sovereignty and the importance of the Arctic to Canada is empty talk. The cable says the government used the subject to score political points but has done little to fulfil its promises. It notes that Canada has done little to improve Arctic surveillance and that promises to buy armed icebreakers and Arctic sensors have been forgotten.


Residents of 150 homes awaited nervously in the early afternoon for the authorities to decide whether to stage a controlled breach of a dike restraining the flood waters of the Assiniboine River. The controlled release aimed at relieving the pressure on the dike would flood 225 square kilometres. If the waters overwhelm the levees, 500 square kilometres would be flooded and 850 homes swamped. In the city of Brandon, 1,000 residents have already left their homes and another 1,000 have been put on alert to leave as well. While Manitoba's Red River usually presents the gravest flooding threat in spring, the Assiniboine is now at levels unseen in 300 years.


Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement wants answers about soaring gasoline prices from refiners, distributors and retailers. They'll be called to explain the prices before a committee set up to find out why they's suddenly so high. Mr. Clement didn't say when the meetings would take place. Drivers got some price relief on Thursday, with the price of a litre falling as much as almost four cents in Ontario and two cents in New Brunswick. On Tuesday, gas was up by as much as 6.5 cents in much of Ontario, Montreal and Vancouver. There was another 2.5-cent rise there on Wednesday.


The Supreme Court of Canada has begun hearing arguments in the case of Vancouver's supervised drug injection site. The site established in 2003 is the first such in North America. Drug addicts visit the site to inject their own drugs under a nurse's supervision. The addicts are provided with clean needles. Supporters argue that the site reduces overdose deaths and the spread of HIV and hepatitis. But the federal government claims it promotes addiction and runs counter to its anti-crime agenda. The high court will decide whether the site is under the jurisdiction of the government of British Columbia, which supports it. It will also rule on whether its closure would violate the rights of drug addicts.


The leader of Canada's left-leaning New Democratic Party, Jack Layton, denies he has emerged weaker politically from the May 2 national election. The Conservative Party won a majority of seats. The NDP won a record 107 seats and now forms the official opposition. In the two previous Parliaments, the Conservatives won minorities and needed the support of at least one of the three opposition parties in the House of Commons to survive. Mr. Layton says Prime Minister Stephen Harper must realize that 60 per cent of voters didn't vote for his party. He also says he hopes the Conservatives won't re-introduce the same budget that the opposition rejected before the election. The Conservatives said during the campaign they intended to do just that. Mr. Layton wants the budget to improve the public pension system, improvements which the government says are too costly.


Gilles Duceppe has formally resigned as leader of Canada's separatist Bloc Québécois Party. The Bloc lost 43 seats in the May 2 federal election, leaving it with just four seats in Parliament and without official party status. Mr. Duceppe announced his intention to resign on election night after losing in his constituency. The Bloc Québécois fields candidates only in Quebec and its mandate is independence for the mainly French-speaking province.


Canada's foreign affairs department says it's concerned about a Canadian who has been deported from Syria to Iran and is pressing Syria for more information. Canadian journalist Dorothy Parvaz was detained after she travelled to Syria on April 29 to report on uprisings in that country for the Al-Jazeera television network based in Qatar. The network says Miss Parvaz has now been deported from Syria to Iran, where she also has citizenship, and is being held in Tehran. Her family in Vancouver, British Columbia, says they are anxiously waiting for any news of whereabouts. Her father Fred Parvaz says if his daughter is really in Iran he will fly there to try to see her.


A Libyan rebel leader has made an appeal to international allies to provide more weapons to enable them to advance against the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Ghadaffi. Mustafa Abdel Jalit, the chairman of the Libyan National Transition Council, says earlier weapons shipments enabled the insurgents to advance in battles in the besieged city of Misrata in the west, but not new more light weapons. He spoke after a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Earlier this year, the UN imposed an arms embargo on Libya. To arm the rebels, Western powers would have to either find loopholes in the sanctions régime or send the weapons secretly.


A Syrian rights activist says soldiers and tanks are moving into more volatile areas across the country as the régime tries to crush an uprising that began nearly two months ago. Mustafa Osso says that troops supported by tanks have deployed around the central city of Hama, known for a bloody 1982 revolt that was crushed. Other activists say security forces used clubs to disperse about 2,000 demonstrators late Wednesday at the university campus in Aleppo. The moves come ahead of another day of expected protests throughout Syria on Friday. More than 750 people have been killed and thousands arrested since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's government began in mid-March.


A U.S. pilotless aircraft fired two missiles into a vehicle in Pakistan's tribal district of North Waziristan Thursday, killing at least five suspected militants. It was the third such attack reported in Pakistan's tribal lands on the Afghan border since U.S. commandos killed Osama bin Ladenon May 2 in a Pakistani town near Islamabad. The U.S. strikes doubled last year, with more than 100 drone strikes killing over 670 people.


Twenty-one opposition leaders went on trial in Bahrain on Thursday. Fourteen of them pleaded not guilty to charges of belonging to a terrorist group and of seeking to overthrow the monarchy. Seven of the accused are being tried in absentia and are out of the country. The accused are also charged with being in contact with a terrorist group that acts in the interest of a foreign country, an apparent allusion to Iran. The trial has been adjourned to May 16. The trial follows a government crackdown in mid-March on the Shi'ite-led protests demanding political reforms. The authorities say 24 people were killed in the turmoil. More than 400 prisoners have been remanded to military courts.


Iranian news agencies quote Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying the Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr will become fully operation within weeks. Mr. Ryabkov didn't name a date. Earlier in the week, the Russian firm Atomstroyexport, which built Bushehr, said the first reactor at the plant had gone into operation.


Belarus has reacted strongly to a suggestion by the European parliament. Its president, Jerzy Buzek, and other senior members of Parliament have written to the International Ice Hockey Federation saying Belarus shouldn't be allowed to host the 2014 championships until it frees political prisoners. The letter cites the detentions of hundreds of opposition activists arrested in demonstrations on Dec. 19 against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko. It also said the championships cannot be held under appalling conditions. The foreign ministry in Minsk denounced the letter, saying Mr. Buzek should know that sport has been outside the realm of politics since the time of ancient Greece.


A German court has found John Demjanjuk guilty of helping to kill nearly 28,000 Jews at the Nazi death camp Sobibor during the World War Two. The Munich court sentenced the 91-year-old Demjanjuk to five years in prison as an accessory to mass murder while a guard at the Polish camp during the World War Two. Defence attorneys had said during the 18-month trial they would appeal any guilty verdict.


Fifteen people were shot dead in separate incidents Wednesday in the northern border state of Nuevo Leon. Officials say the violence was linked to organized crime, a reference to Mexico's powerful and increasingly brutal drug cartels. More than 35,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon ordered a military crackdown on the cartels in 2006. And last weekend, more than 85,000 people took part in a silent protest in Mexico City's main square to protest against the violence.


The Globe and Mail newspaper reports a dispute at one of Canada's most successful software firms, Constellation Software Inc., between minority shareholders and private equity stakeholders over whether the company should be sold. The former own more than 12 per cent of the company's stock. The minority shareholders are angry with an announcement by Constellation's board of directors in early April that it intended to conduct a "strategic review," often code for a sale. They say there's no reason to sell the company when profits and the stock are soaring. They also believe the private equity stakeholders are behind a move to sell the entire company rather than just their own stakes because such transaction general fetch a lower price. Two of the biggest private equity holders are Birch Hill Equity Partners, which owns about 16 per cent of the stock, and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, which has a 34-per cent share. Constellation stock is now worth about $70. One minority stockholder, Jason Donville of Donville Kent Asset Management, says it makes no sense to sell the firm now because its growth prospects are such that the stock could eventually hit $100.


TSX on Thursday: 13,389 - 30. Dollar: US$1.03. euro: $1.37. Oil: $98.57 - 0.36,



One of hockey's greatest rivalries was renewed in Slovakia Thursday. Canada was taking on Russia in quarter-final action at the world hockey championship. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier started for Canada. Finland defeated Norway 4-1 in the early quarter-final. The Czech Republic and Sweden advanced to the semifinals Wednesday.


British Columbia on Friday: sun, high C17 Vancouver. Yukon: rain. Northwest Territories: sun. Nunavut: snow. Whitehorse 7, Yellowknife 19, Iqaluit -3. Alberta, Saskatchewan sun. Manitoba: rain. Edmonton 19, Regina 14, Winnipeg 12. Ontario, Quebec: rain. Toronto, Ottawa 23, Montreal 20. Atlantic Canada: rain. Fredericton 16, Halifax 11, Charlottetown 7, St. John's 6.