Tuesday, May 31, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

KANDAHAR: PM PAYS FINAL VISIT TO AFGHANISTAN


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid one last visit to wartorn Kandahar on Monday. Canada will end its war against the Taliban in July, and switch over to an advisory role for the Afghan security forces. Mr. Harper told hundreds of troops gathered at Kandahar airfield that the deployment starting in 2002 has been Canada's "great enterprise," suggesting as well that is has been successful because Afghanistan is no longer a threat to the world. The prime minister visited Tarnack Farms, a former agricultural project that later became a Taliban training centre. The site is now back in the hands of farmers. Mr. Harper visited a forward operating base, where he helped serve lunch and then took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at an airfield memorial to Canadian dead.

OTTAWA: UNDUE INFLUENCE ON PM DENIED


Canadian officials are denying a report that Prime Minister Stephen Harper acted under Israeli influence at the Group of Eight summit last week in France. An Israeli newspaper says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Mr. Harper and spoke about the latest controversy surrounding Middle East peace talks. U.S. President Barack Obama recently proposed restarting the talks on the basis of Israel's borders before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. Mr. Netanyahu opposes the proposal. According to the newspaper, Mr. Harper persuaded the G8 to avoid mention of the borders in its communiqué dealing with peace in the Middle East. Mr. Harper's office admits that he and Mr. Netanyahu spoke, but it's not clear whether the border controversy was discussed.

QUEBEC: FORMER WORLD LEADERS GATHER


Former world leaders have gathered in the Canadian city of Quebec for the 29th annual meeting of the InterAction Council. Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is hosting the forum, which brings together former heads of government to discuss world issues. The retired leaders will discuss the turmoil in the Arab world and its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the forum which runs until Tuesday. On Sunday, former Mexican President Vicente Fox criticized U.S. foreign policy by suggesting that U.S. President Barack Obama stay quiet about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Fox criticized Mr. Obama's recent comments favouring the creation of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. Mr. Fox says the conflict should be solved by those involved and, if that fails, the United Nations.

MONTREAL: PRO-PALESTINIAN ACTIVISTS WARNED


Canada's Foreign Affairs minister, John Baird, is warning against Canadian involvement in a new aid convoy for Gaza. He says the unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza. Mr. Baird's warning comes amid reports that a group representing about 100 Canadian organizations plans to send a Canadian boat to Gaza. An estimated 15 aid ships are scheduled to leave next month from Turkey for the blockaded Gaza Strip On May 31, 2010, Israeli marines boarded the main ship of an international aid flotilla bound for Gaza, killing nine Turkish activists in international waters and drawing international condemnation. Israel has long claimed that attempts to breach the naval blockade are political rather than genuinely humanitarian.

OTTAWA: POSTAL WORKERS THREATEN TO STRIKE THURSDAY


The union representing 50,000 Canada Post workers says it will go on strike on Thursday if its latest contract offer is rejected. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers says its new offer includes several changes and clarifications, including a drop in its wage increase demands. The two sides have been negotiating for seven months.

OTTAWA: ECONOMY GREW IN 1ST QUARTER


Canada's economy grew by 3.9 per cent in the first quarter. Statistics Canada reports that all major industrial sectors increased their output except for retail trade and arts and entertainment. Plant and equipment investments increased for a fifth straight quarter.

OTTAWA: NORTHERN PORT DELAYED


Canada's plan to build an Arctic naval port is being delayed by funding problems and bureucratic interference. The port is considered crucial to enforcing Canadian control of the Northwest Passage. Four years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised a port in Nunavut would be at least partially operating by next summer. But construction will only begin in 2013. The Nunavut Impact Review Board, which is conducting the environmental review, blames bureaucratic delays and funding problems.

QUEBEC: OFFICIAL OPPOSITION LEADER VISITS DISASTER AREA


The leader of the federal opposition New Democratic Party, Jack Layton, has toured Quebec's flooded Richelieu River region, south of Montreal. He was told by local officials that the Canadian military has been doing a good job helping with the problem, but that the overall response to the flooding by the federal government has been weak. Mr. Layton promised to raise the concerns directly with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and in the new session of Parliament. Three-thousand people have been forced from their homes in month-long flooding in the region.


LIBYA


A group of high-ranking Libyan officers has defected to Italy. The five generals, two colonels and one major were presented by Italy's foreign ministry in Rome on Monday. The generals appealed to fellow officers to join them in backing their country's insurgents. One general said the forces of Libyan leader Omammar Ghadafi are only 20 per cent as efficient as they were when the fighting started. A member of the rebel Libyan Transitional Council spoke at the same news conference. He claims that 120 Libyan officers have fled in recent days.

AFGHANISTAN


Taliban insurgents led by suicide bombers attacked an Italian military base and set off another explosion in western Afghanistan on Monday, killing four people and wounding dozens. The Italian-run base in Herat was the main target of the assault, which lasted several hours. But a message from the Taliban said a second bomb intended for the NATO facility had gone off prematurely in the center of the city. Herat, hear the border with Iran, in one of seven areas where NATO will begin handing over security to Afghan forces in July. The handover is part of a process that will lead to all foreign combat troops leaving Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

GERMANY


The German government has announced that it will shut all of Germany's nuclear reactors by 2022. The decision was motivated by Japan's nuclear disaster in March at Fukushima. The decision is an about-face for Chancellor Angela Merkel. Only late last year, her government pushed through a plan to extend the life span of the country's 17 reactors, the last having been scheduled to be shut in 2036. But on Monday, the chancellor said the fact that an industrialized, technologically advanced country like Japan is helpless in the face of the disaster has forced her to rethink the issue. Until March just under on-quarter of Germany's electrically was produced by nuclear power. Among the G8 countries, only Italy has abandoned nuclear power. Italians voted against it in a referendum that followed the Chernobyl disaster.

YEMEN


Yemen's air force has bombed the positions of al-Qaeda and Islamist militants who have taken control of the southern coastal city of Zinjibar. Residents also say the army is shelling the city. Several hundred al-Qaeda and Islamist militants took over the Gulf of Aden city a few days ago and have been battling locals and government soldiers who are trying to regain control. President Ali Abdullah Saleh refuses to resign and make way for a national unity government. Mr. Saleh has been in power for 33 years.

BURMA


The leader of Burma's Democracy Party, Aung San Suu Kyi, says that she is planning a political tour across the country next month. Analysts say the tour is likely to test both her popularity and the limits of her freedom since her release from house arrest six months ago. Miss Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 21 years. Her National League for Democracy Party won the 1990 elections but the military refused to give up power. Over the years, western nations such as Canada and the United States have imposed sanctions on Burma because of its human rights record and treatment of Miss Suu Kyi.

CHINA


Police have increased security in Hohhot, the capital of China's vast region of Inner Mongolia. The move comes after nearly a week of protests over the hit-and-run death of a herder. He was killed after being struck by a coal truck. The government arrested two Han Chinese for homicide over the incident, but that failed to stop the anger. Resentment of ethnic majority Han Chinese by ethnic Mongolians goes back decades. Many of China's roughly six million ethnic Mongols complain of political and cultural repression by Beijing and complain that their nomadic, pastoral lifestyle is being eliminated.

RUSSIA


Russia's interior ministry says the prosecutor's office has cleared an investigator of responsibility for the death in jail of a lawyer in 2009. The ministry's Investigative Committee has received a letter from the prosecutor clearing Oleg Silchenko of involvement in any crimes. The development was met with outrage by the family of the late Sergei Magnitsky and his firm, Hermitage Capital. The 37-year-old lawyer died in jail after after being charged with what Hermitage considered fictitious. He was arrested after having claimed to have discovered a scheme through which Russian officials embezzled $200 million in taxes paid by Hermitage.


ST. JOHN'S: FORTIS ENTERS U.S.


Canadian electricity firm Fortis Inc. has announced it will buy Vermont's biggest electric utility for US$700 million. The move will give the Newfoundland-based company its first entry into the U.S. regulated power industry. Fortis President and CEO Stan Marshall says the acquisition of Central Vermont Public Service Corp. will provide a foundation for Fortis to start a utility business south of the border. The transaction needs U.S. regulatory and shareholder approval. Fortis owns Newfoundland Power as well as utilities in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Prince Edward Island. The company has operations in three Caribbean countries.

TORONTO: OTTAWA MAY SELL CHRYSLER EQUITY


Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the federal government may sell the stock it acquired in automaker Chrysler two years ago. The Canadian and Ontario governments acquired a 1.7 per cent stake in Chrysler as part of a bailout package. The government also lent Chrysler $1.7 billion to help the company survive Detroit's worst downturn. Mr. Flaherty joined Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne at a ceremony to celebrate the automaker's repayment of the loan. Mr. Marchionne says he and Mr. Flaherty discussed the resale of the stock. Mr. Flaherty says the government will observe how the repayment process proceeds in the U.S. before deciding whether the two Canadian governments will also sell.

VANCOUVER: AIR CANADA UNIONS DEMAND PENSION PROTECTION


Three labour unions representing 23,000 Air Canada employees have taken a joint stand that the preservation of their pension funds is a priority during their ongoing contract negotiations. The Canadian Auto Workers Union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees say they want the workers' defined benefit pension plans to remain unchanged. Such plans guarantee set payment levels at retirement. The unions say the employer wants to cut pension benefits for existing employees and eliminate defined benefit plans for new ones. Air Canada responded that the deficit in the pension fund stands at $2.1 billion and that such a deficit cannot be sustained.

MARKETS


TSX on Monday: 13,812 + 12. Dollar: US$1.02. Euro: $1.39. Oil: $100.38 - .21.


SPORTS


HOCKEY

Tickets for the Stanley Cup final haven't even gone on sale to the general public yet, but seats are already fetching thousands of dollars online. Ticket reselling websites are taking listings from season ticket holders, and they say prices are the highest they've ever seen for a Stanley Cup final, about $1,900 for games in Vancouver, and $1,100 in Boston.

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER

The struggling Vancouver Whitecaps have fired head

coach Teitur Thordarson and goalkeeper coach Mike Salmon.

Tom Soehn, the current director of soccer operations, will take

over as head coach for the test of the season.

The expansion Whitecaps have not won in MLS since opening day

March 19, when they defeated Toronto FC 4-2 and have a 1-5-6

record.


WEATHER


British Columbia on Tuesday: rain, high C18 Vancouver. Yukon: rain. Northwest Territories: sun. Nunavut: cloud. Whitehorse 23, Yellowknife 21, Iqaluit 3. Alberta: sun. Saskatchewan: sun north, rain south. Manitoba: rain. Edmonton 20, Regina 16, Winnipeg 14. Ontario: rain north, sun south. Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto 30, Ottawa 31, Montreal 25. Maritimes: sun. Newfoundland and Labrador: rain. Fredericton 22, Halifax 20, Charlottetown 14, St.John's 6.