Sunday, August 14, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 13 August 2011
Canadian International Financial Sports Weather


Management at a major city-owned entertainment facility in Toronto has locked out its unionized employees. Negotiations between the Stage Technicians Union IATSE Local 58 and management at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts broke down early Saturday morning after months of trying to reach a new agreement. The centre's board of directors is hoping to change a clause in the current contract that requires management to continue paying employees even if there is no work. General Manager Jim Roe says this is making it more expensive for arts groups in the city who want to use the space. Union representatives were not immediately available to comment.


A lawyer appointed to represent Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and aboriginal women at the Robert Pickton inquiry says he's already setting up meetings with groups that were denied legal funding. Two independent lawyers were appointed in an attempt to diffuse anger over the lack of legal funding from government for about a dozen non-profit advocacy groups. The lawyers won't represent specific clients, but they've been instructed to take guidance from the unfunded groups. One of the two lawyers is former BC Civil Liberties Association president Jason Gratl. Mr. Gratl says he agrees it would have been better if the groups had received legal funding and hired their own lawyers. But he says he still believes their views will be well represented at the inquiry. The hearings begin in October.


The Chief Justice ofCanada's Supreme Court says more needs to be done to ensure all Canadians regardless of income get the access to justice they deserve. Beverley McLachlin made the comments Saturday at the annual conference of the Canadian Bar Association in Halifax. Ms. McLachlin said Canada recently placed ninth out of 12 countries in an international index on access to justice. She said the ranking shows there's room for improvement. Ms. McLachlin said the fear of delays and expense often keeps people from exercising their legal rights, particularly in civil matters. She said there are options that can be explored, including offering legal insurance through homeowners' policies and setting up centres where people can seek advice on legal matters.


Canada has broadened economic sanctions against Syria over its continuing violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the new measures are an extension of measures Ottawa imposed in May. The government is barring additional members of President Bashar al-Assad's government from travelling to Canada and has frozen assets of more entities linked to the regime. The move comes days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper hinted that Ottawa will push for stronger sanctions. It also follows a call by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a global trade embargo on oil and gas from Syria. She also urged the international community to cut links with the Assad regime. The Canadian sanctions are considered largely symbolic. Canada's exports to Syria are worth only about $60 million a year, and its receives less than a tenth of that in imports. Syrian activists say at least 1,700 civilians have been killed in the government crackdown on protesters in the past five months.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper brushed off concerns about human rights in Honduras after reaching a free trade agreement with the Central American country. As he announced the agreement on Friday, Mr. Harper said opponents of the deal were more concerned with protectionism than with human rights. On the final stop of his four-nation tour of South and Central America, Mr. Harper said he knows there are major problems with security and human rights in Honduras. Human rights groups say critics of the Honduran government face brutal intimidation. But Mr. Harper insists there's nothing to suggest the Honduran government is responsible for those human rights abuses. Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa says the free trade agreement with Canada will help lift his country out of poverty. Figures show Honduras is one of the world's poorest and most violent countries. Mr. Harper also visited Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica on his trip.


After a turbulent week on global stock markets, investors are looking ahead with some anxiety. Canada's main stock index is down 13 per cent from its 2011 high reached in March, but the TSX picked up two points Friday, raising its weekly gain to 380-points--or 3.1 per cent. It was the index's best weekly jump in just over a year. In New York, many are wondering if the market has finally stabilized after a week that saw the Dow Jones experience four consecutive 400-point swings for the first time in its 115-year history. The Dow gained 126-points Friday fuelled by positive retail sales figures that suggest the American economy is not as weak as first feared. Still, it lost 176 points for the week, which is 1.5 per cent. The Canadian dollar dropped almost a-quarter of-a-cent to end the week at 100.94 cents US. Since last weekend, the dollar has lost 1.3-cents.




The birthday wish of a girl who wanted to raise $300 for clean water in Africa has been granted and then some. Donors have given more than $1 million after she died from a car crash. Rachel Beckwith had been near her goal when she turned nine on June 12, so her donation website closed. She was injured in a 13-car pileup on July 20 in the US State of Washington and taken off life support days later. A pastor arranged for the website to be reopened. The "charity: water" non-profit says more than 26,000 donations had come in by Friday. Founder Scott Harrison says some came from Africa, Brazil, Thailand and Europe. Rachel's mother, Samantha Paul, says she's "in awe of the overwhelming love to take my daughter's dream and make it a reality."


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday formally declared that Istanbul is bidding to host the 2020 Olympic Games. It is Istanbul's fifth attempt to host the games, after failed bids in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Rome, Madrid and Tokyo have already announced bids. Another potential candidate is Doha, Qatar. South Africa announced it would not bid, but has indicated it could still reverse its decision. Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, which has been hit by the global economic crisis, decided not to bid.


A Czech anti-communist resistance fighter who shot his way to freedom in a daring 1953 escape that embarrassed Cold War totalitarian rulers died on Saturday in the United States. Czech media said Ctirad Masin, 81, died in a sanatorium in Ohio after an illness. Ctirad was part of the Masin brothers group that killed seven people in the early days of the Cold War, including German soldiers and a Czech civilian. The group carried out raids in Czechoslovakia before escaping to West Berlin. Actions of the group continue to divide Czechs and their view of four decades of Communist totalitarian rule that started in 1948 and ended with the peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution.


The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, arrived in Toulouse in southwest France Friday to spread his teachings there, saying he was "happy" to be free of political tasks. Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Harvard scholar, took office Monday as head of the Tibetan government in exile, taking over the role of prime minister from the the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate. "Today I am just a spiritual person, I have no political responsibility," the Dalai Lama said on his arrival in France, where he will over the next few days address people on "the meaning of human values" and promote religious harmony. He stressed he had given up political power "voluntarily", adding: "I'm very happy." His staff says the Dalai Lama's visit to Toulouse has a "pastoral" aim and some 10,000 people have signed up to hear him speak. There are believed to be some 800,000 practicing Buddhists in France. The Dalai Lama will retain the significant role of Tibet's spiritual leader and a major influence on major policy-making decisions. He fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He later founded the government in exile in Dharamshala, northern India.


Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi will travel into the countryside Sunday for her first trip to meet supporters since her release from seven years of house arrest. The one-day trip will test the limits of her freedom and is going ahead despite a government warning it could trigger riots. The last time Ms. Suu Kyi travelled to the countryside in 2003, supporters of the nation's military junta ambushed her entourage. She escaped, but was detained and later placed under house arrest. She was released last November. Ms. Suu Kyi's spokesperson says the Nobel Peace Prize laureate will travel about 80 kilometres north of the main city Yangon to the towns of Bago and Thanatpin. She will meet party members and open two libraries.


The lawyer for Chinese activist Wang Lihong says he expects a verdict in his client's case in the next few weeks. Mr. Wang's hearing was held in Beijing Friday. He'd been arrested in March, and Friday pleaded not guilty to charges of creating a disturbance after attending a demonstration in support of a group of detained bloggers. The maximum sentence for the crime is five years. Dozens of people turned out to show support despite a huge police presence. Dozens of activists, lawyers and campaigners have been targeted by Chinese authorities in recent months. Many believe the government fears the political unrest in the Middle East will spread to China, where rights are similarly curtailed.


Prosecutors have charged two prison doctors with negligence in connection with the high-profile death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Investigators said they had found a direct link between his death and the actions of the doctors. Mr. Magnitsky was detained after accusing officials of fraud. He allegedly died due to torture and neglect. Last month Russian prosecutors announced that the two doctors, Larisa Litvinova and Dmitry Kratov, were being investigated in connection to the case. The charges follow a report by President Dmitry Medvedev's Human Rights Council, which concluded that there was reasonable suspicion that Mr. Magnitsky's death was triggered by beatings while in police custody.


Authorities in Russia's violence-plagued republic of Dagestan say two police officers were killed by gunmen who attacked them during Friday prayers at a mosque. A fire chief was killed in a separate shooting. Dagestan regularly sees attacks connected both to criminal gangs and to Islamic insurgents. There was no immediate word on possible motivation in either of the latest shootings. A spokesman for the republic's interior ministry said the two policemen were killed at a mosque in the town of Khasavyurt, near the border with Chechnya. He said the attackers drove up to the mosque as worshippers were leaving after prayers and opened fire. In the village of Kurush near Khasavyurt, the local fire chief died from shots fired at his vehicle early Saturday from a moving car.


A local Chinese official said Saturday order had been restored to a southwestern town after thousands took to the streets and clashed with police to protest rough handling of citizens by authorities. Residents in Qianxi county in Guizhou province protested Friday after a man who had parked a car illegally clashed with urban management corps known as chengguan. The official said that at the peak of the protest more than 1,000 people had gathered but were later dispersed by police after setting ablaze over a dozen police cars. Chengguan act like a police auxiliary unit but are notorious for corruption and violence against small businesses and the poor.


Police in London say more than 700 people have been charged with violence, disorder and looting in connection with riots that shook the city over the past week. Thousands of extra police officers are watching over the streets of Britain and so far, no major disorders are reported on the first weekend since rioters raged through suburbs and town centres. The unrest began in London, where hundreds of stores were looted, buildings were set ablaze and five people died. It then spread to other cities throughout Britain. More than 1700 people were detained across the country.


A US citizen has been abducted by gunmen from his house in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The US Embassy confirmed the abduction and named the man as Warren Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has been in Pakistan since 2004, leading development projects for the consulting company J.E. Austin in cooperation with the US aid agency and the Pakistani government. Mr. Weinstein has worked in international development for 25 years. He holds a doctorate in international law and economics and speaks six languages. The abduction of Pakistanis for ransom is common and a few foreigners have been targeted by militant groups.


The bodies of five police officers and three intelligence agents have been recovered in Wardak province in Afghanistan. The five were abducted on Thursday. Three people have been arrested in connection with the abductions. Wardak province is where Taliban insurgents shot down a chinook helicopter, killing 30 Americans, most of them special forces members, and seven Afghan soldiers and an interpreter last weekend.


The UN World Food Program says it is expanding food distribution in Somalia's capital after an al-Qaida-linked militant group pulled out from most parts of Mogadishu. Stanlake Samkange, the WFP regional director in East and Central Africa, said Saturday that aid workers will try to dramatically expand relief efforts following the withdrawal of al-Shabab. Al-Shabab, the most dangerous militant group in Somalia, has been waging a war against a weak UN-backed Somali government. The group banned relief agencies including the WFP from operating in it territories. An African Union peacekeeping force backing the Somali government forces said last week that sustained pressure led to al-Shabab's withdrawal.


In what would be their most significant advance in months, rebel forces said Saturday they had fought their way into the strategic city of Zawiya. Zawiya is a key target for the rebels, who are waging a new offensive launched from the mountains in the far west of Libya. The offensive is an attempt to break the deadlock in combat between the two sides that has held for months in the centre and east of the country. Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said they were still in control of the city, located 50 kilometres west of Tripoli. Meanwhile, rebels fighting east of Tripoli said they had strengthened their grip on the town of Tuarga in a bid to create a buffer zone between Col. Gadhafi's forces and the city of Misrata.



An Israeli army magazine said Saturday the military is planting new land mines along the border with Syria to dissuade protesters from rushing into the Golan Heights. The army decided to go ahead with the move after older mines failed to detonate when Syrian demonstrators rushed into the border area in June during a protest against Israel's occupation. Israeli forces opened fire, killing some 20 protesters in efforts to push the crowd back. The mines are also part of beefed-up measures Israel is taking ahead of rallies that Palestinians are planning to hold in September. The demonstrations are meant to boost the Palestinian drive for a UN recognition of their state. Israel fears such protests along its borders could turn violent.


Government forces continued their oppression of pro-democracy activists on Saturday. At least 20 tanks and armoured personnel carriers surrounded a neighbourhood in the coastal city of Latakia. The city has seen large protests against president Bashar al-Assad's regime. At least two people were reported to have been killed and 15 others wounded. Elsewhere, one death was reported as thousands of people filled the streets in cities across Syria to protest a bloody crackdown on Friday. Activists said more than 20 people were killed when security forces fired into crowds of demonstrators.


The government on Saturday approved a $45.5 billion emergency package that is aimed at balancing the budget by 2013. The agreement was demanded by the European Central Bank which agreed to buy Italian debt to help the government lower its cost of borrowing. The new austerity measures means the loss of some 54,000 government jobs across the country. And local governments in numerous small towns and villages will be eliminated. Premier Silvio Berlusconi acknowledged the cuts are in some cases "excessive," but said they were approved because of widespread discontent among citizens over the perks enjoyed by the ruling class at a time of belt-tightening. The new measures come on top of a previous round of spending cuts announced in July which aimed to balance the budget by 2014. Italy's financial problems contributed to the unease and volatility of global money markets recently.



A Montreal company trying to revive one of the country's last remaining asbestos mines has requested another extension on a deadline set by the Quebec government. Balcorp Ltd. has been trying to raise $25-million from the private sector before Aug. 15 to secure a $58-million bank-loan guarantee from the province. The cash would allow the Balcorp-led consortium of investors to purchase the cash-strapped Jeffrey Mine in the city of Asbestos, QC. The request comes as the industry faces heavy criticism from health experts and international critics. They argue that exporting asbestos to the developing world is immoral. Guy Versailles, a spokesman for the company, says he's confident the deal will eventually go through. The company was already granted an extension by the government after failing to meet a July 1 deadline.




Two of the four finalists for Sunday's Rogers Cup championship matches were decided Saturday afternoon. In Toronto, Samantha Stosur of Australia, the tenth seed, defeated Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, the 13th seed, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to advance. Unseeded Serena Williams of the US was due to face the fourth seed, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, in the second semi-final later Saturday. In Montreal, American Mardy Fish, the sixth seed, defeated unseeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 6-3, 6-4. Fish will face the winner of Saturday night's semi-final between the top-seed, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga of France, the 13th seed.


Adam Lind hit a grand slam and drove in five runs and Ricky Romero allowed two hits over seven innings as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 11-2 on Saturday. The slam in Toronto's five-run fifth was the 20th homer of the season for Lind and the 100th of his career. Edwin Encarnacion, who had three RBIs for the game, and Mark Teahen also homered for the Blue Jays. On Friday, long-time Blue Jay Vernon Wells received a standing ovation when he came to the plate for the first time at Rogers Centre since being traded to the Angels in January. Wells stepped out of the box, tipped his batting helmet, and then sent Brandon Morrow's first offering over the wall to pace the Angels to a 5-1 win.


The Saskatchewan Roughriders, last year's Grey Cup finalists, remain winless at home this season following a 45-35 loss to Calgary Friday night. Calgary's Keon Raymond intercepted a pass in his own end zone and returned it 117 yards for a touchdown. It was the fourth longest return in CFL history. Henry Burris threw three touchdown passes for Calgary. The Roughriders fell to 1-6 while Calgary moved to 5-2.



Vancouver is cloudy with a forecast high temperature of 19 degrees Celsius. Sunny across the prairies with highs of 26 in Calgary, 30 in Regina and 27 in Winnipeg. Toronto has showers and a high of 24. Ottawa has rain, a high of 18. Montreal has rain, a high of 23. Fredericton is cloudy with a chance of showers, a high of 26. Charlottetown and Halifax have a mix of sun and cloud, highs of 26. St. John's has a mix of sun and cloud, a high of 22. Whitehorse has a mix of sun and cloud with a chance of showers, a high of 15. Yellowknife has a mix of sun and cloud, a high of 19. Iqaluit has a mix of sun and cloud, a high of eight.

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