Monday, October 31, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Harper pleased with Commonwealth Summit results

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Commonwealth leaders wrapped up their meeting in Perth, Australia on Sunday, agreeing to develop "one clear, powerful statement" of values for the 54 member countries. A But the Commonwealth leaders failed to act on two-thirds of recommended reforms. One was an urgent appeal for a new Commonwealth human rights commissioner to investigate abuses, while another called for the repeal of laws against homosexuality in a majority of Commonwealth countries. Sri Lanka, whose army has been accused of war crimes during the civil war with the Tamil Tigers, is due to host the next summit. Mr. Harper has said he will boycott the meeting unless there are major reforms in Sri Lanka. Mr. Harper expressed frustration with the slow movement by member nations to accept two-thirds of recommended reforms, but he said overall he was pleased with what was achieved. Mr. Harper suggested the group had made progress in boosting human rights in non-Commonwealth countries with bad records in that area.

Former general warns latest death should not stop Afghan mission

A senior military observer says Canada's training mission in Afghanistan should not be derailed by the death of a Canadian soldier in a suicide bombing on Saturday. Master Corporal Byron Greff and 16 others were killed in Kabul when a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into an armoured NATO bus. Retired Canadian major-general Lewis MacKenzie says some critics of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan might use Cpl. Greff's death to support their arguments for a complete pullout. But Gen. MacKenzie said it's important to put things into perspective. While acknowledging that even one death is too many, Gen. MacKenzie noted the number of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year is way down from previous years. Speaking after the Commonwealth Summit in Australia Sunday, Prime Minister Harper said there's no way Canadian military personnel can work in Afghanistan without significant risks. Cpl. Greff was among the 920 Canadian soldiers who are training Afghan military personnel in the country until 2014 following thewithdrawal of Canadian combat troops earlier this year. His death brought to 158 the number of Canadian Forces personnel killed in Afghanistan since Canada first sent troops there as part of the NATO force in early 2002.

Harper speaks of Gadhafi's demise

Prime Minister Harper says he takes no great pleasure in the brutal execution of deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi but adds that realistically, such an end should have been expected. As the no-fly zone over Libya is lifted and Canada's military mission there ends, cell phone videos of Gadhafi's final minutes have called into question the emerging new country's commitment to the rule of law. Ghastly details have emerged from triumphal videos showing a frenzied pack of rebels savagely beating Gadhafi and apparently sodomizing him with a knife before he was shot dead. Mr. Harper was asked about the horrific spectacle following a Commonwealth summit in Perth, Australia, that focused heavily on human rights and rule of law. He said that after 42 years of what he called "psychotic dictatorship" in Libya, he was realistic enough to know the chances of Gadhafi meeting such an end were "pretty high." Mr. Harper said Libya is going to be "a work in progress going forward," but that too is be expected since the country had no institutions of civil society or democratic governance.

Canadian veteran plans hunger strike

A veteran of Canada's military mission in Bosnia in the 1990s plans to go on a hunger strike this week but says he may be dead by Remembrance Day on November the ninth. Thirty-eight-year-old Pascal Lacoste believes he was poisoned due to exposure to depleted uranium in Bosnia. He plans to protest outside the Quebec office of the Department of Veterans Affairs that he says has repeatedly refused to pay for toxicology tests and costly decontamination treatments.

Residents gather to mourn car crash victims

A public memorial service was held Sunday in a northern Alberta arena for four high school football players. The teens from Grande Prairie were killed last weekend when police say a pickup truck slammed into their car. A fifth teen remains in hospital in critical condition. Sunday's service follows a dramatic win Saturday by the boys' team, the Warriors. They routed the Sexsmith Sabres 40-0 ina Mighty Peace Football League semi-final game, advancing to their league's championship. Coach Rick Gilson said it was particularly emotional during the moment of silence before the start of the game, but he said the team remained focused after the kickoff. Twenty-one-year-old Brenden Holubowich faces various charges in connection with the crash, including drunk driving causing death and leaving the scene of an accident. The suspect is due to appear in court again on Monday to face the allegations against him.

Chisholm joins NDP leadership race

MP Robert Chisholm touted his experience as former leader of the NDP in Nova Scotia Sunday as he announced he'll be the eighth candidate running to lead the party at the federal level. Premier Darrell Dexter and a group of provincial cabinet ministers attended the announcement at a Halifax restaurant to show their support for the MP for Dartmouth-Cole Habour. Mr. Chisholm acknowledged in his campaign launch that he's an underdog in the race to succeed former leader Jack Layton. He quoted his former leader saying, "Don't let them tell you it can't be done." Mr. Chisholm led the NDP to a breakthrough in Nova Scotia's 1998 election, when the party won 19 seats in the legislature and achieved opposition status. The unilingual candidate says he's started taking French courses and expects to learn the language, however he was only able to speak a few words of French in response to reporters' questions.

Saudi religious police beat and arrest Canadian iman

Eyewitnesses and a human rights group say a prominent Canadian imam has been beaten, arrested and falsely charged while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. They say Usama al-Atar was leading a prayer recitation in Medina Sunday when 10 to 15 members of the country's religious police asked the small group to move along. Mohamed Hayward, a UK citizen who was part of the group, says the religious police then harassed the compliant pilgrims and zeroed in on Mr. al-Atar. Mr. Hayward said officials "virtually strangled" the imam, even though the Edmonton resident didn't put up a fight. Mr. Hayward said the 33-year-old Canadian is now "languishing in a jail" and is expected to appear in court Monday morning to face unclear charges. Mr. Hayward said Mr. al-Atar, who is a researcher at the University of Alberta, has an elderly father, a pregnant wife and a three year-old-child in Canada.


C-SIS warned of hacking threat

Canada's spy agency warned the government that federal departments were under assault from rogue hackers just weeks before an attack crippled key computers. A newly released intelligence assessment, prepared last November, sounded a security alarm about malicious, targeted emails disguised as legitimate messages -- the very kind that shut down networks two months later. A declassified copy of the top secret intelligence assessment, "Cyberattacks on Canadian Government Departments: An Overview," was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act. Extensive portions of the Nov. 4, 2010, report -- including what are likely direct references to foreign suspects -- have been excised due to ongoing sensitivity of the material. Employee Internet access at the Treasury Board and Finance departments was cut off in January after what officials said was an unauthorized attempt to break into the networks. A routine evaluation of both departments last year revealed they had not been following all of the government's information technology security requirements.

Atlantic Canada in for early snowstorm

A major snowstorm that has blanketed parts of the US East Coast was moving into Atlantic Canada on Sunday. Environment Canada issued various snowfall, rain and wind warnings for parts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The storm swept up the US East Coast Saturday, knocking out power to more than 2.3 million customers ins states from Maryland to Maine, causing flight cancellations and delays.

Panel looking at ways to save West Coast killer whales

Canadian and US experts are looking at whether limiting the salmon fishery would help save killer whales plying West Coast waters. A scientific panel has been asked to determine if salmon fisheries need to be restricted in order to give the endangered whales a larger share of the coveted chinook salmon run. Several studies show that southern resident killer whales prefer the chinook, many of which are bound for BC's Fraser River, and that a bad year for the salmon correlates with poor survival rates for the whales. Lynne Barre, a marine biologist with the US fisheries department, says it's too early to say if the panel's findings will mean limiting West Coast salmon fishing. But she says preliminary findings linking the salmon and the whales indicates there is certainly reason for concern. The panel's report is due at the end of 2012. Only 88 southern resident killer whales have been counted in three family pods off the Pacific Coast.

Official says flood-prone reserve must move to higher ground

A flood liaison official appointed by the federal Aboriginal Affairs minister says a chronically flooded native reserve in Manitoba must be permanently moved to higher ground. Sid Dutchak says it's going to take time to relocate the Lake St. Martin reserve, but there is no point in rebuilding some parts of the community. He says flooding has destroyed homes and many others are threatened by ice this winter. Manitoba Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson says the reserve should have been moved in the 1960s and Ottawa isn't moving fast enough to do it now. Residents of the northern reserve were evacuated from their homes in the spring and have been unable to return since.


President Bashar al-Assad has warned of an "earthquake" if the West intervenes in his country. In a rare interview with a British newspaper, he said such involvement risked transforming Syria into another Afghanistan. At least 50 civilians and members of the security forces were killed during anti-government demonstrations on Saturday. Activists said 21 civilians were killed and that army tanks had shelled a historic district in the city of Homs. The government said 20 soldiers had been killed in Homs, and 10 members of the security forces killed during an ambush of their bus in Idlib province. More than 3,000 people have died in the unrest since protests calling for the government of Mr. Assad to step down broke out in March.

Middle East

A Palestinian militant group said Sunday one of its fighters had been killed and another wounded in an Israeli airstrike. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small militant group, said the men were members of their organization. The Hamas militant group's Health Ministry said the strike occurred along Gaza's border with Israel on Sunday afternoon. The Israeli military confirmed the airstrike but gave no other details. After a weekend of violence, Sunday had been largely quiet following a cease-fire offer from Palestinian militants. The airstrike raised the likelihood that fresh fighting would erupt.


Intelligence officials said Sunday suspected US unmanned aircraft fired six missiles at a vehicle near the Afghan border, killing six alleged militants. The officials said Sunday's attack occurred in the Datta Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal region. A house was also partly destroyed. The identities of the suspected militants killed in the strike were unknown.


The Foreign Office said Sunday two British civilians working for a building contractor were among the victims of Saturday's suicide bombing of a NATO convoy in Kabul that killed 17 people, including a Canadian soldier. A Taliban suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into an armoured NATO bus on a busy thoroughfare in Kabul, killing five NATO service members, including eight civilian contractors, and four Afghans.


Workers on Sunday started razing damaged buildings and clearing the debris of collapsed ones a week after a massive earthquake killed at least 582 people. Early Sunday, a 5.3-magnitude aftershock caused panic in the quake zone in eastern Van province, where thousands of survivors spent the night in tents. An Associated Press photographer witnessed people screaming in panic as the aftershock jolted apartment buildings in the city of Van.


Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is expressing optimism that the country's worst flooding in a half-century will mostly spare Bangkok. Some neighbourhood dikes have overflowed, but the city's defences otherwise have held firm during a weekend of critical high tides. City dikes overflowed in at least two places as coastal high tides pushed up the main Chao Praya river from the Gulf of Thailand, with water spilling into streets as city workers and troops shored up concrete walls with sandbags. Ms. Shinawatra urged Bangkok residents to be "confident," saying Sunday that there may be some overflow into some neighbourhoods but that it would not cause any great damage.


Moderate Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev on Sunday took a commanding lead in the volatile Central Asian state's first presidential poll since a revolution and deadly ethnic bloodletting last year. Mr. Almazbek is hoping to win outright in the first round to avoid a potentially tight second round run-off against one of the two Kyrgyz nationalist challengers who could trouble the West if they won. A successful election would make the strategic nation -- the only one to house both a Russian and US military base -- the first in authoritarian Central Asian to secure a peaceful transition of power since the USSR's collapse. The central election commission said Mr. Atambayev had 65 percent of the vote with about a third of the precincts reporting on turnout that was expected to exceed 60 percent. His two nationalist rivals were at about 14 percent each.


Democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi met Sunday with a Cabinet minister to discuss issues whose resolution could lead to a breakthrough in the country's long-running political deadlock. After meeting Ms. Suu Kyi, Labour Minister Aung Kyi read a joint statement that said the two had discussed an amnesty, peace talks with ethnic armed groups and economic and financial matters. Some 200 of an estimated 2,000 political prisoners were released on Oct. 11 under an amnesty for 6,300 convicts. An elected but military-backed government took power in March after decades of repressive army rule and President Thein Sein has moved to liberalize the political atmosphere.


The Commonwealth Summit in Perth ended Sunday with leaders procrastinating on two-thirds of recommended reforms. One was an urgent appeal for a new Commonwealth human rights commissioner to investigate abuses, while another called for the repeal of laws against homosexuality in a majority of Commonwealth countries. Canadian Prime Minister Harper said he was frustrated with the slow movement but said he was still pleased with what was achieved. Mr. Harper suggested the group has made progress in boosting human rights in non-Commonwealth countries with bad records in that area.


Rights activists have criticized a Hollywood studio for filming a buddy comedy in an eastern Chinese city where a blind, self-taught activist lawyer is being held under house arrest and reportedly beaten. Relativity Media is shooting part of the comedy "21 and Over" in Linyi, a city in Shandong province where the activist Chen Guangcheng is being confined in his house, surrounded by police and thugs. A studio press release touted its close relationship with local government officials.


Axel Axgil, whose struggle for gay rights helped make Denmark the first country to legalize same-sex partnerships, has died. He was 96. Danish gay rights group LGBT Danmark says Axgil died in a hospital in Copenhagen on Saturday following complications from a fall. Axgil, born Axel Lundahl-Madsen, was among the founders of the group in 1948. On Oct. 1, 1989, he and his partner, Eigil, were among 11 couples who exchanged vows as Denmark became the first country to allow gays to enter civil unions. Eigil Axgil died in 1995. The men melded their first names into a new surname, Axgil, and used it in a public show of defiance. In the 1950s, both were sentenced to short prison terms on pornography charges for running a gay modeling agency.

Sunday sports roundup


Gold medal boxer Mary Spencer was set to carry Canada's flag at the closing ceremony of the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico on Sunday. Spencer is a three-time world champion and won a gold medal at the Games in the women's 75-kilogram boxing event. Christine Sinclair, the captain of Canada's gold-medal winning women's soccer team, was the flag bearer for the opening ceremony on Oct. 14. Toronto will host the next games in 2015. On Saturday, Mandy Bujold won gold in women's 51-kg boxing. In the canoe/kayak competiton, Richard Dalton won gold in the C1, 200m event and Ryan Cochrane and Hugues Fournel won the K2, 200m final. In women's diving, Jennifer Abel and Emilie Heymans won the silver in the women's 3m sychronized springboard final. In fencing, Canada won silver in the men's team sabre final and Canada's women's team won silver in epee final. Canada's men's field hockey team was unable to lock up an Olympic berth, dropping a 3-1 decision to Argentina in the gold-medal match, winning the silver. In men's water polo, Canada lost to the US 7-3 in the final, winning the silver medal. Entering Sunday's competition, Canadian athletes had won a total of 118 medals. (29 gold, 40 silver and 49 bronze). That was good for fifth place in the medal standings, behing the US, Brazil, Cuba and Mexico. In the 2007 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Canada won 137 medals (39 gold, 43 silver, 55 bronze), finishing behind the US and Brazil


Saturday's results: Montreal defeated Boston 4-2, Ottawa defeated the New York Rangers 5-4 in a shootout, Toronto defeated Pittsburgh 4-3, Tampa Bay shut out Winnipeg 1-0 and Vancouver defeated Washington 7-4.


Sunday's result: Calgary defeated Montreal 32-27. On Saturday, Saskatchewan defeated Hamilton 19-3 and BC defeated Edmonton 29-20.


Canadian Patrick Chan began the defence of his world championship with a come-from-behind win in the men's event at Skate Canada in Mississauga, ON on Saturday. Chan was third after the men's short program Friday, but his free skate program was good enough, even with a fall and a stumble. Fourteen-year-old Elizaveta Tuktamisheva of Russia won the women's title. She's the youngest gold medallist since Canada's Tracey Wainman won at age 13 in 1981.


Canadian right-hander Ryan Dempster, who was 10-14 last season, has exercised his $14 million US player option and will return to the Chicago Cubs in 2012.

Monday's forecasts

Vancouver has a mix of sun and cloud with a forecast high temperature of 11 degrees Celsius. Calgary is cloudy with a high of six, Regina is sunny, a high of eight. Winnipeg is sunny, a high of nine. Toronto is cloudy with a chance of showers, a high of nine. Ottawa has a mix of sun and cloud, a high of eight. Montreal is sunny, a high of nine. Fredericton is sunny, a high of seven. Charlottetown has a mix of sun and cloud, a high of six. Halifax is sunny, a high of five. St. John's has periods of rain or snow, a high of three. Whitehorse and Yellowknife are cloudy with a chance of flurries, highs of zero. Iqaluit is cloudy, a high of minus-seven.