Sunday, February 12, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Prime Minister concludes China visit


Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasconcluded a visit to China aimed at boosting trade. On the last day of his visit, heconfirmed that China will loan two giant pandas to Canadian zoos for a period of ten years. Both the Canadian and Chinese governments consider their relationship has reached a new level following Mr. Harper's four-day tour. On Friday, Mr. Harper said Canada wants to sell more oil to China but won't shy away from raising the issue of human rights as economic ties between the two strengthen. Mr. Harper said that Canada wants to diversify its energy sales away from the United States. But he added that "in relations between China and Canada, you should expect us to continue to raise issues of fundamental freedoms and human rights." The remarks were his first public comments on human rights since he arrived in China on Tuesday. There were no senior Chinese officials in attendance. Mr. Harper headed a 40-strong delegation of Canadian business leaders that signed $3 billion in deals.


Engineering firm fires execs in Libya mystery

Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin says it has fired two executives loosely linked to a failed plot to smuggle a son of ex-Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi into Mexico. The two became the focus of reports after Mexican officials announced charges in an elaborate plan to bring 38-year-old Saadi Kadhafi and other relatives into Mexico on false papers last year at the height of pro-democracy protests in Libya. SNC-Lavalin oversaw billions of dollars worth of projects in Libya including the construction of a prison. The firm says Riadh Ben Aissa, executive vice-president of the firm's construction arm, and vice-president in charge of finances Stéphane Roy, were no longer in the employ of the company.


Canadian trade surplus doubles
Canada's trade surplus for December grew to $2.7 billion, more than double the previous month and its best showing since the global financial crisis three years ago. Statistics Canada said Friday that merchandise exports rose 4.5 per cent in December and imports edged up 0.8 per cent, pushing the country's trade surplus with the rest of the world up from $1.2 billion in November. Both U.S. exports and imports posted their highest levels since October 2008 as the trade surplus with Canada's largest trading partner grew to $5.5 billion in December from $4.7 billion in November.

Northern native community to get needed shelter
A Canadian native community in desperate need of proper housing was awaiting the first delivery on Saturday of modular homes. Two home units loaded on trucks were on their way to Attawapiskat, a northern Ontario reserve on James Bay. Some members of the community have been living in temporary unheated shelters in the midst of winter. In answer to the community's pleas, the federal government promised to provide 22 modular homes in all. The region's member of parliament, Charlie Angus of the opposition New Democratic Party, says that the federal government caused a delay in delivery because it hired a third-party manager. The government denies that the manager is creating any delays. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has expressed concern that warm weather could affect the condition of the only road across James Bay leading to the community and eventually prevent the delivery of some of the homes. The plight of the community was widely reported in Canada.

Investigation resumes in Alberta bus crash

The investigation was to resume Saturday into what caused a Red Arrow passenger bus to roll over on a rural Alberta highway. People injured in Friday's crash near Redwater say they crawled out of the wreckage to find a scene of sheer horror. The bus was full and 28 people ended up in hospital -- including three in critical condition. Nine others were treated at the scene.

Russia heeding Canadian request to stay mum on spying case

A Canadian television network says Russia has agreed to a Canadian request not to publicly disclose any information in the case of a Canadian soldier charged with leaking secrets. CTV said Russian ambassador Georgiy Mamedov told one of its correspondents during a cocktail reception this week that Moscow has a deal with Ottawa to stay silent until the naval officer's court case is over. Mr. Mamedov reportedly went on to say that Russia was keeping quiet so as to preserve its "good relations" with Canada. He also denied reports that embassy staff were implicated in the affair.

Canadian media have reported that Canada expelled a total of six Russian diplomats last month, including Moscow's defense attache and a consulate worker in Toronto. The Russian foreign ministry has denied earlier reports of its diplomats leaving Canada over the spy scandal. Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle, 40, has been accused of communicating over the past five years "with a foreign entity information that the government of Canada is taking measures to safeguard." The charges were laid out under the Security of Information Act. Sub-Lieutenant Delisle also faces a criminal charge of breach of trust. The offenses allegedly occurred in Ottawa, Halifax and in towns in Ontario and Nova Scotia. Convictions under the security act carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

No immediate date set for government pension program changes

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is setting out a broadtimeline for introducingchanges to Old Age Security pensions. He says that changes likely will not be introducedfor years. The finance minister's statement at an event in Oshawa, Ontario, was the first indication of how the government intends to proceed with its controversial reductions to elderly benefits. The minister said he intends give middle-aged Canadians plenty of time to plan for their retirement under the new rules.The government has been undergoing daily attacks in the House of Commons about the issue since the prime minister's comments last month when he signalled that he wanted to slow the growth of OAS costs.


Syrian city of Homs remains under siege

Syrian activists say that 11 people were killed on Saturday in the latest attacks by government security forces. The victims were killed in attacks on Homs, Syria's third-largest city. A Syrian opposition leader in exile, Kamal al-Labwani, says that the government agreed to a rare compromise and allowed rebel forces to withdraw from the mountain border town of Zabadani, where unconfirmed reports said that 100 people were killed during a week of tank and artillery bombardment. Under the compromise, the rebels had to relinquish weapons seized from government forces. Syria's state-run news agency reported that gunmen had assassinated an army general in Damascus in the first killing of a high military officer in the Syrian capital since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime began in March.


Clashes over Syria break out in Lebanon

Lebanese security officials say clashes between pro- and anti-Syria gunmen in a northern Lebanese city have left one person dead and 12 wounded. The officials say the two sides fired on each other from two rival neighbourhoods in Tripoli, one dominated by Sunnis, the other by Alawites, a Shiite offshoot sect. They say clashes started Friday night and continued sporadically until Saturday. Lebanese factions have been deeply divided over the Syria crisis, and tensions have intensified with the regime's siege of the central Syrian city of Homs this week. Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime is dominated by Alawites, while the uprising against him has been led by Sunnis.

Five police officers die in Afghan attack

An Afghan government official said Saturday five policemen had been killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan. The deputy governor of Uruzgan province said the policemen were patrolling in their vehicle when it hit a roadside mine in Chanartu district. He said one civilian also was wounded in the blast, which occurred early on Saturday morning.

Ahmadinejad talks of 'new nuclear achievements'

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran will soon reveal "very big new nuclear achievements." Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke at a rally in Tehran on Saturday as Iranians marked the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that toppled the country's pro-Western monarchy and brought Islamic clerics to power. Iran's state TV is showing tens of thousands of pro-government demonstrators rallying across the country to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Mr. Ahmadinejad did not elaborate on the upcoming announcement but insisted Iran would never give up its uranium enrichment -- a process that makes material for reactors as well as weapons. The West suspects Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies. Iran has said it is forced to manufacture nuclear fuel rods, which provide fuel for reactors, on its own since international sanctions ban it from buying them on foreign markets.

Thousands in Japan march against nuclear power

Thousands of Japanese joined a march against nuclear power as worries grow about the restarting of reactors idled after the March 11 meltdown disaster in northeastern Japan. Holding "No Nukes" signs, people gathered at Yoyogi Park for a rally Saturday, including Nobel Prize-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe. The protesters then marched peacefully through the streets demanding Japan abandon atomic power. Last year's tsunami in northeastern Japan destroyed backup generators at Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, causing multiple meltdowns and setting off the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chornobyl.

Cheering crowds engulf Aung San Suu Kyi

Thousands of cheering supporters swarmed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as the democracy icon took her historic campaign for a parliament seat to the southern constituency she hopes to represent for the first time. Supporters waving her political party's flag came out in force Saturday to get a glimpse of the 66-year-old Nobel Peace laureate as her convoy crawled from the main city Yangon to Kawhmu, a poor, rural district to the south. Ms. Suu Kyi is running in an Apr. 1 byelection that is being held to fill 48 parliamentary seats vacated by lawmakers who were appointed to the Cabinet or other posts last year. The vote is widely seen as a test of the new government's commitment to reform after nearly half a century of iron-fisted military rule.

US asks China to release democracy activist

The United States is asking China to release democracy activist Zhu Yufu after he was sentenced to seven years in prison. U.S. officials say China should respect the universal human rights of all their citizens. The request came soon after a court in Hangzhou city handed down the sentence on Friday. Zhu is among a group of writers and intellectuals targeted by Chinese authorities in a crackdown aimed at preventing Arab Spring-style popular uprisings. The sentence comes ahead of next week's visit to the U.S. by Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping. widely expected to be China's next leader. In the U.S., analysts say he is likely to face questions on human rights.

Egyptian indifference marks anniversary of Mubarek's departure,

Egypt on Saturday largely ignored the first anniversary of the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarek. A call for a general strike generated only a weak turnout. Activists wanted the strike to protest what they think is a slow pace of change from the transitional military government. But business and public transit in Cairo continued as usual. The military has pledged to hand power to an elected president by mid-year, but protest groups see the military as an extension of Mubarek's rule and an obstacle todemocracy.

Harsh winter still hitting Europe hard
Unusually cold winter weather continues to plague large parts of Europe. Ice on one of Europe's key waterways, the Danube River, has prevented boat traffic from moving for the longest time in memory. The heaviest snowfall in 63 years is hampering rail, road and air traffic in Montenegro. An avalanche blocked a train's route near the mountain town of Kolasin and another engine had to rescue the 50 passengers. In Serbia, snowfall hampered operations to reach about 20,000 households in remote villages, whose residents were first isolated by blizzards that started more than two weeks ago. In Italy, cold and snowstorms have prevented delivery of thousands of tonnes of produce. Rome saw its second large snowstorm in a week, causing delays or cancellations at nearby airports.

New secular party announced in Iraq
A new secular political party was formally announced in Iraq on Saturday. The Union of Patriotic Figures was described as a political group of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds from about 27 Iraqi parties. The party is vowing to serve as a check on the government. Iraq has experienced a political crisis for months. Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has struggled to avoid defections from the coalition government he formed after the 2010 elections. Many Sunnis are threatening to break away from the central Shiite-ledgovernment and create their own state within Iraq.

Sports roundup

Canadian Ben Thomsen finished second on Saturday in a World Cup downhill event in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Beat Feuz of Switzerland was first. The same course will be used for the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.


Canadian Olivier Rochon won a bronze medal in aerials at a World Cup freestyle event in China on Saturday. Chinese competitors finished first and second.


Canadian Guillaume Bastille won the men's 1000-metre event at a World Cup short-track meet in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, on Saturday. His compatriot, Marianne St. Gelais won the gold in the women's 1000 metres, her fourth gold medal this season.


Canada and France split the first two singles matches in their best-of-five Davis Cup tie in Vancouver on Friday. France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Vasek Pospisil 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in the opening match. Milos Raonic then defeated Julien Benneteau 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 to give Canada a 1-1 tie.


Toronto defeated Boston 86-74 on Friday.


Canadian Patrick Chan won the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships Friday in Colorado Springs, CO. Chan easily outdistanced Japan's Daisuke Takahashi, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics bronze medallist and defending Four Continents champion.


Canadians Kaillie Humphries and Jennifer Ciochetti won gold in their first race together at a World Cup bobsled race. Humphries and Ciochetti made just five passes down the Calgary Olympic Park track together in training before making their debut as a duo on Friday.


Here is Canada's weather forecast for Sunday, February 12. British Columbia will be overcast. The high temperature in Vancouver will be eight degrees Celsius. The Yukon: variable cloudiness. Whitehorse, zero. Northwest Territories: mainly sunny. Yellowknife, minus ten. Nunavut: sunny. Iqaluit, minus 26. Alberta: sunny. Edmonton, six. Saskatchewan: sunny. Regina, minus five. Manitoba: sunny. Winnipeg, minus six. Ontario: variable cloudiness. Toronto: minus three. Ottawa, minus 12. Quebec: mainly sunny. Montreal, minus 12. New Brunswick: snow flurries. Fredericton, minus eight. Nova Scotia: snow flurries. Halifax, minus five. Prince Edward Island: snow flurries. Charlottetown, minus seven. Newfoundland: heavy rain. St. John's, seven.