Tuesday, February 14, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Canada denounces attacks against Israeli envoys
Canada has condemned Monday's attacks on Israeli diplomatic targets in India and Georgia. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calls the attacks "senseless" and is urging the Indian and Georgian authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. In New Delhi, four people were wounded when an assailant on a motorcycle detonated a magnetic bomb that was attached to an Israeli diplomat's vehicle. In Tbilisi, Georgia, an explosive device that had been planted on an Israeli Embassy car was defused before it could explode. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Iran for the attacks. Iran has denied any responsibility.

New rotation of Canadian military trainers leaves for Afghanistan
Almost 100 soldiers departed Canadian Forces Base Gagetown Monday night for Afghanistan. They are the first in a wave of troops that will relieve the first rotation of military personnel who have been training the country's security forces since last summer. The troops assembled at the New Brunswick military base before embarking on a mission aimed at strengthening the Afghan National Security Forces. Around 950 military personnel have been stationed in and around Kabul since July, instructing Afghan soldiers, police and medical staff. Small contingents of Canadian trainers have also been deployed to the cities of Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and Herat in the west, near the border with Iran. One soldier has died as part of the training mission. Master Corporal Byron Greff was killed in October when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by a suicide car bomber. Canada's training mission is scheduled to conclude in 2014.

Canada wants membership in proposed regional grouping
Canada's trade minister is traveling to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei this week to press for Canada's inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership future free trade zone. In one-on-one talks with his counterparts on Feb. 12-15, International Trade Minister Ed Fast will continue to indicate Canada's interest in joining the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Nine of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum's 21 member economies are negotiating the new pact that could create the largest free trade zone in the world, far bigger by percentage of world GDP than the European Union, but less integrated. Canada formally expressed interest in joining the TPP negotiations at an APEC meeting in November 2011. Since then Mr. Fast has met with officials in TPP member countries Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Canadian asbestos mining industry unafraid of legal repercussions
Canada's asbestos industry says it has nothing to fear after two men were criminally convicted today in more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths in Italy. Construction-firm executives Jean-Louise de Cartier of Belgium and Stephan Schmidheiny of Switzerland were each handed 16-year prison sentences for negligence following what officials called a historic trial. A representative for Canada's controversial asbestos sector says he doesn't believe similar criminal charges could ever be laid against industry players here. The industry spokesman says if it were possible, such charges likely would already have been filed against people in the highly scrutinized industry. But a law expert consulted by the Canadian Press, Ed Ratushny, says similar criminal charges could be possible in Canada, even if it might be difficult for prosecutors to obtain a conviction. Canada has faced mounting opposition from health critics at home and abroad over its production and export of the carcinogenic material. Industry backers, however, insist asbestos can be handled safely.

More alleged Vancouver rioters could be charged
Vancouver police have sent another set of files to the Crown recommending charges against alleged Stanley Cup rioters, with the force giving itself high marks for the progress of the investigation. The announcement comes as police appeal for information in the assault of one of its officers, who was hit on the head with a brick during the June 15 riot last year. Insp. Les Yeo says the force has asked the Crown to approve 70 charges against 25 suspected rioters, bringing the total number to 125 suspects. But the Crown has so far only approved charges against 47 people, who together are accused of 129 offences including participating in a riot, assault and break and enter. Vancouver police have faced criticism over the pace of the investigation since last June.

Israel blames Iran for attacks against envoys
Israel blamed Iran on Monday for bomb attacks on its diplomats' cars in India and Georgia, heightening concerns that the Jewish state was moving closer to striking its archenemy. Iran denied responsibility for the attacks that appeared to mirror the recent killings of Iranian nuclear scientists that Tehran blamed on Israel. The blast in New Delhi set a car ablaze and injured four people, including an Israeli Embassy driver and a diplomat's wife; the device in Georgia was discovered and safely defused. "Iran is behind these attacks and it is the largest terror

exporter in the world," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers from his Likud Party. The violence added further tension to one of the globe's most contentious standoffs. Iran has been accused of developing a nuclear weapons program that Israel says threatens the existence of the Jewish state. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Obama presents budget
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday was selling a $3.8 trillion election-year budget, a spending outline designed to cut $4 trillion from the deficit in 10 years through spending restraints and higher taxes on the wealthy. Republicans said the plan fails to tackle the nation's deep fiscal problems. Mr. Obama's budget clearly sets him apart from Republicans who are rabidly opposed to higher taxes and believe the only way to cut government red ink is to slash the heavy burden of social programs, particularly the federal Medicare health insurance program for Americans at age 65. The budget frames and likely will intensify the deep partisan divisions that have kept Washington in gridlock since Republicans regained majority control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election. The president would achieve $1.5 trillion of the deficit reductions in tax increases on the wealthy and by removing certain

corporate tax breaks. Mr. Obama rejected Republican charges of class warfare. The president also defended his proposed tax increases on the wealthy, saying it was important that the burden of getting deficits under control be a shared responsibility.

Putin vows to reverse discouraging demography
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday vowed to reverse Russia's demographic decline and boost its population to 154 million, as he stepped up his re-election campaign in the face of protests. In a new campaign article addressing his core constituency including employees of state companies and blue-collar workers, Mr. Putin also promised salary hikes to teachers and doctors and pledged to create a more just state. The prime minister reeled off a list of social policies that he said could reverse a demographic decline and boost Russia's current population that has now dwindled to almost 143 million. After serving two consecutive presidential terms between 2000 and 2008 and a term as prime minister, Mr. Putin is seeking a third term in the March 4 presidential election. He is however struggling with the worst legitimacy crisis of his 12-year rule, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in December and earlier this month.

UN backs new government for Maldives
The United Nations on Monday backed Maldives'

new leader's proposal for a national unity government though the

ousted leader is calling for a snap poll to resolve a political


U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar

Fernandez-Taranco called on all parties to come together "on the

principle of inclusiveness and national unity, and reach a consensus

on the way forward."

Former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned last Tuesday after

months of public protests and fading support from the police and

military. His vice-president succeeded him and has been forming a


Nasheed later claimed he was forced out at gunpoint in a coup and

demanded an early election.

Nigerian cop admits police abuses
Nigeria's new police chief said Monday the force has carried out extra-judicial killings, detained innocent people and lost the public's trust, among the frankest ever admissions by a top police leader. Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly accused Nigerian security forces of massive rights violations.

"Our anti-robbery squads have become killer teams," Mohammed Abubakar said. "Our respect is gone and the Nigerian public has lost even the slightest confidence in the ability of the police to do any good thing," the police chief said. President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Abubakar on January 25 amid intense public criticism over the government's inability to stamp out Boko Haram Islamists who have killed more than 200 people already this year.

Greece faces another financial deadline
Europe gave Greece until Wednesday to convince sceptical international creditors that it would stick to the punishing terms of a multi-billion-euro rescue package, endorsed by parliament as rioters torched downtown Athens.

Lawmakers backed drastic cuts in wages, pensions and jobs on Sunday as the price of a $170-billion bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund to avert a default that would send shockwaves through the euro zone. The EU warned on Monday that the consequences of failure would be "devastating". It gave the fragile ruling coalition of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos until Wednesday, when euro zone finance ministers are expected to meet, to specify how 325 million euros of the 3.3 billion euros demanded in budget savings will be achieved.

Canada's corporate tax rate rated favourably
Canada is easily in the first quartile, and well ahead of its G8 competitors, in terms low corporate taxes and the ease with which they can be paid, according to new comparison of global tax regimes. The joint study by PricewaterhouseCooper, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation ranks Canada 39th out of 183 countries on its tax rate, and 11th in ease of paying taxes. The critical finding is that Canada's 28.8 per cent overall corporate tax is well below that of the United States (44.8 per cent), and other advanced economies like Germany, the United Kingdom and France. On ease of paying taxes, including the number filings required each year and the time it took to file, Canada ranked well ahead of all its G8 competitors. Canada's efforts on the corporate tax front have not gone unnoticed. Last year, Forbes magazine ranked Canada as the best place in the world to do business.

Ottawa in boost to B.C.'s shipbuilding
The Canadian government is putting up more than $1 million to help support the B.C. shipbuilding industry. Western Economic Diversification Minister Lynne Yelich says the money is for the construction of a marine training and research centre in Esquimalt, which is also home of the Navy's Pacific fleet. The announcement comes a few months after the Conservative government granted an $8-billion shipbuilding contract to B.C.-based Seaspan Shipyards, which is also contributing money to the new centre. Seaspan President Brian Carter says the centre will play a major role in training workers for the shipbuilding program and other ship projects. The centre, which will be managed by the shipbuilding industry, will provide everything from entry-level training and apprenticeship programs to management skills.

Air Canada continues contract talks with pilots
Air Canada says that contract talks with the union representing its 3,000 pilots are scheduled to continue this week, adding it is confident it can avoid a labour disruption, which could come as early as Friday morning. Pilots represented by the Air Canada Pilots Association repeated that they did not want a strike, even as members voted on whether to give their bargaining committee a mandate to walk off the job. Air Canada syas talks were scheduled to continue beyond Tuesday with the assistance of a federally appointed mediator. A 21-day cooling off period in the talks, which had been taking place under a government-appointed conciliator and following a legislated timetable, ends at 12:01 on Tuesday. At that time, Air Canada will be in a legal position to file 72 hours notice of a lockout, meaning it can lock out the pilots if it wants to as early as 12:01 a.m. on Friday. In any event, Canada's Conservative government has shown that it will not tolerate a labor disruption at Air Canada, which it regards as an important driver of economic growth. Last year, Ottawa stepped in twice to halt labor strife at the airline.

Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday: 12,399 + 1. Canadian dollar: US100.07 cents, up 0.35 of a cent from Friday's close. Euro: $1.31. Oil: $100.58 + 1.91.