Friday, February 17, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Federal govt. moves to stop fake refugee claims

Canada's Conservative government will use its majority once again to overhaul the refugee system to reduce bogus claims. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has tabled legislation in the House of Commons Thursday giving him the power to decide which countries are safe and which are not. Refugees from safe countries whose claims are rejected will not be permitted to appeal the decision. New Democratic Party critic Don Davies called the bill "a serious step backwards for Canada's refugee system." The safe countries list is meant to cut down on claims from places such as Mexico and Hungary, which have democratically elected governments and generally follow human-rights treaties. Mr. Kenney says Canada will continue to accept legitimate refugees.

Ottawa keeps close eye on Air Canada labour squabble
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt says the Canadian government is confident that Air Canada and its pilots' union will reach a contract agreement and avoid a work stoppage at the world's eighth largest airline, The two sides have agreed to Mrs. Raitt's offer of a six-month mediation process in a bid to settle major differences. Air Canada flies to more than 150 destinations and a work stoppage would cause considerable problems for travellers. The pilots have been without a contract for almost a year. They're are worried about pensions, pay and Air Canada's plan to set up a low-cost carrier. This week they voted overwhelmingly in favor of giving their union a strike mandate.

Canadian Commons approves gun registry abolition
Canada's Conservative Party government has finally won House of Commons approval for scrapping the controversial long-gun registry. The Conservatives used their majority to pass the bill by a vote of 159-130, with the support of two members of the opposition New Democratic Party. All other opposition Members of parliament voted against it. Since taking office in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly vowed to kill the registry. But was he prevented from passing the bill by opposition parties because his government was in a minority position. In last May's federal election, the Conservatives won a majority. The legislation must still be passed by the Senate, where the Conservatives also have a majority.

Canadian leader preseed to uphold cluster bomb accord

Canada's former chief negotiator on a treaty to rid the world of dangerous cluster munitions is urging Prime Minister

Stephen Harper not to succumb to pressure to water down the treaty. Earl Turcotte told Mr. Harper in a Feb. 10 letter that Canada's ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions "is long overdue." Mr. Turcotte urged the prime minister to stick to the negotiating position that he helped craft as Canada's lead negotiator on the treaty. The letter comes exactly one year after Mr. Turcotte ended a nearly 30-year public service career by resigning in protest from the Foreign Affairs Department over how the government planned to interpret a key provision of the convention. A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that the government would introduce legislation "shortly" that would "fully ratify the treaty." Canada was one of more than 100 countries to sign the cluster bomb treaty in December 2008, but has yet to table legislation in Parliament to ratify it, unlike its speedy adoption of the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines in the late 1990s.

City to mark Titanic anniversary
The eastern Canadian city of Halifax has planned a series of solemn tributes to commemorate 100 years since the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic. A waterfront walk, an interfaith memorial service and a moment of silence are among the events scheduled for April. The Nova Scotia government says it expects visitors from around the world to come to Halifax during that time. The Titanic went down on April 15, 1912, after hitting an iceberg south of the Grand Banks. Ships were dispatched from Halifax with the grim task of recovering bodies. One-hundred-and-fifty of them are buried in three city cemeteries.

UN chief accuses Syrian govt.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian government of potential crimes against humanity Thursday as activists reported fresh violence in Daraa, the city where the uprising against President Bashar Assad erupted 11 months ago. Speaking to reporters in Vienna, Mr. Ban demanded the Syrian government stop using indiscriminate force against civilians caught up in fighting between government troops and Mr. Assad's opponents. Syrian activists said government forces attacked Daraa on Thursday, carrying out arrests and shooting randomly in the city seen as the birthplace of the uprising. They also reported intense clashes between army defectors and government troops in the central province of Hama. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces killed at least one civilian in Daraa, and that clashes between defectors and government troops there left at least three regime soldiers dead.

Israel wants UN to condemn attacks against diplomats
Israel's UN ambassador is asking the Security Council and the Secretary-General to condemn bomb attacks on Israeli targets that his country blames on Iran. Ambassador Ron Prosor said in the letters distributed by the Israeli mission to U.N. correspondents on Thursday that the Security Council should have "immediately" condemned the attacks launched over the past week in India, Georgia and Thailand. An Israeli diplomat and several bystanders were injured in a car bomb attack in New Delhi. The Security Council has not met this week because it is visiting Haiti.

Rights lobby denounces Libyan militias
Amnesty International reports that armed militias now rule much of Libya, accusing them of torturing detainees

deemed loyal to the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi and driving entire neighbourhoods and towns into exile.

At least 12 detainees had died since September after torture, Amnesty said. The report is a fresh blow to Libya's new government, the National Transitional Council, which helped lead the anti-Gadhafi uprising that broke out one year ago this week and spiraled into a brutal, eight-month civil war. Since the war's end with the capture and killing of Gadhafi last October, the NTC has struggled to extend its control over the vast desert nation. It has largely failed to rein in the hundreds of brigades that fought in the war, many of which now run their own detention centres for those accused of links to Gadhafi's regime.

Bodies of Honduras fire victims removed in pieces

The Associated Press reports that the prisoners whose scorched bodies were carried out piece by piece Thursday morning from a charred Honduran prison had been locked inside an overcrowded penitentiary where most inmates had never been charged, let alone convicted. AP reported on the basis of an internal Honduran government report. The Honduran government report, which was sent to the United

Nations this month, said 57 per cent of some 800 inmates of the Comayagua farm prison north of the Central American country's capital were either awaiting trial or being held as suspected gang members. A fire that witnesses said was started by an inmate tore through the prison Tuesday night, burning and suffocating screaming men in their locked cells as rescuers desperately searched for keys. Officials confirmed 358 dead, making it the world's deadliest prison fire in a century.

Underwear  bomber sentenced to life
A Nigerian who tried to blow up an international flight near Detroit on behalf of al-Qaida has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The mandatory punishment Thursday for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was never in doubt after he pleaded guilty in October. The

25-year-old says the bomb in his underwear was a "blessed weapon" to avenge poorly treated Muslims worldwide. The bomb didn't fully detonate aboard an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight but caused a brief fire that burned Abdulmutallab. Prosecutors said the a plot hatched by slain Al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaqi.

New Maldives leader changes mind about elections
Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed on Thursday agreed to demands for early elections, after taking power last week in what his ousted predecessor described as a coup d'etat. The island nation in the Indian Ocean, has endured a political stand-off since Feb. 7 when protesters backed by police toppled Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected leader. Mr. Waheed previously planned to form a national unity government and hold scheduled elections by late 2013. The change of policy was likely to be seen as a victory for Mr. Nasheed, who has refused to accept the new administration and repeatedly called for elections to be held as soon as possible.

Somali refugees again forced into flight

Thousands of Somalis on Thursday fled an insurgent-held town for the capital, fearing a military attack by African Union troops allied with the weak U.N.-backed Somali government. Hundreds of cars and trucks packed with mattresses and other household items created traffic jams in the capital of Mogadishu a day after Somali and African Union troops extended their reach and launched an offensive on Elasha Biyaha. The rebel-held settlement, southwest of Mogadishu, is inhabited by Somalis who fled Mogadishu violence in 2007. This week's advance by Somali troops supported by the AU force follows a declaration by the Somali insurgent group al-Shabab that they had formally joined al-Qaida. The latest influx of refugees into Mogadishu will put further strain on the Somali government, which this month evicted thousands of Somalis from government-owned buildings in the capital.

Western physicians agree jailed former Ukrainian prime minister is sick
A lawyer for jailed former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says Western doctors have concluded she has

"serious" health problems. Mrs. Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence on charges of abuse of office following a trial that the West has condemned as politically motivated. She was examined by a group of Western doctors this week after complaining of severe back pain and inability to walk or stand. Mrs. Tymoshenko's lawyer said Thursday that the German and Canadian doctors said she was in grave condition. He did not provide any further details. Government-appointed doctors have insisted her health is satisfactory. Mrs. Tymoshenko accuses President Viktor Yanukovych of putting her behind bars to get rid of his main political rival.

Rating service casts jaundiced eye at Royal Bank
Moody's Investors Service may lower the ratings of some of the world's largest banks, including Royal Bank of Canada, as well as those of some securities firms because their long-term prospects for profitability and growth are allegedly shrinking. Besides the Royal Bank, Canada's largest in terms of assets, other banks under review for possible downgrades include Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley. Royal Bank said it was surprised to be included in this review and said it believed its inclusion was unwarranted.

"This action does nothing to help investors differentiate between strong banks and weak ones. RBC's credit rating and capital base are among the strongest of all banks globally," the bank said in a statement.

Miner moves ahead with environmental project in Sudbury
Mining giant Vale Ltd. is moving ahead with a $2-billion plan to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions at its smelter in Sudbury, ON, where the company's so-called superstack has long been seen as a monument of industrial development and pollution. The initiative, which the Brazilian-based company describes as the largest in the history of Ontario, and likely Canada, has a goal of slashing emissions at the smelter by 70 per cent over several years. The project, which is scheduled to start construction in April, is designed to put emissions below government mandated levels which take effect in 2015. The target is to cut the stack's emissions to 45 kilotonnes per year, compared with the regulatory limit of 66 kilotonnes a year. Vale has already spent about $100 million on the project over the

past four years as it prepared for its final approval.

Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday: 12,486 + 124. Canadian dollar: US$1.00 cents. Euro: $1.30. Oil: $102.34 + .54.

British Columbia on Friday: rain south, mix sun cloud north, high C8 Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud. Nunavut: mix sun cloud snow. Whitehorse -3, Yellowknife -7, Iqaluit -18. Alberta, Manitoba: mix sun cloud. Saskatchewan: snow. Edmonton 3, Regina 0, Winnipeg -5. Ontario: snow north, mix sun cloud south. Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto 5, Ottawa 2, Montreal 3. Atlantic Canada: rain. Fredericton, St. John's 3, Halifax 4, Charlottetown 3.