Saturday, March 3, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 2 March 2012
Canadian International Financial Weather
Canadian

Israeli warns Iran a threat to all
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a nuclear-armed Iran would form a hinge of history and pose a threat to the whole world. On a visit to Ottawa Friday, Mr. Netanyahu said that even if Iran agrees to resume international talks on its nuclear program, it could just be a ruse to stall for time to complete a bomb program.
While Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees that Iran's nuclear ambitions pose a danger, he says he wants to see a peaceful solution. Mr. Harper's refusing to either endorse or condemn the possibility of an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran, saying he wants every action taken to find a peaceful answer. Mr. Netanyahu is opening a mostly private, three-day Canadian visit. He and Harper discussed trade, the Iranian situation and the turmoil in Syria at a private meeting.



Thousands complain about robocalls
Elections Canada is reviewing more than 31,000 complaints about robocalls placed during the May federal election campaign. The agency says the complaints have been pouring in over the last few weeks as the result of MPs and political parties calling on the public to send information. The flood began after it was revealed that Elections Canada was investigating an incident in Guelph, ON., of voters being told to go to polls that didn't exist. The volume of complaints is so high that Elections Canada may end up calling in extra help, including the RCMP,to review people's concerns. The agency plans to report to Parliament on the matter.



Security service given new rules on torture
The Canadian government is allowing the Canadian Security and intelligence Service to give information to foreign agencies even when there's a risk it might lead to torture. The secret directive was made last year and was just made puiblic. A copy was released to The Canadian Press news agency under the Access to Information Act. The rights group Amnesty International says the directive goes against Canada's international commitments against torture.


Canadian economy revived at end of year
The Canadian economy showed signs of revival at the end of last year, a welcome signal that the sharp slowdown of the fall may have been a temporary setback in a slow-moving recovery. The country's gross domestic product grew 0.4 per cent in December, after the surprising 0.1 per cent dip of November, posting a 1.8 per cent annualized gain for the final quarter of 2011. That's slightly weaker than the Bank of Canada's call, but the miss was more than compensated for by an upward revision of third-quarter growth to 4.2 per cent from the previously reported 3.5 per cent. For the year as a whole, the economy rose by 2.5 per cent, down from 3.2 per cent in 2010, but much better than what economists were
predicting a few months ago.


Retirement age doesn't now need upward adjustment
Canada's human resources minister, Diane Finley, suggests there's no need for Canada to raise the retirement age for at least another 10 years. Mrs. Finley's department is responsible for old age pensions. She says some countries may have to take that step sooner because their public finances are not in good shape. But she says the Canadian government can take longer to reform retirement benefits because the country's finances are in good shape. Sources in the Conservative Party government have suggested the retirement age might have to be increased from 65 to 67 at some point in the future for Old Age Security benefits.



NL hydro project gets boost
Newfoundland and Labrador's consumer advocate is endorsing the proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project as the cheapest option for the province's future energy needs. In a written submission to the province's Public Utilities Board,
Tom Johnson says he agrees with the conclusion of a review by Manitoba Hydro International. That report, released last month, found the $6.2-billion project is the cheapest alternative when compared to Newfoundland relying solely on the power it generates. However, the Manitoba Hydro report also warned of risky variables that could drive up costs.
Crown corporation Nalcor Energy and Nova Scotia private utility Emera are hammering out a deal to jointly fund the
megaproject, which would bring power from Labrador to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Newfoundland's Public Utilities Board is to report by March 31 on whether power from Muskrat Falls is needed, and if it would be cheaper than the island of Newfoundland remaining isolated from mainland energy sources.



Space station seeks new world partners
The five partners on the International Space Station are looking to the future of the orbiting space lab, with some hoping that it will one day become even more worldly. "We are not a closed club, our doors are wide open," Vladimir Popovkin, the head of the Russian Space agency, said after a meeting in Quebec City Thursday of the leaders of the organizations involved in the station. Mr. Popovkin ventured that the day will come when China and India will work together with the five ISS partners, Canada, the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency.
Jean-Jacques Dordain, head of the European body, said he hopes the International Space Station partnership would be open, adding it would benefit from co-operation with China.




International

UN chief demands Syria open doors to aid workers
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is asking the Syrian government to immediately give humanitarian workers access to people who desperately need aid. The UN chief made the revelation on Friday after government troops blocked a Red Cross convoy from delivering aid to an especially hard-hit neighbourhood in the besieged city of Homs. Mr. Ban is referring to the images of the violence in Syria as "atrocious" and "intolerable." He says Syrian authorities need to stop the violence and let aid workers into affected areas "without preconditions." Mr. Ban was to address the General Assembly on Syria later Friday. The United Nations says more than 7,500 people have been killed in an 11-month crackdown by the government on protesters.


Iranians cast ballots in parliamentary poll
Iranians voted on Friday in a parliamentary election expected to reinforce the power of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's clerical establishment over rival hardliners led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian leaders are looking for a high turnout to repair an acute crisis of legitimacy caused by Mr. Ahmadinejad's re-election in 2009 when widespread accusations of fraud plunged the Islamic Republic into the worst unrest of its history.
Iran also faces economic turmoil compounded by Western sanctions over a nuclear programme that has prompted threats ofmilitary action by Israel, whose leader meets U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House on Monday. The poll will have scant impact on Iran's foreign or nuclear policies, in which Khamenei already has the final say, but it could strengthen the Supreme Leader's hand before next year's presidential election. Mr. Ahmadinejad cannot run for a third term.




Venezuelan leader claims quick recovery
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he is recovering quickly from tumour surgery in Cuba. Mr. Chavez says doctors have put him on a special diet, and that he's taking daily walks and spending time with close relatives. The president has been in Cuba since last Friday to have a growth removed in the same part of the pelvis where a larger, malignant tumour was extracted last year. There has been no word on whether the new lesion is cancerous. During a brief telephone call broadcast live on state television Friday, Mr. Chavez did not provide specific details of the surgery or the tumour that was removed.


Serbia hails EU decision
Serbia's president says his country's candidacy for EU membership shows the troubled Balkan nation is on the "right track" following years of wars and international isolation. Boris Tadic said Friday that the decision by European Union
leaders to formally make Serbia a candidate for entry presents a "great achievement." In Brussels, British Prime Minister David Cameron said development is important for the entire Balkans. Serbia spent much of the 1990s isolated from the EU after then-strongman Slobodan Milosevic started the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.


Kenya builds new port
East African heads of state, including South Sudan President Salva Kiir, attended a ceremony Friday to mark the beginning of construction for a controversial new port in Kenya's eastern coastal region of Lamu. Villagers fear the port may ruin idyllic beaches that draw Hollywood stars to the nearby island of Lamu year after year. But Kenya hopes the port will make the country a regional telecommunications and transportation hub. Mr. Kiir said the port will be a terminal for an alternative oil pipeline through Kenya, freeing South Sudan from its dependence on the infrastructure of Sudan, its former ruler in the north. South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July.




New Jamaican leader wants end to monarchical ties
Jamaica's prime minister says that she wants her Caribbean country to sever ties with the British monarchy soon so it can turn the page on its colonial past and focus on development. Portia Simpson Miller first announced her desire to replace Queen Elizabeth II as Jamaica's head of state with a Jamaican president during her swearing-in ceremony Jan. 6 after leading the People's National Party to a resounding win in parliamentary elections. The queen is titular monarch of the otherwise independent nation.


Stranded cruise passengers make it back to Europe
Scores of passengers from an Italian cruise ship stricken by a fire in the Indian Ocean returned on Friday to Rome, Paris and Vienna saying they were happy to put an unpleasant experience behind them. Cruise operator Costa Crociere laid on the flights from the Seychelles for passengers who said they had had enough after four days stuck on a ship with no electricity, no working bathrooms, no air-conditioning and no engine power. A total of 114 passengers returned on the flights to Europe on Friday. Costa Crociere said earlier that some 70 percent of the 627 passengers on the Costa Allegra had decided to stay on in the Seychelles for a holiday at the company's expense and all passengers would be reimbursed and compensated.





Financial

Sears to close three stores
Sears Canada Inc. plans to close three of its department stores in major Canadian cities, selling back the leases to the landlord for $170 million. The retailer says locations in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa will shut their doors by the end of October. A representative for the company could not immediately be reached to comment on whether Sears was planning to lay off staff. The move comes as the retailer works to revamp its struggling Canadian operations. Last month, the company announced plans to cut roughly 400 jobs across the country as it closed nearly all of its in-store cafes.



Barrick sets up social  responsibility board
Barrick Gold Corp. is setting up a new corporate social responsibility advisory board that includes former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler. The five-member board will help provide advice on community relations, sustainable development, the environment, human rights and other issues. The board will report directly to Barrick chief executive Aaron Regent. Barrick has faced social problems at several of its gold mining operations around the world. Last year, Barrick launched an independent investigation into allegations of sexual assaults at one of its North Mara mine in Tanzania. North Mara was also where police shot and killed seven people after hundreds tried to steal ore from the mine.



Engineering giant sued over Libya operations
A Quebec law firm accused SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. of misleading investors and engaging in illegal activity in Libya in a proposed class-action lawsuit on Friday. Shares in the construction and engineering firm fell more than 20 per cent earlier this week after it launched an investigation into $35 million in mysterious payments and said its 2011 earnings would be less than expected. The suit alleges that SNC and certain members of its senior management team were engaged in unlawful activities in Libya. SNC Lavalin's involvement in Libya included a multimillion-dollar contract to build a prison as well as an airport and a massive irrigation project. On Tuesday, the company launched an accounting probe into $35 million in undocumented payments the company booked last year and said it would have to delay reporting its financial results.



Markets
Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 12,644 - 80. Canadian dollar: US$1.01. Euro: $1.30. Oil: $106.70 - $2.14.




Weather

Weather
British Columbia on Saturday: rain, high C9 Vancouver. Yukon: mix sun cloud. Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud snow. Nunavut; snow. Whitehorse -1, Yellowknife -11, Iqaluit -28. Alberta, Saskatchewan: snow. Manitoba: cloud. Edmonton 4, Regina -2, Winnipeg -10. Ontario: snow. Quebec: rain. Toronto, Ottawa 3, Montreal 4. Maritimes: rain. Newfoundland and Labrador: snow. Fredericton 7, Halifax 5, Charlottetown 3, St. John's 0.




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