Monday, March 5, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 4 March 2012
Canadian International Sports Weather

Anti-robocalls rally held in Vancouver

A series of protest rallies against the so-called robocall scandal got started in Vancouveron Saturday.A few hundred marchers denounced the automated phone calls that directed voters in dozens of ridings away from the correct polling stations in last May's federal election. Elections Canada is reviewing more than 31,000 complaints that have poured in over the last few weeks after opposition political parties called on the public to send information. Among those joining the protest march through downtown Vancouver were opposition members of Parliament and labour union leaders. Another protest is planned in Ottawa on Monday. The governing Conservative Party has rejected allegations that its supporters were somehow connected to placing the calls. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has described the allegations as a smear campaign. The Conservatives won a majority government with 166 seats, a margin of 11 seats.


French predominates in penultimate NDP leadership contest debate
Seven candidates for the leadership of the opposition New Democratic Party held another debate on Sunday in Montreal. One leading candidate, Thomas Mulcair, came under fire from his rivals, Brian Topp, Peggy Nash, Paul Dewar and Niki Ashton, who questioned him about his loyalty to the party. Mr. Mulcair was once a member of Quebec's Liberal Party. The Montreal debate was conducted mostly in French, a language that some of the candidates have not mastered. It's widely believed that a national party leader must speak both of Canada's official languages, English and French. New Democrats began to receive their voting packages last week. They may already mail in their ballots or vote online. One more candidates' debate remains. The new leader will be announced at the NDP convention in Toronto on March 24. The winner will replace Jack Layton who died of cancer last year.

Parents and students facing teachers' strike in BC

Parents and students in British Columbia are preparing for a three-day strike by teachers. The teachers are demanding a 15 per cent wage hike and improved benefits. The government says there's no additional money for the new contract. A recent ruling by the Labour Relations Board allows the teachers to begin the strike Monday. B.C. Education Minister George Abbott has discouraged parents from sending their children to school. However, principals and non-union staff will beat the schoolsto supervisechildren if parents have no other option. The teachers voted 87 per cent in favour of a strike.

More details emerge on new pardons rules

Canadians seeking a criminal record suspension under a new, more expensive pardon system could wait two years or more for their application to be processed -- only to find out they've been rejected. Details published by the government this week show that along with the new $631 fee, the Parole Board of Canada anticipates longer processing times. The changes are all part of sweeping reforms sparked after The Canadian Press revealed in 2010 that former hockey coach Graham James, a repeat sex offender, had been quietly issued a routine pardon. James has since been convicted of more sex offences. Parliament quickly agreed in 2010 to ensure no pardon is granted that would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. It means more intensive and time-consuming scrutiny of applications. The bureaucratic delays will come on top of dramatic extensions in the ineligibility period for pardon applicants contained in the Conservative government's proposed omnibus crime bill currently before the Senate.

Provincial justice system awaits critic's report

The man conducting a review of British Columbia's justice system says he knows there are a lot of frustrations within the system. Geoffrey Cowper mustsubmit a reportby July that suggests ways to fix a system where dozens of charges have not beenaddressedbecause of trial delays. Mr. Cowperwill ask a lot of questions. His main hope is to bring the different players together to help find solutions to the backlog and to other problems plaguing the court system. Judges and Crown lawyers say they are understaffed, defence lawyers say there isn't enough legal aid funding, while the provincial government says it's spending more money when the crime rate is dropping. Mr. Cowper says he's optimistic the review can identify enduring and positive change in the provincial justice system.

Ottawa cancels donation to pro-environment charity

Canada's Conservative Party government has cancelled an agreement with a charity that supports environmental groups after pipeline firm Enbridge Inc. pressured Ottawa to scrap the deal. Newly disclosed documents show Fisheries and Oceans Canada reversed itself last September and announced it would not take an $8.3-million grant channelled through Tides Canada. It was to help pay for a federal ocean-protection plan for north-coast B.C. The area includes waters around a marine terminal for Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline. Documents show the reversal came after Enbridge told a senior bureaucrat in the department the deal with Tides Canada had to be stopped because planning would be "hijacked" by the "anti oil sands" charity. An Enbridge spokesman, however, said the firm played no part in the decision by Fisheries and Oceans to decline the funds. The internal documents were obtained under the Access to Information Act. The documents also suggest the deal's cancellation went against the advice of public servants at the Fisheries Department. A Fisheries Department spokesperson says the agreement was cancelled only to streamline the ocean plan.

Hungarian writer seeks asylum in Canada
An elderly Hungarian writer, Akos Kertesz, plans to seek asylum in Canada to escape what he calls a political campaign against him. In an article published last year in the American Hungarian-language newspaper Amerikai Nepszava, Mr. Kertesz criticized Hungary's role in the Holocaust. Mr. Kertesz is Jewish. He blamed the current government for failing to admit that wartime Hungarians were responsible for the death of more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews. He described wartime Hungarians as genetically inferior and as pigs. Mr. Kertesz later amended the article to omit the reference to genetics. He says that Hungary must apologize for its wrongs if it is to receive absolution. Mr. Kertesz is the winner of his country's most prestigious literary prize, the Kossuth. He left Hungary on Wednesday bound for Canada.


Vladimir Putin coasts to victory in Russian presidential election

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Russia's presidential elections on Sunday. One exit poll projected that Mr. Putin won 58 per cent of the vote. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov trailed in second with 17 per cent. Nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovskyhad 8 per cent, tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov had 7 per cent, while the left-leaning former upper house speaker Sergei Mironov was fifth with four per cent. Official resultswill be published on Monday.Some of the tens of thousands of monitors observing Russia's polls reported violations and posted evidence on the Internet. But election officials denied any significant fraud. The electionsaw a record number of volunteers signing up to monitor the casting and counting of ballots, with over 27,000 monitors present at Russian polling stations. By Sunday afternoon,, an umbrella website coordinating monitoring efforts, listed some 2,700 voting violations.A series of videos made by a monitor in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg showed police detaining a minivan with about 10 people who admit they have already voted several times. Organized repeated voting --referred to in Russian as a "carousel" -- usually involves people using absentee voting documents to receive ballots.

Hundreds killed by munitions dump explosions in Congo Republic

A series of explosions at a weapons dump has killed at least 206 people in the capital of the Congo Republic, Brazzaville. A senior government official says that hundreds of others were injured. The exact number of casualties was still unclear. The explosions rocked the city's neighbourhood of Mpila on Sunday morning, destroying houses near the scene. An unknown number of people were trapped in the debris of a collapsed church. The weapons depot is near the president's private residence, but he was at his official residence in another part of town and was not hurt. President Denis Sassou-Nguesso later visited the morgue, a hospital and the military hospital. The force of the blasts smashed windows as far as four kilometres away across the Congo River in Kinshasa. Thick smoke filled the sky. The Defence Ministry is dismissing speculation that the explosion was an attempt to stage a coup or mutiny. The Ministry says that a fire likely set off the blasts.

U.S. President makes appeal to Israel
U.S. President Barack Obama expressed hope on Sunday that sanctions against Iran would prove effective and discourage an Israeli military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Speaking in Washington to a pro-Israel lobbying group, Mr. Obama appealed to Israel to be patient for the sake of world security and peace. But he also warned Iran that the United Statesis prepared to use military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Mr. Obama spoke one day before he's scheduled to meet Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Washington. Mr. Netanyahu was in Ottawa on Sunday at the end of a three-day visit to Canada. In recent weeks, he has spoken belligerently about the danger of Iran's nuclear program despite Iran's assurance that it uses nuclear power only for peaceful purposes.

Iran's president suffers electoral blow

Candidates loyal to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have won more than 75 per cent of the seats in parliamentary elections. Results of the vote on Friday were announced on Sunday. The Ayatollah's victory marks a defeat for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As a result of the vote, the president's influence on policy will be greatly diminished. The election was seen as a contest between hardline conservative factions and reformist leaders. No change in Iran's foreign policy is expected.

Hugo Chavez admits to recent cancer operation
Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, has admitted for the first time that he had a cancerous tumour removed in a Cuban hospital last week, adding that he must undergo more radiotherapy treatment. The tumour was a recurrence of the cancer that first surfaced last year. Mr. Chavez hinted that the latest cancerous growth had not spread to other parts of his body. He expects to start a new round of radiation treatment after his latest surgical incisions heal in several weeks. Mr. Chavez faces a tough election later this year.

China's rulers gather for legislative session

China's annual legislative session opens Monday amid a challenging transition to a new generation of leaders and concerns about the economy. The National People's Congress also starts as China faces new pressures at home and abroad, but its leadership may be ill-equipped to respond because of a lengthy transition period. President Hu Jintao and senior Communist Party leaders begin stepping aside this fall after a decade in power to make way for new leaders.Economic worries include the European crisis and a fragile U.S. recovery.

Red Cross still negotiating access with Syrian authorities
China called for an end to violence in Syria Sunday as the regime of Bashar al-Assad sparked international outrage by blocking aid from reaching the battered Baba Amr area in the city of Homs. The Red Cross says it could be days before badly-needed aid is allowed into Baba Amr. The food, medical supplies and other aid is in seven Red Cross trucks that are being held up by the Syrian military. On Thursday, Syrian forces took control of most of Homs from rebels, who are trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad. As more bloodshed was reported across Syria onSunday, Britain and Turkeyaccusedthe regime of committing a crime by barring theRed Cross convoys from entering Baba Amr. Meanwhile, China, which twice joined Russia in blocking UN Security Council resolutions against Syria's lethal crackdown on dissent, urged all parties in Syria to "unconditionally" end the violence. But an official statement said Beijing opposed "interfering in Syria's internal affairs under the pretext of 'humanitarian issues." At least 7,500 people have been killed in fighting since the insurrection against Mr. Assad's rule began last March.

Investigation seeks cause of Polish train collision

An investigation continued on Sunday to try to determine the cause of the collision between two trains in southern Poland in which 16 people were killed and more than 50 others were injured. Some foreigners, including an American woman, were among those hurt, some of them seriously. Railway officials want to know why one train was on the wrong tracks. Maintenance was being performed on one set of tracks at the accident site. The accident occurred near the small town of Szczekociny. One train was travelling from Warsaw to Krakow. The other was headed from the eastern city of Przemysl to Warsaw.



Canadian Erin Mielzynski won the slalom event in Ofterschwang, Germany, on Sunday, Canada's first World Cup slalom victory in more than four decades. She won thanks to a strong second run. Her previous best showing was a thirteenth place finish last year. Resi Stiegler of the United States was second and Marlies Schild of Austria was third. Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon was fifth.

At the junior men's curling championship in Ostersund, Sweden, Canada's Brendan Bottcher beat the U.S., 9-6 on Sunday morning and then defeated Swizterland, 7-6, to tie atop the men's standings with Sweden at 3-0. In junior women's action, Canada's Jocelyn Peterman defeated Norway, 10-3, in just seven ends to improve to 2-1.

Randy Carlyle won his first game as Maple Leafs coach Saturday as Toronto defeated the Canadiens 3-1 in Montreal. In the only other game involving a Canadian-based team, Vancouver lost to Buffalo 5-3.

Camilo scored in the 10th minute as Vancouver defeated Toronto FC 1-0 to win the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Florida on Saturday. Toronto used mostly backups because it plays a CONCACAF Champions League game against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday. Vancouver begin their second MLS season at home next Saturday against the expansion Montreal Impact.

Canada's Alex Harvey raced to a bronze medal at Saturday's skiathlon World Cup pursuit race in Finland. Harvey finished just 4.2 seconds back of winner Dario Cologna of Switzerland. Cologna extended his overall World Cup lead with the win.

Four Canadians are among the 66 mushers entered in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race scheduled to begin Sunday in Willow, Alaska, 80 kilometres north of Anchorage. The mushers and their dog teams will head across the state to Nome, 1,600 kilometres away. The record for covering the distance is eight-days, 18-hours, and 46-minutes.



Here is Canada's weather forecast for Monday, March 5. British Columbia will have variable cloudiness. The high temperature in Vancouver will be seven degrees Celsius. The Yukon: variable cloudiness. Whitehorse, minus seven. Northwest Territories: mainly sunny. Yellowknife, minus 21. Nunavut: sunny. Iqaluit, minus 29. Alberta: overcast. Edmonton, minus three. Saskatchewan: snow flurries. Regina, zero. Manitoba: overcast. Winnipeg, zero. Ontario: sunny. Toronto: minus one. Ottawa, minus seven. Quebec: sunny periods. Montreal, minus six. New Brunswick: increasing cloudiness. Fredericton, one. Nova Scotia: cloudy. Halifax, four. Prince Edward Island: snow flurries. Charlottetown, two. Newfoundland: freezing drizzle. St. John's, one.

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