Saturday, March 24, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 23 March 2012
Canadian International Financial

Canada, Thailand discuss free trade
Thailand's prime minister hailed the possibility of free trade negotiations with Canada on Thursday and welcomed Ottawa's rediscovered interest in southeast Asia. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra says that it has been 15 years since a Canadian prime minister last made a visit to Thailand, which is among the world's fastest growing economies. She made the comments after the two countries announced exploratory talks meant to determine if a trade pact is possible. Since coming to power in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has faced criticism that he has neglected trade opportunities in Asia, particularly in China.
Mr. Harper restated his desire to diversify Canada's trade away from the U.S. market. Mrs. Shinawatra said the two discussed "how to bring our relations to a higher level," and signalled Thailand's interest in Canadian investment, particularly in electronics and aerospace. Experts say a free trade deal with Thailand would be of greater benefit to Canada because Thai tariffs are higher than those imposed by Ottawa.

Air Canada wildcat strike touched off after minister harassed
A spokeswoman for Lisa Raitt says the Canadian labour minister was followed through Toronto's Pearson airport and harassed by Air Canada workers.
The incident, which union officials have described as Mrs. Raitt being heckled, snowballed into a wildcat strike that threw the country's busiest airport into chaos early Friday. The spokeswoman says Mrs. Raitt didn't make any comments about the workers nor speak to them.
A union spokesman says a group of workers did follow Mrs. Raitt to her car. After they clapped when they spotted the minister and heckled her. The workers say they're angry that the minister brought in back-to-work legislation and sent their contract dispute with the airline to arbitration. The illegal strike by Air Canada ground staff in Toronto spread to Quebec City, Montreal and Vancouver. The union says it ended this morning after some 12 hours with assurances the workers would not be punished. Three workers were suspended after Mrs. Raitt was heckled. When word of the suspensions spread their colleagues staged an illegal walkout, prompting the firing of 37 workers. At least 80 Air Canada flights were cancelled and some 83 delayed
on Friday.

NDP elects chief
Canada's official opposition New Democratic Party is holding its leadership convention this weekend in the city of Toronto. Member of Parliament Thomas Mulcair from the province of Quebec is seen as the frontrunner among the seven candidates seeking the post to succeed Jack Layton, who died last August. Although Mr. Mulcair has the most support from the caucus, Brian Topp has the backing of the party's establishment. The winner will be announced Saturday night.

High court issues landmark ruling on natives
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that aboriginal background should be a paramount consideration when sentencing violent offenders who have breached long-term supervision orders. In a 6-1 decision, the justices ruled on twp cases in which offenders on long-term supervision were sentenced after violating the terms of their orders. Both men had long, violent, criminal histories. The justices said the issue of aboriginal background must be considered even in cases where the accused have been placed under long-term supervision by the courts.

NL trail gets PR boost
The U.S.-based National Geographic Society has named a trail in Canada's east coast province of Newfoundland and Labrador as one of the world's top 12 adventure destinations. The society says the 260-kilometre East Coast Trail is a prime location for adventure tourism that gives hikers views of icebergs and deep fjords. The trail passes through more than 30 communities. The Society publishes National Geographic magazine.


EU targets Assad family members
The European Union banned the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from travelling to the EU or shopping with European companies in a move to stop her buying the Chanel dresses she apparently craves. The EU's latest round of sanctions, which also targeted the president's mother and sister, is notable for including Mr. Assad's London-born wife Asma, whose luxury shopping habit was laid bare this month in a series of hacked emails. She was once admired for her cosmopolitan glamour, but has over the past year turned into a hate figure for many Syrians, standing by her husband as he conducts a crackdown against a popular uprising in which thousands have been killed. Mr. Assad has been the target of sanctions since May last year, but these have so far had little impact on his policies.
Violence has intensified in Syria in recent weeks as
pro-government forces bombard rebel towns and villages, trying to sweep their lightly armed opponents out of their strongholds.

Bahraini Shi'ites again take to streets
Thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets of Shi'ite villages around the capital on Friday to demand reforms, with some calling for the ouster of the Sunni-ruled regime. Witnesses say Muslim clerics, women, and elderly people, responding to calls from the opposition, set off from 10 villages near Manama. But the protesters stayed away from the centre of Manama city and the former Pearl Square, where deadly confrontations took place last year between protesters and security forces, the witnesses said, as security measures were stepped up. Most protesters chanted slogans demanding reform, but some called for the "fall of the regime" and others shouted abuse at the Sunni ruling dynasty.

African Union suspends Mali over coup
The African Union has suspended Mali's membership. The move came in response to a mutiny by soldiers who staged a coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure this week. It was the first coup in Mali in 21 years. The chairman of the African Union's Peace and Security Council, Paul Lolo, is urging Mali to restore constitutional order without delay. European countries have also suspended aid to Mali. President Touré's whereabouts remain unknown. But the leader of the coup, Captain Amadou Sanogo, said that Mr. Touré was doing well and that government members arrested by mutinous soldiers were safe. The coup was staged because the army was angry over the government's handling of an uprising by Tuareg rebels in the north. Capt. Sanogo has offered the rebels either to join the army or to face armed retaliation. But military analysts say that Mali's army seems too weak to handle the rebels, who continue to press on with a campaign to seize control of the north. More than 200,000 people have fled villages in the region.

African Union to hunt down notorious guerrilla
The African Union said Friday it will send 5,000 soldiers to join the hunt for war criminal Joseph Kony, a new mission that comes amid a wildly popular Internet campaign targeting the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army. United Nations and African Union officials said in Uganda that the mission is to be launched in South Sudan on Saturday and will last until Kony is caught. Friday's announcement comes the same month an Internet movie campaign by the U.S.-based advocacy group Invisible Children sought to make Kony "famous" so that policymakers would make it a priority to remove him. The video has been viewed more than 100 million times. Abou Moussa, head of the U.N.'s office in Central Africa, said soaring international interest in Kony had spurred regional efforts to eliminate the LRA.

Japanese mayors dubious about restarting nuclear reactors
A poll by the Reuters news agency shows that most Japanese mayors and governors whose communities have nuclear plants want fresh safety assurances beyond government-imposed stress tests before agreeing to the restart of reactors taken off line after the Fukushima crisis. All but two of Japan's 54 reactors have been taken off line since the March 2011 nuclear disaster, mostly for checks or maintenance, and the remaining two will be shut by early May. Nuclear power supplied about 30 percent of Japan's electricity before the crisis and the government is keen to get some up and running again before electricity demand peaks in the summer.
But Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has vowed to get the understanding of local residents, many made wary by the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years, before giving the go-ahead.

U.S. to resume military aid to Egypt
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the green light Friday to resume $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt despite fears it is slipping in its avowed transition to democracy. The move clears the way for $250 million in economic aid this year, which had not been in serious question. The decision also frees up $1.3 billion in military aid this year. The decisions marked the denouement of a crisis in the 30-year-old US-Egyptian alliance that erupted over a crackdown in December on pro-democracy groups by Egypt's interim military rulers. Mrs. Clinton had said she was reviewing aid to Egypt following the prosecution of members of U.S.-funded groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House.

Russia reiterates distrust of NATO missile plan
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Friday that a United States-led NATO missile defence plan Washington says is aimed at deflecting potential Iranian threats will break existing nuclear parity with Russia and prompt it to retaliate. Moscow has rejected Washington's claim the plan is solely to deal with any Iranian threat, and voiced fears it will eventually become powerful enough to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent. NATO has said it wants to co-operate with Russia on the missile shield, but has rejected Moscow's proposal to run it jointly. Without a NATO-Russia co-operation deal, the Kremlin has sought guarantees from the U.S. that any future missile defence is not aimed at Russia and threatened to retaliate if no such deal is negotiated.


RIM to present new BlackBerry
Research in Motion says developers will get a taste of the much anticipated new BlackBerry 10 operating system in May. Attendees at the company's developers' conference in Orlando, FL., will get a prototype device, called the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, which will function as a testing platform for programming apps. RIM stresses that the phone and its pre-loaded software are not official products, and the operating
system in particular is not a final version of BlackBerry 10. The phone will contain a modified version of the software used on RIM's PlayBook tablet. RIM has said its first phone with the new BlackBerry 10 operating system is expected sometime late this year.

Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday: 12,466 + 104. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.32. Oil: $106.88 + $1.53.

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