Saturday, March 17, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Fate of F-35 commitment unclear
The Conservative cabinet minister in charge of buying military equipment says he is looking at all options when it comes to the F-35 stealth fighter jets. The government has set aside $9 billion to replace the air force's aging CF-18 fighter-bombers. Mr. Fantino says no contracts have been signed and no orders have been placed, giving Canada the flexibility to move ahead or behind in the line to buy the new aircraft, or buy more or fewer than the planned 65 planes. The purchase price in any given year depends on how many other countries are placing orders.

The price tag has been the subject of furious debate in Parliament, with the Conservative government insisting it will pay roughly US $75 million per aircraft when it starts buying in 2016. The opposition consider the figure is low. The Conservatives say they still believe the high-tech jet is the best choice to replace the CF-18. The new F-35 would not be delivered until sometime between 2017 and 2023.

Canadian PM denounces 'honour' slayings
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recalled the Shafia killings in the family's hometown of Montreal on Friday to underscore Ottawa's support of a program to prevent honour crimes. Mr. Harper visited a Montreal centre for victims of family violence to denounce crimes against women and girls committed in the name of "honour." He called honour crimes "barbaric" and "heinous" before promising nearly $350,000 to help fund a program led by The Shield of Athena Family Services to prevent these practices in the city. Three members of Shafia family were convicted earlier this year of killing four others in a so-called honour crime. Mohammad Shafia, his son Hamed and his wife Tooba Yahya were each found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, and Mohammad's first wife in a polygamous marriage, Rona Amir Mohammad, 52. The four bodies were found in June 2009, in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, ON.

Former NDP chief mistrusts leadership frontrunner
A former leader of Canada New Democratic Party, Ed Broadbent, is questioning whether the frontrunner for the party leadership has the right temperament for the job. He's challenging Thomas Mulcair's abilities as a team player. Mr. Broadbent says most NDP Members of Parliament who have worked with Mr. Mulcair in caucus are supporting other candidates for next week's leadership convention in Toronto. Mr. Broadbent is supporting Brian Topp in the leadership race.

Air Canada labour bill becomes law
Canadian legislation outlawing a work stoppage at the country's biggest airline, Air Canada, is now the law. The Senate has passed the government legislation and it was quickly given royal assent. The bill sends two disputes at the airline to binding arbitration. One involves 3,000 pilots, and the other about 8,600 baggage handlers, mechanics and cargo agents. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt brought in the legislation, saying a work stoppage at the airline would hurt the economy.

Alberta premier denies election delay
Alberta Premier Alison Redford says there are no plans to delay an election call that will likely see Albertans going to the polls sometime in April. Mrs. Redford says that she isn't pushing anything back, but her number-one priority is to pass the provincial budget first. She says that likely won't take long and then she will call an election. There have been reports that there is pressure from within the Progressive Conservative caucus to delay the call into May due to a number of scandals that have hit the government in recent weeks. But the premier says the caucus is united and nothing has changed.

Lobbies contests Muskrat Falls findng
Environmental groups have filed an application for a judicial review challenging a joint panel's assessment on the proposed $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development in Labrador. The groups, represented by lawyers for Ecojustice, filed the application with the Federal Court of Canada, arguing that the assessment was incomplete. Bruno Marocchio of Sierra Club Canada, one of the groups behind the application, says the assessment doesn't look at alternatives to the project or make any final recommendations to approve or reject it. The lobby says is wants the court to send the review back to the panel to assess the need and effects of the project. Sierra Club says it is confident that if the panel were to re-examine its review, it will find the project is not justified. The Muskrat Falls project passed the federal and provincial environmental assessments Thursday.

B.C. legislates end to teachers job actions
The legislature in Canada's Pacific coast province of British Columbia has voted to end six months of job action by the province's 41,000 public school teachers. The bill prohibits future walkouts, forces teachers to end the limited strike they started in September and sends the dispute to mediation. Teachers have refused to perform certain tasks since last autumn to back their demands for a 15-per cent salary increase and changes to working conditions. The teachers' union is holding its annual general meeting this weekend and will be discussing how to respond to the province's legislation.

More than 200 arrested at Montreal riot


Montreal police are saying 226 people were arrested during Thursday night's protest against police brutality. Police Chief Marc Parent says 36 people were arrested in isolated arrests, while 190 were detained in a mass arrest at a street corner near the downtown core. Four people were still in detention Friday morning. The protesters tossed projectiles at police, vandalized some stores and smashed two cop cruisers. Authorities responded by firing off chemical irritants in an attempt to disperse the crowd of about 1,000 people.


Electric highway operational
Electric car owners riding along Oregon's Interstate 5 don't have to worry about running out of juice on the open road. The first major stretch of what's been dubbed an "Electric Highway" on the West Coast from Canada to Mexico went operational Friday with the opening of a series of fast-charging stations along 260 kilometres of the interstate. The eight stations stretch from the California border north to the Oregon city of Cottage Grove and are located at gas stations,restaurants and motels just off I-5, the nation's second-busiest interstate. They are spaced about every 40 kilometres, so a Nissan Leaf with a range of about 110 kilometres can miss one station and still make it to the next. Electric car drivers will be able to recharge in about 20 minutes.

Afghan leader excoriates U.S. over massacre
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday lashed out at the United States for failing to fully co-operate with an investigation into the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers by a U.S. staff sergeant and questioned whether only one soldier could have been involved. A series of blunders by the United States, including the killings in Kandahar province on Sunday and the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base last month, has further strained already tense relations between the countries.A tired and sometimes angry Mr. Karzai listened to village elders and the families of victims of the massacre at for the start of an expected two days of talks to discuss the killings. Furious Afghans and lawmakers have demanded that the soldier responsible be tried in Afghanistan, but despite those calls, the U.S. staff sergeant was flown out on Wednesday.

UN tells North Korea not to carry out rocket launch
UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Friday called on North Korea not to carry out a rocket launch next month which he warned could breach UN sanctions resolutions. His spokesman says Mr. Ban "is seriously concerned" by North Korea's announced launch. The UN leader reaffirmed his call on the North "to fully comply with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, particularly including the resolution 1874 which bans 'any launch using ballistic missile technology.'" UN Security Council Resolution 1874 was passed after the North's second nuclear bomb test in 2009. North Korea announced earlier it would launch a rocket carrying a satellite next month, just 16 days after agreeing to suspend long-range missile tests in return for massive U.S. food aid.

Bodies of young bus crash victims returned to Belgium
Belgian military aircraft brought home the bodies of 22 children and six adults killed in a bus crash in Switzerland, and the country observed a minute's silence during a national day of mourning on Friday. White coffins were loaded into two Hercules transport

aircraft near the Swiss town of Sion and landed at a military airport near Brussels from where undertakers collected them after a short ceremony. In factories, offices and schools, Belgians stood silent. Buses, trams and some trains also stopped for passengers to pay their respects to the victims, most of them 11 and 12 year olds returning from a school skiing trip. Swiss police continued to investigate how the coach, carrying 52 passengers, crashed into a tunnel wall on Tuesday night.

Tribute paid to Latvian SS
Nearly 1,500 Latvians paid tribute on Friday to soldiers who fought in Nazi Germany's Waffen SS divisions, while nearby Russians held a counterprotest to recall war crimes committed against Jews and other minorities. For many Latvians the annual procession from a Lutheran cathedral to the Freedom Monument in downtown Riga, the capital, is a memorial event for Latvian SS soldiers, known as Legionnaires, who fought for independence during World War II. However, Latvia's minority Russians, who make up about one-third of the nation's 2.1 million people, consider the ceremony an insult to the millions who fought and died in the struggle against Nazi Germany. This year about 100 Russians held their counterprotest about 30 meters from the Freedom Monument.

Argentina would sue oil firms over Falklands activities
Argentina will take legal action against oil companies operating around the disputed Falkland Islands. Foreign Minister Hector Timerman says these firms are operating illegally. The islands have been at the heart of renewed diplomatic dispute since Britain authorized the start of oil and gas exploration there last year. Both Argentina and Britain claim the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas. They have been controlled by Britain since the 1830s. Argentina and Britain fought a brief war in 1982 for control of the Falklands in which Britain maintained control.

Stream of refugees makes Turkey consider Syria intervention
Turkey said on Friday it might set up a "buffer zone" inside Syria to protect refugees fleeing President Bashar al-Assad's forces, raising the prospect of foreign intervention in the year-long revolt. With the uprising entering its second year, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan urged the Security Council to end its divisions over Syria and work to help a peace mission mired in difficulty. On the ground in Syria, opposition activists say the violence continued, as Syrian forces battled protesters in at least three suburbs of the capital Damascus. Refugees are crossing hills into Turkey, evading Syrian forces and minefields to be taken into refugee camps there. The increasing flow, and memories of a flood of 500,000 fleeing into Turkey from Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, are causing growing concern in Ankara.


Bell takes over Astral
Canada's largest telecommunications company, BCE Inc., has added to its media assets with an agreement to buy Astral Media Inc. The deal is worth about $3.38 billion. It includes assets across the country, but BCE president and CEO George Cope said Friday the move is particularly important to make the company a media leader in Quebec province. The transaction will give the Montreal-based company television channels and radio stations across the country. The transaction will require approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the federal Competition Bureau before it's completed.

SK premier mulls fertilizer takeover
Saskatchewan's premier says a decision on whether a potential takeover of Viterra Inc. is of net benefit to the province would consider the impact of such a deal on its head office in Regina. Viterra has put in place a process to handle "expressions of interest" from potential bidders but so far no offers have been announced and the company says there's no assurance one will come forward. But Premier Brad Wall says if a deal for the grain handler is tabled, the province will do a thorough review, much as it did for BHP Billiton's ultimately unsuccessful bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. He says whether Viterra's head office presence in Saskatchewan would grow or shrink would be an important consideration. A bigger head office in Saskatchewan would mean more jobs, as well as positive impact on the wider economy and provincial revenues. He says a smaller presence would have the opposite effect.

Markets
Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 12,498 + 42. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.30. Oil: $107.15 + $2.04.


Sports
HOCKEY

He did not score a goal this time but it hardly mattered. Sidney Crosby safely made it through his second comeback and the National Hockey League's biggest star was grinning like he had won the Stanley Cup. With his Pittsburgh Penguins team on the hottest winning streak in the league, lifting the NHL championship trophy aloft is something Crosby could well be doing in a couple of months. Without Crosby, they had won their last nine games in a row. On Thursday, when he made his comeback from a three-month layoff, the Penguins (43-21-5) extended the streak to 10, thrashing the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers 5-2.


Weather
British Columbia on Saturday: rain south, mix sun cloud north, high C8 Vancouver. Yukon: mix sun cloud. Northwest Territories, Nunavut: snow. Whitehorse 2, Yellowknife -14, Iqaluit -17. Alberta: snow south, mix sun cloud north. Saskatchewan: snow. Manitoba: mix sun cloud. Edmonton 6, Regina 11, Winnipeg 17. Ontario, Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto 16, Ottawa 18, Montreal 14. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island: sun. Nova Scotia: mix sun cloud. Newfoundland and Labrador: snow. Fredericton 11, Halifax 7, Charlottetown 6, St. John's 1.