Friday, March 9, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Ottawa reacts to complaints about drug shortage
The federal Conservatives say they're open to requiring pharmaceutical companies to publicly report gaps in their drug supply in the wake of a prescription medication shortage that caught many by surprise. A spokesman for federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says that while the government still believes a voluntary reporting system is the quickest way to get information to patients and doctors, it is open to other options.

Some Canadian companies voluntarily report shortages of certain drugs, but a growing chorus of voices, including doctors and Ontario Health Minister DebMatthews, want it to be mandatory. She says Sandoz Canada, whose production facility in Quebec has been plagued by production problems, only informed Ontario about the shortfall on Feb. 28, even though it knew about the problem long before then. The minister wrote to Mrs. Aglukkaq on Tuesday about the shortage, urging her to take action now to locate alternative supplies of the affected drugs.

Ottawa steps in again to head off Air Canada strike
Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt stepped in Thursday to prevent a work stoppage at Air Canada next week that would have thrown the travel plans for thousands of families into chaos at the beginning of a holiday week. Mrs. Raitt sent the dispute between the airline and two of its unions, representing pilots and ground crew, to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to see how a work stoppage would affect the health and safety of Canadians. It was the same manoeuvre that she used when it appeared as if Air Canada's flight attendants would go on strike, but the CIRB never made a decision on that matter.

Air Canada had threatened earlier Thursday to lock its pilots out on Monday after they rejected the airline's latest contract offer, while the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents ground crew and mechanics, had set a strike deadline for Monday. Air Canada's employees have been trying to win back pay and concessions they gave up to help the airline restructure under bankruptcy protection in 2003 and 2004.

Federal minister to co-operate with election probe
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says he'll co-operate with any Elections Canada probe into what he says was a clean campaign in his Toronto riding. Mr. Oliver says he is not aware of any voter registration irregularities and has not been contacted by Elections Canada investigators. He was responding to a CBC report that at least 2,700 applications for late registration to vote in his riding of Eglinton-Lawrence gave false or inaccurate addresses. The minister defeated former Liberal MP Joe Volpe by more than 4,000 votes in last year's election. Mr. Volpe's lawyer CBC he wants Elections

Canada to investigate.

Federal lending rate unchanged
The Bank of Canada's interest rate will remain unchanged at one per cent . It has been unchanged for for the past 18 months. The Bank noted that economic conditions have improved over the past few weeks. Economists say they don't anticipate much change to the rate in the next couple of months. But they do say the bank could begin raising rates by the end of the year as the economy strengthens.

B.C. law on teacher strike looms
British Columbia Education Minister George Abbott says legislation suspending any further job action at schools is expected to become law by next Thursday. Mr. Abbott's statement comes on the same day the teachers' union announced it doesn't expect another walkout ahead of spring break later this month. Teachers and more than 570,000 students returned to their classrooms Thursday after a three-day strike that forced some parents to scramble to find alternate childcare arrangements. While the dispute appeared to be cooling off ahead of the legislation, Mr. Abbott's comments to reporters in Victoria indicated he isn't optimistic a settlement could be reached with the help of a mediator. B.C. Teachers' Federation President Susan Lambert said the union has postponed a planned vote for its 41,000 members that would have set the next steps in the contract dispute. Teachers have asked for a 15 per cent wage increase. The government has said it won't move off its so-called net-zero wage mandate unless savings are found within existing contract benefits.

Canada warned of electoral fraud in Burma
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is telling visiting Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird that bogus voters lists are threatening to undermine the upcoming landmark elections in her country. The revelation added extra gravity to Baird's historic visit to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where he personally conferred honorary Canadian citizenship on the Nobel laureate and freedom fighter. Mr. Baird said he was "very concerned" when told of the new problem. Earlier Thursday, Mr. Baird began his visit with a meeting with his counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin and Myanmar President Thein Sein.

The minister says his government hosts expressed a strong commitment to the election process, but added: "the true test will be in the weeks and months that follow." Suu Kyi is running in a landmark byelection next month that the world sees as crucial test of Myanmar's new civilian leadership, which took over the country last year after decades of iron-fisted military rule.


UN reports devastation in Syrian city
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Thursday that the Baba Amr district of the Syrian city of Homs was devastated by an assault by government forces and the fate of people who live there was unclear. She made the asessment after leaving a meeting with ministers in Damascus. Mrs. Amos, a Briton, is the first senior international figure to visit Baba Amr since the government launched its assault against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. Rebel fighters fled Homs a week ago after nearly a month of shelling by government forces. Activists reported reprisals in Baba Amr by Assad loyalists after the rebels withdrew. Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers who entered Baba Amr on Wednesday found it empty. Mrs. Amos' goal is to secure access for aid organizations, which have been barred from the heaviest conflict zones.

British, Italian hostages killed in Nnigeria
British Prime Minister David Cameron say one British and one Italian hostage held in Nigeria have been killed during a joint rescue operation. Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara were captured in northern Nigeria in May. Mr. Cameron says it appears that both hostages "were murdered by their captors before they could be rescued. The UK leader said that after months of not knowing where the men were, British authorities had "received credible information about their location." Believing the men's lives were in "imminent and growing danger," Nigerian and British forces mounted a rescue operation. It was not immediately clear when the men were killed. Nigerian Jonathan Goodluck condemned the killings their captors of the Boko Haram Islamist sect.

Funeral set for victims of Congo holocaust
The government of Republic of Congo says funerals and a memorial service for nearly 200 people killed in Congo by last weekend's munitions dump blasts will take place on Sunday. The funerals will be held in the city centre and be preceded by a memorial service to pay homage to the dead, attended by President Denis Sassou Nguesso. The series of blasts last Sunday at a depot in the east of the Republic of Congo's capital Brazzaville killed almost 200 people and wounded more than 1,300, leaving city hospitals overwhelmed. The explosions were blamed on a short-circuit and fire.

Mexican judge orders release of Frenchwoman
A justice at Mexico's Supreme Court has proposed the immediate release of Frenchwoman Florence Cassez, sentenced to 60 years for kidnapping, in a motion to be voted on by five judges. Judge Arturo Zaldivar wrote that Cassez had been denied immediate access to consular rights, had not been immediately presented to a prosecutor on her 2005 arrest and had not been presumed innocent, a statement said Wednesday. The violations left the Frenchwoman, who is now aged 37, "totally without defense," it said. Cassez's lawyer, Agustin Acosta, said the ruling should be made on March 21.

The proposal criticizes an alleged reconstruction of Cassez's arrest set up by the authorities for TV cameras one day after she was actually detained in late 2005, and says officials were "consciously deforming reality." Mexican appeal judges last year rejected the argument that Cassez's conviction was tainted, despite the staged arrest. Federal police accused Cassez of being involved with a gang of kidnappers known as the Zodiacs, allegedly run by her ex-boyfriend Israel Vallarta, with whom she was arrested.

IOC rejects protest against sponsor
The International Olympic Committee has told India's Sports Ministry that it will retain the Dow Chemical Company as a sponsor of the London 2012 Games. The announcement comes despite controversy over the company's link to the 1984 Bhopal disaster. The Sports Ministry wrote to the IOC last week demanding that Dow be dropped. The IOC has replied to the latest letter as it had to previous correspondence, saying that Dow neither owned nor operated the Union Carbide plant when the disaster occurred. Dow bought Union Carbide in 2000. Union Carbide's Bhopal plant caused the deadly gas leak that killed an estimated 15,000 people and injured half-a-million people.

UN wants more women in government leadership
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Thursday called for women to play a greater role in global leadership, warning that failure to tap their immense potential comes "at our own peril". High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay cited UN statistics showing that as of last year, women held only 19.3 per cent of seats in single or lower houses of parliament worldwide. She noted that only 12 of the Fortune 500 companies have women at the top. At the same time, she said women in rural areas produce 60 to 80 per cent of the food in developing countries, while rarely having rights to the land they cultivate. Mrs. Pillay quoted UN Food and Agriculture Organization figures showing that for every 100 land owners globally, only 20 are women.


U.S. senate rejects bid to hasten pipeline approval of Canadian pipeline
The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate has rejected a Republican bid to speed approval of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. The 56-42 vote Thursday was the latest in a series of partisan skirmishes over TransCanada's Pipeline's Keystone XL project. It would carry oil derived from tarsands in Alberta to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. Sixty votes were needed for approval. President Barack Obama rejected the proposed $7 billion pipeline in January. He cited uncertainty over a yet-to-be-settled route that avoids the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region in Nebraska. Mr. Obama said there was not enough time for a fair review before a deadline forced on him by Republicans. Pipeline supporters call it an important job creator. Opponents say it would transport "dirty oil" that requires huge amounts of energy to produce.

Markets
Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday: 12,461.93, up 112. Canadian dollar: US$100.9 cents up 0.72 of a cent. Euro: $1.31. Oil: $106.99 + .83.


Sports
CURLING

Ontario's Glenn Howard appears to be the favourite heading into this weekend's playoffs at the Tim Hortons Brier. He dumped Nova Scotia's Jamie Murphy 8-3 Thursday morning in Saskatoon. Howard is 9-and-1 and will finish the preliminary round in no worse than second place. The top four teams in the round-robin advance to the Page playoff round Friday.


Weather
British Columbia on Friday: rain south, mix sun cloud north, high C8 Vancouver. Yukon: cloud. Northwest Territories: snow. Nunavut: snow. Whitehorse 1, Yellowknife -8, Iqaluit -27. Alberta, Saskatchewan: sun. Manitoba: snow. Edmonton, Regina 8, Winnipeg -2. Ontario: snow south, cloud north. Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto 3, Ottawa, Montreal 1. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador: rain. Prince Edward Island: snow. Fredericton 1, Halifax 6, Charlottetown 5, St. John's 7.