Tuesday, March 6, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Canada shutters Syria embassy
Canada has withdrawn its remaining diplomats from Syria and closed the embassy in Damascus. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the deteriorating security situation forced the pullout. Canada has been urging Canadians to leave Syria for months. Any still remaining can still seek consular help through Beirut, Lebanon, or Amman, Jordan. The closure came as Mr. Baird also announced more sanctions against Syria, including a freeze on the assets of the country's central bank and seven senior ministers in the government of Bashir Assad. Mr. Baird is calling for a wider international effort to pressure the Assad régime.

Finance minister hears pleasant tidings
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is getting some mildly encouraging news from economists as he prepares to release the next federal budget on the March 29. Economists met with the minister Monday morning and said Mr. Flaherty is getting some mildly encouraging news from economists as he prepares to release the next federal budget. Economists met with the minister Monday morning and said Ottawa will likely have a little more cash to play with than was expected last fall. They said the economic situation appears less troubling than when the group met last fall, when Mr. Flaherty increased the contingency fund for downward surprises.

The minister says while he still worries about Europe, where several governments face severe debt levels, he was more optimistic about the U.S. economy and also found some encouragement in Canada's gross domestic product. A Statistics Canada report released Friday showed GDP growth returned in December. It also upgraded third quarter expansion to a

strong 4.2 per cent.

Quebec, Ontario denounce Tory downloading
Ontario and Quebec say they fear the cash-strapped federal Conservatives will download more responsibilities to the provinces in their March budget. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Quebec Premier Jean Charest say there are signs that Ottawa will try to balance its books on the backs of the provinces.

Mr. McGuinty says the Tories, who won a majority government in last year's election, have taken a "troubling approach" to the federal-provincial relationship. They say Ottawa is making unilateral decisions on health care and other matters without consulting the provinces. Mr. Charest says the Tories took an unprecedented step when they imposed changes to health-care funding without any input from the provinces. The Ontario premier says the Tories' new crime bill will also pile about $1 billion in additional costs on his province.

Opposition demands vets be protected from budget cuts
Federal opposition parties and advocates are demanding the Conservative government protect Veterans Affairs Canada from any planned budget cuts. An New Democratic Party motion to that effect will be debated in the House of Commons at the same time as Harper government is putting the finishing touches on the March 29 budget. The party's longtime veterans critic, Peter Stoffer, warned that "not one penny" should be taken away from the department that cares for the health and pension needs of hundreds of thousands of ex-soldiers and former RCMP members.

Veterans Affairs is planning to reduce its $3.5-billion spending plan by as much as $226 million this year in anticipation of fewer claims from dwindling Second World War and Korean War vets. At the same time, the Harper government has asked each department come up with scenarios to cut their budgets by either five or 10 per cent in order to help wipe out the federal deficit. Canada's Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney has said no programs or benefits will be cut in this country, but Mr. Stoffer and Liberal veterans critic Sean Casey say other reductions will add to the workload of case workers create even longer waits for service.

Suggestion made to prevent another train disaster
An investigation into a recent train derailment near the Canadian city of Toronto has revived calls for automated safeguards to reduce the risk of potentially fatal mistakes. A computerized system, called Positive Train Control, drew media attention last week after it was suggested the system could have kept a train from derailing in Burlington, ON. Experts say automation has cut down on transportation-related deaths but warn that no computer can guarantee passenger safety. And in some cases, they say, the growing dependence on technology can cause human operators to panic when the system fails. Three engineers died in the crash.

U.S. governor wants joint effort on pest dangerous to Lakes
Gov. Patrick Quinn says the state of Illinois wants to work with Ontario and Canada to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, but in the meantime is selling as many of the fish as possible to China. Asian carp have migrated up the Mississippi River and its tributaries including the Illinois River, and have advanced to within 90 kilometres of Lake Michigan. Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley says the Asian carp poses a serious threat to the entire Great Lakes ecosystem. Gov. Quinn, a former chairman of the Great Lakes Commission says there will have to be physical barriers built to keep Asian carp from ever getting into Lake Michigan and then into any of the other Great Lakes.

B.C. teachers would resist back-to-work law


BC Teachers' Association President Susan Lambert says her members will vigorously resist all efforts by the B.C. Liberal government to impose legislation restricting job action. Mrs. Lambert made the comments on the first morning of a three day walkout to protest Bill 22, which will force teachers to stay in class and resume administrative duties they have refused since September. The bill will be debated this week in the legislature and, when passed, will impose heavy financial penalties if defied by the union or individual teachers. Mrs. won't says whether her members will violate the bill, but she says the union will oppose a government that has neglected the education system and allowed it to suffer.

Mint commemorates Titanic
The Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled a commemorative silver coin to mark the centennial of the Titanic sinking. The collector coin features a design by artist Yves Berubé of the ship under full steam as it nears an iceberg. It also shows the longitude and latitude of where the ship sank in the North Atlantic. The mint says it contains 99.99 per cent pure silver, has a $10 face value and will sell for $64.95. It is making 20,000 of the coins. The Titanic sank April 15, 1912, killing 1,500 people. Seven-hundred survived.


U.S., Israeli leaders broach dilemma over Iran
U.S. President Barack Obama appealed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to give sanctions time to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, but the Israeli prime minister offered no sign of backing away from possible military action, saying his country must be the "master of its fate." The two men, who have had a strained relationship, sought to present a united front in the Iranian nuclear standoff as they opened White House talks. But their public statements revealed differences over how to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Mr. Obama and his guest made no mention of lingering disagreements over what Washington fears could be an Israeli rush to attack Iran's nuclear sites in the coming

months. The president Obama sought to assure r. Netanyahu that the U.S. is keeping the military option open as a last resort and always

"has Israel's back," but also urged Israeli patience to allow sanctions and diplomacy to work. Mr. Netayanhu , speaking in historical terms about the nature of the Jewish state, focused on what he described as Israel's right to "have the ability to defend itself, by itself." Israel sees Iran's nuclear program as a threat to its existence.

Yemeni leader vows vengeance against al-Qaeda
Yemeni officials report that al-Qaeda militants launched a surprise attack against military bases in south Yemen, killing 107 soldiers and capturing heavy weapons they later used to kill more troops. The military officials said at least 32 of the militants were killed in Sunday's fighting in Abyan province, and scores were wounded on both sides. Medical officials in the area confirmed the death toll figures. The death toll among the troops is believed to be the highest on

record in battles fought by the army against al-Qaeda militants, who have been emboldened by the political turmoil roiling the impoverished Arab nation for more than a year. The militants' attack appeared to be al-Qaida's response to a pledge by Yemen's newly inaugurated President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to fight the Yemeni branch of the terror network, believed to be the world's most active.

Thousands protest against Putin election
Thousands of protesters chanting "Russia without Putin" took to the streets of Moscow on Monday to challenge Vladimir Putin's victory in a presidential election which international monitors said was unfair. Mr. Putin, who secured almost 64 percent of votes on Sunday, portrayed his return for a third term as president as a victory over opponents who he said were trying to usurp power by undermining the Russian state. But opposition leaders said they drew 20,000 people into Moscow's Pushkin Square, the scene of dissident protests during Soviet times, to call for new elections and an opening up of the political system crafted by Mr. Putin during his 12-year rule.

Riot police in helmets then moved in to disperse several thousand protesters who stayed on the square, shoving away journalists and telling people to move on. Some were arrested at the rally which police said was attended by 14,000 people. Thousands of Putin supporters staged rallies closer to the the Kremlin.

NATO hopes for new co-operation after Putin election
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed hopes Monday that Vladimir Putin's election will lead to enhanced cooperation, especially on the difficult issue of missile defence. Mr. Rasmussen says the outcome of Putin's election victory "will likely be continuity in Russia's leadership and policies, and I expect this continuity will include a continuous engagement in positive dialogue and cooperation" between Russia and NATO. He noted that since a Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon in 2010 "we have made important progress on Afghanistan, on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and counter-piracy." The head of the alliance said that "obviously we do not agree on everything" but that "our differences should not overshadow the fact that we share security concerns in many areas." Moscow has opposed NATO plans to develop an anti-missile shield in Europe due to be fully operational by 2018, notably in Poland, Romania and Turkey.

Congo request help after huge fire in capital
The government of Republic of Congo issued a plea for international help Monday as soldiers began recovering bodies from an area devastated by huge explosions at a munitions depot that left more than 150 dead and 1,000 injured. President Denis Sassou Nguesso announced a curfew in the capital Brazzaville and set up an exclusion zone around the devastated eastern district of Mpila, following an emergency cabinet meeting in the early hours of the morning. The government said an electrical short-circuit likely caused a fire which triggered a series of blasts so powerful they devastated the surrounding area and blew out windows in Kinshasa, the capital of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo situated across the Congo river.

Chavez new tumour was of same type
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez revealed Sunday that a new tumour recently removed from his pelvic region was of the same type of cancer as a baseball-sized growth extracted from that part of his body about eight months ago. In his first TV appearance in nine days, Mr. Chavez said the surgery and follow-up tests showed the tumour was "a recurrence of the initially diagnosed cancer." He said the tumour was totally extracted. The 57-year-old president said he would spend several weeks recovering and then "we are going to do radiation treatment in the area ... without discarding other treatment options."


SNC wins Vale contract in Ontario
Construction and engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has been chosen to manage a $2-billion environmental upgrade in northern Ontario for Brazilian mining giant Vale SA. The Montreal-based firm says it will work with local contractors to modernize Vale's nickel smelter complex in Sudbury, ON. The project is expected to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide by 70 per cent from current levels, and cut dust and metal emissions by up to 40 per cent. The Brazilian company acquired the smelting operation when it bought Toronto-based Inco several years ago.

Construction work on the project is set to begin in April 2012 and be completed near the end of 2015. SNC will be responsible for project management, engineering, procurement and construction management under the services contract with Vale. The value of the contract wasn't disclosed in SNC's announcement Monday.

Markets


Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 12,524 - 120.Canadian dollar: US$1.01. Euro: $1.31. Oil: $106.97 + .27.

 


Sports
FOOTBALL

The most relentless pass rusher in B.C. Lions history is retiring. Veteran defensive end Brent Johnson is calling it a career after spending his entire 11-year Canadian Football League career with B.C. The 35-year-old native of Kingston, Ontario, had a club-record 89 career sacks.

CURLING

Yellowknife's Jamie Koe is on a roll at the Canadian men's curling championship. His team beat Saskatchewan 9-5 for its third straight win to improve to 3-and-1. Ontario's Glenn Howard beat Quebec 9-8 in an extra end to also get to 3-and-1.


Weather
British Columbia on Tuesday: snow north, mix sun cloud south, high C6 Vancouver. Yukon: snow. Northwest Territories, Nunavut: mix sun cloud. Whitehorse 0, Yellowknife -24, Iqaluit -29. Alberta: snow south, mix sun cloud north. Saskatchewan, Manitoba: snow. Edmonton -3, Regina -2, Winnipeg -1. Ontario: snow north, mix sun cloud south. Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto 6, Ottawa -2, Montreal -4. New Brunswick: mix sun cloud. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador: snow. Fredericton -2, Halifax -4, Charlottetown -9, St. John's -3.