Sunday, March 4, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Thousands complaining about election 'robocalls'


A public protest was held in Vancouver on Saturday in connection with the so-called robocall scandal. Elections Canada is reviewing more than 31,000 complaints about automated recorded calls, or robocalls, placed during the federal election last year. Anonymous callers told voters to go to the wrong polling stations. Calls were made in more than 20 ridings across the country. Elections Canada says that complaints 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.

 

Israel's prime minister, in Ottawa, warns of Iranian threat


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to the whole world. On a visit to Ottawa Friday, Mr. Netanyahu said that even if Iran agrees to resume international talks on its nuclear program, it could just be a ruse to stall for time to complete a bomb program. While Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed that Iran's nuclear ambitions pose a danger, he said he wants to see a peaceful solution. Mr. Harper' refused to either endorse or condemn the possibility of an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran. Mr. Netanyahu was opening a mostly private, three-day visit to Canada before travelling to Washington. He and Mr. Harper discussed trade, the Iranian situation and the turmoil in Syria at a private meeting.

Canada denying future currency partnership with Iceland


The Canadian government is trying to cool speculation that Iceland may adopt the Canadian dollar. The European Debt Crisis has some in Iceland leery about adopting the Euro so some have suggested Iceland take up the loonie. Iceland's national broadcaster reports Canada's ambassador to the country plans to discuss the issue during a meeting of the opposition Progressive party this weekend.However, Foreign Affairs officials in Ottawa said Canada's ambassador will not be participating in the meeting and will not speak on the issue. Iceland's currency, the krona, hasn't fully recovered from the collapse of the country's financial system four years ago.

Science journal backs Canadian scientists in dispute with Ottawa


In an online editorial Friday, the science journal Nature has called on the Canadian government to "set its scientists free" and allow them to speak about their research. Nature says there has been a "gradual tightening of media protocols for federal scientists" since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives won power in 2006. The editorial described a "confused and Byzantine approach to the press" by the Harper government, prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge. Nature called on Ottawa to heed complaints from the Canadian Science Writers' Association and other groups critical of the "muzzling of publicly funded scientists." These were outlined in a letter to Mr. Harper sent last month. The letter listed examples such as Environment Canada's David Tarasick being prevented from speaking out about his ozone layer research.

High winds destroy power lines in Ontario


Winds gusting as much as 100 kilometres an hour knocked down power lines in Ontario Friday overnight. Tens of thousands of Ontario residents were without power on Saturday. Hydro One repairs crews dealt with more than 200 outages affecting as many as seventy-five thousand customers. Power was restored to about thirty-nine thousand people by Saturday afternoon. But about 4,400 customers mainly in central Ontario faced the possibility of spending the night without electricity. A wind warning was called off by evening. The high winds were part of a weather system that caused a series of destructive tornadoes across the border in the United States.

 

Canadian economy revived at end of year
The Canadian economy showed signs of revival at the end of last year, a welcome signal that the sharp slowdown of the fall may have been a temporary setback in a slow-moving recovery. The country's gross domestic product grew 0.4 per cent in December, after the surprising 0.1 per cent dip of November, posting a 1.8 per cent annualized gain for the final quarter of 2011. That's slightly weaker than the Bank of Canada's call, but the miss was more than compensated for by an upward revision of third-quarter growth to 4.2 per cent from the previously reported 3.5 per cent. For the year as a whole, the economy rose by 2.5 per cent, down from 3.2 per cent in 2010, but much better than what economists were

predicting a few months ago.

Canadian couple suspects foul play at Mexican hotel
A Canadian couple suspects that they were victims of a scam during their recent stay at a five-star resort hotel near Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. The couple thinks that someone slipped drugs into their drinks at the hotel pool bar. Russ Chartrand subsequently fell unconscious and became ill. He required medical treatment that ultimately cost two thousand dollars. His wife also fell ill. Both Mr. Chartrand and his wife are police officers in their town of Weyburn, Saskatchewan.


Red Cross still negotiating access to besieged city
The International Committee of the Red Crosson Saturday was still negotiating with Syrian authorities who have denied its aid convoy access to the shattered Baba Amro district of Homs. An ICRC convoy of seven trucks carrying food and other life-saving relief supplies along with Red Crescent ambulances has been stalled in the city of Homs sinceFriday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saidthat he had received "grisly reports" that Syrian government forces were arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in the battle-scarred cityrebel fighters had fled. Wounded British photographer Paul Conroy, who escaped Homs earlier this week, said he had witnessed Syrian troops carrying out a massacre in the Baba Amro district. The area has been a symbol of the year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in whichhas killed at least 7,500 lives according to U.N. estimates. The ICRC is the only international agency to deploy aid workers in Syria, where the United Nations has been barred.

Human Rights watch says 700 killed in Homs siege


Human Rights Watch says Syrian forces killed some 700 people and wounded thousands in a 27-day bombardment of Homs, with shells sometimes falling at the rate of 100 an hour. The New York-based watchdog said late on Friday that heavy shelling of the city's Baba Amr district would start every day at around 6:30 am and continue until sunset, with some during the night. It said 122 mm howitzers and 120 mm mortars were used, as well as the Russian-made 240 mm mortar, which it quoted an arms catalogue as saying is designed to "demolish fortifications and fieldworks." HRW urged the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution demanding an end to "end indiscriminate shelling of cities and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and the safe passage of civilians and the injured." Meanwhile, Syria's official news agency says a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle in the city of Daraa on Saturday, killing two people and wounding 20, including security force personnel. The agency said the "suicide terrorist" struck near the al-Masri roundabout in the centre of the city, south of Damascus, which was the cradle of the uprising that erupted against President Bahar al-Assad's regime in March last year. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that two civilians were killed in an explosion in Daraa but without specifying whether it was a suicide car bomb. On Jan. 6, a car bomb exploded in Damascus killing 26 people and wounding dozens more, most of them civilians. State media said it was a suicide attack and blamed "terrorists." The blast came after twin bombs hit security services bases in the capital on December 23, with state media pointing the finger at Al-Qaeda. Twin car bombs in the northern city of Aleppo on Feb. 10 killed 28 people and wounded 235 others.

Bodies of slain journalists turned over to diplomats


Syrian Red Crescent officials have handed over the bodies of two foreign journalists were killed in Syria to embassy officials. French ambassador Eric Chevalier received the body of French photographer Remi Ochlik, and a Polish diplomat received the remains of American Marie Colvin. U.S. interests in Syria are represented by Poland. Both journalists died on Feb. 22 in shelling while trapped inside the besieged Baba Amr district of Homs. Red Crescent director in Syria Abdel-Rahman al-Attar said the two bodies were handed over Saturday and transported to the French hospital in Damascus ahead of their repatriation to their countries. It was unclear when they will be flown out of the country.

Voting begins in Russia's presidential election


Voting has begun in Russia in a presidential election that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win. Polls opened on Sunday in the far east of the country. The world's largest nation straddles nine time zones. State pollsters forecast a first-round win of 60 per cent of the vote for Mr. Putin. His Communist rival, Gennady Zyuganov, is running for the fourth time and trails in second place with 15 per cent. The tycoon, Mikhail Prokhorov, and the pro-Kremlin populist, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, are expected to battle for third place. The former upper house speaker, Sergei Mironov, is expected to finish last. Mr. Putin has already held the presidency for two terms in the past. His bid for a third term came amid mass street protests that were unprecedented in recent years. Demonstrators blamed Mr. Putin's party for a fraud-tainted parliamentary ballot in December.

Egyptian constitutional lawmakers focus on role of Islamists


Egyptian lawmakersmet in Cairo Saturdayto decide who will write the country's new constitution. The debate focused on the role of Islamists inwriting the document. The parliament meeting is supposed to decide who will be on the 100-member panel tasked with drafting the first constitution after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafist, who scored the strongest in the country's first parliamentary elections, say 40 per cent of the panel should come from parliament. Liberals arefearful their role in writing the constitution will be minimal. they say only 20 per cent of the panel come from parliament.

Several dead in Poland train collision


Several people were reported killed on Saturday when two trains collided in southern Poland. Another 60 people were injured. A government minister called the accident one of the worst rail disasters in Poland in recent years. The cause of the collision was not immediately clear. It occurred north of Krakow in 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. Scores of rescue officials and helicopters were deployed to help free the injured.

Pro-democracy demonstrators march through Hong Kong


Thousands of pro-democracy activists took to the streets of Hong Kong Saturday demanding universal suffrage and expressing anger at the city's system of choosing its chief executive. The protesters walked through the centre of thecity to government headquarters, waving banners and chanting slogans. Police said some 3,000 people demonstrated. Protesters put the figure at 5,000. A 1,200-member electoral committee packed with pro-Beijing social and business elites will choose Hong Kong's next chief executive on March 25, replacing Donald Tsang whose term is expiring in June. The demonstrators also protested against Mr.Tsang. Heapologised this week and pledged to cooperate with an anti-corruption probe into his alleged ties to rich tycoons after revelations of his jaunts on private jets and yachts.

BP oil company reaches settlement in Gulf oil spill disaster
The oil company, BP, has reached a settlement deal with companies and individuals who suffered losses as a result of a spill of oil from the offshore BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The settlement amounts to US$7.8 billion. The deal announced on Friday could hasten payments to thousands of claimants including condominium owners, fishermen, hoteliers, restaurateurs and others who say their livelihoods were damaged. Eleven people died when the oil rig collapsed, spewing almost five million barrels of oil in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. BP has already paid out US$6.1 billion to compensate about 220,000 plaintiffs.

Tornadoes in US kill 37


At least 37 people are known dead after dozens of tornadoes destroyed entire towns and communities in the US states of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.On Saturday, search and rescue crews combed wrecked homes for survivors. It's the same system that prompted high wind warnings for much of Southern Ontario. Wind gusts hit 100 kilometres an hour overnight.

Rivals leading Ahmadinejad in Iran


Conservative rivals of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are leading in the race for parliament seats according to early election results. The conservatives' lead was expected as the elections boiled down to a contest between conservatives supporting and opposing Mr. Ahmadinejad. Early returns Saturday in Tehran showed loyalists to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had pulled ahead. Partial results from provincial towns also showed conservative Ahmadinejad rivals were elected in many constituencies. In a huge embarrassment, Parvin Ahmadinejad, a younger sister of the president, was defeated by a conservative rival in their hometown of Garmsar. The results indicate Mr. Ahmadinejad may face a more hostile parliament in the nearly two years remaining of his second term in office.


SPORTS


SKIATHLON

Canadian Alex Harvey won a bronze medal at a World Cup pursuit race in Lahti, Finland, on Saturday. He finished just 4.2 seconds behind the winner, Dario Cologna of Switzerland. Norway's Martin Johnsrud won the silver medal.

CURLING

The Canadian rink led by Brendan Bottcher won its opening game at the world junior curling championships in Ostersund, Sweden, on Saturday, beating China, 8-4. In the women's draw, Canadian Jocelyn Peterman lost, 10-3, to the Czech Republic in just six ends. Canada has not won a gold medal in either the junior men's or women's event since 2003.

HOCKEY

Toronto fired coach Ron Wilson on Friday with 18 games left in the season. The Leafs have won just once in their last11 games. Randy Carlyle, who was fired by Anaheim earlier this season, takes over. Wilson is the seventh NHL coach to be fired this season. The Leafs were to play the Canadiens in Montreal Saturday night...In NHL action on Friday involving Canadian-based teams, Chicago defeated Ottawa 2-1, Anaheim defeated Calgary 3-2 and Dallas defeated Edmonton 3-1.

BASKETBALL

In the NBA on Friday,Memphis defeated Toronto 102-99.

BASEBALL

Major League Baseball announced Friday it is expanding the playoff format to 10 teams by adding a wild-card club to each league. The wild card teams will play a single post-season game, with the winners advancing to compete among the three division champions from each league in the Division Series. The decision could be good news for the Toronto Blue Jays who compete in the American League East with Boston and New York, traditionally very strong teams.


CANADA WEATHER
Here is Canada's weather forecast for Sunday, March 4. British Columbia will have rain. The high temperature in Vancouver will be eight degrees Celsius. The Yukon: snow flurries. Whitehorse, minus four. Northwest Territories: mainly sunny. Yellowknife, minus 18. Nunavut: sunny. Iqaluit, minus 29. Alberta: increasing cloudiness. Edmonton, minus 29. Saskatchewan: light snow. Regina, minus two. Manitoba: mainly cloudy. Winnipeg, minus eight. Ontario: mainly cloudy. Toronto: minus two. Ottawa, minus seven. Quebec: snow flurries. Montreal, minus two. New Brunswick: mainly sunny. Fredericton, four. Nova Scotia: overcast. Halifax, four. Prince Edward Island: increasing cloudiness. Charlottetown, four. Newfoundland: rain. St. John's, six.