Wednesday, March 7, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Foreign minister off to Burma
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will become the first Canadian Foreign Affairs minister to visit Burma, also known as Myanmar, when he arrives in that country later this week. Burma has been run by the miitary for nearly 50 years until last year, when a civilian government took over. Mr. Baird's visit is aimed at showing Canada's support for democratic reform in Burma. Mr. Baird is also expected to meet Aung San Suu Kyi who was given more freedom and is now campaigning as the leader of the opposition in a round of by-elections. Miss Suu Kyi is one of only five people to be granted honorary Canadian citizenship.

Minister harmed by leaks
House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer has ruled Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' parliamentary privileges were breached by videos posted online by the group Anonymous, clearing the way for the hackers to be hauled before MPs. Videos posted on YouTube show a headless man in a black suit under a red maple leaf and laurels as a computer-generated voice demands Mr. Toews' resignation and calls for a controversial online-surveillance bill to be scrapped. The Commons can now debate whether to order the hackers to appear before a committee. Twitter account Vikileaks published details of Mr. Toews' divorce and spending. A Liberal staffer was later revealed to be behind the Vikileaks account.

Rights lobby wants torture directive withdrawn
A human-rights group wants the federal government to withdraw a directive permitting Canada's spy agency to share information even when there's a real risk it will lead to torture. Amnesty International Canada says the policy violates Canada's international obligations to prevent torture. The government directive outlines instructions for deciding whether to share information when there is a substantial risk that doing so might result in someone in custody being abused. A copy of the secret July 2011 document was recently released under the Access to Information Act. Opposition MPs have denounced the directive, saying there can be no compromise on torture. The government says it strongly opposes the mistreatment of any individual by any foreign agency for any purpose.

Canada's airport taxes denounced
The head of the association that represents most of the world's air carriers has slammed the high taxes the Canadian government imposes on its airline industry. Tony Tyler, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said Tuesday that the advantages that Canada does have cannot compensate for government policies that treat aviation like a cash cow. He's calling on policy-makers to improve the competitiveness of the aviation sector bu reducing the heavy tax burden. Aside from Crown rents, airports also pay hundreds of millions in what he said are tantamount to municipal taxes.

He added that Canada also has some of the highest security fees in the world. But Mr. Tyler wasn't entirely negative about Canada, saying it is well positioned to use aviation as a catalyst for growth. He pointed to a report from the World Economic Forum which ranked Canada first in the world for the quality of its air transport infrastructure.

Solidarity displayed toward striking B.C. teachers

Thousands of public-sector workers rallied at the British Columbia legislature Tuesday in support striking teachers and against the government's back-to-work legislation. Students also joined the protest against the bill that imposes a six-month cooling off period in the teachers' dispute that began last September led to a three-day strike this week. B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair told the crowd that the show of support was the first round in what he expects will be a series of battles with the Liberal government as public sector contracts expire. B.C. Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert said Bill 22 is "a brutal piece of legislation" that seeks to impose fines of $20 million a day on the union. Illegal strike action after Bill 22 is approved would earn net the BCTF $1.3 million a day in fines, $2,500 for its officials and up to $475 for individual teachers. Earlier Tuesday, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said the government will seek an injunction against striking teachers for mounting what he says are illegal picket lines outside government buildings in Victoria.

Nunavut said to have been warned about Iqaluit apartments
The former fire marshal of the eastern Arctic Canadian territory of Nunavut says the territorial government knew an apartment block that was the scene of a fatal blaze didn't meet building codes and did nothing to ensure it got fixed.

Tony Noakes, who lost his job in May 2010 after he voiced related concerns, says similar problems exist throughout the territory. At least two people died when the 22-unit block known as White Row went up in flames on the frigid night of Feb. 27. The building was being used as a residence for Nunavut Arctic College and all the tenants but one were students or their families. Some 83 people were forced outside in -50 C temperatures and lost everything in the fire.

Bank settles Ponzi suit
Scores of people defrauded in a pyramid scheme in Quebec will be reimbursed for roughly half of what they lost, thanks to an out-of-court settlement announced Tuesday. The Royal Bank of Canada says victims of financial fraudster Earl Jones reached a $17-million settlement of their class-action lawsuit. The sum represents just under half the amount of $40 million that victims had been seeking. The bank added that the proposed settlement amount will not be final until the court approval process is completed. Much of the $50 million initially lost by Jones's clients was held at an RBC branch on Montreal's West Island. Victims claimed the bank was negligent and should have been able to act on irregular behaviour from Jones, something the bank denies.

Syrian leader unyielding
Syria's president defied mounting international pressure to end the year-old crackdown on an uprising against him and said Tuesday he was determined to go on fighting what he called "foreign-backed terrorism." After a powerful American senator called for airstrikes on Syria, President Barack Obama said unilateral U.S. military action against President Bashar Assad's regime would be a mistake. The military crackdown, meanwhile, turned to southern Daraa province, where the uprising began a year ago. Troops shelled a village in Daraa and clashed with military defectors. Activists said the military blasted a bridge and a tunnel near the border with Lebanon used as escape routes for the wounded and refugees fleeing central Homs province.

EU accept Iran's offer to resume nuclear talks
The European Union's top diplomat says six world powers have accepted an Iranian offer for talks on its disputed nuclear program, after a year's standstill that has increased fears of a slide into a new Middle East war. The announcement by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton came shortly after Russia called for a resumption of face-to-face dialogue as soon as possible, saying an Iranian letter last month showed it was now ready for serious


With Israel speaking increasingly loudly of resorting to military action, the talks could provide some respite in a crisis which has driven up oil prices and threatened to draw the United States into its third major war in a decade. Iran's nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, wrote to Mrs. Ashton in February saying Tehran wanted to reopen negotiations and offering to bring unspecified "new initiatives" to the table.

Opposition vows will hound Putin
Russia's opposition vowed to wage a campaign of civil disobedience Tuesday after police detained hundreds in rallies against Vladimir Putin's crushing victory in the presidential election. Blogger Alexei Navalny and two other leaders of the disparate anti-Putin opposition were due to attend hearings on Tuesday after refusing to break up a rally in Moscow late Monday when given a police ultimatum. Monday's protests in Moscow and Saint Petersburg mark a sobering start for a leader who knew no dissent while dominating Russia in his first two terms in the Kremlin in 2000-2008.

Mr. Putin won Sunday's presidential election with 63.6 percent of the vote and in May will be sworn in to serve for a six-year term that can theoretically be extended. But European monitors raised concerns about the polls and the opposition, its leaders excluded from both the polls and most access to state media, have vowed to make protests a permanent feature of Mr. Putin's new presidency.

Germany, Brazil disagree over EU debt crisis
The leaders of Brazil and Germany on Tuesday clashed over Europe's moves to recover from its debt crisis but agreed that developing countries should play a bigger role at the IMF. Speaking in Hanover, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was "concerned about the monetary expansion in Europe and the United States" which she said resulted in an "artificial currency devaluation." She says this is harming Brazilian exports. On Thursday, Mrs. Rousseff complained that rich nations were responding to the global financial crisis with easy credit and low interest rates, and that cheap money was making its way to Brazil, which has high interest rates and a strong currency.

Death tolls soars after Congo explosion
In the Republic of Congo, morticians stacked bodies two to a rack at Brazzaville's main morgue Tuesday as the death toll rose to at least 236 from an explosion at an armoury. The blast catapulted shells, rockets and other munitions into a densely populated area of the capital. Police say international firefighters have brought the main fire under control by Tuesday morning, and prevented it spreading to a second munitions depot just 100 meters away. It still was unclear whether rescue efforts could start in earnest Tuesday, more than 48 hours after the blasts. At the morgue of the city's main Central University Hospital, the funeral services director said that they had run out of space.

U.S. Republicans cast ballots in crucial vote
Mitt Romney fought to open an unassailable lead over chief rival Rick Santorum in the race for the Republican U.S. presidential

nomination on Tuesday, with Ohio the biggest prize among 10 states holding contests. Mr. Romney, the winner of the past five state contests, carried momentum into "Super Tuesday," the biggest day so far in the Republican race. Some 419 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the party's nomination are at stake. Polls show Mr. Romney has effectively erased the more conservative Mr. Santorum's lead in Ohio, a traditional bellwether state that could play an important role in deciding the Republican nominee to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama on Nov. 6. Mr. Santorum, buoyed by conservatives' doubts about his rival's chances of beating Obama, vowed to keep fighting.

TransCanada has new U.S. pipeline route

An executive with the Canadian company seeking to build an oil pipeline across the United States to the Texas Gulf Coast says a plan for a new route around Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region will be ready within weeks. TransCanada President of Energy and Oil Pipelines Alex Pourbaix said Tuesday that the company plans to resubmit its permit request to the U.S. state department. The proposed US$7.6-billion Keystone XL pipeline, which would connect Alberta crude to refineries along the Texas coast, has become a major political issue as U.S. President Barack Obama seeks re-election this November.

In January, the U.S. government denied a permit for the project, but left the door open for TransCanada to apply for a new one. Critics of Keystone XL say the project would increase U.S. dependence on "dirty" oilsands crude. Supporters, however, say the project will offer a big boost to the U.S. economy and reduce the amount of crude the United States has to import from unfriendly régimes.

Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 12,299 - 225. Canadian dollar: US99. Euro: $1.31. Oil: $104.83 - $1.89.


In the National Hockey League, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been cleared for contact, a big step toward his return from concussion-like symptoms. Crosby went through drills with his teammates on Tuesday, the

first time he's been a full participant in practice since the symptoms returned after a loss to Boston on Dec. 5. Crosby missed more than 10 months following a pair of hits to the head in January 2011. He had two goals in his season debut against the New York Islanders, his only goals in the last 14 months.


Alberta's Kevin Koe is 6-and-0 at the Canadian men's curling championship in Saskatoon. Koe remained unbeaten with an 8-1 win over Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador. Koe's rink earned the win despite two hog-line violations by third Pat Simmons early in the game.