Thursday, April 5, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 4 April 2012
Canadian International Financial

Cuts hit Canadian defence department
The axe is beginning to fall on jobs across the public service, with the Defence Department among the first to report losses. The Union of National Defence Employees says around 1,100 civilian positions are being eliminated. The losses will be felt across the country, from military bases to reserve sites. Union president John MacLennan says everything from research and development to food services is on the chopping block. The department took a big hit in last week's federal budget and was told it will need to cut over $1.1 billion over the next three years. But the government has also committed itself to keeping the regular and reserve fighting force intact. Around 19,200 civil servants will lose their jobs over the next three years as a result of the budget, but unions say the cuts to the public service actually go much deeper. The Public Service Alliance of Canada says 9,700 positions have already been lost as a result of a budget freeze in 2010 and there are still 6,300 jobs that will be cut as a result of the 2007-2010 spending reviews.

RCI slashed
Spending cuts announced last week in Canada's latest federal budget have reached Radio Canada International. Speaking to employees at RCI's headquarters in Montreal on Wednesday, RCI director Helene Parent declared that two out of three RCI employees---about 40 people---will lose their jobs by the end of July. RCI's Russian and Portugueuse sections will be closed along with the English and French-language newsrooms. All shortwave broadcasts will cease as well. RCI will continue to exist solely on the Internet in five languages---English, French, Arabic, Spanish and Mandarin.

Opposition blames PM for jet fighter kerfuffle
Bob Rae is laying the blame for the stealth-fighter fiasco squarely on Stephen Harper and he's demanding the prime minister's resignation. The interim Liberal leader says Mr. Harper "lied" to Canadians during last May's election about having contractual protection against skyrocketing costs for the F-35 jets. And he says the prime minister deliberately misled Parliament as well. Mr. Rae's all-out attack on Mr. Harper follows a scathing report by Auditor General Michael Ferguson, who concluded that the National Defence Department manipulated the process, low-balled cost estimates and kept Parliament in the dark to ensure it got the fighter jets it wanted, without competition. The Liberal leader notes that the news has been full of reports of escalating costs and that both the Congressional Budget Office in the U.S. and Canada's parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, have pegged the costs at billions more than the $9 billion put forward by the Harper government.

Trade balance again favourable
Statistics Canada says Canada's international merchandise trade bounced back in 2011 for a second consecutive year of gains after the 2009 recession. The agency says total trade in 2011 -- exports and imports combined -- came within 2.0 per cent of the record levels posted in 2008. The country's reliance on the United States as a trading partner continued to decline last year, as Asia and Europe gained ground. While the United States remained this country's largest customer by far, the United Kingdom and China grew their shares of Canadian exports last year.

Leadership outcome boosts federal NDP
A new poll suggests the federal NDP is enjoying a big bounce in popularity since choosing Thomas Mulcair as leader. The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates the New Democrats have surged into a statistical tie with the Conservatives, with the parties at 32 and 34 per cent support respectively. The NDP boost comes almost entirely at the expense of the Liberals, who have slipped back to 19 per cent, the same all-time low they received in last May's election when the self-styled natural governing party was reduced to a third-party rump. The orange surge was particularly strong in Quebec, Mr. Mulcair's home base, where the NDP has vaulted back in front with 39 per cent to the Bloc Quebecois' 24; Liberals and Conservatives were tied at 14 per cent. The NDP was also leading in British Columbia, with 44 per cent to 30 for the Tories, 13 for the Liberals and 11 for the Greens.

Ontario premier deprecates opposition suggestion
Premier Dalton McGuinty poured cold water Wednesday on the New Democrats' demand to increase income tax on the very wealthy, but he didn't rule out the idea completely. The Liberals need at least two NDP votes to pass the budget, which the Conservatives have vowed to reject, or the minority government will be defeated, automatically triggering another election. The New Democrats' first demand in exchange for supporting the Liberals is to make people earning more than $500,000 pay a two percentage point income tax premium, something Mr. McGuinty is reluctant to do given his pledge not to raise taxes to fight the deficit. The premmier told the legislature he doesn't want to respond to a series of "one-off" ideas from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, and urged her to present all the party's demands at once. Mr. McGuinty cautioned Mrs. Horwath not to present her ideas through the media if she wants a better working relationship with the Liberals.


Syrian opposition says govt. continues to attack
Syrian opposition activists accused forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of bombarding rebel areas on Wednesday as a UN mission was expected to arrive in Damascus in a first step to implement an international peace plan. Activists said at least 80 people have been killed since Tuesday despite the imminent arrival of the advance team from the United Nations peacekeeping department. The advance mission is part of the latest international effort to end a year of bloodshed that began with peaceful protests against Assad's authoritarian rule in March 2011. Russia, an ally of Assad, said Syrian forces had begun withdrawing from cities and towns in accordance with the peace plan of international mediator Kofi Annan. However, Syrian activists said troops and police loyal to Mr. Assad had pressed on with their campaign of raids and arrests in rebel areas, accompanied by bombardments, gun battles and sniper attacks. Human rights group Amnesty International said it had counted 232 deaths since Syria accepted Annan's plan on March 27.

Iraqi reconciliation conference delayed
The speaker of Iraq's parliament says a long-awaited Iraqi reconciliation conference has been postponed indefinitely because of deepening sectarian tensions between rival political groups. Osama al-Nujaifi says holding it under current circumstances would only complicate matters. The meeting was to formally open on Thursday. Iraq's Sunnis accuse the Shiite-dominated government of seeking to marginalize them and of targeting senior Sunni politicians. In December, Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for Tariq al-Hashemi, the top Sunni official in the government, for allegedly running death squads against Shiite pilgrims, government officials and security forces.
Al-Hashemi has denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated. Mr. Al-Hashemi had taken refuge in the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq beyond the reach of Iraqi law enforcement. Earlier this week, he left Iraq for the first time since the allegations against him surfaced. He flew to Qatar and stayed for four days. Qatar's official news agency said Wednesday that Mr. al-Hashemi had left the Gulf state after talks with top officials there. It did not say where he was headed. But the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted him as saying he planned to go to Saudi Arabia.

U.S. charges 9/11 planner
The United States charged the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, along with four alleged plotters on Wednesday, vowing to seek the death penalty in a much-awaited military trial. KSM, along with Walid bin Attash of Saudi Arabia, Yemen's Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Pakistan's Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali -- and Mustafa al-Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia will appear in court for arraignment proceedings within 30 days. The trial, which could be months away, will be held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. government has set up military commissions to try terror suspects.

Israel evicts settlers
Israeli police says security forces evicted dozens of Jewish settlers on Wednesday from a building that they illegally took over in a combustible West Bank city. The eviction from Hebron took Israelis by surprise, because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had blocked an eviction order requiring the settlers to leave the house just a day earlier. The order had threatened to touch off a violent confrontation between security forces and the militant settler community in Hebron. Hebron has been a focus of Israeli-Arab violence for decades. Hebron settlers and their supporters have violently resisted similar eviction orders, retaliating with attacks against Palestinians. At the same time, Israel's government on Wednesday published tenders for 1,121 new settler homes. Documents published on the Israeli housing ministry website showed the government had issued tenders for 872 new homes in Har Homa, a contentious settlement neighbourhood in the southern part of Arab east Jerusalem.

Landslide unleases boulders onto Nairobi neighbourhood
A landslide rained huge boulders on a poor neighbourhood in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, on Wednesday morning, killing at least six people. Several other people are missing. Many people were trapped in their shanty homes in the city's sprawling slums. Rescue work was hampered by heavy rains and the lack of adequate equipment. Rescue workers used hoes and axes to break boulders that crushed about 40 homes.


Cellphone users talk less
A new report says cellphone users are doing less talking and more texting, emailing and Internet surfing on their devices, habits that are being driven by the increased use of smartphones. The Convergence Consulting Group says Canada's big three wireless providers -- Rogers, Bell and Telus -- have seen a 10 per cent decline in what's called "voice minutes", or talking, since 2009. Rogers, Bell and Telus also saw a 34 per cent increase in data revenue growth in 2011. The report says new wireless companies like Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile are also benefiting as a group from more smartphone use, as their customers are also using data. The Convergence Consulting Group says even with increased smartphone use, mobile phone users are still gong to talk to each other on their devices.

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