Sunday, April 15, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Prime Minister Harper promoting trade at Summit of the Americas
Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, is among 30 North and South American leaders who are in Colombia for the sixth Summit of the Americas. Trade and the fight against drug trafficking are two main topics at the summit in the port city of Cartagena. Hundreds of businesspeople from both continents are also attending. Mr. Harper is scheduled to address a group of business leaders about recent changes to Canada's environmental review process for major resource projects. Mr. Harper's government is promoting its new policy of eliminating bureaucracy so that projects may proceed more quickly. Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, is expected to promote the legalization of some illegal drugs in a controversial bid that Mr. Harper is certain to oppose. Colombia says that government attempts to fight drug traffickers in Mexico and other Latin American countries have largely failed. U.S. President Barack Obama suffered an embarrassment in Cartagena when several of his Secret Service agents were sent home after one of them apparently became involved with a local prostitute. There was also a violent protest against his government at the U.S. embassy in Bogota, where two small bombs exploded. Some windows in nearby buildings were broken but no one was hurt.

More flight delays at Air Canada
Flight disruptions at Canada's biggest airline continued on Saturday for the second day. On Friday, about 150 pilots at Air Canada called in sick, forcing cancellations or delays of dozens of flights at major airports across the country. Thousands of passengers were left without air transport. The pilots were staging a protest to bring attention to their labour dispute with the airline. Their protest contravened a federal government order enacted last month that forbids walkouts, strikes and other labour action at the airline. On Friday, Air Canada won another order requiring pilots to end their work stoppage. But early on Saturday morning, nine cancellations and 19 delays were reported at Canada's largest airport, Pearson International in Toronto.

Titanic anniversary marked off coast of Newfoundland
Passengers aboard the cruise ship, Balmoral, were preparing on Saturday to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic at the site in the North Atlantic Ocean where the luxury liner went down. Another cruise ship, Journey, left New York on Tuesday and will join Balmoral at the site. About 1,300 people on the Balmoral planned to hold memorial services just before midnight on Saturday at the moment when the Titanic struck an iceberg, and then early on Sunday morning, when the ship slipped beneath the waves. The tragedy in which some 1,500 people were killed occurred 640 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland. Many victims are buried in a cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Marijuana cookies declared illegal
A Supreme Court judge in the province of British Columbia has widened restrictions on the use of marijuana. Uses of so-called dried marijuana have been made illegal. The Supreme Court ruling came in reaction to the case of Owen Smith, head baker for the Cannabis Buyers' Club of Canada. He was charged with possessing and trafficking in marijuana for baking marijuana-laced cookies. Mr. Smith still faces the drug charges.

Following Julian calendar, Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter
Orthodox Christians around the world are celebrating Easter weekend according to the Julian calendar. In Jerusalem. thousands of the faithful gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where they believe Jesus was entombed briefly, to participate in an ancient ritual. They emerged from an ornate chamber carrying candles lit from a common holy flame. Many Palestinians obtained Israeli military permission to leave their West Bank towns to enter Jerusalem for the event. Palestinian Christians and Muslims must seek Israeli military permission to visit their holy sites in Jerusalem.

In breakthrough, Russia supports U.N. resolution on Syria

In a breakthrough move, Russia agreed on Saturday to support a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria. The resolution approves sending an advance team of 30 unarmed observers to Syria. The Syrian government must guarantee the team's safety and freedom of movement. The resolution follows a peace plan brokered with Syria by the special envoy, Kofi Annan. Russia, an ally of Syria, gave its approval after the resolution included clauses that made opposition Syrian forces responsible for their actions. China also approved. Russia and China had vetoed two earlier resolutions on Syria. Meanwhile on Saturday, opposition activists said that violence had resumed, two days after an uneasy ceasefire was declared. Activists say that one person was killed when government forces shelled the city of Homs. Several others were wounded.


After long delay, Iran re-opens international nuclear talks
For the first time in more than a year, international talks on Iran's nuclear program were held on Saturday in what one European diplomat said was a very constructive morning session. Iranian delegates met in Istanbul with six world powers---the United States, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain. Iran insists that it has no nuclear weapons ambitions, but the international community fears that Iran could use its uranium enrichment program to make weapons. Michael Mann, spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said after the session that Iran appeared ready to hold future negotiations. The United States has requested a separate bilateral meeting with Iran in Istanbul.

Military again benefits in North Korean budget
North Korea has again allocated a large part of its new budget to the military. The country's young leader, Kim Jong Un has announced a policy called 'military first.' He also promoted a large number of relatively young military officials to the National Defence Commission. The government's budget and the latest appointments were ratified on Friday at a special one-day session of the Supreme People's Assembly. On the same day, North Korea suffered a major international embarrassment when its new long-range rocket disintegrated shortly after takeoff. The rocket carrying the Kwangmyongsong, or Bright Shining Star, satellite was intended as a gift for North Korea's late founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un's grandfather, in advance of celebrations marking his 100th birthday on Sunday. In a rare public admission of failure, North Korea's media confessed that the rocket had blown up. The rocket launch was condemned by Canada, the United States and many other nations who accused North Korea of using the launch to test the rocket's capability of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Tension easing in South China Sea
Tensions have eased in disputed waters of the South China Sea, where the Philippines had protested the presence of Chinese fishing boats. On Saturday, the last five Chinese boats left the disputed area of Scarborough Shoal, northwest of the Philippines. Earlier this week, tension rose when Chinese boats prevented the Philippines from detaining Chinese fishermen allegedly caught fishing in Philippines' waters. Two Chinese navy surveillance ships remain in the area. The Philippines has also protested the presence of a Chinese aircraft that flew near a Philippine frigate. The Philippines foreign affairs secretary, Albert del Rosario, says that his meeting with Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing on Friday night came to a stalemate, with both sides insisting that the other nation's ships be the first to leave the area. The impasse has reignited concerns about a potential conflict in the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest seas lanes. The region is at the centre of several territorial claims including the Spratly Islands, south of Scarborough Shoal.

China relaxes grip on currency, but only slightly
China on Saturday made a slight concession to world demands to make its currency more flexible. The Central Bank announced that it will allow the yuan to rise and fall by a slightly wider margin against the dollar. Beginning on Monday, the yuan could fluctuate by as much as one per cent. The previous fluctuation rate was just half of one per cent. The change could permit a faster rise for the yuan, although the new rate will not likely satisfy the international community. The United States and China's other trading partners have complained for years that the yuan is intentionally undervalued so that Chinese exports could be sold cheaper. The low exchange rate for the yuan has helped China to amass a huge trade surplus.

Macedonia declares day of mourning
Macedonia declared a day of mourning on Saturday in memory of five men who were killed in what police speculate was an ethnically related shooting. The victims were ethnic Macedonian fishermen found shot on Thursday in the community of Butel. The next day, dozens of angry youths blocked a highway leading to the village to protest the shooting. Riot police dispersed the protesters who at one point smashed car windows and threw stones at busses. Police speculate that the fishermen might have been the targets of militant ethnic Albanians. Macedonia has a large ethnic Albanian population. In 2001, ethnic Albanian rebels fought government troops for eight months in a bid to secure greater rights for their community. Eighty people were killed before NATO troops intervened.

Afghan ambassador replaces slain father as chief peace negotiator
Afghanistan's government has appointed the son of a slain stateman to continue his father's peace negotiations with the Taliban. Salahuddin Rabbani is the son of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan's peace council who was assassinated in September by a bomber. His death created a major setback to reconciliation efforts with the Taliban. His son, Salahuddin, is serving as Afghanistan's ambassador to Turkey. His appointment as Kabul's chief peace negotiator comes as the Taliban intensify a spring bombing offensive in advance of the regular summer fighting period. The Taliban have refused to deal with President Hamid Karzai and suspended preliminary peace negotiations with the United States last month.

Hostages in Peru are released
More than 30 people held hostage for the past week in southern Peru were reported freed on Saturday. The hostages were mainly employees of the Swedish pipeline company, Skanska. A remnant of the Shining Path Maoist rebel group kidnapped them and held them in a jungle hideout. Local radio reported that the hostages had walked for hours through the jungle to freedom. They were described as safe and in good health. Shining Path rebels last carried out a large-scale kidnapping in 2003, when they held some 70 people hostage.


In the Stanley Cup playoffs on Friday, the Vancouver Canucks lost to Los Angeles, 4-2, in the first-round series. The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 8-5. The Detroit Red Wings beat Nashville, 3-2. New Jersey beat Florida, 3-2 as goalie Martin Brodeur stopped 24 shots for his 100th post-season victory. Canada will meet the United States on Saturday for the fourteenth time in the finals of the world women's hockey championship in Vermont. Nine-time champion Canada beat Finland 5-1 in the first semifinal, while the Americans routed Switzerland 10-0. In other hockey news, Emile (Butch) Bouchard, a longtime Montreal Canadiens captain and a four-time Stanley Cup winner, died on Saturday following a long illness. He was 92.


The Toronto Blue Jays lost to Baltimore on Friday, 7-5.


The Toronto Raptors held off the Boston Celtics, 84-79, on Friday.


Here is Canada's weather forecast for Sunday, April 15. British Columbia will be mainly sunny. The high temperature in Vancouver will be 13 degrees Celsius. The Yukon: mainly sunny. Whitehorse, eight. Northwest Territories: sunny. Yellowknife, minus nine. Nunavut: snow flurries. Iqaluit, minus eight. Alberta: overcast. Edmonton, minus one. Saskatchewan: snow flurries. Regina, zero. Manitoba: light rain. Winnipeg, ten. Ontario: a few showers. Toronto: 17. Ottawa, 23. Quebec: sunny periods. Montreal, 22. New Brunswick: showers. Fredericton, 19. Nova Scotia: sunny periods. Halifax, 16. Prince Edward Island: showers. Charlottetown, 15. Newfoundland: mainly sunny. St. John's, nine.