Thursday, April 19, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Ottawa requested to repatriate Guantanamo Canadian
The Canadian government says it has received a formal request for the transfer of convicted war criminal Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay to Canada. A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the government is considering the request. Khadr became eligible to return to Canada from Guantanamo Bay last October under terms of a deal reached a year earlier. He he pleaded guilty to five war crimes committed in Afghanistan as a 15-year-old. In exchange, he received an eight-year sentence from a military commission. Only one year had to be served at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. He had been detained there since the fall of 2002. The Canadian government has been reluctant to accept Khadr on the grounds that he is a dangerous terrorist.

Minister defends foreign aid cuts
Canada's International Co-operation Minister, Bev Oda, is defending cuts to the foreign aid budget. She says Canadians want to help the less fortunate, but they also want to be sure public dollars are making a real difference. Miss Oda's currently in Ukraine to support economic and democratic development there. The federal government is cutting foreign aid by 7.5 per cent.

SK says province ready for more health-care responsibility
Saskatchewan's premier says the provinces are ready and willing to fill the void left by the federal government in reforming Canada's health-care system. Brad Wall is in the Ottawa area discussing health-care innovations in his province that are saving money and improving service. He says the way forward is for all provinces to start by sharing best practices, but not in a haphazard way. Rather, he says premiers need to seize the agenda and push it forward so that all provinces are responsible for controlling costs and maintaining health-care standards across the country. He says the devolution of power from Ottawa to the provinces has been happening gradually over a couple of decades, and is something the provinces are well prepared for.

Call centre employees confirms electoral dirty tricks reports
A former employee of a call centre that did work for the Conservative party in the last election says she was instructed to tell people Elections Canada had changed their polling locations. In a sworn affidavit, Annette Desgagne says she and other workers at Responsive Marketing Group's call centre in Thunder Bay, ON, became suspicious when people questioned them about the new polling locations. Mrs. Desgagne says her co-workers had similar experiences. She says her supervisors told her to "just stick to the scripts" when she told them of her concerns. The affidavit, filed as part of a court action launched by the Council of Canadians, repeats most of the claims first reported by the Toronto Star in February.

Ottawa unrepentant on transparency question
The president of the Treasury Board says he sees no tension between his push for open government coming at the same time as the Conservatives are under fire for hiding information about the cost of fighter jets and budget cuts. Tony Clement blames parliamentary and legal processes for the lack of information on $5.2 billion in budget cuts, and notes the government is complying with the auditor general's recommendations on the cost of the jets. He says his open government plan unveiled last week is about changing a culture of government, not day-to-day political or policy debate. Mr. Clement is currently attending an international meeting in Brazil where more than 50 countries are detailing their commitments to increase transparency and openness. Canada's 12-point plan has received a lukewarm welcome from advocates because it's short on details and concrete steps. New Democrat MP Charlie Angus says the Tories have no business even being at the conference because they are one of the most secretive governments in memory.

Liberal attack Tories over rights charter
The Liberal Party of Canada has criticized the federal government for virtually ignoring the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and interim Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae say the charter is a historic, non-partisan accomplishment of which all Canadians should be proud. The Liberals held a special dinner in the city of Toronto Tuesday night, while the Conservatives issued a news release saying the anniversary marks an important step in the development of Canada's human rights policy. The Charter of Rights was established in 1982 during the time of Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

New call to legalize pot
A former U.S. federal prosecutor who helped put British Columbia's so-called Prince of Pot behind bars is pushing for Canadian lawmakers to legalize marijuana. Washington state attorney John McKay sat beside Marc Emery's activist wife Jodie today as he joined the growing call from B.C. to end pot prohibition in favour of the drug's regulation and taxation.Mr. McKay says the criminalization of weed has fuelled a massive illegal industry that funds gangs, triggers violence and threatens public safety on both sides of the border. He says many states are reforming marijuana policy and argues the country wouldn't take punitive action against Canada if it were to do the same. Mr. McKay obtained indictments for Emery, who was ultimately sentenced to five years in a U.S. prison in 2010 for selling marijuana seeds to American customers through the mail. Several former B.C. attorneys general and Vancouver mayors have joined a coalition of police, judges and health officials in advocating for the marijuana policy reform.


UN observers mobbed in Damascus
Gunfire erupted on Wednesday close to an advance team of UN observers who had been swarmed by protesters, giving a taste of the challenge facing a mission to monitor a shaky week-old truce that has so far failed to stop Syria's violence. Protesters denouncing President Bashar al-Assad had surrounded their cars near the capital, Damscus. Automatic weapons fire sent the crowds scurrying for safety. There were no reports of casualties. But scenes of monitors' vehicles immobilised in a crowd followed by pictures of men running away while automatic weapons fire rattles in the air were an ominous echo of an earlier Arab League monitoring mission that collapsed in failure in January. The advance party of a half a dozen UN peacekeepers in blue berets was touring the vicinity of Damascus in two white UN Land Cruisers with a Syrian police escort when trouble began. Their cars were mobbed by protesters chanting demands to arm the rebel Free Syrian Army.

ICC tries to prise away Gadhafi son
War crimes prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday as part of an investigation into charges against Muammar Gaddafi's detained son, Saif al-Islam, sought for trial by the International Criminal Court. The Hague-based court issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam last year, after prosecutors accused him and others of involvement in the killing of protesters during the revolt that eventually toppled his father. Libya says he will be tried in his home country but it has been unable to prize him out of the hands of the militia fighters who caught him in the southern desert in November. Saif al-Islam remains in a secret location in the western town of Zintan.

Norwegian killer wants liberty or death
Norwegian anti-Islamic fanatic Anders Behring Breivik said on Wednesday he should be executed or acquitted after killing 77 people last summer in what he said was a battle to defend Europe against mass immigration. Norway has no death penalty and formal sentencing cannot exceed 21 years, though Breivik could be held the rest of his life if he is judged to pose a continuing danger. He could also be sentenced indefinitely to a mental institution. Breivik made the statement after a gruelling day of testimony in which prosecutors challenged his presentation of himself as a crusader defending Europe from immigration on behalf of a group of militant nationalists.

Myanmar opposition leader to visit Europe
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi plans to travel to Britain and Norway in June on her first trip abroad in 24 years. The 66-year-old politician has not left Myanmar for more than two decades because of fears the nation's authoritarian rulers would not allow her to return. The junta that ruled the country for almost half a century ceded power to a new government last year that has embarked on a series of widely praised reforms, including opening a dialogue with Suu Kyi and allowing her to run for and win a seat in parliament. Suu Kyi has not left Myanmar since 1988, when she arrived from Britain to visit her ailing mother and ended up leading the country's struggle for democracy.

Russia, U.S. in mammoth energy deal
U.S. oil major ExxonMobil and Russia's Rosneft unveiled an offshore exploration partnership on Wednesday that could invest upward of $500 billion in developing Russia's vast energy reserves in the Arctic and Black Sea. The deal, between the world's largest listed oil firm and the world's top oil producing nation, was the product of nearly a year of talks. Under the deal, signed in Moscow on Monday, Exxon and state-controlled Rosneft will seek to develop three fields in the Arctic with recoverable hydrocarbon reserves estimated at 85 billion barrels. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson says the Russian government's commitment to reforming offshore energy taxation by abolishing export duty and slashing mineral extraction tax, and to keep taxation stable for 15 years, had been crucial to unlocking the deal.

Israel remembers Holocaust
Israeli leaders and Holocaust survivors gathered in Jerusalem to mark the country's annual Holocaust Memorial Day. Wednesday night's ceremony at Yad Vashem begins the 24-hour commemoration for the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust of World War II. The Nazis and their collaborators wiped out a third of world Jewry. The Holocaust is considered a central event in modern Jewish history and key to Israel's society. Fewer than 200,000 elderly survivors remain in Israel. Six survivors were lighting symbolic torches at the ceremony. The Israeli flag flies at half staff, poems are read and the Jewish prayer for the dead is recited.


High court rules in favour of former newspaper baron
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Wednesday that former newspaper mogul Conrad Black is entitled to pursue libel suits in Ontario against the authors of a report that said he ran his U.S.-based media company, Hollinger International Inc, like a "corporate kleptocracy". Black is currently serving a prison sentence in Florida for fraud and obstruction of justice and expects to be released next month. He has sought more than $2.3 billion in damages in his libel suits. The defendants are Richard Breeden, a former head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, who led a 2004 Hollinger committee report on Black's practices along with three committee members and other former Hollinger directors. The report said Black, a former Canadian citizen, looted publisher Hollinger International of hundreds of millions of dollars. Black denies the charge. It is possible, however, that the issue might be moot in light of a reported settlement covering the libel suits and other court actions in the United States, that was reached in June 2011, three months after the Supreme Court of Canada heard the case. No money has yet been exchanged as certain elements require court approval.

Quebec-based convenience chain launches operations in Europe
Canada's largest convenience store is launching its long-anticipated overseas expansion with a US$2.8-billion friendly deal to buy the retail operations of Norway's state oil company. Alimentation Couche-Tard's shares briefly hit an all-time high in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the deal was announced Wednesday. Shares were up nearly 15 per cent, or $5.14, at C$39.44 in later morning trading. CEO Alain Bouchard says the acquisition positions the Quebec-based retailer to further expand its international presence by seeking opportunities with other major oil companies that are expected to divest their retail networks. The acquisition comes after months of studying Statoil's operations and top management visiting more than 200 stores in several Scandinavian cities.

Markets
The Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday: 12,128.89, - 8. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.31. Oil: $102.67 - $1.53.


Sports
HOCKEY

Two Stanley Cup favourites could be heading home Wednesday without recording a single victory in the post-season. The Vancouver Canucks trailed their series with the Kings 3-0 and needed a win in Los Angeles to avoid the sweep. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins took on the Flyers in Philadelphia also looking to avoid being swept.


Weather
British Columbia on Thursday: mix sun cloud, high C8 Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories: sun. Nunavut: cloud. Whitehorse 3, Yellowknife -4, Iqaluit -12. Prairies: cloud. Edmonton 4. Regina 4, Winnipeg 7. Ontario: sun north, rain south. Quebec: sun. Toronto, Montreal 7, Ottawa 8. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island sun, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador: mix sun cloud. Fredericton 11, Halifax 13, Charlottetown 5, St. John's 15.