Monday, 30 April 2012

Manchester City vs Manchester United - City Prevails with First Half Goal

Manchester took the helm of the English Premier League with a first half goal by Vincent Kompany.  The final two matchdays will no doubt be exciting.  Should both Manchester fans prevail in their last two matches, it could come down to the goal difference to decide the Premier League.

Matchday 36 feature between the top two clubs of the Premier League promised to be a nailbiter, with just three points separating the two clubs.  City needed a win to draw even with their neighbours from Old Trafford, while United could afford a draw.  A United win would make it difficult for City to win the coveted Barclay's championship.

Manchester United dominated the opening 15 minutes in the first half, while City became stronger as the game moved along.  The defensive play on both sides was superb, but Vincent Kompany created mayhem when he headed the ball into the net after an assist by David Silva.  in the 45th minute.  Manchester took the advantage as the Manchester City skipper put Manchester ahead at the stroke of 45 minutes.  His third goal of the season.   City led after 45 minutes.

The second half went in long phases, with United pushing to get the equalizer.  Obviously a lot was at stake.  Should City prevail, the two clubs would be equal in points.  City went into the defensive mode, countering whenever the situation made it possible.  

The final phase of the match was indeed a nailbiter, especially with the added five minutes for injury time.  In the end the better team prevailed.  City takes the helm of the Premier league with goal difference.  What a finish it will be for the last two matchdays of Barclays.

Manchester City:  Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Joleon Nescott, Vincent Kompany, Gael Clichy, Gareth Barry, Gnegneri Toure Yaya, David Silva (Micah Richards 82nd), Carlos Tevez Nigel de Jong (68th), Samir Nasri (James Milner 90+2), Sergio Aguero

Manchester United:  David de Gea, Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling, Patrice Evra, Luis Nani (Ashley Young 82nd), Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes (Antonio Valencia (78th) , Ji-Sung Park (Danny Welbeck 58th), Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney



MATCH                                                       STADIUM

EVERTON vs FULHAM                    Goodison Park, Liverpool                  4-0
STOKE CITY vs ARSENAL              Britannia Stadium, Stoke on Trent     1-1
SUNDERLAND vs BOLTON            Stadium of the Light, Sunderland       2-2
SWANSEA CITY vs WOLVES          Liberty Stadium, Swansea                  4-4
W.B.A. vs ASTON VILLA                 The Hawthorns, West Bromwich        0-0
WIGAN vs NEWCASTLE                 DW Stadium, Wigan                           4-0
NORWICH CITY vs LIVERPOOL    Carrow Road, Norwich                       0-3


CHELSEA Chelsea vs Q.P.R.              Stamford Bridge, London                  6-1
TOTTENHAM vs BLACKBURN       White Hart Lane, London                 2-0


MANCHESTER CITY vs MANCHESTER UTD  Etihad Stadium, Manchester 1-0




LIVERPOOL vs  FULHAM     Anfield Stadium, Liverpool                   0-1
STOKE CITY vs EVERTON    Britannia Stadium, Stoke on Trent        1-1


CHELSEA vs NEWCASTLE    Stamford Bridge, London                     0-2
BOLTON vs TOTTENHAM      Reebok Stadium, Bolton                      1-4

POS LP         CLUB                                             P     W   D   L    GF GA  GD  PTS
1 MANCHESTER CITY                                       36  26   5  5      88   27     61   83
2 MANCHESTER UNITED                                 36  26   5   5      86   33     53   83
3 ARSENAL F.C.                                                   36  20   6 10     69   45      24   66
4TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS                                36  19    8   9    63   40      25   65
5 NEWCASTLE                                                     36  19    8   9    55   46       9    65
6 CHELSEA F.C.                                                    36  17   9   10    62  41      23   61
7 EVERTON F.C.                                                   36 14    10  12   47  39         8   52
8 FULHAM F.C.                                                     36   13  10  13    46  48      -2    49
9 LIVERPOOL F.C.                                                36  13  10  13    33  38        5    49
10 SUNDERLAND F.C.                                         35   11   12  13   44  43       3    45
11 W.B.A.                                                                 35   13   6  16    41  47       -6   45
12 SWANSEA CITY                                               36   11   11  14   43  49      -6    44
13 NORWICH CITY                                               36  11  10  15    44  61     -16    43
14 STOKE CITY                                                      36   11  11  14   34  50     -16   41
157WIGAN ATHLETIC                                          36     9  10  17    38  60     -22   37
16 ASTON VILLA                                                   35     7  15  13   36  50     -14   36
17 Q.P.R.                                                                   36     9   7  20     39  63    -23   34
18 BOLTON WANDERERS                                    36     10   4  22  31  72     -31   34
19 BLACKBURN ROVERS                                    36      8   7  22    47  75     -28   31
20 WOLVERHAMPTON                                         36      5    9 22    38  79     -41   24

HIghway 63 Twinning Should be a Priority

The fatal crash on Alberta deadliest highway that connects the Oilsand community of Fort McMurray with Edmonton has brought the twinning issue front and centre again.  About 7% of all traffic fatalities in Alberta occur on the highway between Redwater and Fort McMurray.

The 240 km stretch of  road, ,which is for the most part a two lane highway, is filled with cars, pick up trucks, semi-trailers and trucks carrying oversize equipment from Edmonton to the booming Alberta Oil Sands town.   Yet it appears that the Alberta government has not made the road a priority in infrastructure spending.

The excuses should stop and the job should get done and soon.   The Highway was an issue and was touted by the Wildrose Party as a priority.

"It's a No. 1 priority. It's critical. How many more lives must be lost before we widen that highway?" said Wildrose candidate and former mayor of Fort McMurray, Doug Faulkner.    "It's impossible to guarantee that if you are driving from Fort McMurray to Edmonton that you will not meet a very dangerous situation. People going too fast, pulling out to try to pass, not enough passing lanes. We need it done."

Without rekindling the election campaign, but one has to ask how many more people have to die.

A facebook group has been organized PLEASE TWIN HIGHWAY 63 and has more than 13,000 members in just two days.  If you agree that the Highway should be made a priority and should be twinned take some time to visit and leave a comment for Premier Alison Redford.

There is also a petition Twin Highway 63.  Please take the time to sign it. 

Redford has taken some time away after the election and said that she would respond when she gets back next week. 

There should be no more excuses.  The community that has become the engine of the Canadian economy deserves to get something in return.  There should be cooperation between the operators at Fort McMurray, the Provincial and Federal government.  Let's get past the bureaucracy and get this job done.

Bosnian Court Convicts First Woman of War Crimes

Rasema Handanovic is the first Bosnian woman to be convicted of war crimes for killing Croat prisoners.  Handanovic, who was a Bosnian Muslim soldier during the 1990s war,  pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargaining deal. 

War crimes court judge Jasmina Kosovic said, "Rasema Handanovic participated with other members of her unit in the executions of three civilians and three soldiers.  The tribunal sentences her to five-and-a-half years in jail."

Although Croats and Bosnian Muslims where allies, fighting Serbs, for most of the Bosnian war, they were adversaries for almost a year in 1993 and 1994.  Handanovic was a member of the Zufilkar Special Unit at the time, which killed 18 civilians and four prisoners in the village of Trusina in Southern Bosnia.

Rasema Handanovic plea bargained for a lesser sentence by agreeing to testify against members of her former unit.  The plea bargain agreement resulted in her getting a lesser sentence.  She was extradited from the United States, where she had immigrated after the war, to Bosnia in December. The 39 year old holds dual citizenship of the U.S. and Bosnia. 

During the Bosnian war 100,000 lives were lost, one of the most famous massacres and human rights abuses occurred in Srbenica.  Slobodan Milosovic, Radovan Karadicz and Ratko Mladic are some of the most publicized personalities to be prosecuted for war crimes in Bosnia.

Ukraine Considers German Threat Euro 2012 Boycott Cold War Method

The Ukrainian Ministry of External Affairs has reacted angrily to media reports that indicated that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is initiating a boycott of the European Soccer Championship, Euro 2012.  The Ministry likened the boycott to "Cold War" methods, which use sport as a hostage.

Media reports in "Der Spiegel" yesterday indicated that German Chancellor Angela Merkel recommended to her Ministers not to visit the Ukraine during the Euro 2012 championship.  The boycott is to protest the continued incarceration and alleged human rights abuses against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Communications Director, Oleg Woloschin, for the External Affairs Ministry said that the couldn't imagine that Germany's public figures would apply methods of the Cold War and attempting to use sport as a hostage for politics.

"The External Affairs Ministry hopes that the information distributed by German media, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel, apparently called for a political boycott of Euro 2012, related to the imprisonment of ex Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, turn out to be false, Woloshin said.

While most Western nations have voiced their displeasure with the Ukrainian government over the handling and imprisonment of the former Prime Minister, Germany has been the most vocal.  Yesterday FC Bayern President, Uli Hoeness, called for players of the German national side to speak out on the issue.

Bayern boss Uli Hoeness said that he trusts the players to be smart enough to have an opinion on the issue.  He said he would have respect for every player that takes a stand on this issue.   One of Bayern's players, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Анатолій Тимощук) will be appearing as part of the Ukrainian team.

Hoeness has also called on the President of UEFA, Michel Platini, to take a tough stand against the regime in the Ukraine.

"I sincerely hope that Mr. Platini, clearly voices his opinion in the right places.

Newly elected German President, Joachim Gauck, a human rights advocate, has cancelled a trip to EURO 2012 to protest the incarceration conditions of Yulia Tymoshenko.

A Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that at least five EU heads of state would not be attending a  May 11-12 Yalta summit meeting of Central and Eastern European leaders.  The countries in question are the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Italy and Slovenia.  The Ministry downplayed that this had anything to do with the imprisonment of Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven year sentence of abuse of power charges, based on an energy deal with Russia.  Western countries have condemned the charges and threatened to freeze cooperation with the Ukraine.  Tymoshenko has been on hunger strike for the last ten days to protest alleged abuse in Kharkiv prison.  Kharkiv is one of the venues during EURO 2012, the European Soccer championship, hosted by Poland and the Ukraine.

The Ukraine is a signatory of the "European Convention of Human Rights," and as such is expected to clear up the situation of prisoners within the letter of the law. 

Euro 2012 will kick off on the 8th of June and run through to July 1st.  The Ukraine and Poland are co-hosts of the tournament, only second to the World Cup. 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

EURO 2012 Has Become a Political Football in Germany

FC Bayern President Uli Hoeness has called on player of Germany's National side to speak out on the human rights abuses by the regime in the Ukraine.  The German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen has called on European governments to boycott the matches in the Ukraine to protest the incarceration of fomer Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven year sentence of abuse of power charges, based on an energy deal with Russia.  Western countries have condemned the charges and threatened to freeze cooperation with the Ukraine.  Tymoshenko has been on hunger strike for the last ten days to protest alleged abuse in Kharkiv prison.  Kharkiv is one of the venues during EURO 2012, the European Soccer championship, hosted by Poland and the Ukraine.

The first game scheduled in Kharkiv will be on June 9th when the Netherlands meets Denmark.  The match between the The Netherlands and Germany is scheduled to take place on June 13th, which would require at the minimum the German Minister of Sports to attend.

Bayern boss Uli Hoeness said that he trusts the players to be smart enough to have an opinion on the issue.  He said he would have respect for every player that takes a stand on this issue.   One of Bayern's players, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Анатолій Тимощук) will be appearing as part of the Ukrainian team.

Hoeness has also called on the President of UEFA, Michel Platini, to take a tough stand against the regime in the Ukraine.

"I sincerely hope that Mr. Platini, clearly voices his opinion in the right places.

The newly elected German President, Joachim Gauck, a human rights advocate, has cancelled a trip to EURO 2012 to protest the incarceration conditions of Yulia Tymoshenko.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said if the former Ukrainian PM should still be incarcerated during the Euro 12 competition, she would recommend that any of her Ministers would not be attend the games in the Ukraine.  She has made an exception for her Sports Minister,  Interior Minister  Hans-Peter Friedrich.  Friedrich has said he would go to the Kharkiv on the condition that he could meet with Yulia Tymoshenko beforehand.

Germany's stance on this issue is the right one, the remaining countries involved in this competition should also exert pressure on the Ukrainian government to stop this abuse of human rights.

Kudos to Uli Hoeness, the Bayern boss for addressing this issue and encouraging his players to speak out.  One of Bayern's players, Anatolyi Tymoschuk will be representing the Ukrainian national side.  

Chelsea should Not be Underestimated by Bayern

FC Bayern should not get tempted to underestimate Chelsea in the upcoming Champions League final (May 19th) in the Allianz Arena.  While Chelsea at present is only in fifth place in the Barclays Premier league, the team remarkably made its way into the Champions League final, after heavyweights, in their respective domestic leagues, like Manchester United, Manchester City, and Borussia Dortmund have been knocked out.

Chelsea's latest feat was their defeat of FC Barcelona on their home grounds.  The team continued its success in the Premier League today by walking over Queen's Park Rangers with a Torres hat trick 6-1.  While QPR is not Bayern Muenchen, the game has demonstrated that Chelsea possesses a tremendous offensive, even without Captain Terry, who is banned from the final due to being red carded in the Barcelona game.

Bayern Muenchen will be missing its regular defensive team in Alaba, Badstuber and Gustavo.  All of these defenders both looked after protecting Manuel Neuer's turf, while having the ability to join in the offensive on quick counters.  The good news for Bayern is that Mario Gomez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery and Lahm will still be the mainstay of Bayern's team.  Prior to the Champions League Final Bayern has one more league game against 1.FC Koen, where Jupp Heynckes can give a break to some of his A- Team.  The following weekend, on May 12th Bayern takes on league champion Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal (German FA Cup). 

While the German FA Cup will be a very difficulty task for Bayern, it will also be yet another task prior to the Champions League final.  Having ceded the league championship to Dortmund, the FA Cup is all about bragging rights.  Expect an exciting match.

Michael Ballack, who played four seasons for both FC Bayern and Chelsea was asked who he thought would be favoured in  this match.  He said, "I think that Bayern Munich is the favourite, since they are playing at home.  That is a big advantage.  In a final, in which giant emotions play a big role, a home game is a constellation, which has never happened before.  This is why Bayern will have an emotional advantage, which will be hard to counter by Chelsea. Only Barcelona would have been in capable to play in such a final away from home as an equal and possibly win.  On paper Bayer has a giant advantage. But that can also be dangerous. Ballack played his last home match today in Leverkusen. 

With the right engagement Bayern can defeat Chelsea.  The key is not to make the same mistake Barca made.  Open up the defence and get Chelsea spread out in the rear.  Another 90 minutes of overwhelming ball possession, with little to show for it, would be hard to stomach.

British Aid Worker Decapitated in Pakistan - The War of Terror is Over

While a senior official in the Obama Administration uttered the words this week "The War on Terror is Over," a British aid worker's decapitated body was found in Quetta, Pakistan on Sunday morning.  The body of Khalil Rasjed Dale, 60 was  found with a note staing he was killed after his captors' demands were not met, police said.  The body was found in an apple orchard outside of Quetta, Pakistan.

Khalil Rasjed Dale was abducted on January 5th.  A British Muslim, Dale had been managing a health programme in Quetta for almost a year.

The International Red Cross (ICRC) has  condemned the killing in the strongest possible terms as has the British government.

 "This was a senseless and cruel act, targeting someone whose role was to help the people of Pakistan, and causing immeasurable pain to those who knew Mr Dale," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in London.

According to a police surgeon at Bolan Medical College in Quetta said that some of his joints had been dislocated "because the body was forcibly stuffed into the bag,"

This killing comes just days after a senior official in the State Department, according to the National Journal proclaimed that "The War on Terror is over."

 “Now that we have killed most of al Qaida,” the source said, “now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.”

Since it's unknown what prompted the statement, one can only assume that it was made to support the NATO exit from Afghanistan in 2014.  Unfortunately, soldiers and civilians are still killed at alarming rates and the Taliban apparently is far from being done.

 Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed responsibility and demanded that Washington end air strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, and release the 1993 World Trade Center bombers and relatives of Osama bin Laden.

There seems to be a misrepresentation based on facts on the ground and what the Obama Administration wants us to believe.  While the Afghan Security Forces are being trained, it is also apparent that many of the facts are being hidden.   Those are the mistrust of Afghan Security Forces and the Afghan population towards foreigners, the severe problems with drugs and high absentee rates.

We can stick our heads in the sand or face up to reality.  What is needed here is a decision to either fully disengage from Afghanistan now, or get serious about truth and face reality.   The questionis,  "Is it worthwhile to waste one more year and then  commit to another decade in a supporting role that will cost over $4Billion."

Alberta - Redford Promises a Shake Up - Where are the Priorities

With the election in Alberta in the books, a final analysis shows that although the Redford Tories captured 61 seats in the Alberta Legislature, they only received 44% of the popular vote, compared to the Wildrose Party, which received 17 seats with 34% of the popular vote.  Essentially that means that 56% of Albertans vote against the Redford Tories.  22% of the remaining electorate was voted for leftist parties (the NDP and Liberal Party).  Alison Redford promises a major "shake up"

She wants to transform how government delivers services, boost the opposition's influence in the legislature and improve how Alberta relates to the rest of Canada. The Province

Unfortunately, while she says she wants to boost the opposition's influence in the legislature, in the same breath she takes another swipe at the Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. 

In her interview she says that a defining issue were the so called Dani Dollars.  In fact she said that while the polls may have shown that this was popular with the public, she had the pulse of the Province.  Really?  Personally, she had the pulse of the Alberta Teacher's Association and unions.  The robocalls by unions to voters demonizing the Wildrose party are a good indicator of that.  The author was a recipient of those.  In simple terms it could be called "Dirty Tricks."

"I want to really revitalize the legislative process. I want legislative committees to work the way that they should, and they should be all-party committees. They should be holding public hearings, and that's where we should be talking about policy."

The Wildrose, she said, inadvertently reinforced that theme by defending religious "conscience rights," a concept many Albertans perceived as thinly veiled discrimination against minorities. "They (Wildrose) still kept proposing it, qualifying and changing it - 'Oh, there'll be rules here, there'll be rules there' - but they didn't actually give up on the idea, and I was absolutely amazed by that."

The state of Alberta infrastructure

In the past 36 hours ten people have been killed on Alberta roads, seven on Highway 63, which links Fort McMurray to Edmonton.  Highway 63 has been in the forefront

A report on CTV Edmonton says that 7% of all fatalities on Alberta highways occurs on a stretch of Highway 63/28 between Redwater and Fort McMurray.

Police say seven per cent of fatalities on Alberta highways last year happened between Redwater and Fort McMurray.

High vehicle traffic on Highway 63 plays a major role. Eight years ago, about 2,000 vehicles used the road each day. Fast forward six years and that number has grown to about 3,400 vehicles per day.

Dangerous speeds is also a large factor. Driver Bryson Brown says he regularly sees drivers going faster than the 100 km/h speed limit.

"They pass me about 140, 150 easy," he says.

Const. Fossen says he caught drivers going even faster.

"I've had as high as up to 200 km/h on this stretch of highway," he said.

 Seldom a week goes by where there isn't a report of someone killed or seriously injured on that stretch of highway.  The Tories have been paying lip service to the issue but little has been done.  It has come down to excuses, which have been not enough traffic to substantiate the expenditure to difficult terrain to build a highway.  How much is a life worth? 

Highway 63 is but one example of misplaced priorities of the Tories.  Add to that a promised senior centre in Fort McMurray.  The centre was promised under Ed Stelmach, yet it never happened and it caused Guy Boutelier, the local PC to leave the party and eventually join the Wildrose Party.  The imposition of high voltage power lines, a failing health care system with long waiting lists are just a few other examples.

Range and Town ship roads in rural communities are unsafe and unfit for the 21st century and all of this in a province that is touted to be the richest in Canada.  Reliable internet service in rural Alberta is atrocious.  The list goes on and on..  You get my point.

Instead the Tories went after an expensive carbon capture experiment.  Millions were wasted in the project.  

If the Premier is going to implement change and shake things up, then it's time to get her head out of the sand and set some realistic priorities.  While urban communities may want hockey arenas and museums, all worthwhile projects, it is incumbent that the infrastructure in this province be prioritized. 

It seems obvious that if asked the companies benefiting from extracting oil from the oilsands would probably be prepared to fix Highway 63 in a partnership.   Has anyone approached them?

The Premier needs to set priorities that are important to Albertans, including those of rural Albertans.  While most of the votes are in the cities, rural Alberta still contributes to the Alberta economy and should not be ignored.  Contrary to popular belief, we're not backwood hillbillies rednecks.   The Premier should remember that.  We will pay close attention to her so-called shake up..

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Bundesliga Matchday 33 Round Up - Berlin Joins K'Lautern in Relegation

With matchday 33 in the books, the Bundesliga is all but decided.  Dortmund will play their final match at home next week and will be able to celebrate its championship before a home crowd.  87,500 fans should be in the Dortmund stadium.  Kaiserslautern, which was already heading for relegation next season, put in a stellar performance against Dortmund, scoring the first goal.  In the end it wasn't enough to derail Dortmund.  Barrios and Kagawa put in a superb performance to lead Dortmund to a 5-2 victory.

In the southern derby between Bayern Muenchen and VFB Stuttgart, Gomez came through with two goals and the Champions League finalist walked away with a 2-0 win.  Berlin has joined Kaiserslautern and is also returning to the 2. Bundesliga next year.  Schalke defeated Berlin easily with 4 goals to nothing.  Koeln lost to Freiburg 3-1 and is now in the relegation qualification spot.

Augsburg with a scoreless tie with Gladbach has prevailed in the second leg of the season and has saved its spot in the Bundesliga for the 2012/13 season, a superb effort by Augsburg.

Matchday 34 will see a battle for spot seven and the final Euroleague spot.  Wolfsburg, Hannover and Hoffenheim will be vying for that spot.

For Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern there is still the DFB Cup to decide and of course, Bayern is looking forward to hosting Chelsea in the Allianz Arena for the Champions League final. 

In the 2. Bundesliga, Eintracht Frankfurt and Greuther Fuerth will be promoted to the Bundesliga.  Duessledorf, St. Pauli, Paderborn and 1860 Muenchen are still in contention for the third spot.  2. Bundesliga plays all of its matches tomorrow.  

28.04.2012, 15.30    Bayer Leverkusen -    Hannover 96                      1-0   
28.04.2012, 15.30    Hamburger SV -    FSV Mainz 05                         0-0   
28.04.2012, 15.30    1899 Hoffenheim -    1. FC Nürnberg                   2-3   
28.04.2012, 15.30    Bayern München -    VfB Stuttgart                       2-0   
28.04.2012, 15.30    SC Freiburg -    1. FC Köln                                   3-1  
28.04.2012, 15.30    Bor. Mönchengladbach -    FC Augsburg              0-0   
28.04.2012, 15.30    1. FC Kaiserslautern -    Borussia Dortmund        2-5   
28.04.2012, 15.30    VfL Wolfsburg -    Werder Bremen                       3-1   
28.04.2012, 15.30    Schalke 04 -    Hertha BSC Berlin                         4-0

Bundesliga Table
                                                    GP       W    D    L        GF/A        Pts
1Borussia Dortmund                    33      24    6    3         76:25          78
2Bayern München                        33      22   4     7         73:21          70
3Schalke 04                                  33      19   4   10         71:42          61
4Borussia Mönchengladbach       33      16   9    8          46:24          57
5VfB Stuttgart                               33     14   8   11         57:44          50
6Bayer Leverkusen                       33      14   9     9         49:41          49
7Hannover 96                                33     11  12   10         39:44          45 8Wolfsburg                                    33      13   5   15         45:57          44
9Hoffenheim                                 33     10  11   12          40:44          42
101. FC Nürnberg                         33      12   6   15           37:45          42
11Werder Bremen                          33     11    9   13          46:55          42
12SC Freiburg                               33       10  10  13          44:57          40
13FSV Mainz 05                           33        9  12 12            47:48          39
14Hamburger SV                           33        8  12  13           35:56          36
15FC Augsburg                             33         7  14  12          35:49          35
161. FC Köln                                 33         8    6  19          38:69          30
17Hertha BSC Berlin                     33         6  10  17         38:63          28
181. FC Kaiserslautern                  33         4   11  18         23:52          23

US Japan Reach Agreement on Okinawa Base Move

The United States and Japan have reached an agreement to relocate 9,000 US Marines to other bases in the Asia/Pacific region.  The noisy base has been a major irritant to Okinawa residents.  Some also considered the Marines as rowdy and violent.  No big surprise there, when you have large groups of aggressive young men in a relatively small area.

 “I am very pleased that, after many years, we have reached this important agreement and plan of action,”said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The 9,000 US Marines based at Okinawa, Japan have long been a sore point for the Japanese government.  An earlier plan in 2006, which was never executed due to financial and political road blocks, eventually cost Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama his job in 2010.  While there were other factors, Okinawa played a large role. 

Marines are to be relocated from Futenama to Guam and other bases in the region, as soon as suitable facilities are available.   The cost of the move is estimated to cost $8.6 Billion, of which Japan will contribute $3.1 Billion. 

Since this is a major economic hit for Okinawa, it is no surprise that there are mixed messages coming from Japanese officials, which question the Japanese commitment.  Officials have offered a less populated strip on Okinawa.  Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said, during a press conference, that the 2006 plan was still the only valid solution and Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said that other relocation options for the Futenma base might be considered.

Congress, which controls spending on base construction, said that no plan should be considered without the support of Congress.

Moving 9,000 troops with their equipment is a large undertaking and obviously there can be many hidden costs, including sustainment of the new bases.

It appears that this is far from a done deal and may run into some obstacles in Congress and among Japanese politicians.  At least there is an agreement. 

Canadian Politics This Week

This week has been full of events in Canadian politics and Parliament has taken another turn when it comes to good behaviour.   Highlights this week were the election in Alberta, the student protests in Quebec and the raising of the "abortion" issue in a private members bill in the House of Commons.  There was also the apparent request by the U.S. for Australia and Canada to leave a small number of troops in Afghanistan post 2014.  A new poll suggests that the Conservative Party is in a statistical tie with the Official Opposition "New Democratic Party."

Alberta led the growth in the Canadian economy, which expanded 2.6% in 2011, well behind the 3.4% expansion in 2010.  Alberta and Saskatchewan were well ahead of the remainder of Canada with an expansion of 5.2% and 4.8% respectively.  In contrast Ontario and Quebec expanded 2.0% and 1.7%.  The economies in P.E.I, N.B. and N.S. are all but at a standstill ranging from 1.1 to .01%, while Newfoundland is above the national average at 2.9%.  Manitoba at 1.1% growth is the only Western Province below the national average.  The Yukon and Nunavut far exceeded the national average, while the economy of the North West Territories contracted by 5.5%.

Turning to the Alberta elections, Monday nights results were a major misreading of the polling organizations.  Pollsters had predicted a Wildrose sweep, yet when it was all said and done, Alison Redford's Progressive Conservative Party had an overwhelming majority, capturing 61 of 87 seats in the Alberta Legislature.  The big loser is the Alberta Liberal Party, which went from 26% of the popular vote in 2008 to just 10% in Monday's election.  While the Wildrose Party did not meet the expectations of the polls, it nonetheless gained 16 seats over 2008 and now forms the official opposition.  Many analysts believe that the election turned into Redford's favour during the last three days of the campaign.  The politics of fear worked and many Liberals joined the Redford camp, especially the unions and teachers. 

Alison Redford has a job on her hands to keep her promises, improve the ailing health care system and stamp out corruption and intimidation in her party.  The Wildrose Party will, no doubt, hold her and the Progressive Conservatives to account.  It should make for an interesting four years in the Alberta Legislature.

In Ontario, the Liberal government is one seat short of a majority and after the Progressive Conservative leader rejected the proposed the budget outright, Premier Dalton McGuinty made concessions to the New Democrats to pass his budget, another deficit budget, which resulted in Ontario's credit rating being downgraded. 

The fortunes seem to be turning in the favour of the Ontario Liberals though, since Tory MPP Elizabeth Witmer resigned on Friday, triggering a byelection.  Witmer is the MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo.  In last October's vote, Witmer had 21,356 votes while Liberal candidate Eric Davis finished second with 17,837 votes.  That riding is now up for grabs in a byelection that must be called within six months. 

Then there was the issued of student protests and violence in Montreal over tuition fees.  Even with the newly proposed increases by the Charest government, Quebec students pay the lowest tuition fees anywhere in Canada.  In Alberta for full time tuition the cost is double compared to Quebec students.  If Quebec students ever had the sympathy of the public, it is unlikely that anyone is on their side after the violence and destruction caused by their protests.  Every day they strike costs the taxpayer additional fund to pay for police forces.  Go figure.

On the national scene a private members motion once again ignited the fire between pro-life and pro-choice forces.  The motion called for a committee to be formed to examine when life starts.  While the bill will go nowhere, it again raised doubts as to the Prime Minister's secret agenda.  The Prime Minister already indicated he would vote against the motion.  In likelihood most of his caucus will as well.  The Liberals will allow a free vote on the issue, while the NDP has instructed its MPs to vote against the motion.  One has to shake his head and wonder why this issue has to be raised yet again.  These issues have been settled decades ago.

As it became know this week that there may be a request by the U.S. for Canada to leave some troops in Afghanistan past 2014, the debate was once again ignited.  The NDP is absolutely against any troops remaining in Afghanistan, while the government indicated they would consider it.

"As we approach that date, we will examine all options and we will take the decision that is in the best interest of this country and in the best interest of our security objectives for the globe," PM Harper said. 

When Mulcair asked the prime minister about the extension, Harper attacked the NDP for being pacifists regardless of the situation. "In 1939, the NDP leader didn’t even want to support the fight against Hitler," said Harper. Of course the PM was referring to the CCF, the predecessor of the NDP.  This created a lot of chatter in the twitter sphere, with Canadians offering history lessons to the PM. 

All in all it has been a busy week in Canada, with the election campaign heating up in British Columbia, the Question Period comedy hour, student violence and demonstrations in Quebec and the Alberta election.  

DoD US Military Casualties In Afghanistan as of 27 Apr 2012

 As the security for Afghanistan transfers to the control of Afghan Security Forces, another 12 U.S. soldiers have given their life in the war torn country.  Six soldiers were killed in action (KIA), six died of other causes, while an additional 41 joined the wounded warriors.  

NATO ministers met this week to discuss the way ahead in Afghanistan, ahead of a summit to be held in Chicago in May.  The U.S. and Afghanistan announced that a "Strategic Partnership Treaty" had been finalized, ready for signature by President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  The treaty was to deal with supporting and funding approximately 352,000 Afghan soldiers and policeman by 2014.  Afghan Forces are expected to level at 228,500.  

Total cost of the package is expected to be about $4.2 Billion, of which the U.S. has committed to paying $4.2 Billion.  The treaty also addresses residual NATO/US troop strength post 2014 and the issue of night raids by special forces has also been addressed.  The U.S. has apparently made a concession on that issue and all night raids will now be planned and led by Afghan Security Forces.

Australia has announced that it will withdraw its troops by the end of this year, one year ahead of schedule, while the UK is going ahead with a withdrawal of 500 troops this year.  Apparently the Pentagon/White House have requested that Australia and Canada leave a small contingent of troops, probably Special Forces beyond 2014 to assist Afghans with training and in the capture of insurgents. Of course there is still the issue of insurgents in Pakistan.  

NATO leaders are making it clear that they are not prepared to leave Afghanistan to its own vices and that they will assist the Afghan government in any way they can to assure success and end the war in Afghanistan.  

In the US the election general election campaign is in full swing with both sides spouting rhetoric to demonize the other.  Americans can expect one of the dirtiest campaigns, full of Super PAC ads that will be beyond belief.  As Mitt Romney has all but wrapped up the GOP nomination, the White House and the Obama campaign have turned their focus on Romney and of course the Romney campaign on the incumbent President.  With the campaigns in full swing now, the winners are the media that air those ads, which cost obscene amounts.  One would think with an economy still struggling, millions of unemployed and on food stamps or other assistance, this money could be used better elsewhere.  

The global economy at best is shaky.  The Dutch government collapsed over austerity measures.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing a run-off election and Germany's Angela Merkel is under pressure to quit subsidizing the rest of Europe.  

Needless to say there is a lot of pressure on governments to stop spending money on wars and to get out of Afghanistan.   Meanwhile troops are still putting their life on the line daily in Afghanistan.  Just yesterday the 410th British soldier died in Helmand Province.  Take a moment this week and think about those sacrificing their life.  Lest We Forget.

Below are this week’s updated DoD casualty figures:

Op Enduring Freedom                  Total Deaths       KIA   Non Hostile              WIA

Afghanistan Only                                   1828               1516        312                     15713
Other Locations                                        112                   12        100
DoD Civ Casualties                                      3                     1            2
Worldwide Total                                     1943                1529        414                    15713

Accumulated 2012 Casualties:

KIA            Non Combat Deaths             WIA

  62                            43                               535

 List of Casualties at

Friday, 27 April 2012

Alberta - Convenient Release of Mar Ethics Report

The Alberta government chose a Friday afternoon to release the results of the Ethics report on Gary Mar.  Even though the information was apparently available well ahead of the election on April 23rd. 

During the campaign it was reported that Mar had been reinstated to his position by Redford’s deputy minister, Peter Watson, well before the televised Leaders’ debate.  At the time, the PC campaign and Redford insisted they had seen nothing of the report despite the close connections with the Premier’s office.

Gary Mar, who faced Redford during the Progressive Conservative Party Leadership campaign an lost in the third ballot, was handpicked by Redford as the Alberta envoy to Asia in Hong Kong.  He was   investigated after auctioning off a trip to his Hong Kong government office at a personal fundraiser earlier this year organized to help him pay off PC leadership debts. The trip reportedly fetched $20,000.

Alison Redford suspended Mar without pay and ordered and ethics investigation.  She referred the investigation to the Deputy Minister of Executive Council, Peter Watson, who is responsible for administering the Code of Conduct and Ethics for the Public Service which applies to senior officials in the Government of Alberta.  He apparently hired an independent investigator and legal advice. 

When queried about the report, during the election campaign, Redford said she was not aware of any report.  Then just a few days after the election, on a Friday, the report is released, with the following findings:
  • The wording of the invitation was changed when concerns were raised to make it clear that the dinner was a private affair
  • Mr. Mar was not involved in the direct solicitation of funds from the dinner
  • The funds raised from the dinner did not relate to the discharge of Mr. Mar's duties in public office;
  • None of the funds raised from the dinner would be paid to Mr. Mar
  • No information was conveyed to attendees that was not freely available to the public
  • No special access was provided to or expected by the winner of a trip to Hong Kong auctioned at the dinner
The investigation found that there was no conflict of interest and Mar is returning to his duties in Hong Kong.

Obviously Alison Redford wanted to avoid any controversy and criticism during the election.  The Wildrose Party was quick to respond.  Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith commented on the report and said that the transaction involving Mr. Mar does not pass the smell test.

 “Regardless of the report, this transaction involving Mr. Mar doesn’t pass the smell test,” Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said. “Ms. Redford should force Mr. Mar to repay the $20,000 as a condition of remaining on the job.” Source Wildrose Party

Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson criticized Redford for fumbling the Mar file from the start by keeping the report behind closed doors and by handing out a patronage posting in the first place.

“Redford is building a reputation of wanting to keep the public in the dark, whether it’s her time as Justice Minister creating laws that shroud illegal donation investigations into secrecy, or punting important issues until after the election,” Anderson said.  “It’s time to hold an open and transparent competitive process for international offices instead of continuing on with the PC pattern of giving plum patronage postings to party officials.”

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, in all likelihood it's a duck. 

British Soldier Killed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan

Another British soldier has been killed in Afghanistan.  The soldier was a member of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.

The British Ministry of Defence made the announcement on its website:

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must announce that a soldier from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was killed in Afghanistan today, 27 April 2012.

 The soldier, a member of Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj (North), was on a patrol to disrupt insurgent movements in the area, when he was hit by small arms fire.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Major Ian Lawrence, said:
"Sadly, I must report that today a soldier from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards has died of a gunshot wound sustained while onpatrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.
"The thoughts and prayers of all in the Task Force and Combined Force are with his family and friends at this tragic time."
The soldier's family have been informed and have asked for a period of 24 hours grace before further details are released.

The battalion deployed to Helmand as part of Operation Herrick 16 and is scheduled to return to Britain in the autumn.  The Army said Operation Herrick 16 was designed to "push back" the Taliban.

It said: "When we go into the villages and districts in Helmand we are supported by Afghan Army and Afghan Police who hold the ground we have cleared, to prevent the Taliban returning."

The Grenadier Guards previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 and during 2009 - 2010, and are playing a key ceremonial role during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The UK has just announced that they will withdraw 500 British troops from Afghanistan, stating that the Afghan Security Forces were strong enough to permit this withdrawal.

This is the 410th soldier to have died in Afghanistan, since deployment in October 2001.

Canada - Conservatives and New Democrats in Statistical Tie - Nanos Poll

The constant hammering by the opposition parties and controversies seem to have had an effect on how Canadians feel about the Conservative gouvernment.  A Nik Nanos poll  has the Conservative Party in a statistical tie with the New Democratic Party.   While Stephen Harper still holds a lead as the most trusted leader, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair has moved up considerably in all leadership categories.  

While the Conservative Party support has remained relatively unchanged at 34.7%, the New Democrats have improved significantly at 32.4%, mostly at the cost of the Liberal Party, which has drooped 6 points to 23.3%.  Canadians also seem to like what they see in New Democratic Leader Thomas Mulcair.  Although he is still 12 percentage points behind Stephen Harper, he has picked up 33.5 points in the leadership index, while Liberal leader Bob Rae has dropped 17.9%.  All party leaders took a drop, with Stephen Harper taking the biggest loss at 36.6, definitely a good showing for the NDP leader.

Canadians still consider Stephen Harper as the most competent and trustworthy leader, although Thomas Mulcair has moved up in those categories as well.   The election of Thomas Mulcair as leader of the New Democrats has definitely had an impact.

Along with Mulcair's leadership bump and the controversies, the F35 boondoggle, robocalls, internet privacy legislation, excessive travel expenditures by some MPs, budget cuts, it would appear that the Prime Minister will have tough selling job.  This poll, however is only a blurb in time and as was shown in the Alberta election polls, they are not always accurate.  One can assume though that Mulcair has had an impact on the Canadian political scene.

Poll Details:


Between April 13th and 18th, Nanos Research conducted a random telephone survey of 1,200 Canadians 18 years of age and older. A random telephone survey of 1,200 Canadians is accurate plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. For 975 committed voters, it is accurate plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Results for February 29th, 2012 are from a random telephone survey of 1,203 Canadians conducted between February 25th and 29th, 2012. A random telephone survey of 1,203 Canadians is accurate plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

National Ballot Question: For those parties you would consider voting for federally, could you please rank your top two current local preferences? (Committed voters only - First Preference)

Conservative 34.7% (-1.0)
NDP 32.4% (+7.4)
Liberal 23.3% (-6.2)
Green 4.2% (+0.8)
Bloc Quebecois 3.9% (-1.0)
*Undecided 18.8% (+2.4)

 Leadership Index Questions: As you may know, [Rotate] Bob Rae is the interim leader of the federal Liberal Party, Stephen Harper is the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Thomas Mulcair is the leader of the federal NDP, Elizabeth May is the leader of the federal Green Party and Daniel Paillé is the leader of the Bloc Quebecois. Which of the federal leaders would you best describe as: the most trustworthy, the most competent, the leader with the best vision for Canada. (n=1,200)

Leadership Index Score

Stephen Harper 65.8 (-36.6)
Thomas Mulcair 53.8 (+33.5)
Bob Rae 36.5 (-17.9)
Elizabeth May 19.6 (-5.0)
Daniel Paillé 5.3 (-6.4)

The Most Trustworthy Leader (n=1,200)

Stephen Harper 20.0% (-11.7)
Thomas Mulcair 19.5% (+12.7)
Bob Rae 13.6% (-5.9)
Elizabeth May 8.4% (-2.9)
Daniel Paillé 2.0% (-2.3)
Unsure 20.6% (+6.8)
None 15.8% (+3.3)

The Most Competent Leader (n=1,200)

Stephen Harper 24.2% (-13.9)
Thomas Mulcair 17.0% (+11.3)
Bob Rae 12.2% (-6.5)
Elizabeth May 5.1% (-0.1)
Daniel Paillé 1.3% (-2.7)
Unsure 24.4% (+5.5)
None 15.8% (+6.5)

The Leader with the Best Vision for Canada’s Future (n=1,200)

Stephen Harper 21.6% (-11.0)
Thomas Mulcair 17.3% (+9.5)
Bob Rae 10.7% (-5.5)
Elizabeth May 6.1% (-2.0)
Daniel Paillé 2.0% (-1.4)
Unsure 27.1% (+5.7)
None 15.2% (+4.7)

Top Issue Question: What is your most important NATIONAL issue of concern? [Unprompted] (n=1,200)

*The numbers in parentheses denote the change from February 29th, 2012 (n=1,203).

Jobs/economy 21.9% (-3.9)
Healthcare 21.6% (+5.7)
Education 10.1% (+4.7)
The environment 9.3% (+2.9)
High taxes 5.1% (+2.1)
Unsure 16.6% (-1.4)

UK to Withdraw 500 Troops from Afghanistan

Despite some concern, privately, by some British commanders, UK Defence Minister Phillip Hammond has announced the withdrawal of 500 British troops from Afghanistan.  Hammond said that Afghan Security Forces were now strong enough to permit 500 British troops to return home.

Hammond said in a statement to MPs in the House of Commons that the security situation in three districts in Helmand province were now unrecognizable compared to the situation on the ground when British operations first started in 2006.  He said that 36 checkpoints and patrol bases in Helmand province had been handed over to the Afghan police and army over the last six months.  Two satellite headquarters in the province would be merged into one.  In addition 200 front line troops will be relocated from front line positions to "ground holding" support operations.

The draw down of the British contingent from 9,500 troops to 9,000 was announced last year, but was based on conditions on the ground and the recommendations of the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards. 

While the insurgency still poses a real threat, Hammond said that Afghan Security Forces were vastly improved, a situation, which allowed the construction of 30 extra schools and 29 health clinics.  He said that prosperity was the key in fighting the insurgency.

"Prosperity will be a critical weapon in the battle against the insurgency," he said "In the last year alone, income levels in Helmand have increased by 20%."

During the past six months, Hammond said, that Afghan Security Forces had  cleared more than 200 compounds, made safe 44 improvised explosive devices, found seven bomb-making factories and confiscated over 145 kilograms of homemade explosives.

 "The success of that operation further demonstrated their increasing professionalism and capability. The reality on the ground is that Afghan forces are increasingly taking the lead."

British Commanders, who  had just returned from Afghanistan, said that Helmand province was insulated from the unrest of the rest of the country, which was provoked by the behaviour of American troops, but there is some concern by British commanders on what the effects of a withdrawal of 16,000 US troops from Helmand will have on the situation.

NATO has gone into full exit mode.  Earlier this week, the U.S. finalized a Strategic Planning Treaty, which is ready for signature by both President Obama and President Hamid Karzai.  There was the issue of funding requirements for some 352,000 Afghan troops by the end of next year.  President Karzai had demanded that the US commit to $2 Billion in writing.  The total cost is expected to be $4.2 Billion, of which the US will cover approximately $2.1 Billion.

According to RT TV, NATO and the US will have troops in Afghanistan until 2024.  The size and scope is not known, however they will be providing support and training.  Canadian media reported recently that Canada and Australia had been asked leave a small contingent of forces in place.  Speculation is that those will be special forces.

Australia has announced that it will withdraw its 1500 troops by the end of 2013, one year ahead of schedule.  France has also given its intend to exit one year early.

Despite the optimistic outlook by most NATO countries, there is still a lot of concern over Afghanistan's ability to cope with the insurgency.  Recently coordinated attacks in Kabul and Eastern Afghanistan have raised serious concerns.

President Obama will hold a summit in Chicago in May.  More details should be made public then. 

Canada - The Abortion Issue Reopened or Not

A backbench Conservative Member of Parliament has created emotional fury in Canada's House of Commons by introducing a private members bill that asks the question at what point a fetus is considered a human being before the moment of complete birth.  It asks to  examine existing medical evidence to review Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth. 

The complete text of Motion 312 is below:

-- February 6, 2012 -- Mr. Woodworth (Kitchener Centre) -- That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth and to answer the questions hereinafter set forth;

that the membership of the special committee consist of 12 members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair shall be from the government party; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the membership report of the special committee be presented to the House no later than 20 sitting days after the adoption of this motion;

that substitutions to the membership of the special committee be allowed, if required, in the manner provided by Standing Order 114(2);

that the special
committee have all the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; and

that the special committee present its final report to the House of Commons within 10 months after the adoption of this motion with answers to the following questions,

(i) what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth, (ii) is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth, (iii) what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth, (iv) what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions
of the Supreme Court to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1).

The motion, which was discussed last night in Parliament, has created controversy, with the opposition parties accusing the Conservative government that this is a back door way to bring the abortion issue front and centre and to reopen the debate.  

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper had often reiterated that his government would not legislate on this issue, the alarm signals were fired up by the pro-choice movement, including some MPs that sent tweets on the issue.  

Despite the alarm, Stephen Woodworth's motion received no support.  Most Members of Parliament and Canadians as a whole consider this a settled issue.   When the motion came up for discussion, Woodworth made an opening statement, approximately 15 minutes, to introduce his motion.  
Woodworth said that his motion merely proposes to study the current law's 400-year-old definition of when a person is defined as a human being is dishonest and most Canadians don't agree with it. Canadians don't accept the notion in the law that "birth is a moment of magical transformation that changes a child from a non-human to a human being," Woodworth said.

"Motion 312 simply calls for a study of the evidence about when a child becomes a human being. It does not propose any answer to that question," he said.

The bill called for a committee, consisting of a majority number of government MPs to study the motion and submit a report to Parliament within ten months.

Conservative Party Whip, Gordon O'Connor was one of the MPs that rejected the motion by stating that despite Woodworth's claims, the motion is intended to lead to a change in Canada's abortion laws and that it should be rejected.
Of course, a change in the definition of the law would have implications under Canada's Criminal Code.   Below is subsection 223 (1)

(1) A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not
(a) it has breathed;
(b) it has an independent circulation; or
(c) the navel string is severed.
 New Democratic Party Leader and Leader of the Official Opposition has stated all of his members will vote against the bill, while Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said his members would be permitted a free vote.  Prime Minister Harper has stated in the House that he has no intention of reopening the debate and that he personally would vote against the motion.  

"In my case, I will be voting against the motion," Harper said.
Gordon O'Connor  said that the government's position is very clear that it will not re-open the abortion debate.
Niki Ashton, New Democrat,  said during the debate that her party is unanimously opposed to the motion.
 "In Canada, in 2012, a woman's right to choose is not up for negotiation," she said. She also rejected the claim that the Prime Minister did not want the debate reopened.

"If the prime minister didn't want a woman's right to choose to be debated, we wouldn't be here tonight," she said.

Liberal MP Hedy Fry said Liberals don't support any legislative action that might criminalize abortion.  . She criticized Prime Minister  Harper for allowing Woodworth's motion to stand for debate.

While the motion remains on the order paper, it will take a while before it resurfaces for the second time.   It is doubtful that it will get any support, even from the conservative government.  Most MPs and Canadians are not interested in criminalizing abortion, let alone have this debate reopened.


Thursday, 26 April 2012

Olympic Soccer Tournaments - Men's and Women's Group Draws

The groups

Men’s Olympic Soccer Tournament

Group A: Great Britain, Senegal, UAE, Uruguay
Group B: Mexico, Korea Republic, Gabon, Switzerland
Group C: Brazil, Egypt, Belarus, New Zealand
Group D: Spain, Japan, Honduras, Morocco

Women’s Olympic Soccer Tournament

Group E: Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon, Brazil
Group F: Japan, Canada, Sweden, South Africa
Group G: USA, France, Colombia, Korea DPR

Men's Tournament Group Games

 Group A

Match    Date - Time    Venue           
4            26/07 17:00    Manchester     United Arab Emirates    -     Uruguay  
8            26/07 19:45    Manchester     Great Britain    -     Senegal  
13          29/07 17:00    London           Senegal    -     Uruguay  
16          29/07 19:45    London           Great Britain    -     United Arab Emirates  
23          01/08 19:45    Coventry         Senegal    -     United Arab Emirates  
24          01/08 19:45    Cardiff            Great Britain    -     Uruguay    

Group B

Match    Date - Time    Venue           
2            26/07 14:30    Newcastle       Mexico    -     Korea Republic  
5            26/07 17:15    Newcastle       Gabon    -     Switzerland  
10          29/07 14:30    Coventry         Mexico    -     Gabon  
14          29/07 17:15    Coventry         Korea Republic    -     Switzerland  
21          01/08 17:00    Cardiff             Mexico    -     Switzerland  
22          01/08 17:00    London            Korea Republic    -     Gabon    

Group C

Match    Date - Time    Venue           
6            26/07 19:45     Coventry          Belarus    -     New Zealand  
7            26/07 19:45     Cardiff             Brazil    -     Egypt  
9            29/07 12:00     Manchester      Brazil    -     Belarus  
11          29/07 14:45     Manchester      Egypt    -     New Zealand  
17          01/08 14:30     Newcastle        Brazil    -     New Zealand  
18          01/08 14:30     Glasgow          Egypt    -     Belarus   

Group D

Match    Date - Time    Venue    
1            26/07 12:00     Glasgow         Spain    -     Japan  
3            26/07 14:45     Glasgow         Honduras    -     Morocco  
12          29/07 17:00     Newcastle       Spain    -     Honduras  
15          29/07 19:45     Newcastle       Japan    -     Morocco  
19          01/08 17:00     Coventry         Japan    -     Honduras  
20          01/08 17:00     Manchester     Spain    -     Morocco   

Canada's Role in Afghanistan Post 2014

A media report says that the United States have asked Canada and Australia to keep a small contingent of forces in Afghanistan after NATO's withdrawal in 2014.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not ruled out extending Canada's military role.  When the issue was raised by New Democratic leader Thomas Mulcair during Question Period, Harper said that the government would examine all options if asked if to leave special forces in theatre to assist with training and capturing insurgents.

"As we approach that date, we will examine all options and we will take the decision that is in the best interest of this country and in the best interest of our security objectives for the globe,"Harper said.

Canada's elite Joint Task Force 2 has been in Afghanistan since 2001.  Presently Canada has a contingent of approximately 900 trainers in the war torn region.  Canada's combat mission ended in July 2011. 

With a public weary of war and Canada's role as fighters rather than peacekeepers, the New Democrats have a winning issue.  The New Democratic Party leader was outraged at Harper's remarks and said that his party would not support any extension and that Canada must pull out as planned.  An extension would be a violation of a parliamentary motion, which required the combat mission to end last year.

"Canadians do not want another Conservative extension of the mission in Afghanistan and the NDP will not support one," said Mulcair.

The Prime Minister fired back,   "It's not a remarkable statement that the NDP won't support the mission,"the NDP couldn't even make up its mind to support (the Second World War)."

Harper's reply was that the government would not make its decision on a knee jerk response by the New Democrats. 

This was a bit of a low blow on behalf of the Prime Minister, since the New Democrats were not in existence during World War II.  In fact the party had its origins in the Canadian Labour Congress and CCF.  The CCF was formed in 1932 and the CLC.  A merger in 1956 formed the New Democrats. 

The situation in Afghanistan, to say the least, has been votile, especially since the Koran burning and the massacre of 17 civilians in a village near Kandahar. 

NATO has recently completed a "Strategic Partnership Treaty" with Afghanistan, a plan that calls for $4 Billion in funding to support Afghan Security Forces, expected to grow to 352,000 this year, but would level at 228,500 by 2017.  The United States is expected to foot $2.3 Billion of the $4 Billion bill. 

The treaty, which is expected to be signed before a summit in Chicago next month, will be the framework for support post 2014.  The U.S. has already made several concessions to President Hamid Karzai, including the conduct of night raids, which are now to be led and approved by Afghans.  Karzai had also demanded that the U.S. commit to $2 Billion in funding in writing.

In any case, besides the pressure from the United States there will be pressure from Canada's NATO allies.  Australia's Prime Minister Gillard has already announced its withdrawal, one year early, in 2013.  French President Sarkozy has also given signals for an  early withdrawal.

Canada has lost 158 soldiers in Afghanistan, a heavy toll for a nation of 31 Million people.