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Two suspects in Brussels attacks were brothers, third man at-large

RAF CASERT AND LORNE COOK, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Mar 23rd, 2016

Several people who may be linked to the Brussels attacks were still on the loose and the country’s threat alert remained at its highest level, meaning there was danger of an imminent attack, said Paul Van Tigchelt, head of Belgium’s terrorism threat body. The attacks killed 34 people, including three suicide bombers, and injured 270 others, authorities said.

Belgium began three days of mourning, and government offices, schools and residents held a moment of silence to honour the dead, marking the moment in a mood of defiance mixed with anxiety that others involved in the attacks are still be at large.

Belgian prosecutor Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw identified two of the Brussels attackers as brothers – Ibrahim El Bakraoui, a suicide bomber at the airport, and Khalid El Bakraoui, who targeted the subway.

Related stories:

ISIS claims responsibility for deadly bombings in Brussels\

European airports increase security after Brussels attacks

Security beefed up at Union Station after Brussels explosions

Investigators raided the Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek after the attacks and found a computer in a trash can on the street including a note from Ibrahim El Bakraoui saying he felt increasingly unsafe and feared landing in prison.

During a raid of the apartment where the brothers had stayed, investigators also found 15 kilograms of TATP explosives, nails, and other material for making explosives, the prosecutor said.

Van Leeuw said authorities do not know the identities of two other people pictured with Ibrahim El Bakraoui in a surveillance photo from the airport that police are circulating.

Three men who are suspected of taking part in the attacks at Belgium's Zaventem Airport on March 22, 2016. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Belgian Federal Police.
Three men who are suspected of taking part in the attacks at Belgium’s Zaventem Airport on March 22, 2016. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Belgian Federal Police.

Two were suicide bombers, the prosecutor said; the other was a man in a white jacket and black cap who fled before the bombs went off, leaving behind a bag full of explosives, authorities said. That bag later blew up, but no one was injured.

The Islamic State group, which was behind the Paris attacks, has also claimed responsibility for the Brussels bombings.

Belgian state broadcaster RTBF, citing sources it did not identify, said Khalid El Bakraoui had rented an apartment that was raided last week in an operation that led authorities to top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.

Abdeslam was arrested Friday in the Brussels neighbourhood where he grew up, a rough place with links to several of the attackers who targeted a Paris stadium, rock concert and cafes on Nov. 13. Those attacks killed 130 people.

A Belgian official working on the investigation told the AP that it is a “plausible hypothesis” that Abdeslam was part of the cell linked to the Brussels attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss an ongoing investigation.

Authorities are also still looking for a suspected accomplice of Abdeslam, Najim Laachraoui, whom they have been searching for since last week. It’s not clear if he has any connection to the Brussels attack. Belgian newspaper DH initially reported he might be the man in the white jacket at the Brussels airport, but later removed that report from its website.

Laachraoui is believed to have made the suicide vests used in the Paris attacks, a French police official told The Associated Press, adding that Laachraoui’s DNA was found on all of the vests as well as in a Brussels apartment where they were made. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation.

French and Belgian authorities have said in recent days that the network behind the Paris attacks was much larger than initially thought, and developments this week suggest the same group could have staged both the Paris and Brussels attacks.

The airport and several Brussels metro stations remained closed Wednesday, and authorities said the airport would remain closed at least through Thursday, forcing the cancellation of 600 flights each day. Security forces stood guard around the neighbourhood housing the headquarters of European Union institutions, as nervous Brussels residents began returning to school and work.

As befits an international city like Brussels, the foreign minister said the dead collectively held at least 40 nationalities.

“It’s a war that terrorism has declared not only on France and on Europe, but on the world,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday on Europe-1 radio. Valls, who planned to visit Brussels later Wednesday, urged tougher controls of the EU’s external borders.

“We must be able to face the extension of radical Islamism … that spreads in some of our neighbourhoods and perverts our youth,” he said. The Paris attackers were mainly French and Belgian citizens of North African descent, some from neighbourhoods that struggle with discrimination, unemployment and alienation.

In its claim of responsibility, the Islamic State group said its members detonated suicide vests both at the airport and in the subway, where many passengers fled to safety down dark tunnels filled with hazy smoke from the explosion. IS warned of further attacks, issuing a statement promising “dark days” for countries taking part in the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition in Syria and Iraq.

European security officials have been bracing for a major attack for weeks and had warned that IS was actively preparing to strike.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday that big events, be they sports or cultural, must not be put on hold for fear of attacks. He said that includes the Euro2016 soccer tournament, a monthlong event being held in France that starts in June. Meanwhile, the Belgian football federation announced that it was calling off an international soccer friendly match against Portugal next week because of the attacks.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers John-Thor Dahlburg, Raphael Satter and Angela Charlton in Brussels, and Lori Hinnant and Elaine Ganley in Paris.

Former mayor Rob Ford has died

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Mar 23rd, 2016


Rob Ford, one of Toronto’s most prolific and polarizing mayors and councilors, has passed away at the age of 46.

Ford was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital Tuesday morning after battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer called pleomorphic liposarcoma since 2014.

“With heavy hearts and profound sadness, the Ford family announces the passing of their beloved son, brother, husband, and father, Councillor Rob Ford earlier today at the age of 46,” his family said in a release.

According to family, Ford was recovering after becoming “very weak” from previous treatment and was under 24-hour medical watch before his death.

“The family asks that you respect their privacy and join them in their grieving and their prayers,” the release states.

Rumours of his deteriorating condition caused many to report his passing early on social media in mid-March, but his office was quick to maintain in a statement that Ford was still alive and fighting with family by his side.

Toronto Mayor John Tory quickly made a statement about his former political adversary.

“The City is reeling with this news, and my thoughts are with his wife Renata and their two children, as well as Rob’s brothers Doug and Randy, his sister Kathy, his mother, Diane, and the rest of their tight-knit family, including TDSB Trustee Michael Ford,” Tory said.

“I have known Rob Ford for many years. He was a man who spoke his mind and who ran for office because of the deeply felt convictions that he had. As a councilor, mayor and private citizen, Rob Ford reached out directly to people across the city with a phone call, an offer of advice or support, and I know there are many who were affected by his gregarious nature and approach to public service.

“His time in City Hall included moments of kindness, of generosity to his council colleagues and real efforts to do what he thought was best for Toronto. He was, above all else, a profoundly human guy whose presence in our city will be missed.”

Kathleen Wynne issued a statement soon after the announcement was made.

“Rob Ford earned widespread respect for his unwavering persistence in the face of serious health concerns,” she said, “which he summed up in a statement released from his hospital bed during the 2014 campaign: ‘Be strong, stay positive and never, ever give up.’”

The Etobicoke-native has been a staple in Toronto politics since 2000.

Serving as councilor of Ward 2-Etobicoke North from 2000 to 2010, Ford established himself as a charismatic powerhouse with a catchy one-line slogans like “stopping the gravy train,” “respect for taxpayers” and “subways, subways, subways.”

After serving a decade as councilor, Ford was sworn in as the city’s 64th mayor and represented Toronto on an international scale for four years.

He was caught up in a whirlwind of controversy during his terms as councilor and mayor, but the most memorable is the crack scandal. In his last year as mayor, reports of a video of the former mayor smoking crack cocaine surfaced. Ford vehemently denied the allegations for months but after a year of investigation by local media and police, Ford admitted his crack use was real. The news was blasted all over Canadian and American media, and earned the former mayor an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.

Despite all this — Rob refused to step down as mayor. Ford took a leave of absence and entered rehab instead until June 2014.

But before all the publicity, Ford was simply the youngest son of Deco Labels and Tags founder Doug Ford Sr. and had dreams of becoming a pro-football player. Ford returned to Etobicoke after a brief move to Ottawa, married his high-school sweetheart Renata and has never left since.

Rob Ford’s most unforgettable quotes

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Mar 23rd, 2016


There are too many to count, but here are some of Rob Ford’s most memorable quotes:

“You know, it’s over the top. You may not agree with my politics, don’t start taking pictures of my family. My wife’s home, my kids are home.”

Ford after confronting reporter Daniel Dale, whom he accused of trespassing on his front lawn, on May 3, 2012. Ford later admitted Dale never set foot on his property.

“I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine. As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.”

Ford on allegations that he’s seen a video of himself smoking crack cocaine on May 24, 2013.

“I think everybody’s seen the allegations against me today. I wish I could come out and defend myself. Unfortunately I can’t because it’s before the courts and that’s all I can say right now. I have no reason to resign. I’m going to go back and return my phone calls. I’m going to be out doing what the people elected me to do and that’s save taxpayers money and run a great government.”

Ford on the crack allegations on May 24, 2013.

“I’ve run a fantastic city. I don’t want to toot my own horn here but I’m the best mayor this city has ever had.”

Ford on his run as mayor during a radio interview on Nov. 3, 2013.

“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine… Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.”

Ford admitting to smoking crack cocaine and denying ever lying about it on Nov. 5, 2013.

“I’ve never said that in my life to her, I would never do that. I’m happily married, I’ve got more than enough to eat at home.”

Ford on allegations he made crude comments to a female assistant about performing oral sex on Nov. 14, 2013.

“The revelations yesterday of cocaine, escorts, prostitution has pushed me over the line and I used unforgivable language and again I apologize. These allegations are 100 per cent lies.”

Ford on more allegations on Nov. 14, 2013.

“This… reminds me of when I was watching with my brother when Saddam (Hussein) attacked Kuwait and (U.S.) President Bush said ‘I warn you, I warn you, I warn you, do not.’ Well folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait.”

Rob Ford before the council vote to strip him of his powers on Nov. 18, 2013.

“Bumbaclot, mon.”

Ford speaking Jamaican patois in a fast food restaurant during an odd rant captured on video on January 20, 2014.

“I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have tried to deal with these issues by myself over the past year. I know that I need professional help and I am now 100 per cent committed to getting myself right.”

Ford said in a statement on April 30, 2014, after three Toronto newspapers published numerous reports, including another video of him allegedly smoking crack cocaine, an audio recording of the mayor drunk, spewing profanities and making lewd comments, and witness accounts of him snorting cocaine in a Toronto nightclub.

“It’s not just an addiction. Some people can drink, some people can casually use drugs. I have a disease. I have a chronic disease. I was born with blond hair and I’m going to die with blond hair. I was born with this disease. I’m going to die with this disease.”

Ford in July 2014.

“This is what I love to do. This is not causing the disease. I’ve had this disease before I even entered this office.”

Ford on whether stress from being mayor contributed to his alcohol and drug abuse in July 2014.

“I offended a lot of people and all I can do is apologize and say sorry. I cannot change the past.”

Ford in July 2014.

Freezing rain, snow and messy conditions ahead for GTA

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Mar 23rd, 2016


We are officially a few days into spring, but don’t put away your winter gear just yet.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement on Tuesday morning for all of southern Ontario, warning about wet and messy conditions over the next couple of days.

CityNews Meteorologist Adam Stiles said this is going to be a high-impact storm system that is arriving on Wednesday and lasting through Thursday.

“We are going to see a wide range of precipitation types, so be prepared for changing conditions,” Stiles said. “I don’t think we will have to worry about shoveling in the most of the GTA, but there is still a possibility of some snow with this one.”

There is a chance that the extreme northern portions of the GTA could see 10-15 cm of snow.

“A weak disturbance is moving along the line of an arctic front draped across the region that will bring a coating of a few centimetres of snow to areas north and east of the Greater Toronto Area into Eastern Ontario on Tuesday,” Environment Canada said.

A low pressure system will give periods of snow or ice pellets through the day on Wednesday.

“Precipitation will change over to freezing rain Wednesday night and continue until Thursday morning,” Environment Canada said. “Ice accretion on untreated surfaces of 5 to 10 millimeters is possible by Thursday morning.”

The slippery conditions may cause significant impact on transportation and these storms have caused power outages in the past.

“We will likely see ice accretion in the range of 5-15 mm across the GTA amd we will likely see some power outages if the freezing rain persists for as long as the forecast is hinting at,” said Stiles.

Areas from Toronto westward will see the freezing rain end Wednesday morning with a change to rain, and for areas east of Toronto the freezing rain will end later in the day Thursday.

“Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots will become icy, slippery and hazardous,” Environment Canada said.

Public Safety Canada encourages everyone to make an emergency plan and get an emergency kit with drinking water, food, medicine, a first-aid kit and a flashlight.

Highlights from the federal budget

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 22nd, 2016


OTTAWA – Some of the highlights of the federal budget tabled Tuesday by Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau:

– A deficit of $29.4 billion in 2016-17, nearly three times the $10 billion promised during the fall election campaign, and a projected deficit of $17.7 billion in 2019-20 rather than the balanced budget that was promised in October.

– $10 billion more over two years for a new Canada child benefit, absorbing and replacing both the Canada child tax benefit and the universal child care benefit. Targeted to low and middle-income families, the government says the new benefit provides an average increase of nearly $2,300 in 2016-17.

– $2.5 billion over two years on a suite of changes to employment insurance, including reducing the required work experience for new entrants and re-entrants; halving the two-week waiting period; extending a pilot project to allow claimants to work while collecting benefits; simplifying job-search requirements; and extending the benefit eligibility window in specific regions with a higher unemployment rate.

– An end to income splitting for couples with children, the children’s fitness tax credit and the children’s arts tax credit.

– A promised cut to the 10.5 per cent small business tax rate has been deferred indefinitely.

– $2.6 billion over five years for primary and secondary education on First Nations reserves, including language and cultural programs, plus $969.4 million over five years for education infrastructure.

– $1.2 billion over five years for social infrastructure for Aboriginal Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and northern communities.

– $10.4 million over three years for new women’s shelters in First Nations communities, and $33.6 million over five years and $8.3 million ongoing for support services.

– $5.6 billion more in benefits to veterans and their families over five years, including a disability award that increases to $360,000, retroactive to 2006, and an earnings loss benefit to injured vets of 90 per cent of pre-release salary. The government is also re-opening nine veterans’ service offices across the country and adding a 10th.

– Planned National Defence purchases worth $3.7 billion _ ships, planes and vehicles _ are being deferred indefinitely.

– $1.53 billion over five years to increase Canada student grants to $3,000 from $2,000 for low-income students, to $1,200 from $800 for middle-income students and to $1,800 from $1,200 for part-time students.

– $3.4 billion over five years to increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for single seniors, and restore the old age security eligibility age to 65 from 67.

– $2.2 billion over five years in water and wastewater treatment and waste management as part of a 10-year green infrastructure investment plan.

– $1.9 billion over five years to support Canadian arts and culture organizations and cultural infrastructure, including the CBC and national museums.

– $2 billion over three years for a new strategic investment fund for infrastructure improvements at colleges and universities, in partnership with provinces and territories.

– $2 billion over two years for a low-carbon economy fund, beginning in 2017-18;

– More than $1 billion over four years to support future clean technology investments, including in forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture, plus $130 million over five years to support clean technology research and development.

– $345.3 million over five years to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada and the National Research Council to take action to address air pollution.

– $40 million over two years for the inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

– Up to $178 million over two years for the provinces for urgent affordable housing needs.

– $38.5 million over two years to strengthen and modernize Canada’s food safety system.

– $142.3 million over five years to add new national parks and improve access during the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

ISIS claims responsibility for Brussels attack that killed 31

Lorne Cook and John-Thor Dahlburg, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Mar 22nd, 2016


ISIS has claimed responsibility for the terror attack in Brussels Tuesday morning, killing at least 31 people and wounding dozens, as a European capital was again locked down amid heightened security threats.

The two airport blasts, at least one of which was blamed on a suicide bomber, left behind a chaotic scene of splattered blood in the departure lounge as windows were blown out, ceilings collapsed and travellers streamed out of the smoky building.

About an hour later, another bomb exploded on a rush-hour subway train near the European Union headquarters. Terrified passengers had to evacuate through darkened tunnels to safety.

At least one and possibly two Kalashnikovs were found in the departure lounge at the airport, according to a European security official in contact with Belgian police who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

It was not immediately clear whether the firearms were used in the attacks.

Security tightened across Europe

Belgium raised its terror alert to the highest level, diverting planes and trains and ordering people to stay where they were. Airports across Europe immediately tightened security.

Police officers stand guard around the Zaventem Airport after two explosions went off in Brussels, Belgium, on March 22, 2016. GETTY IMAGES/Anadolu Agency/Dursun Aydemir.
Police officers stand guard around the Zaventem Airport after two explosions went off in Brussels, Belgium, on March 22, 2016. GETTY IMAGES/Anadolu Agency/Dursun Aydemir.

European security officials have been bracing for a major attack for weeks, and warned that the Islamic State group was actively preparing to strike. Abdeslam’s arrest on Friday heightened those fears, as investigators said many more people were involved in the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people in Paris than originally thought, and that some are still on the loose.

Global Affairs Canada said the Canadian embassy in Brussels is “closely monitoring the situation” and trying to determine if any Canadians have been affected.

“What we feared has happened”

“What we feared has happened,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters. “In this time of tragedy, this black moment for our country, I appeal to everyone to remain calm but also to show solidarity.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, and Michel said there was no immediate evidence linking key Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam to them. After his arrest Friday, Abdeslam told authorities he had created a new network and was planning new attacks.

“We are at war,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after a crisis meeting called by the French president. “We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war.”

European security officials have been bracing for a major attack for weeks, and warned that the Islamic State group was actively preparing to strike. The arrest Friday of a key suspect in the November attacks in Paris heightened those fears, as investigators said many more people were involved than originally thought, and that some are still on the loose.

“There was blood everywhere”

At Brussels’ Zaventem airport, the two explosions hit the departures area during the busy morning rush. Belgian Health Minister Maggie de Block told Belgian media that 11 people were killed and 81 injured.

Anthony Deloos, an airport worker for Swissport, which handles check-in and baggage services, said the first explosion took place near the Swissport counters where customers pay for overweight baggage. He and a colleague said the second blast hit near the Starbucks cafe.

“We heard a big explosion. It’s like when you’re in a party and suddenly your hearing goes out, from like a big noise,” Deloos said, adding that shredded paper floated through the air as a colleague told him to run.

“I jumped into a luggage chute to be safe,” he said.

Tom De Doncker, 21, check-in agent intern, was near the site of the second explosion.

“I saw a soldier pulling away a body,” he said. “It felt like I was hit too” from the concussion of the blast.

Zach Mouzoun, who arrived on a flight from Geneva about 10 minutes before the first blast, told BFM television that the second, louder explosion brought down ceilings and ruptured pipes, mixing water with victims’ blood.

“It was atrocious. The ceilings collapsed,” he said. “There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere.”

“We were walking in the debris. It was a war scene,” he said.

“It was panic everywhere”

The bomb that went off an hour later on the subway train killed 20 people and injured more than 100, Brussels Mayor Yvan Majeur said.

NNear the entrance to the station, rescue workers set up a makeshift medical treatment centre in a pub. Dazed and shocked morning commuters streamed from the metro entrances as police tried to set up a security cordon.

The metro shut down after the attacks, as did the airport. More than 200 flights to Brussels were diverted or cancelled, according to flight tracking service Flightradar24.

Smoke rising from the Maalbeek underground, in Brussels, following a blast at the station close to the capital's European quarter on March 22, 2016. GETTY IMAGES/AFP/Seppe Knapen.
Smoke rising from the Maalbeek underground, in Brussels, following a blast at the station close to the capital’s European quarter on March 22, 2016. GETTY IMAGES/AFP/Seppe Knapen.

“The Metro was leaving Maelbeek station for Schuman when there was a really loud explosion,” said Alexandre Brans, 32, wiping blood from his face. “It was panic everywhere. There were a lot of people in the Metro.”

Francoise Ledune, a spokeswoman for the Brussels Metro, said on BFM television there appeared to have been just one explosion on the subway in a car that was stopped at Maelbeek. Spokesman Guy Sablon said 15 were killed and 55 injured in that attack.

“People were crying, shouting”

At the airport, passengers fled as quickly as they could.

Amateur video shown on France’s i-Tele television showed passengers including a child running with a backpack dashing out of the terminal in different directions as they tugged luggage. Another image showed a security officer patrolling inside a hall with blown-out paneling and what appeared to be ceiling insulation covering the floor.

Marc Noel, 63, was about to board a Delta flight to Atlanta, to return to his home in Raleigh, North Carolina. A Belgian native, Noel says he was in an airport shop buying automobile magazines when the first explosion occurred 50 yards away.

“People were crying, shouting, children. It was a horrible experience,” he told AP. He said his decision to shop might have saved his life. “I would probably have been in that place when the bomb went off.”

With three runways in the shape of a “Z,” the airport connects Europe’s capital to 226 destinations around the world and handled nearly 23.5 million passengers in 2015.

Associated Press Writers Raf Casert in Brussels and Angela Charlton and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.

An answer to the question, ‘Is it better to walk or take the subway?’

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 22nd, 2016


A map that shows walking times between TTC subway stations. Photo via Facebook/Pavlo Kalyta.

The subway is often late or broken down, which causes a lot of people in the city to be regularly frustrated with the TTC.

So, at times, walking to where you need to go makes sense.

Pavlo Kalyta, an assistant professor at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, has created a map of the subway system showing the walking distance between each TTC station.

For example, walking from Bloor-Yonge to St. George stations would take an able-bodied person around 13 minutes. Walking between Eglinton to Lawrence stations would be about 25 minutes, while strolling from Kennedy to Warden stations would take 43 minutes.

Kalyta told Metro News that he “created the map to help residents and tourists make healthier life choices.”

Ross told the newspaper that he took his walking times from the TTC ride guides.

Woman confronted for parking in handicap spot flips out

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 22nd, 2016

woman flips out when man confronts her about parking illegally

A man confronted a woman who parked her vehicle in an wheelchair-accessible parking spot outside of a Toronto Tim Hortons on Monday and in exchange she threw all of her drinks at him.

The whole interaction was caught on video and you can see the man, Ryan Favro, waiting for the woman to return to her vehicle.

“So … why do you park in handicap spots?” asks Favro to the woman. “Are you handicapped?”

The woman responds with a quick “no” and turns to get into her Jeep.

“Well what makes you so special that you can park in a handicap spot?” Favro asks.

The rest of the interaction can be seen in the video below, including when she hurls two cups of coffee at the Favro.

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