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Four police officers injured in Paris raid, two suspects killed

Raphael Satter and Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Nov 18th, 2015

Amid gunfire and explosions, police raided a suburban Paris apartment where the suspected mastermind of last week’s attacks was believed to be holed up Wednesday. The siege ended with two deaths and seven arrests but no clear information on the fugitive’s fate.

The dead were a woman who blew herself up with an explosive vest and a man hit by projectiles and grenades, the Paris prosecutor said at the end of the seven-hour siege in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said the raid was launched after information from tapped telephone conversations, surveillance and witness accounts indicated that the suspected planner of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, might be in a safe house in the district.

Authorities could not immediately confirm whether Abaaoud, a Belgian Islamic State militant, was killed or arrested Wednesday morning.

Investigators have identified 27-year-old Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the chief architect of Friday’s attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people and injured 350 others.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said Abaaoud was a key figure in an Islamic State external operations cell that U.S. intelligence agencies have been tracking for many months.

Abaaoud was believed to be in Syria after a January police raid in Belgium, but bragged in Islamic State propaganda of his ability to move back and forth between Europe and Syria undetected.

Speaking at the scene of Wednesday’s raid, Molins said the operation began with a pre-dawn shootout and resulted in the capture of three people inside the apartment, the death of a woman who set off an explosive charge, and the death of “another terrorist … who was hit by projectiles and grenades” in the initial assault.

He said two people were detained while trying to hide in the rubble, and two others were also arrested, including the man who had provided the apartment and one of his acquaintances. Police at the scene were seen escorting away one man who was naked from the waist down, and another wrapped in a gold emergency blanket.

“As things stand, it is impossible to give you the identities of the people detained, which are being verified,” Molins said. “All will be done to determine who is who, and based on the work of forensic police, we’ll tell you who was in the apartment, and what consequences it will have for the development of the investigation.”

Molins and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve did not specify whether any suspects might still be at large.

A police official not authorized to be publicly named because of police rules said four police officers were injured.

French President Francois Hollande praised the bravery of the security services and said that France was “at war” with terrorism by the Islamic State group.

“It is the entire country that’s been attacked,” Hollande told a gathering of French mayors. “For what it represents, the fight we are leading to eradicate terrorism. And simply for what we are.”

Police raids in Saint-Denis

Residents said an explosion shook the neighbourhood shortly after 4 a.m. local time.

“We guessed it was linked to Friday night,” said Yves Steux, barman at L’escargot restaurant 250 metres from the assault. “My wife panicked and was scared and told me not to leave, but I ignored her. Life goes on.”

Baptiste Marie, a 26-year-old independent journalist who lives in the neighbourhood, said a second large explosion was followed by “two more explosions. There was an hour of gunfire.”

Another witness, Amine Guizani, said he heard the sound of grenades and automatic gunfire.

“It was continuous. It didn’t stop,” he said. “It lasted from 4:20 until 5:30. It was a good hour. I couldn’t say how many shots were fired, but it was probably 500. Hundreds, definitely. There were maybe 10 explosions.”

Sporadic bangs and explosions continued, and at 7:30 a.m. at least seven explosions shook the centre of Saint-Denis. Associated Press reporters at the scene could hear what sounded like grenade blasts from the direction of the standoff.

Investigators have identified 27-year-old Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the chief architect of Friday’s attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people and injured 350 others.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said Abaaoud was a key figure in an Islamic State external operations cell that U.S. intelligence agencies have been tracking for many months.

Police vans and fire trucks rushed to the scene north of Paris, less than two kilometres from the Stade de France stadium. Three suicide bombers blew themselves up Friday near the stadium during an international soccer match with French President Francois Hollande in attendance.

In Saint-Denis on Wednesday, police cordoned off the area nearby, including a pedestrian zone lined with shops and 19th-century apartment buildings. Riot police cleared people from the streets, pointing guns at curious residents to move them off the roads.

Saint-Denis is one of France’s most historic places. French kings were crowned and buried through the centuries in its famed basilica, a majestic Gothic church that towers over the area. Today the district is home to a vibrant and very ethnically diverse population and sees sporadic tension between police and violent youths.

Saint-Denis Mayor Didier Paillard said public transport was suspended and that schools in the centre of town would not open Wednesday.

Police hunt for Paris attackers

Seven attackers died in Friday’s attacks, which targeted several bars and restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall, as well as the national stadium. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the carnage.

Police had said before the raids that they were hunting for two fugitives suspected of taking part as well as any accomplices. That would bring the number of attackers to at least nine.

French authorities had previously said that at least eight people were directly involved in the bloodshed: seven who died in the attacks and one who got away and slipped across the border to Belgium.

However, there have been gaps in officials’ public statements, which have never fully disclosed how many attackers took part in the deadly rampage.

On Tuesday, officials told The Associated Press they now believe at least one other attacker was involved and they were working to identify and track down that suspect. Three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details about the ongoing investigation.

Surveillance video obtained by the AP also indicated that a team of three attackers carried out the shootings at one of the cafes. The video was among evidence authorities used in concluding that at least one other attacker was at large, the French officials indicated.

The brief clip shows two black-clad gunmen with automatic weapons calmly firing on the bar then returning toward a waiting car, whose driver was manoeuvring behind them. Authorities believe the car is the same black SEAT-make vehicle that was found Saturday with three Kalashnikovs inside.

Police have identified one subject of their manhunt as Salah Abdeslam, whom French police accidentally permitted to cross into Belgium on Saturday. One of his brothers, Brahim, blew himself up in Paris.

Meanwhile, French fighter jets attacked Islamic State targets in Syria for a third night. The French defence ministry said 10 jets had hit two Islamic State command centres in the militants’ base of Raqqa, Syria.

The Paris attacks have galvanized international determination to confront the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, bringing France, Russia and the United States closer to an alliance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the missile cruiser Moskva, currently in the Mediterranean, to start co-operating with the French military on operations in Syria.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said a cease-fire between Syria’s government and the opposition could be just weeks away. He described it as potentially a “gigantic step” toward deeper international co-operation against IS.

Europe on edge after Paris attacks

France, and the rest of Europe, remain on edge four days after the attacks. Two Air France flights bound for Paris from the U.S. were diverted Tuesday night – one to Salt Lake City and one to Halifax – because of anonymous threats received after they had taken off. Both were inspected and cleared to resume their journeys.

In the German city of Hannover, a soccer game between Germany and the Netherlands was cancelled at the last minute and the stadium evacuated by police because of a bomb threat.

Lower Saxony state Interior Minister Boris Pistorius said the match was called off after “vague” information that solidified late in the day.

No arrests have been made and no explosives found. Pistorius said this may be because the plot was called off after the game was cancelled.

“We won’t know what would have happened if we didn’t cancel it,” he said.

Trail, cultural rooms to transform space beneath Gardiner

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 18th, 2015

Imagine this: an “outdoor living room” in the heart of the city that will reside under the Gardiner Expressway.

If you thought such a dream only lives in the imagination, think again.

The city, along with Waterfront Toronto, announced Tuesday a partnership to transform more than four hectares, or 10 acres, under the expressway between Strachan and Spadina avenues in several public spaces.

The $25-million gift from philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews will also enable residents to enjoy a 1.75-kilometre multi-use trail for walking and cycling. It will also feature a 500-metre connection to the Exhibition GO station.

The vision for "Project: Under Gardiner" includes a grand staircase at Strachan that doubles as seating for an urban theatre. Photo by Public Work via Waterfront Toronto.
The vision for “Project: Under Gardiner” includes a grand staircase at Strachan that doubles as seating for an urban theatre. Photo by Public Work via Waterfront Toronto.

Mayor John Tory, Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell, and Toronto councillors Joe Cressy (Ward 20) and Mike Layton (Ward 19), among others, were on hand for the announcement on Tuesday morning.

The plan, which is temporarily called Project: Under Gardiner, will convert the area into community spaces that will host several cultural programs, and create a “new outdoor living room for the use of the 70,000 residents in nearby neighbourhoods and for visitors,” the city said in a release.

Major John Tory said the project will “help bridge the divide between our city and our waterfront with creativity, beauty and vision.”

“It will bring life and activity to a formerly sterile area of the city and will offer new connections to the revitalized waterfront,” Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell said.

Artist rendition of wintertime at "Project: Under Gardiner" near the Fort York Visitor Centre. Photo by Public Work via Waterfront Toronto.
Artist rendition of wintertime at “Project: Under Gardiner” near the Fort York Visitor Centre. Photo by Public Work via Waterfront Toronto.

The project will also bridge residents from the Liberty Village, Niagara, Fort York, Bathurst Quay, Wellington Place and CityPlace areas with up to 55 civic spaces – or rooms – that emphasize the city’s unique arts and culture scene, as well as its sports and education offerings.

“These spaces have been conceived as ‘rooms’ that are defined by the series of concrete post-and-beam structural elements supporting the Gardiner.”

The off-street trail will connect Torontonians to several attractions and city sites along the waterfront, including the Molson Amphitheatre, BMO Field, Historic Fort York, Toronto Music Garden and the revitalized Queens Quay, Harbourfront Centre, the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, Toronto Railway Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium, the Air Canada Centre and the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.

The preliminary design framework for "Project: Under Gardiner" outlines a new public space that knits together some of Toronto’s most dense neighbourhoods and connects a number of new or planned amenities. Photo by Public Work via Waterfront Toronto.
The preliminary design framework for “Project: Under Gardiner” outlines a new public space that knits together some of Toronto’s most dense neighbourhoods and connects a number of new or planned amenities. Photo by Public Work via Waterfront Toronto.

City planner Ken Greenberg, along with architecture firm Public Work, will develop the design the space underneath the Gardiner. Waterfront Toronto will manage and build the project.

Torontonians will be invited to share their views and give feedback on the design process. They can also offer suggestions on what the call the new space under the campaign “Reclaim the Name.” Details of the consultation process will be revealed at a later date.

The city says construction is expected to start in the summer of 2016, and aim to finish the initial phase of the project in 2017.

Teen boy poses as 15-year-old girl to lure child, police say

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 18th, 2015

A 17-year-old boy is facing several child porn-related charges after it is alleged he posed as a 15-year-old girl to lure a child.

Police allege that between September of 2014 and April of 2015, the suspect posed as a young girl and obtained a child’s images, which were then distributed.

Police say the suspect communicated with the child through various social media applications including Kik, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. He allegedly used the usernames of “Amanda” and “Pencilcrayons,” among others.

He used an image of an known actress who police say is not connected to the investigation for his online profile. Click hereto view it.

The suspect, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was arrested on Monday.

He is charged with two counts of distributing child pornography, possessing child pornography, accessing child pornography, luring a child under 18, and extortion. He appeared in court on Tuesday.

Police fear there may be more victims.

How much do you need to save for retirement?

MoneySense | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2015

Here’s somewhat of an intimidating question: Are you on track to achieve your retirement savings goal?

If you don’t quite know the answer, take heart—most Canadians don’t know either. In fact, only 42% of us agree that we understand how much we need to save for retirement, according the latest results of a BlackRock global investor survey that tasked 2,000 Canadians with this question.

Based on BlackRock’s findings, part of the disconnect appears to come from Canadians not quite clear understanding of how much they should rely upon government plans to meet their retirement needs versus how they need to be actively saving on their own. For instance, very few (only 18%) of the survey respondents thought the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) would sufficient to fund their post-working lives for 25 years.

On this latter point, Canadians are absolutely right—government benefits alone won’t be enough for most retirees. According to pension expert Malcolm Hamilton, a senior fellow at the C. D. Howe Institute, only low-income earners making minimum wage or less throughout their entire working lives could count on government benefits providing them with the standard of living they’ve always been used to in retirement. Few Canadians, though, will actually fall into this demographic.

According to BlackRock’s survey, Canadians have annual retirement income expectations of about $47,000 in after-tax income—and the good news is that level of income will be more than enough for couples with basic retirement needs. That includes affording a car that’s used for eight years or more, taking driving holidays and even the occasional jaunt outside of Canada.

If you have that kind of retirement in mind, government benefits won’t get you all the way there—but the average Canadian couple can count on at least $30,000 in combined annual CPP and OAS payments once they stop working, according to Hamilton. (Don’t worry about the future of CPP and OAS, either. Both of these programs are very secure and sustainable, notes Hamilton.)

That means that you and your partner would only need to save up enough to provide yourselves with an additional $17,000 of annual after-tax dollars in retirement—not the full $47,000, for those who aspire to that goal.

Read more about retirement lifestyles—for couples or singles—and the savings required »

Keep in mind, too, that your level of retirement savings required will also be much less if you’re lucky enough to be enrolled in a workplace pension or savings plan. In fact, for some it could be enough to bridge the gap between a government pension and what additional level of savings you need.

For most of us, though, a diligent savings plan will be required to top-up our retirement nest eggs. And while you often hear retirement planning boiled down to a single figure (“you need $1 million to retire well”), a better approach is to calculate your must-haves in retirement versus your nice-to-haves—and then determine a specific savings goal based on the amount you actually require.

Hitting your target number might mean working an extra year or two longer than you planned, or you may find you can stop working earlier than you expected. And don’t forget, once you’re retired you’ll have considerably less living expenses: the home should be paid off, the kids will be financially independent, you probably won’t need that second car anymore, there’s no more commuting or business attire costs—and, of course, you’ll no longer be saving for retirement.

Calculate how much you really need

Want to get a handle on how much income you can expect in retirement? Try using this free online program called ESPlannerBASIC, which was recently made available to Canadians through a partnership between its creator, legendary economist Laurence Kotlikoff, and Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. It’s an elaborate financial projection calculator that allows you to enter the details of your particular situation, such as your age, your salary and when you hope to kick off your golden years. It then calculates how much you need to save each year, what your nest egg will be worth and how much you’ll need to live on. It automatically factors in Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) payments, and also accounts for mortgage payments, your spouse’s income, taxes and other factors.

Charlie Sheen says he has the HIV virus

The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2015

Former “Two and a Half Men” star Charlie Sheen says he has the HIV virus.

In an interview Tuesday on NBC’s “Today,” the 50-year-old Sheen says he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS.

Drug and alcohol use have marred Sheen’s personal and professional life in recent years. He was kicked off CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” in 2011 after an explosive meltdown that included calling the show’s producer “a contaminated little maggot.”

His escapades have also included the revelation that he spent more than $50,000 as a client of “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss’ prostitution ring.

“Two and a Half Men” debuted in 2003 and starred Sheen as womanizing bachelor Charlie Harper. It made Sheen one of TV’s highest-paid actors and at its peak was TV’s most-watched sitcom.

Muslim woman attacked outside of her children’s school in Flemingdon Park

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2015

Toronto police say they are treating a brazen assault on a Muslim woman near an elementary school in the Flemingdon Park area as a hate crime.

The woman was picking up her children from Grenoble Public School on Monday when she was attacked by two men, police told CityNews.

Police said the incident occurred around 3 p.m. near Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East.

The two men approached the woman and started hurling anti-Islamic and racist profanities at her.

Police said the men started calling the woman a “terrorist” and said “go back to your country.”

One of the men started punching the woman in the stomach and a second man ripped off her hijab during the assault. The woman yelled for them to stop.

Police said her cellphone was stolen during the assault.

The woman’s brother, a man named Owais, said he was shaking with rage when he first heard about the incident.

“I was already told on the phone that the situation looks like a hate crime, from an officer that called me,” he said.

Owais said that when he arrived on scene an ambulance was already taking his sister to the hospital.

“When I saw her obviously she was crying … her kids were crying,” he said. “Which is a scene that no human wants to see.”

Owais said that normally his sister has her three year old with her when she goes to pick up her two other children from school, but thankfully decided to leave the three year old with her sister.

She was taken to hospital and was complaining of severe stomach pains but was released from hospital later the same day.

Owais said his sister was protecting her face when the man was punching her and that she also got hit in her jaw.

“I don’t know what human, if they are human, could do that to anybody,” he said.

Owais said that the neighbourhood is a tight knit community and “according to my sister she has never seen these males in this community.”

His sister said the men were between the ages of 30 and 35 years old.

Police are searching for two suspects and described them as white men.

“The main thing is we need to get together as a community of Muslims, as Torontonians, and catch them,” said Owais. “This is not going to beat us … we are not going anywhere.”

And not far from where that attacked happened, a relative of the woman found anti-Muslim graffiti written on the wall inside their apartment building on Saint Dennis Drive, which says “Muslims not welcome.”

Police have confirmed that they’re investigating but so far have found no connection between the assault and the graffiti.

Anyone with information is being asked to contact police.

Trudeau says Canada will increase Iraqi trainers, fight climate change with Obama

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will increase its number of ground troops in Iraq to train local forces as a way of making a bigger military contribution to the coalition fighting Islamic militants.

Trudeau talked about the plan during a wide-ranging, 20-minute press conference aboard his Canadian Forces airliner, several hours before it touched down in the Philippine capital of Manila on Tuesday night for the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit.

Trudeau said Canada will have to increase the number of Canadian Forces trainers in Iraq, which currently stands at 69.

He said he has told Canada’s allies it will make a bigger military contribution to the fight against Islamic militants after he ends the air combat mission of Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets in the U.S.-led coalition that is bombing targets in Iraq and Syria.

Trudeau said he’s looking forward to a key meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Manila because the two have a lot in common on the fight against terrorism and on climate change.

Trudeau made his international debut as prime minister earlier in the week at the G20 summit in Turkey.

Diet myths debunked

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2015

Think you can cheat on your diet or start over on Monday? Think again! Author Steve Siebold debunks diet myths.

  • Myth: I can cheat on my diet 

Truth: Imagine informing your spouse you’ve been 99% faithful in your marriage.  You wouldn’t be shocked at the incredulous reaction, yet we’ve been brainwashed to believe diets are different.  They’re not!  Success with your diet means 100% commitment, and that’s why most people don’t succeed.

  • Myth: I can start over on Monday

Truth: Start-stop syndrome is a common cause of weight-loss failure.  This instills the belief that time is unlimited, and another opportunity will be available to become healthy.  Tell that to the millions of Americans who have had heart attacks, cancer and diabetes caused by obesity.  Today is all you have.

  • Myth: Diets just don’t work for me

Truth: People don’t work.  People have a difficult time accepting their own behavior so they blame their diet. That’s no different than a college graduate begging for money on the street and then blaming the school for his failure to succeed.  Grow up emotionally and develop the mental toughness to stick to a diet once and for all.

  • Myth: I’m so ashamed to be on a diet

Truth: Dieting is something to be proud of.  In fact, tell everyone you know and shout it from the rooftops.   Part of losing weight is being proud of the discipline it requires to become fit and stay that way.  Don’t be brainwashed by the thinking of the masses.  Think for yourself and be proud of declaring war on poor eating habits.

  • Myth: I look good with a little meat on my bones

Truth: If you want to successfully lose weight, it’s time to become brutally honest with yourself.  When you want to become better at something, look at it through the eyes of objective reality, the way it really is, and don’t let emotion cloud your judgment.  Take a good look in the mirror and stop lying to yourself.  If you’re going to win this battle, you have to identify the enemy, and the enemy is you.

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