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Pipe bomb strapped to man explodes in NYC subway, injuring 4

Colleen Long, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

NEW YORK — A man with a pipe bomb strapped to him set off the crude device in the subway near Times Square on Monday, injuring the suspect and three other people at the height of the morning rush hour, law enforcement officials said.

The man and three others were being treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the blast.

Police say the explosion happened in an underground passageway under 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. The 7:30 a.m. blast caused smoke to fill the passageway, which was crowded with throngs of Monday morning commuters.

Law enforcement officials said it appeared the detonation was accidental, and the bomb was a crudely made low-grade explosive device. It’s not clear what the suspect had intended, they said. The officials said the 27-year-old lives in Brooklyn and may be of Bangladeshi descent.

A photo published by the New York Post showed a bearded man crumpled on the ground with his shirt apparently blown off and black soot covering his bare midriff. A police officer is holding the man’s hands behind his back.

The explosion triggered a massive emergency response by police and firefighters both above and below ground, tangling subway and bus service at the nearby Port Authority bus terminal.

Elrana Peralta, a customer service worker for Greyhound, said she works in the Port Authority terminal complex near where the blast happened, but didn’t hear the explosion.

“All we could hear was the chaos,” she said. “We could hear people yelling, ‘Get out! Get out! Get out!’”

John Miles, 28, from Vermont, was waiting for a bus to Massachusetts. He also didn’t hear the blast, but saw police react.

“I didn’t know what was going on. Officers were running around. I was freaking out,” he said. There was an announcement that people should take their bags and leave. “They didn’t incite panic. It was fairly orderly.”

Video from above the “Crossroads of the World” showed lines of police and emergency vehicles, their lights flashing, lining the streets and no other vehicle traffic moving.

Everything around the Port Authority area was shut down — a surreal scene of still at what would ordinarily be a bustling rush hour.

New Jersey Transit buses headed to the Port Authority were diverting to other locations. NJ Transit said buses were taking passengers to Secaucus and Hoboken, where they could take trains into the city.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the explosion.

Associated Press writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.

8 Toronto elementary schools given top grades in Fraser Institute report

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

The Fraser Institute’s report card on Ontario’s Elementary Schools is out and eight Toronto schools make the top ranking.

The report card ranks more than 3,000 schools based on nine academic indicators from the results of annual province-wide reading, writing and math tests.

Avondale Alternative, Hollywood Public School and Islamic Foundation School are among the top ranked Toronto schools.

You can see the complete results at compareschoolrankings.org


Parents fear TDSB changes to schools’ gifted, special ed programs

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

Worried parents and advocates say many children will never fulfil their academic potential if the Toronto District School Board follows through on a proposal to dramatically restructure its gifted and special education programs.

The TDSB task force dedicated to making the board more accepting, inclusive and fair for low-income, racialized and otherwise marginalized students has drafted a report recommending, in part, that gifted students and students who need “special education” be integrated into regular classrooms.

“Resources and supports (would) be realigned so that all schools, at least every cluster of local schools, can offer a variety of specialty programs,” the report says.

Teachers would receive special ed and gifted training and kids would still get the specially tailored learning they need, the proposal says.

But parents of children currently in gifted classes say the proposed changes would destroy the program, not reform it.

“The idea of inclusion is wonderful (and we should) make sure all the kids in the city have the same opportunities,” said Gail Argensky, whose daughter is a Grade 10 student in Northern Secondary School’s gifted program. “I think access is important too. But when you start talking about dismantling things that are working, I just don’t get that.”

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said the board could not comment on the report because it’s still only in draft form and may be amended before it is tabled at Wednesday’s meeting of board trustees.

The trustees will recommend next steps based on the report, including changing the recommendations.

“There will absolutely be more opportunity for the community to have input before any decisions are made by the board,” the TDSB says on its website.

The TDSB’s gifted program is lacking in racial diversity, and needs a total overhaul, said Carl James, a York University professor who specializes in the education of minority students.

But simply placing gifted students in regular-stream classrooms throughout the city will not fix structural inequities that make it less likely for black students, in particularly, to be in gifted classes.

“The larger process of getting students identified as gifted will have to be looked at,” James said.

Some parents may not know the gifted program is an option for their kids, while other families actively pursue the gifted designation, even having their child tested privately.

“More importantly we have to look at the extent to which the gifted test might have inherent cultural biases, that might disadvantage some students,” James said.

“There is (also) the extent to which teachers identify some students and even suggest that they be tested for being gifted.”

But kids who have already tested as gifted would likely be better off in classes of other gifted kids, James added.

Agensky’s daughter, Amanda Gotlib, tested as gifted when she was in Grade 4, and entered gifted classes in Grade 7. Her time in the regular-stream classes was hard, Amanda said. She had trouble concentrating, and would take hours to finish even short assignments.

“I would have a lot of difficulty getting my work done,” Amanda said. “And I have some techniques I use when I’m trying to listen or focus and a lot of regular-stream teachers don’t really get that…. I often draw. I like to do art and doodling while the lesson is going on.”

The term “gifted” gives people the false impression that kids like Amanda are effortlessly brilliant, Argensky said. The reality is their brains work differently from other kids’ and they have different learning styles. They may not fit in socially with their peers, and often struggle with regular school work.

For kids with learning disabilities, behavioural issues and other special education needs, the task force proposal could be just the latest in a series of slashes to programming.

“We know that we are seeing cuts in the special ed realm all over Ontario,” said Katharine Buchan, educational material co-ordinator with Autism Ontario.

“With the right supports, every student typically could be integrated in to a regular classroom, but for high needs students or some students with autism that’s not always the answer,” Buchan added.

There are already long-standing concerns about the burden placed on teachers by placing kids with special ed needs in regular-stream classes, said Andy Lomnicki, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario’s Toronto chapter.

“There’s nothing wrong with applying the lens of equity, but it can distort what your’e looking at and how you’re trying to fix (equity problems),” Lomnicki said.

“An equitable lens could say that every student (should be) in the same classroom, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is serving their needs, or their parents needs, or the other kids in the classroom’s needs, or the teacher’s needs.”

Bill Morneau insists federal government still has no plans for a Netflix tax

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the federal government still has no intention of imposing a Netflix tax because it would result in a financial hit for middle-class Canadians.

Morneau’s remarks about the online streaming giant come a couple of days after Heritage Minister Melanie Joly insisted she never agreed to exempt Netflix from any sales tax as part of a deal that has been a political nightmare in her home province of Quebec.

Pressed about the issue on Friday, Joly said anyone with concerns about the lack of federal taxes on online streaming services should talk to Morneau because he’s in charge of taxation.

Joly unveiled a cultural policy in September that secured a $500-million pledge by Netflix to set up a Canadian office and fund original homegrown content — but the plan did not include taxes on the company’s service.

The ensuing weeks have seen the provincial government in Quebec vow to tax foreign online businesses, including Netflix, if Ottawa didn’t do so.

The issue has sparked outrage from artists and producers in Quebec’s cultural industry who have described it as an unfair subsidy.

Morneau insisted Sunday that Ottawa has no intention of changing its promise not to tax Netflix.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself has repeatedly and categorically ruled out a Netflix tax.

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said Sunday that he plans to raise the issue with Morneau when federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers meet for two days of talks in Ottawa.

Special weather statement for Toronto with snow on the way

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas as GTA residents woke up Monday morning to a dusting of snow, with more on the way.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for Toronto and parts of southern Ontario as an arctic cold front brought snow to the city on Sunday night.

The agency said an Alberta clipper low pressure area will sail across southern Ontario on Monday night into Tuesday. This will bring a general snowfall of five to 10 centimetres by Tuesday morning.

Eastern Ontario will be hit by about 12 centimetres of snow on Monday night.

Poor winter driving conditions are likely.

Meanwhile, the Barrie area was the subject of a weather warning early Sunday.

Environment Canada said snow squalls were affecting the region, reducing visibility to near-zero and coating the ground in 15 to 20 centimetres of snow in some areas.

-With files from The Canadian Press

Dec. 11 declared ‘Reds Day’ in Toronto to honour TFC’s MLS Cup win

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

After a record-setting season and a triumphant win avenging last year’s crushing defeat, the TFC’s first MLS Cup victory is being officially marked for posterity by the City of Toronto.

Along with the victory parade to be held in their honour on Monday, Dec. 11 has been declared “Reds Day” in Toronto, Mayor John Tory said on Sunday.

Mayor Tory congratulated the team and also acknowledged it’s loyal and passionate fan base in his official proclamation. TFC supporters are “among the best fans in the world,” he said.

Torontonians are encouraged to wear red to show their “support, pride and appreciation” for the TFC on Reds Day.


Get merry at Christmas markets in GTA and beyond

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 8th, 2017

European-style Christmas markets seem to be gaining popularity in Ontario, and while the Toronto Christmas Market is the most famous one of them all, there are others in the GTA and beyond.

Click on our interactive map below to find a list of the markets.


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