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‘Ninja Turtles’ conquers box office with $65 million debut

TORONTO — Cowabunga, dude! Three decades after their comic book debut, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles raked in an estimated $65 million over the weekend to take the top spot at the box office.

The reptilian reboot starring Megan Fox and Toronto’s Will Arnett bumped last weekend’s box office champ, Guardians of the Galaxy, to second place. It earned $41.5 million in it sophomore weekend, according to studio estimates.

Guardians has so far earned $313 million worldwide.

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The first big screen Ninja Turtles adaptation opened in 1990 with $25.4 million and went on to earn over $200 million.

Paramount, the studio behind the new Ninja Turtles, announced over the weekend that a sequel will be released June 3, 2016.

Into The Storm opened in third place with $18 million. (In comparison, Twister opened in 1996 with $41 million.)

Another new entry, The Hundred-Foot Journey starring Helen Mirren and Montreal’s Charlotte Le Bon, ranked fourth with $11 million. The movie is co-produced by Hollywood powerhouses Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey.

The Scarlett Johansson thrilled Lucy placed finished in the No. 5 position, pulling in $9.3 million.

Step Up All In, written by John Swetnam — the same screenwriter behind Into The Storm — flopped with a $6.6 million opening.

The rest of the Top 10 consisted of Hercules ($5.7 million), Get On Up ($5 million), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($4.4 million) and Planes: Fire & Rescue ($2.4 million).

James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D, which opened in only 304 theatres, earned a disappointing average of just under $500 per screen.

And the made-in-Toronto romantic comedy What If (titled The F Word outside of the U.S.) starring Daniel Radcliffe managed only $130,000 on 20 screens. It’s set for a wide release on Aug. 22.

Vandalism, looting after vigil for U.S. black teen shot, killed by police – National

WATCH: Uproar in the U.S. over another shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.  Paul Johnson reports on the emotional response and violence that erupted in a St. Louis suburb.

FERGUSON, Mo. – The FBI was investigating possible civil rights violations after a suburban St. Louis police officer fatally shot an unarmed teenager.

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The FBI opened an investigation Monday into possible civil rights violations arising from the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, said Cheryl Mimura, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s St. Louis field office. Police say Brown was shot multiple times Saturday in a scuffle with an officer in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb. Mimura said the FBI is monitoring the case and working with St. Louis County police.

The killing drew criticism from some civil rights leaders, who referred to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American, by a Florida neighbourhood watch organizer who was acquitted of murder charges. Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton called the shooting “very disturbing” and said he planned to go to Ferguson to meet with the family.

WATCH: Man found guilty after shooting unarmed teenager on his front porch

A candlelight vigil for Brown was held Sunday, and tensions erupted later that night. Nearly three dozen people were arrested after a crowd looted and burned stores, vandalized vehicles and taunted officers.

Mimura noted that the FBI would be investigating such a shooting regardless of the public attention.

Tensions erupted in Ferguson after a candlelight vigil Sunday night. Crowds looted and burned stores, vandalized vehicles and taunted officers who tried to block access to parts of the city. Nearly three dozen people were arrested, though the area was relatively quiet early Monday. Witnesses said the vandals were likely opportunistic outsiders who arrived looking for a chance to steal.

WATCH: Many stores were looted during the protests including a Quiktrip gas station and a sporting goods store, both incidents were caught on camera

“The small group of people are creating a huge mess,” Mayor James Knowles said. “Contributing to the unrest that is going on is not going to help. … We’re only hurting ourselves, only hurting our community, hurting our neighbours.”

Ferguson’s streets were relatively quiet early Monday. Some debris littered the area but crowds had dispersed.

32 people were arrested for various infractions including assault, burglary and theft, authorities said. St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said two officers suffered minor injuries and that there were no reports of civilians hurt.

WATCH: Angry protests and looting in Ferguson, Missouri on Sunday night after a vigil for a black teen who had shot and killed by police.

Several businesses were looted, including a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store. People took items from a sporting goods store and a cellphone retailer, and carted rims away from a tire store. Some climbed atop police cars as the officers with riot shields and batons stood stoic nearby, trying to restrict access to the most seriously affected areas.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said there were no reports of injuries as of about 11 p.m. But there were scattered reports of assaults into the very early morning. Authorities said tear gas had been used, but would not immediately confirm media reports of gunfire.

County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that on Saturday, an officer encountered Brown and another man outside an apartment complex in Ferguson. One of the men pushed the officer into his squad car and they struggled. Belmar said at least one shot was fired from the officer’s gun inside the police car. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said authorities were still sorting out what happened inside the police car. It was not clear if Brown was the man who fought with the officer.

The struggle spilled out into the street, where Brown was shot multiple times. Belmar said the exact number of shots wasn’t known and that all shell casings at the scene matched the officer’s gun. Police were investigating why the officer shot Brown, who police have confirmed was unarmed.

Jackson said the second person has not been arrested or charged and it wasn’t clear if he was armed.

A man leaves a store on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. A few thousand people crammed a suburban St. Louis street Sunday night at a vigil for unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown shot and killed by a police officer, while afterward several car windows were smashed and stores were looted as people carried away armloads of goods as witnessed by an an Associated Press reporter.

AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told KSDK-TV there’s no video footage of the shooting from the apartment complex, or from any police cruiser dashboard cameras or body-worn cameras that the department recently bought but hasn’t yet put to use.

Jackson said blood samples were taken from Brown and the officer who shot him. Toxicology tests can take weeks to complete.

Earlier Sunday, a few hundred protesters gathered outside Ferguson Police headquarters. Some marched into an adjacent police building chanting “Don’t shoot me” while holding their hands in the air. Officers stood at the top of a staircase, but didn’t use force; the crowd eventually left.

A large crowd gathers at the candlelight vigil, Sunday evening, Aug. 10, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes

Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said she didn’t understand why police didn’t subdue her high school graduate son with a club or stun gun, and that the officer involved should be fired and prosecuted.

The killing drew criticism from some civil rights leaders, who referred to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighbourhood watch organizer who was acquitted of murder charges.

“We’re outraged because yet again a young African-American man has been killed by law enforcement,” said John Gaskin, who serves on both the St. Louis County and national boards of directors for the NAACP, the oldest American civil rights group.

©2014The Canadian Press

Stewart crash probe focuses on lighting, track – National

WATCH: Questions surround NASCAR driver Tony Stewart following track death. And as Mike Drolet reports, the tragedy could have ripple effects from the stock car series down to dirt track racing. 

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (AP) — The collision was as common as any in racing. Kevin Ward Jr.’s car spun twice like a top, wheels hugging the wall, before it plopped backward on the dimly lit dirt track.

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In a sport steeped with bravado, what happened next was another familiar, but treacherous, move: Wearing a black firesuit and black helmet, the 20-year-old Ward unbuckled himself, climbed out of the winged car into the night and defiantly walked onto the track at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

He gestured, making his disgust evident with the driver who triggered the wreck with a bump: three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.

READ MORE: NASCAR’s Tony Stewart pulls out of Sunday race after killing driver

Ward, a relative unknown compared to NASCAR’s noted swashbuckler, was nearly hit by another passing car as he pointed with his right arm in Stewart’s direction. As he confronted Stewart in his passing car, disaster struck.

Ward was standing to the right of Stewart’s familiar No. 14 car, which seemed to fishtail from the rear and hit him. According to video and witness accounts, Ward’s body was sucked underneath the car and hurtled through the air before landing on his back as fans looked on in horror.

VIDEO: Raw video of deadly accident as Tony Stewart struck and killed driver Kevin Ward Jr. WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO

Ward was killed. Stewart, considered one of the most proficient drivers in racing, dropped out of Sunday’s NASCAR race at Watkins Glen, hours after Saturday’s crash. And the sport was left reeling from a tragedy that could have ripple effects from the biggest stock car series down to weeknight dirt track racing.

“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.,” Stewart said in a statement.

Authorities questioned the 43-year-old Stewart once on Saturday night and went to Watkins Glen to talk to him again Sunday. They described him as “visibly shaken” after the crash and said he was cooperative.

On Sunday, Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said that investigators also don’t have any evidence at this point in the investigation to support criminal intent. But he also said that criminal charges have not been ruled out.

The crash raised several questions: Will Ward’s death cause drivers to think twice about on-track confrontations? Did Stewart try and send his own message by buzzing Ward, the young driver, only to have his risky move turn fatal? Or did Ward simply take his life into his own hands by stepping into traffic in a black firesuit on a dark track?

The only one who may have that answer is Stewart.

David S. Weinsten, a former state and federal prosecutor in Miami who is now in private practice, said it would be difficult to prove criminal intent.

“I think even with the video, it’s going to be tough to prove that this was more than just an accident and that it was even culpable negligence, which he should’ve known or should’ve believed that by getting close to this guy, that it was going to cause the accident,” he said.

The sheriff renewed a plea for spectators to turn over photos and videos of the crash. Investigators were reconstructing the accident and looking into everything from the dim lighting on a portion of the track to how muddy it was, as well as if Ward’s dark firesuit played a role in his death, given the conditions.

Driver Cory Sparks, a friend of Ward’s, was a few cars back when Ward was killed.

“The timing was unsafe,” he said of Ward’s decision to get out of his car to confront Stewart. “When your adrenaline is going, and you’re taken out of a race, your emotions flare.”

WATCH: Hometown of Kevin Ward mourns fallen racer’s passing

It’s often just a part of racing. Drivers from mild-mannered Jeff Gordon to ladylike Danica Patrick have erupted in anger on the track at another driver. The confrontations are part of the sport’s allure: Fans love it and cheer wildly from the stands. Stewart, who has a reputation for being a hothead nicknamed “Smoke,” once wound up like a pitcher and tossed his helmet like a fastball at Matt Kenseth’s windshield.

“I’ve seen it many times in NASCAR, where a driver will confront the other one, and a lot of times they’ll try to speed past them. And that’s what it appeared to me as if what Tony Stewart did, he tried to speed past Ward,” witness Michael Messerly said. “And the next thing I could see, I didn’t see Ward any more. It just seemed like he was suddenly gone.”

The crash also raised questions about whether Stewart will continue with his hobby of racing on small tracks on the side of the big-money NASCAR races. He has long defended his participation in racing on tracks like the one where the crash happened, even as accidents and injury have put his day job in NASCAR at risk.

Saturday’s crash came almost exactly a year after Stewart suffered a compound fracture to his right leg in a sprint car race in Iowa. The injury cost him the second half of the NASCAR season and sidelined him during NASCAR’s important Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Stewart only returned to sprint track racing last month.

The crash site is the same track where Stewart was involved in a July 2013 accident that seriously injured a 19-year-old driver. He later took responsibility for his car making contact with another and triggering the 15-car accident that left Alysha Ruggles with a compression fracture in her back.

“Everybody has hobbies,” he said last month, adding that “there are a lot of other things I could be doing that are a lot more dangerous and a lot bigger waste of time with my time off do than doing that.”

Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, said Stewart felt strongly he should not race after the wreck. Regan Smith replaced him in his car.

“We’re racing with heavy hearts,” Smith said.

AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer, AP Sports Writer John Kekis and AP Writer David Klepper contributed to this report. Gelston reported from Philadelphia.

©2014The Canadian Press

Toronto Morning: What you need to know today – Toronto

IN THE NEWS…

Police are investigating after four cars were torched in west-end Toronto overnight. Fire crews responded to a car lot on Toro Road near Finch and Keele just after 2:30 a.m. The incident comes after several other cars were set on fire in the Jane and Wilson area early Sunday morning.As it turns out, some fire hydrants in Toronto are more costly than others. Since 2008, cars that parked too close to the hydrant at 393 University Ave. have been ticketed 2,962 times. Those fines add up to $289,620 – more than any other hydrant in the city.Toronto police are investigating two separate stabbing incidents in the city Sunday night. A man was stabbed numerous times at a restaurant on Weston Road near Lawrence Avenue West after 10 p.m. Meanwhile, earlier in the evening, a male in his 20’s was stabbed with non-life threatening injuries just around 6 p.m. Sunday.A tricky rule keeps tripping up thousands of Canadians who make withdrawals from their tax-free savings accounts, and replace the money too early. Some 54,700 taxpayers got warning packages from the Canada Revenue Agency earlier this year about the problem affecting the 2013 taxation year, and were told they face a penalty.Jose Bautista came through, hitting an opposite field single over the head of a drawn in outfield in the 19th to score Munenori Kawasaki as the Blue Jays capped the longest game in team history with a come-from-behind 6-5 win.

WEATHER

Sunny. Increasing cloudiness this afternoon. High 26. UV index 8 or very high.

More on current weather conditions and a 7-day forecast. 

To get real-time weather for your area, download the Global News Skytracker weather app.

TRAFFIC AND TRANSIT

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Mass Transit: Click for TTC and GO Transit Updates.

Roads: Click for the latest Toronto traffic.

Do you have any suggestions or additions for our Toronto morning roundup? Reach us via email at [email protected]杭州夜网, on 桑拿会所 or on Facebook.

Police investigating torched cars in west-end Toronto – Toronto

Watch above: What are police saying after multiple arsons in a west-end neighbourhood? Mark Carcasole reports

TORONTO – Police are investigating after eight cars were torched in west-end Toronto overnight.

Fire crews responded to a used car lot on Toro Road near Finch Ave. W. and Keele St. just after 2:30 a.m to find several vehicles engulfed in flames.

No injuries were reported and there’s no word yet on any arrests.

Andy O’Connor, the owner of nearby business Gottesman Signs, said area residents are used to crime.

“I’m not surprised at all. Not in this neighbourhood,” he said. “A lot of that stuff goes down here.  We’ve had cars on fire behind our shop before, we’ve had cars broken into and smashed up.”

The incident comes a day after several other cars were set on fire in the Jane St. and Wilson Ave. area early Sunday morning.

However police weren’t willing to link the two incidents.

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Related

  • Several vehicles set on fire in Jane and Wilson area

  • Multiple cars destroyed by fire in Moore Park neighbourhood

  • Police seek ‘person of interest’ in multi-vehicle arson investigation

Firefighters were called to a number of homes where crews found the vehicles in flames on some driveways.

Police say a total of seven cars were damaged. Anyone with information is urged to call police.

Meanwhile, investigators are still on the search for an arsonist that destroyed multiple vehicles in an upscale Toronto neighbourhood in May.

Police have released a security video of a “person of interest” in the case.

Spain imports experimental Ebola drug to treat priest – National

MADRID, Spain – Spain has imported a U.S.-made experimental Ebola drug to treat a Spanish missionary priest evacuated from Liberia last week after testing positive for the killer virus.

The Health Ministry announced Monday that the ZMapp drug, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. of San Diego, was obtained in Geneva this weekend and brought to Madrid to treat Miguel Pajares. The 75-year-old priest was placed in isolation Thursday at Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital.

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  • Ebola: What the WHO’s international health emergency declaration means

  • WHO: Ebola outbreak is a public health emergency

There is no known cure or licensed treatment for Ebola, which has killed more than 1,000 people in the current outbreak in West Africa. The World Health Organization has called the Ebola outbreak – which emerged in Guinea in March and has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and possibly Nigeria – an international health emergency and urged nations worldwide to donate resources to battle the disease.

READ MORE: Ebola outbreak disrupts business and hurts local economy

The ethical questions surrounding experimental Ebola drugs and vaccines were being debated Monday during a teleconference of medical ethicists and other experts organized by the U.N. health agency.

Two Americans diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia and evacuated back to the United States have been treated with the drug. One of them, Dr. Kent Brantly, said last week that his condition was improving and the husband of the aid worker being treated with Brantly said the same thing. Both are in isolation at an Atlanta hospital.

Spain said it obtained permission from the laboratory developing the drug and, under an agreement between WHO and the Doctors Without Borders charity group, imported the drug from Geneva where it said a dose had been available. The ministry said Spain sought the drug under legislation permitting use of unauthorized medication in patients suffering from a life-threatening illness who cannot be treated satisfactorily with any authorized drug.

READ MORE: Won’t be the last time patient tested for Ebola, hospital official

Despite Spain’s statement, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told The Associated Press on Monday that the U.N. agency had no role in helping Spain obtain the experimental drug.

At least one country in West Africa has expressed interest in the experimental drug. Nigeria’s health minister, Onyenbuchi Chukwu, said last week he had asked U.S. health officials about access but was told the manufacturer would have to agree.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “there are virtually no doses available,” a CDC spokesman said last week, before the announcement that Spain was also using the drug.

Because the ZMapp drug has never been tested in humans, scientists say there’s no way to tell if it has made any difference to the two American aid workers who have so far received it.

The drug is a mixture of three antibodies engineered to recognize Ebola and bind to infected cells so the immune system can kill them. Scientists culled antibodies from laboratory mice and ZMapp’s maker now grows the antibodies in tobacco plants and then purifies them. It takes several months to even produce a modest amount of the drug.

READ MORE: Nigeria declares national state of emergency over Ebola

Nigerian health authorities, meanwhile, confirmed another Ebola case Monday, a nurse who was treating Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American who flew into the country with the disease and died of it last month. That brings the locally confirmed Ebola cases in Nigeria to 10, including two who have died, Sawyer and another nurse. Nigerian authorities have 177 contacts of Sawyer now under surveillance.

WHO has not yet confirmed the Ebola cases in Nigeria.

©2014The Canadian Press

Ukraine crisis: Rocket attack leads to mass jail breakout – National

DONETSK, Ukraine – Rockets slammed into a high-security prison Monday in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, igniting a riot that allowed more than 100 prisoners to flee, authorities in eastern Ukraine said.

Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky said a direct rocket hit killed at least one inmate and left three others severely wounded. In the chaos, he said 106 prisoners escaped, included some jailed for murder, robbery and rape.

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In the past week Ukrainian government forces have intensified their military operations and surrounded Donetsk, the largest city in rebel-held eastern Ukraine. Exchanges of rocket fire and deaths from shelling have become a feature of daily life and hundreds of thousands have chosen to flee.

The prison break became possible after a substation providing the building with electricity was damaged, disabling the facility’s alarm system.

“Extremely dangerous prisoners are now free. It is hard to know the extent of threat this poses to the city, which is flooded with weapons,” Rovinsky said.

Rebels routinely accuse government forces of using heavy artillery in their campaign to retake Donetsk.

But Ukrainian security spokesman Andriy Lysenko blamed the prison strike on separatist fighters.

“Bandits in Donetsk shelled residential quarters and correctional facility No. 124,” he said.

Prisoners said the rocket hit their building late Sunday night.

“At around 10 p.m., after lights went out and the prisoners began heading to their sleeping quarters, a rocket hit this place,” said one prisoner, who gave his name as Vova Kordemansky. “Nobody was in this room, but one guy downstairs had his head blown off.”

Officials with Ukraine’s state penitentiary service said later Monday that 34 prisoners had returned to the jail. It was not immediately possible to verify that claim.

One of the prisoners who had apparently returned to the prison told The Associated Press that inmates were forced to flee to avoid incoming rockets, but were apprehended in a nearby neighbourhood.

Both Ukrainian government forces and the pro-Russian rebels who want independence for their eastern region have deployed heavy and often imprecise weapons in the battle that began in April. Apartments and other civilian buildings have frequently been hit, adding to the mounting death toll among civilians.

Rovinsky said Monday at least 10 homes, shops and garages were hit by overnight rockets. He added that 20,000 people had no electricity in Donetsk and an estimated 400,000 have fled the city, which had a pre-war population of 1 million. Many shops have closed and supplies are dwindling at the few still open.

Local authorities have attempted to continue providing basic services, such as trash removal and a skeleton bus service.

The Ukrainians army’s strategy has focused on encircling Donetsk and nearby rebel towns and breaking off road links with other separatist towns and villages further east, closer to the Russian border.

Many of those in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine distrust the new central government in Kyiv, which came to power after the February ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych, whose power base was in eastern Ukraine.

Fighting began a month after Russia annexed Ukraine’s peninsula of Crimea in March.

Associated Press writer Peter Leonard in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press

Illegal parking next to Toronto fire hydrants a cash cow for the city – Toronto

ABOVE: How has this one fire hydrant made the City of Toronto almost $300,000?

OTTAWA – It’s the street equivalent of a desert mirage, an elusive piece of prime parking real estate that, for some strange reason, everyone else just happened to miss.

Eventually, however, a telltale slip of paper tucked beneath a windshield wiper offers an explanation: you parked in front of a fire hydrant.

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Maybe it was an honest mistake. Or maybe you thought you could slip in and out before your illegal parking job caught the attention of a passing bylaw officer. Either way, now you’ve been hit with a hefty fine.

And as it turns out, some hydrants seem to be more tempting – and more costly – than others.

In Toronto, one hydrant stands above the rest. People are fined so often for parking in front of it that on Google’s Street View, a white Toyota can be seen with a yellow slip under its wiper blade as a parking-enforcement officer walks away.

Since 2008, cars that parked too close to the hydrant at 393 University Ave. have been ticketed 2,962 times. Those fines add up to $289,620 – more than any other hydrant in the city.

So, why is this one particular hydrant such a cash cow for the city? There are a few possible explanations. It’s right by the courthouse and near a major downtown intersection. The hydrant itself is in the middle of a busy sidewalk set back some distance from the street, and it would be easy enough for drivers to miss. No markings on the street make it obvious that the spot is off-limits.

Anthony Fabrizi, the city’s manager of parking ticket operations, says the hydrant needs to be a certain distance from the street so pumper trucks can park there.

“There’s lots of logic to the madness when you see behind the scenes,” Fabrizi said.

The fire hydrant located at 393 University Avenue in Toronto is pictured on Thursday, August 7, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

In Toronto, the fine for parking within three metres of a fire hydrant is $100. It used to be $30 until the city hiked the fine in early 2008.

A Canadian Press analysis of Toronto’s parking-ticket data found the city has collected more than $24 million since 2008 by fining people who parked too close to hydrants.

Fabrizi says all parking fines, including those from parking next to hydrants, add up to $80 million a year.

That may seem like a big number, but Fabrizi says it only represents about one per cent of the money needed to run all of the city’s programs.

“The amount of revenue that parking generates is so minuscule compared to the overall revenue that it really doesn’t serve a great purpose as a revenue generator.”

About half the revenue from parking tickets pays for parking enforcement and operations, he added.

“Parking is a bit of a funny business in terms of budgeting,” Fabrizi said.

“We have to budget in terms of firm numbers the costs associated with enforcing parking. So we know that there’s about a $50-million cost … so that is a $50-million budget that has to be paid even if no parking tickets were issued.

“Historically, we see that parking tickets and fines, once it goes through the courts, generate about $80 million a year. So the program pays for itself and then there’s a little bit of a margin, about $30 million extra.”

Most parking tickets in Toronto are handed out to people who let their parking meters expire or who park in no-parking areas. Tickets for parking too close to fire hydrants only accounted for 1.45 per cent of all parking infractions last year.

While the hydrant at 393 University Ave. is by far the city’s golden goose, many others are also quite lucrative.

At 33 Elmhurst Ave., a hydrant lurks in the shadow of a large condo building in North York. Vehicles that parked there have been ticketed 2,253 times since 2008, with fines totalling $207,030.

A nearby federal government building may explain all the parking tickets. The Joseph Shepard building houses branches of Passport Canada, a Canadian Forces recruiting centre and several other federal departments.

If you’re visiting Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, don’t park in front of the fire hydrant at 113 Merton St. This unassuming hydrant, tucked between two trees, is the city’s third most-ticketed spot, with 2,165 fines handed out amounting to $212,300.

The city also tracks the province or state on the licence plates of people who get fined for parking too close to hydrants. Not surprisingly, almost every ticketed vehicle had Ontario plates. Drivers with Quebec plates were a distant second, followed by visitors from New York and Alberta.

But pity the two poor drivers with Hawaiian plates, who came a long way only to get busted for parking in front of hydrants.

TOP 10 most lucrative Toronto hydrants:

1. 393 University Ave., $289,620
2. 112 Merton St., $212,300
3. 33 Elmhurst Ave., $207,030
4. 56 The Esplanade, $191,110
5. 5519 Yonge St., $173,330
6. 99 Atlantic Ave., $163,760
7. 361 University Ave., $152,530
8. 43 Elm St., $152,220
9. 5100 Yonge St., $145,310
10. 6 Spring Garden Ave., $131,110

Source: City of Toronto

How Canadians are avoiding paying taxes on tax-free savings accounts

OTTAWA – A tricky rule keeps tripping up thousands of Canadians who make withdrawals from their tax-free savings accounts, and replace the money too early.

Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) allow Canadians age 18 and over to save money in a certain dollar amount each calendar year. Federal benefits and credits aren’t impacted, and all income earned and withdrawn is generally tax-free, as long as you follow the rules.

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Some 54,700 taxpayers got warning packages from the Canada Revenue Agency earlier this year about the problem affecting the 2013 taxation year, and were told they face a penalty.

The number has been dropping steadily from a peak of 103,000 in 2010, but still represents a persistent misunderstanding of TFSA rules even as the agency and financial institutions step up education measures.

The regulations say that account holders can put back the amounts they withdraw from a TFSA only in a later calendar year. Doing so in the same calendar year exposes them to a tax hit for overcontributions, even though they’re only replacing the withdrawn funds.

By the end of 2013, some 10.7 million Canadians had opened a TFSA, a savings vehicle introduced by the Conservative government in 2009 that allows money to grow inside tax-free with no income-tax hit on withdrawal.

READ MORE: How parents can help save for their child’s post-secondary education

The popular savings tool cost the federal treasury some $410 million in forgone taxes in 2013, or more than a billion dollars over its first five years.

Some taxpayers are apparently slow to absorb the finicky withdrawal rule: this year 11,260 of them got the same warning package from the Canada Revenue Agency last year as well, figures provided by CRA show.

As of the end of last month, the agency had waived penalties for more than 17,000 Canadians who broke the rule in 2012. The average penalty waived was $516, or a total of almost $9 million.

And for the 2013 taxation year, more than 20,000 Canadians have already paid their penalties.

Taxpayers who received a TFSA warning package in the mail this summer were given 60 days to respond. Those who don’t respond get a notice of assessment, imposing a penalty.

READ MORE: Tips for paying off your debt and saving for the future

A spokesman for the agency said the onus is on Canada’s banks and other financial institutions to make sure their customers know the rules.

“As with any financial or investment product, financial institutions have a responsibility to inform their clients of the details and restrictions relating to TFSAs,” said Philippe Brideau.

“The CRA continues to work very closely with the financial institutions to ensure that CRA information related to TFSA is well understood and known by the Canadian financial sector.”

Brideau noted that fewer than half a per cent of TFSA holders ran afoul of the rules in 2013.

The current maximum annual contribution to a tax-free savings account is $5,500, though Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to double the maximum once the federal books are balanced, expected next year in advance of the scheduled 2015 federal election.

A special analysis in 2012 by the Finance Department found that the savings vehicle is more popular among higher income and older Canadians.

©2014The Canadian Press

U.S. provides weapons to Kurds in fight against Islamic militants – National

WATCH: The U.S. is arming Kurdish fighters both directly and indirectly as they battle ISIS militants in Northern Iraq. Craig Boswell has the latest

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces who have started to make gains against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, senior U.S. officials said Monday, but the aid has so far been limited to automatic rifles and ammunition.

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Previously, the U.S. sold arms in Iraq only to the government in Baghdad, some of which would be transferred to the Kurdish forces in the north. The Kurdish peshmerga fighters had been losing ground to Islamic State militants in recent weeks, however.

The weapons appeared to be coming through intelligence agencies covertly and not through regular Defence Department channels.

The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. A Kurdish official said the weapons were coming from “U.S. intelligence agencies,” and a senior Pentagon official said the Defence Department may yet get involved. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations.

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The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

The move to directly aid the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State militants’ gains in the north, and reflects the persistent administration view that the Iraqis must take the necessary steps to solve their own security problems.

To bolster that effort, the administration is also very close to approving plans for the Pentagon to arm the Kurds, a senior official said. In recent days, the U.S. military has been helping facilitate weapons deliveries from the Iraqis to the Kurds, providing logistical assistance and transportation to the north.

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But the Kurdish government official said Monday the U.S. weapons being directly sent to Irbil – a northern Iraqi city where U.S. personnel are based and where Islamic State militants are advancing on Kurdish forces – are very limited in scope and number, and mostly consist of light arms like AK-47s and ammunition.

He said the American lethal aid is still not enough to battle the militants, even though Peshmerga and other Kurdish forces were supplemented with similar munitions from Baghdad over the weekend.

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The State Department sought to downplay the significance of the apparent shift in U.S. policy.

The militants have “obtained some heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms and we’re providing those – there’s nothing new here,” said department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

She said the U.S. was working with Baghdad to speed up deliveries of “badly needed arms” to Kurdish forces in the north. The Iraqi government, she said, “has made deliveries from its own stocks and we are working to do the same.”

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The additional assistance comes as Kurdish forces on Sunday took back two towns from the Islamic insurgents, aided in part by U.S. airstrikes in the region. President Barack Obama authorized the airstrikes to protect U.S. interests and personnel in the region, including at facilities in Irbil, as well as Yazidi refugees fleeing militants.

U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking to reporters in Sydney, where he is attending an Asian defence ministers meeting, said the airstrikes “have been very effective from all the reports that we’ve received on the ground.” He declined to detail how or when the U.S. might expand its assistance to Iraq, or if military assessment teams currently in Baghdad would be moving to a more active role advising the Iraqi forces.

Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., and Lolita C. Baldor and Matthew Lee in Sydney contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press

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