The New Brunswick government says it is getting out of the property assessment business, a statement that comes less than a week after it said it would investigate following allegations that more than 2,000 property owners have been given improper and inflated tax bills.

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READ MORE: New Brunswick premier says property tax scandal will be investigated

In a news conference on Monday, N.B. Premier Brian Gallant said it would introduce an independent agency to oversee property assessment. He said it came after recommendations from several people and organizations, including the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Gallant said in 2011 and 2017, “arbitrary formulas” were used to estimate property values.

“Although Service New Brunswick employees may have had good intentions in applying arbitrary formula as in 2017, they did it to reduce the assessment of the computer-generated assessment,” Gallant said.

He added in the case of 2011, the assessments were subsequently corrected.

“Nonetheless, these actions have still undermined the confidence New Brunswickers place in the property tax assessment process. There’s clearly a problem and we’re going to fix it.”

During the same conference, Service New Brunswick Minister Ed Doherty apologized for the increases.

“I sincerely apologize to all New Brunswickers,” Doherty said. “As government, we will do everything we can to rectify the situation.”

READ MORE: NB sees record number of property assessment appeals in with more likely to come

Increases in property assessments were reported last month when some property owners told Global News they had received bill increases in the hundreds of dollars. A Rothesay, N.B., man said his assessment was up 30 per cent from 2016, costing an additional $616.97.

When thousands of incorrect assessments were reported, the government cited human error as the culprit, a statement Gallant backs.

Gallant said an independent commissioner would, by August 2017, report back on all policies and procedures related to recent assessment processes but also look back at errors at calculating property tax assessment values for the past seven years. The process will be overseen by a former federal appeal court judge.

For example, in 2013, there were 7,800 errors against 44,400 reassessments, an 18-per-cent error rate.

READ MORE: Property tax hikes ‘rubbing salt in the wounds’: NB apartment owners

The hikes in assessments, Gallant said, was a result of findings in February 2017, when officials found some properties with high assessment increases would be unable to undergo quality control procedures before the billing cycle occurred. To lower the assessments, the “arbitrary formula” was developed.

“The assessors said to themselves, unfortunately, that it was pretty high and they should do some quality control but they didn’t have time, and that’s the big-time unfortunate part of it, so they provided an arbitrary formula to reduce the assessment that was calculated by the computer,” Gallant said.

The premier said the assessments on the properties would have still gone up, but a computer assessment “had it going up a lot more.”

He said using the formula was “inappropriate,” but “it would seem,” used to reduce the assessment produced by the computer.

Not satisfied

Opposition Finance Critic Bruce Fitch told reporters the party still isn’t satisfied.

READ MORE: NB realtors, government watchdog calling on property assessment changes

“You heard the premier say it a number of times – inappropriate actions – and you heard the minister apologize,” Fitch said.

“So you see a government here in full crisis mode and it’s unfortunate the minister didn’t take that next step, or the premier didn’t take that next step and have the minister resign today.”

In addition to conducting an internal independent investigation and looking into creating an agency to handle property assessments, the government says it will also be removing the deadline for New Brunswickers to report assessment errors. Those requesting a review – which recently had a deadline of March 31 –will now have until August.

Fitch said although extending the deadline helps, more needs to be done.

“People who have questions about their property tax assessment … they should have the opportunity to ask those questions as well,” Fitch said.

Gallant also said anyone who has their assessments lowered based on recommendations from the independent review will get any over-payment back with interest.

Kevin Lacey, Atlantic director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said extending the review was a “fair” decision.

“They’ve done so in a very generous way to ensure that everyone who wants to appeal their assessment can,” said Lacey, adding he hopes New Brunswickers appeal their assessments to ensure the taxes they pay are “fair and justified.”

READ MORE: Some New Brunswick residents shocked by large property tax assessment hikes

‘Separate from government’

Lacey’s organization originally called for an independent process for the assessments. He told Global News on Monday that having the agency would mean more reliability.

“The biggest change is [we’re] going to have an independent assessment organization that is separate from government and more importantly, separate from government interference in the whole system,” Lacey said.

“[It] will make the assessments more accurate and believable that they’re going to be receiving.”

The results of the review, which Gallant said is expected to be completed later this year, will then be used to look into what needs to be changed by the new agency.

Gallant said legislation will be introduced during the fall session of the legislature to establish the new agency.

The Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia is warning the province’s Liberal government it will face legal action if an election is called before the electoral map is redrawn to restore three so-called protected ridings eliminated in 2012.

READ MORE: NS court ruling not barrier to potential election call: professor

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The federation said Monday it will seek a court order if the government fails to act.

A Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruling released in January found a 2012 boundary redrawing violated the voter rights section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The boundary changes eliminated the protected Acadian ridings of Clare, Argyle and Richmond.

“I don’t think it is in the government’s best interest to call an election before this issue is resolved,” said executive director Marie-Claude Rioux. “It opens a whole Pandora’s box, and I don’t think the government wants to go there.”

The government has been widely expected to call an election this year, perhaps as early as this spring.

Rioux said her organization believes an interim solution can be found relatively quickly.

READ MORE: NS court ruling not barrier to potential election call: professor

She said that could be done by having an electoral boundaries commission reconsider an interim report that was rejected in 2012.

“We know that a (similar) commission was called back in New Brunswick for a federal election … and the commission lasted one day,” said Rioux.

She said the federation wants a full electoral boundaries commission process to decide the boundaries within the next two years.

The federation said it wants immediate discussions with the province aimed at obtaining court orders to reinforce the appeal court ruling.

READ MORE: NS NDP member ponders legal move if election called without riding boundary review

Those orders would: confirm the unconstitutionality of the 2012 boundaries abolishing the Acadian ridings, and order the government to establish a new electoral boundaries commission with a mandate of ensuring effective representation for the Acadian community, among other things.

Michel Samson, the Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs, said Monday he found it baffling that the federation wants to go back to court when the move isn’t necessary.

“Especially since we’ve basically agreed for the most part on a process that would be able to achieve all that they are asking to achieve,” said Samson, adding the government would publicly state its position once there is a chance for further talks.

Samson said the government does not believe an election would be unconstitutional.

“There are a lot of lawyers out there with a lot of different opinions. Let’s just say we don’t share the same opinion that’s been given to the Acadian federation.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia must review riding boundaries before election or risk legal action: Tories

Last week, Premier Stephen McNeil said the government believes it would be fair to have an election under the current boundaries.

McNeil also said that any redrawing of the electoral map would have to start with fresh terms of reference once a boundaries commission is selected.

Rioux said the federation “begs to differ” with the premier’s assertion that an election under the current boundaries would be constitutional in light of the appeal court ruling.

She also warned that proceeding with an election could trigger a court ruling that calls into question government legislation passed since the boundaries were redrawn.

“That’s why we are asking for a suspension of the decision for two years because in the meantime you have chaos. You have to solve the situation and get something in the interim that is going to be constitutional.”

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives and NDP legislature member Sterling Belliveau have also said they are looking at legal options if there is no formal boundary review.

Tory Leader Jamie Baillie said it’s now clear the legitimacy of an election would be in question if the government doesn’t pay attention to what the Acadian Federation is saying.

READ MORE: Acadian group to take Nova Scotia to court over electoral boundary changes

Baillie said that’s an issue for all voters, including other minorities such as African Nova Scotians and the Mi’kmaq.

“This is about everybody’s vote and whether we are going to have a valid election,” he said.

WINNIPEG —; An increased mouse population in combination with warmer temperatures is creating the ideal conditions for ticks, according to a local expert.

Ryus St. Pierre, a volunteer tick surveyor with the Manitoba Lyme Disease Group says it’s going to a particularly bad year for ticks in Manitoba – so campers, bikers and hikers beware.

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On Thursday, he found 13 adult ticks near the Seine River Greenway in the south end of Winnipeg. He said he’s never collected that many blacklegged-ticks anywhere in Manitoba in one day.

Blacklegged-ticks, also commonly known as deer ticks, can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

The reason for the rise in ticks is because of an increased mouse population, St. Pierre said.

“Mice and other small rodents are the main host of the larvae and nymph blacklegged. Essentially if there are more mice more ticks will survive.”

READ MORE: What you need to know about tick season and Lyme disease in Manitoba

Warm spring

If you mix the mouse population with the heavy snowfalls and relatively mild-winter, this also allows more ticks to survive the cold, St. Pierre said.

“When ticks are out this early, it’s longer time for people to get infected,” Jan Cmela with the Manitoba Lyme Disease Group said.

WATCH: How to prevent, detect, and remove ticks

Ticks usually don’t come out until the temperatures reach around 4 C, Cmela said. It temperatures are below freezing, ticks will stay in the ground.

“The warmer our winter, the more insulated they are. They had a fairly decent winter this season too,” Cmela said.

Cmela added the ticks the group is looking for are known as deer or black-legged ticks. This is not to be confused with wood ticks, which are bigger and do not carry Lyme disease, she said.

WATCH: Winnipeggers cautioned to watch out for ticks


Dr. Richard Baydack from Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living said the key is to check for ticks as soon as you’ve been in the bush. If you find one and pull it off right away, the odds of contracting Lyme disease are very low, because the tick usually feeds within 24 hours.

Blacklegged ticks are most commonly found in wooded or forested areas, as these locations give them with a humid habitat in which to survive. If you’re in the areas it is important to:

Use trails, whenever possible, and stay to the centre of hiking trails or paths.Wear light-coloured long pants and long-sleeved shirts.Tuck in clothing (pants and socks) to create a barrier.Use an appropriate tick repellent.

“Mama June” Shannon (of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo fame) revealed her drastic weight loss transformation on WE tv’s Mama June: From Not to Hot on Friday.

Shannon also revealed the results of her weight loss and surgeries exclusively to People.

READ MORE: Mama June of ‘Honey Boo Boo’ fame undergoes drastic transformation

The 37-year-old reality star got candid about what it was like emotionally to prepare for her final surgeries, with one being a procedure on what she called her “turkey neck.”

“I don’t wanna disappoint anybody and not be the skinny Mama June that everybody’s looking forward to,” she said. “But if I go through with something that’s as serious as the next surgery, it can’t be about making everyone happy — it’s gotta be about me.”

People on 杭州桑拿会所 were quick to praise Shannon for her transformation.

READ MORE: ‘Top Chef Canada: All-Stars’ judges dish on TV cooking competition

Shannon went from a size 18 to a size 4, previously weighing a reported 460 pounds. She is now down to 199 pounds.

The reality star took to 杭州桑拿会所 to thank her fans for their love and support following her reveal.

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Her drastic body change was the subject of her new show, Mama June: From Not to Hot.

During the premiere of the reality show, Shannon, 37, said she was inspired to lose weight after her ex (who goes by the name of Sugar Bear) announced he was getting remarried. The couple, who are parents to 11-year-old Alana Thompson (a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo), were in a common-law marriage for over a decade. They split after he admitted to cheating on Shannon.

It’s been confirmed that she has a gastric sleeve, which means that most of her stomach has been removed, replaced by a small stomach “sleeve.” This greatly decreases the amount of food a surgery recipient can consume.

Shannon’s daughters previously revealed that the hardest part for their mother is the mental game — defeating habits formed over decades and coming to terms with losing such an immense amount of weight.

READ MORE: Tragically Hip, Drake, Leonard Cohen collect hardware at Juno gala

“I think that her biggest thing [she has to] overcome is that fact that she still thinks of herself as a bigger person, because, even to this day, like, a couple of days ago we had a conversation, and … she looked in the mirror and was like, ‘I’m still fat,’” said her daughter, known as Pumpkin. “And I guess because she’s seen herself as a bigger person all these years, she doesn’t realize how small she is.”

All of the medical professionals featured on From Not to Hot emphasized that proper research must be done prior to getting any weight-loss surgeries. Shannon insists she paid for her own surgeries, and said she was going to get them whether or not she was on a TV show.

“With or without cameras, I was going to do this journey, you know, no matter what,” she said. “It was gonna happen whether I had them or not.”

With files from Chris Jancelewicz

Follow @KatieScottNews

Snow isn’t entirely out of the forecast yet for most of Canada, but listen to marketers, and you’d think spring is in full swing. According to the ads, it’s already time to think about getting your lawn summer-ready, buy patio furniture, switch out your winter tires and — while you’re at it — why not trade in your clunker for a hot new ride?

Summer may be the season most Canadians look forward to, but for Canadian wallets it’s a time of dread.

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Over half of Canadians polled last summer on behalf of Bank of Montreal said their summer spending habits have “negative long-term effects on their savings.”

More than a quarter said they resort to debt to afford their summer expenses. Another 27 per cent admitted they dig into their savings during the warmer months, while 13 per cent said they stop saving and put debt repayment on ice for the season.

Last year, the average Canadian planned to spend $1,346 on travel, dining, recreational activities and things like barbecues and summer sports equipment, according to a CIBC poll. The previous year, that figure stood at $1,766.

READ MORE: 7 ways to save money this summer while still having fun

It’s easier to succumb to the temptation of an impulse buy when we’re out and about on a sunny day rather than hurrying past window shops in the winter slosh.

And we don’t just spend more because there’s more to do when the weather is nice. Clear skies tend to make us more shopping-prone, research shows.

WATCH BELOW: Summer spending could leave your budget burned

“Sunlight is the weather variable that appears to have the predominant effect on both mood … and consumer spending,” reads a study by researchers at the University of Alberta and the University of Winnipeg.

WATCH BELOW: Hacks to make your garden awesome

Watching monthly expenses rise as the mercury goes up is something that happens even to the pros.

“My spending definitely goes up in the summer,” Jason Heath, managing director at Toronto-based Objective Financial Partners, told Global News.

But there are ways to embrace spring and summer without ravaging your finances.

Plan for the seasonal spending surge

If you know you’re a summer spender, the best way to deal with it is to “budget for it,” said Heath.

Lots of people face higher or lower spending during the year. Things like property tax bills and heating and cooling costs can account for dramatic swings in your monthly budget, noted Heath.

The key is to be aware of those variations and plan around them. So if you know you tend to shell out more in warmer months, you can ramp up your savings or debt repayments during the winter, said Heath.

WATCH BELOW: Licensed Insolvency Trustee Freida Richer shares tips for tightening the purse strings during a traditionally high-spending time of year

Have kids? Think about a ‘summer activities fund’

It can become especially difficult to stay on budget when you have kids, said Heath.

“In the winter, your typical weekend with the kids might be watching a movie and playing indoors,” he said. In the summer, though, there are amusement parks, petting zoos and trips to the farm, he added.

Even if you’re not going on vacation, the spending opportunities abound and enforcing financial austerity on the little ones doesn’t seem fair.

READ MORE: The number of young Canadians going bankrupt is rising — but student debt isn’t the whole story

But you can save ahead for summer fun.

“A summer fund is a great opportunity to set aside $2,000 for seasonal activities,” said Heath.

WATCH BELOW: How to make a budget

Set up an automatic savings program

Planning ahead for summer spending works well for those who thrive on budgeting. But what about those of us who get cross-eyed just glancing at an Excel sheet?

If want to stay on track financially, but would rather look at your finances as little as possible, setting up automatic transfers from your chequing to savings accounts might be the way to go.

READ MORE: Thinking of putting your RRSP contribution into GICs? Stop and read this first

“Setting up an [automatic savings program] doesn’t mean you can’t have summer fun. It simply means you’ll be paying yourself first — one of the most important principles of saving — so you can save money year-round regardless of what season it is,” according to personal finance guru Preet Banerjee.

The trick is to spend only what you’re left with, without dipping into credit cards and lines of credit.

Plan for your vacation and avoid exchange rate shockers

Like a summer fund, a vacation fund can help you gradually save for your dream holiday travel, said Heath.

It’s also a good idea to pre-pay as much of your vacation expenses as you can, so there will be fewer opportunities for busting your budget while you’re away, he added.

READ MORE: How to control spending during summer vacation

And if obsessing about daily expenses isn’t your idea of R&R, consider relying on cash, rather than credit cards, for everyday vacation expenses, added Heath. Even if you aren’t collecting receipts, keeping tabs on how much you’re spending is easier if you’re carrying cash rather than pulling out the plastic.

Finally, if you’re travelling abroad, make sure to buy foreign currency in advance to avoid exchange rate shockers.

If you’re heading south of the border, it’s easy to set up a bank account where you can build up your vacation fund directly in U.S. dollars, noted Heath.

Saving up in other foreign currencies via a Canadian account can be tricky. But if you’re taking recurrent trips to the same overseas destination, it might be worth setting up a bank account there for you vacation funds, said Heath.

WATCH ABOVE: The Toronto Blue Jays wrapped up Spring Training with a pair of preseason games against the Pittsburgh Pirates this past weekend at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

Play ball!

The 2017 Major League Baseball season is officially underway.

Yes, baseball fans, the boys of summer are back.

But for Blue Jays fanatics will this be a season to remember or will 2017 be a year to forget?

One thing we can almost be certain of is that Toronto’s starting rotation is poised to do something special.

HangZhou Night Net

They won’t have five 20 game winners, they might not have any, but what they do have is the talent on the mound to avoid any long losing streaks.

Trumbo’s 11th-inning homer lifts Orioles over Blue Jays 3-2

The bullpen, I believe, will have its highs and lows in 2017, especially if closer Roberto Osuna’s neck injury lingers throughout the season.

Blue Jays place Roberto Osuna on 10-day disabled list, release Melvin Upton

Osuna will begin the campaign on the injured list.

The Bluebirds will still knock the ball around the yard, however, their lineup is a little less intimidating with Kendrys Morales and Steven Pearce compared to the departed Edwin Encarnacion and Canadian Michael Saunders.

The bad news for Toronto is that they still reside in baseball’s toughest division, the American League East.

Blue Jays hope to galvanize fans once again with #LetsRise

Take Our Poll

Are the Jays a playoff team?

They should be in the hunt for a least a wild-card spot, unless another star or two (I’m looking at you Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista) land on the DL.

Toronto doesn’t make it to my projected World Series final.

Instead, I’m predicting the San Francisco Giants over the Boston Red Sox in the 2017 Fall Classic.

Rick Zamperin’s projected 2017 MLB standings

AL East

    Red SoxBlue Jays (wild card)RaysYankeesOrioles

AL Central

    IndiansTigersRoyalsWhite SoxTwins

AL West

    RangersAstros (wild card)MarinersAngelsAthletics

NL East


NL Central

    CubsCardinals (wild card)PiratesBrewersReds

NL West

    GiantsDodgers (wild card)RockiesDiamondbacksPadres

Our live coverage has ended. This is an archived live blog.

Latest updates:
-Death toll rises to 11
-Russia has opened a terrorism case as a result of blast
-Authorities clarify only 1 blast occurred, not multiple
-Russian anti-terrorism committee says it found, deactivated a bomb at a second subway station
-Officials say suspect was 23-year old who came from ex-Soviet Central Asia and was linked to radical Islamist groups
-Search warrants have been issued for at least 2 people

WATCH: At least 11 people are dead after a bomb exploded on a subway in St. Petersburg, Russia. As Jeff Semple reports, terrorism is suspected, but all possible causes are being investigated.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – A bomb blast tore through a subway train deep under Russia’s second-largest city Monday, killing 11 people and wounding more than 40 in a chaotic scene that left victims sprawled on a smoky platform. Hours later, anguish and fear rose again when police found and defused a shrapnel-packed explosive device at another St. Petersburg station.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came while President Vladimir Putin was visiting the city, his hometown. In the past two decades, Russian trains and planes have been frequent targets of terrorism, usually blamed on Islamic militants.

News reports initially said police were searching for two suspects, and Russian state television showed a photo of one suspect wearing what appeared to be a skullcap characteristic of Russia’s Muslim regions. However, the Interfax news agency later cited unspecified sources as saying police now suspect the blast was the work of a suicide bomber linked to radical Islamists.

Deadly blast rocks St. Petersburg metro


Deadly blast rocks St. Petersburg metro


At least 9 reportedly killed in St. Petersburg subway explosion


Video shows St. Petersburg explosion victims on ground, rescue crews rushing to scene


Putin says not yet clear what caused St. Petersburg metro blast

The National Anti-Terrorism Committee said it was looking for the “perpetrators and organizers of the terror attack.”

St. Petersburg, a major tourist destination famed for its imperial palaces and lavish art museums, had been spared previous attacks.

READ MORE: Russia may use St. Petersburg bombing as reason to tighten control: expert

“From now on, I will be scared to take the subway,” said Marina Ilyina, 30, who brought flowers to the station where the train stopped after the bombing. “We in St. Petersburg thought we wouldn’t be touched by that.”

The explosion occurred in midafternoon as the train travelled between stations on one of the city’s north-south lines.

The driver chose to continue on to the next stop, Technological Institute, a decision praised by the Investigative Committee as aiding evacuation efforts and reducing the danger to passengers who would have had to walk along the electrified tracks.

The National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the death toll was 11, with another 45 people being treated for wounds in hospitals.

Amateur video broadcast by Russian TV showed people lying on the platform of the Technological Institute station, and others bleeding and weeping just after the damaged train pulled in.

“Everything was covered in smoke. There were a lot of firefighters,” Maria Smirnova, a student on a train behind the stricken one, told independent TV station Dozhd.

Within two hours of the blast, authorities had found and deactivated another bomb at another busy station, Vosstaniya Square, the anti-terror agency said. That station is a major transfer point for passengers on two lines and serves the railway station to Moscow.

Russian law enforcement agencies confirmed the device was loaded with shrapnel, and the Interfax news agency said it contained up to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of explosives.

Interfax cited an unidentified law enforcement official saying that investigators think the suspected suicide bomber left the bomb at the Vosstaniya Square station before blowing himself up on the train.

The agency said authorities believe the suspect, a 23-year old who came from ex-Soviet Central Asia and was linked to radical Islamist groups, carried the explosive device onto the train in a rucksack.

Asked about the report, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov wouldn’t comment, saying it’s up to law enforcement agencies to comment on details of the probe.

The entire St. Petersburg subway system was shut down and evacuated, but partial service resumed after about six hours.

Security was immediately tightened at all of the country’s key transportation sites, Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee said. Moscow officials said that included the subway in the Russian capital.

Putin, who meeting with the president of Belarus at the Constantine Palace on the city’s outskirts, offered condolences on national television.

“Law enforcement agencies and intelligence services are doing their best to establish the cause and give a full picture of what happened,” a sombre-looking Putin said.

He later laid flowers outside the Technological Institute station, where the damaged train arrived after the explosion.

Some residents of St. Petersburgh, a city of 5 million, responded with both dismay and determination.

“They won’t succeed in breaking up our country. We are all citizens of one country despite various political views and religious beliefs,” said 24-year-old Alexander Malikov, who brought flowers and candles to an improvised memorial outside one of the stations.

The bombing drew widespread condemnation.

President Donald Trump said it was “absolutely a terrible thing.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the U.S. was prepared to offer assistance to Russia.

Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group, which is backing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces along with Russia, says the incident was the type of “terrorism” Russia was fighting in Syria.

Wounded treated by emergency services at scene of St. Petersburg metro blast


Wounded treated by emergency services at scene of St. Petersburg metro blast


Emergency services, helicopter at scene of St. Petersburg metro station blast


Hundreds gather outside St. Petersburg subway station following explosion


Stream of commuters outside subway station in St. Petersburg following deadly blast

Most of the terrorist attacks in Russia have been connected to the insurgency in Chechnya and other Caucasus republics in the southern part of the country.

The last confirmed attack was in October 2015 when Islamic State militants downed a Russian airliner heading from an Egyptian resort to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.

The Dec. 25, 2016, crash of a Russian plane near the southern city of Sochi that killed 92 people, including members of the Red Army Choir, is widely believed to have been due to a bomb, but no official cause has been given.

Two female suicide bombers killed 40 people and wounded more than 100 in the Moscow subway on March 29, 2010. Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the attack, warning Russian leaders that “the war is coming to their cities.”

A Moscow-to-St. Petersburg train was bombed on Nov. 27, 2009, in an attack that left 26 dead and 100 injured. Umarov’s group also said he ordered this attack.

Russian airports also have been targeted. On Jan. 24, 2011, a suicide bomber blew himself up at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, killing 37 people and wounding 180. The same airport in August 2004 saw Islamic suicide bombers board two airplanes and bring them down, killing a total of 90 people.


Vasilyeva reported from Moscow. Vladimir Isachenkov and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

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A lion and a bear, just rescued from Mosul’s zoo, are waiting at a checkpoint in northern Iraq to fly to safety outside the country.

The two animals nearly starved to death in their cages while battle raged around them in the Iraqi city earlier this year.

READ MORE: Starving bear, lion the lone survivors found at Mosul zoo once held by ISIS

HangZhou Night Net


  • U.S. claims responsibility for Mosul airstrike that locals claim killed 200 civilians

  • Civilians flee hunger, shelling in besieged Mosul

  • 90-year-old rescued from Mosul says ISIS war worse than Saddam Hussein reign

    Mosul is being contested by Iraqi government forces and Islamic State militants.

    Several other animals at the zoo died from neglect but these two were finally rescued by the animal charity Four Paws.

    The first attempt to move them met with failure as Kurdish authorities denied them entry into their autonomous region last Tuesday and they had to be moved back into the zoo.

    The city of Mosul lies inside Iraq while the nearest international airport is in Irbil, in the self-governing territory of Iraqi Kurdistan.

    Another attempt was made on Thursday and the animals are still stuck at a checkpoint between Mosul and Irbil.

    They are being taken care of by a veterinary team but are in ill health: the bear suffers from pneumonia, while the lion has a joint condition.

    Four Paws said on Sunday it was optimistic that the animals would be allowed to cross into Kurdish territory and leave the country in the coming days to a new home.

    There are several other animals stuck in the decrepit zoo, including three monkeys, three peacocks, two goats and a pregnant horse.

NEW YORK – President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is due to spend Monday in Iraq with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a senior administration official said.

HangZhou Night Net

The official did not release additional details about the trip in which Kushner is accompanying Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. The official said that Kushner wanted to see the situation in Iraq for himself and show support for the Baghdad government.

The administration official who provided the information late Sunday wasn’t authorized to speak about confidential meetings by name and demanded anonymity.

Kushner’s West Wing portfolio is robust. He has been deeply involved with presidential staffing, recently launched a task force meant to modernize government using lessons drawn from the private sector, and has played the role of shadow diplomat, advising on relations with the Middle East, Canada and Mexico.

READ MORE: Jared Kushner to testify in Russian probe after connection with Russian bank surfaces

And though Kushner had no previous diplomatic or government experience, Trump also tasked him with trying to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Trump told Kushner at a gala a few days before his inauguration.

Kushner was also the latest Trump associate to be swept up into the ongoing probe into contacts with Russian officials. The White House confirmed last week that he had volunteered to be interviewed by the Senate intelligence committee. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the committee’s chairman, said that Kushner would likely be under oath and would submit to a “private interview” about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials.

Kushner is married to Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka. He was expected to have a major role in meetings later this week between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s winter retreat in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Iraq trip was first reported by The New York Times.

Kushner’s trip began against a backdrop of an ongoing investigation into civilian deaths in an area of Mosul near the site of an air-strike by U.S.-led coalition forces last month.

His visit marks an early foray for the Trump administration into the situation in Iraq and came just two weeks after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he was assured by the president the U.S. will accelerate its support for his country’s struggle against the Islamic State group.

READ MORE: Who in Trump’s inner circle doesn’t have ties to Russia?

Al-Abadi met with Trump and Kushner in Washington recently and said he had the impression that the United States would take a more aggressive approach, although he did not say what that might entail.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis recently presented Trump with the outlines of a comprehensive approach to defeating IS and other extremist groups on a global scale, but specifics have yet to be worked out. Officials have indicated that the approach is unlikely to depart radically from the Obama administration’s strategy, at least with regard to ongoing efforts in Iraq and Syria.

Iraq was part of the Trump administration’s original travel ban but was removed from the revised version after a request from the Pentagon and the State Department highlighting Iraq’s key role in fighting the Islamic State. The second travel ban, which restrictions immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, has been halted by a federal court. The U.S. Justice Department has announced an appeal.


Associated Press writers Vivian Salama and Catherine Lucey in Washington contributed to this report.

Stephen Harper may be gone from federal politics but the former prime minister’s Calgary riding and that of former Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney remained true blue in a pair of byelections Monday.

In Calgary Heritage, Bob Benzen was leading with about 70 per cent of the vote, well clear of the Liberals’ Scott Forsyth at 22.6 per cent.

“Many people have pointed out to me that I have some really big shoes to fill and it’s true,” Benzen told cheering supporters.

HangZhou Night Net

He thanked Harper for his friendship and advice during the campaign and also the former prime minister’s wife, Laureen, his youngest brother, Robert, and his mother, Margaret.

“Once again the voters in Calgary Heritage have elected a Conservative to elect the productive middle-class values of prudence, hard work, merit and risk taking,” said Robert Harper, who served as Benzen’s honorary campaign chairman.

“The voters of Calgary Heritage have once again rejected the false gleam of the Jane Austen middle class (to) which Justin Trudeau belongs.

“Bob, like real middle-class Canadians, knows that doing a job means working hard and doing the job he’s been elected to, unlike a middle-aged Justin Trudeau, who acts like a preening adolescent, pretending to do a job.”

Benzen told reporters voters have sent a message to the federal Liberals that they do not want a carbon tax and need support for jobs, especially in the struggling energy sector.

He said it was essential that the Conservatives maintain Harper’s legacy in Calgary Heritage.

“If I couldn’t hold the prime minister’s riding that would have been a terrible defeat for me and a terrible defeat for the Conservative party,” Benzen said.

In Calgary Midnapore, Conservative Stephanie Kusie cruised to an easy win, posting 76.5 per cent of the vote with just over half of polls reporting, leaving her closest rival Liberal candidate Haley Brown at 17.6 per cent.

“I would like to thank the Conservative Party of Canada, the 22nd prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, and 19-year member of Parliament and my predecessor Jason Kenney,” Kusie said.

She told reporters that the byelections in Calgary have given a voice to those who are frustrated with the way things have been going.

“I think it sends a message that the Liberal Party policies, Justin’s policies, are not working here in Calgary Midnapore. The electorate has shown that…they are not satisfied with the job the Liberal Party is doing.”

2 byelection signs set on fire in Calgary-Midnapore riding

Advance polls for both ridings were held on March 24, 25, 26 and 27.

In total, five seats were up for grabs in the byelection, including two in Ontario and one in Quebec.

Calgary-Heritage candidate list:

Khalis Ahmed – New Democratic Party

Bob Benzen – Conservative Party of Canada

Scott Forsyth – Liberal Party of Canada

Stephen J.  Garvey – National Advancement Party of Canada

Darcy Gerow – Libertarian Party of Canada

Taryn Knorren   – Green Party of Canada

Jeff Willerton – Christian Heritage Party of Canada

Calgary-Midnapore candidate list:

Haley Brown – Liberal Party of Canada

Kulbir Singh Chawla – National Advancement Party of Canada

Larry R. Heather – Christian Heritage Party of Canada

Holly Heffernan – New Democratic Party

Stephanie Kusie – Conservative Party of Canada

Ryan Zedic – Green Party of Canada

With files from Melissa Gilligan