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    A fire first reported in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park was still burning 10 days later and had spread across more than 10,000 acres, officials said. 

    More than 350 firefighters from as far as Puerto Rico were working to contain the blaze Tuseday, the National Park Service said. 

    Hundreds of personnel were using aircraft and ground vehicles to extinguish the fire, which closed portions of the Appalachian Trail and Skyline Drive. 

    The fire was reported around 1:15 p.m. April 16 and had scorched some 70 acres when firefighters first arrived. Flames had consumed more than 2,000 acres by Monday and had doubled in size 24 hours later. The National Park Service said Monday night the fire had spread across 10,376 acres.

    Mountain laurel, pine and oak forests are burning.

    Firefighters from 33 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico were battling the forest fire. They were equipped with four helicopters, two airplanes and several ground vehicles, the National Park Service said.

    National Park Service officials were investigating the cause of the fire. The forest is unusually dry this year, with rainfall 3 to 4 inches below normal for the spring, according to the National Park Service.

    Residents near Shenandoah National Park are not at risk, officials said. The smoke was not expected to affect air quality in Culpeper, Charlottesville, Elkton or Harrisonburg, Virginia, the National Park Service said on its Facebook page.

    About 17 miles of the Appalachian Trail were closed Tuesday, from Blackrock Gap (mile 87.5) to Powell Gap (mile 70). The Skyline Drive trail was closed between Swift Run Gap (mile 65.5) to black Rock Gap (mile 87.5). More than a dozen other trails were closed. A full list of closures is available on the park’s Facebook page

    The National Park Service estimates the spread of the blaze can be stopped by Saturday, two weeks after it was reported.

    Most forest fires in Virginia are caused by human actions and can be prevented, the Virginia Department of Forestry says.

    The department recommends the taking the following steps to help prevent fires:

    • Do not leave a campfire fire unattended. If a fire does become uncontained, call 911 immediately
    • Keep a supply of water and a rake or shovel near the fire
    • Start fires only when the wind is calm
    • Report any acts of arson immediately and note a description of the suspect and their vehicle
    • Teach children about how to safely set and put out a campfire


    Photo Credit: National Park Service
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

    A forest fire in Shenandoah National Park spread to 10,000 acres, bringing over 300 firefighters to beat back the blaze.A forest fire in Shenandoah National Park spread to 10,000 acres, bringing over 300 firefighters to beat back the blaze.

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    More than 100 firefighters from approximately 25 fire departments battled a large fire at a chicken coop on a farm in Lebanon on Tuesday night and the state police fire marshal is now investigating.

    The fire broke out at the Kofkoff Egg Farm, at 400 Mack Road, around 5:40 p.m. and firefighters spent more than four hours battling the blaze.

    No people were injured in the fire, but thousands of chickens might have been killed.  

    According to Kofkoff's website, the farm has facilities in Bozrah, Colchester, Franklin and Lebanon, making it the largest egg producer in New England and the largest supplier of eggs in Connecticut food stores.

    Exactly 27 years ago to the day, 216,000 chickens were killed in a fire at Kofkoff Egg Farm, according to the Associated Press. The fire caused nearly $4 million in damages. 

    The cause of the fire is not known. 



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    A 10-year-old Fairfield student injured four teachers when he started throwing chairs and tables in the classroom, police said.

    Police were called to Dwight Elementary School at 1 p.m. when a student was "experiencing behavioral issues," Fairfield Police said.

    “We're not exactly sure what caused the student to all of a sudden just lose it," said Lt. James Perez of the Fairfield Police Department.

    Four teacher recieved minor injuries when they tried to manage the student.

    “In an attempt to calm him down, they ended up receiving various different minor injuries," Lt. Perez said.

    One teacher was transported to Saint Vincent's Hospital and another saw a private physician. The other two declined medical attention, according to police.

    The child was released to his parents at the scene. 

    Dan Corcoran contributed to this report.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images/Blend Images RM

    Tables and blackboard in empty lecture hallTables and blackboard in empty lecture hall

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    More employees from the Department of Children and Families were laid off on Wednesday.

    According to the Governor's Office of Policy and Management, 14 DCF workers received layoff notices. It brings the total number of layoffs within DCF to 127.

    The employees are laid off effective today, according to a release from OPM.

    Gov. Dannel Malloy has said about 2,500 state employees will be laid off in an effort to cut spending amid a $922 million budget deficit.

    In all, 560 employees have received layoff notices so far.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    Arizona Democratic congressman Raúl Grijalva believes sexual orientation should be included in the Census to strengthen the LGBTQ community's access to resources and legislation, NBC News reported.

    Rep. Grijalva and Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) requested the American Community Survey start asking Americans about their sexual orientation and gender identity to create “urgently needed” statistics for the LGBTQ population. 

    "In order to make further progress toward understanding the LGBT population (including its economic, racial, and geographic diversity), we strongly believe the Census Bureau should measure ACS respondents' sexual orientation and gender identity," they said in a letter to Census Director John Thompson. 

    Grijalva said other categories like marital status are based on sexual orientation and gender identity.



    Photo Credit: AP

    Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., speaks during a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Tucson, Ariz.Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., speaks during a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Tucson, Ariz.

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    Health care prices vary in different parts of the U.S., according to a new study that digs into the pattern of costs around the country, NBC News reported.

    The report from the Health Care Cost Institute finds prices for the same procedures vary even within the same state. 

    Some differences make sense: Prices in Alaska are high because medical costs there are 2.6 times the national average. But other differences are hard to explain — a knee surgery in New Jersey costs $24,000, while the same procedure in Oregon can cost $43,000.

    Unlike others, this report looked at the price people paid with private health insurance. Most Americans — more than 60 percent — are covered by private health insurance, usually through their employer, while 32 percent have government health insurance.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    A stethoscope seen at a doctor's office.A stethoscope seen at a doctor's office.

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    Some students at Nathan Hale-Ray School in East Haddam are asking school officials to have all students wear the same color instead to help students who do not identify with a gender feel more comfortable.

    Traditionally for the Moodus area school, girl students wear white graduation gowns and boys wear blue.

    “We think that changing to one color would set the precedence that both genders are equal and it would allow transgender students or students who don’t conform to a single gender (to) allow them to feel more comfortable on graduation,” said student, Libby Ryan.

    Masey Bradway, a senior, said she would feel more comfortable with one single robe color for the graduating class.

    “I personally identify as female, that’s what I was assigned at birth but I’m very involved in the LGBT community-- I’m LGBT myself,” said Bradway. “We all attend the same classes, we all do the same tests, we all earn letter grades so its kind of silly to me.”

    The group plans to go before the board to address the issue.

    The students' graduation is scheduled for June 10.

    “I’m really hoping that by pushing this, even if it doesn’t come through, letting students know that we want to address these issues and that we want to face them and that we’re not afraid to address these issues,” said senior, Michael Homar.

    School system superintendent Brian Reas told NBC Connecticut while the conversation has yet to reach the board, he believes this is a topic that needs to be discussed.

    The students have not set a date of when they’ll present their proposal.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    A new study shows the Zika virus was circulating in Haiti in 2014, long before it became obvious that it was spreading in Brazil, NBC News reported. 

    The team checked out three mysterious infections in Haiti caused by the Zika virus. Their study raises questions about when and how Zika arrived in the Americas.

    "We know that the virus was present in Haiti in December of 2014," said Dr. Glenn Morris, a professor of medicine and the director of the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute. "And, based on molecular studies, it may have been present in Haiti even before that date." 

    Earlier this year, international experts used a "genetic clock" to show the Zika virus has changed. And it very closely matches a strain that circulated in French Polynesia in 2013. What's not clear is why it's now being seen to cause disease. Tests show it has mutated, but it's not yet clear if the mutations somehow make it more virulent.



    Photo Credit: AP

    This 2003 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a female Aedes albopictus mosquito acquiring a blood meal from a human host.This 2003 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a female Aedes albopictus mosquito acquiring a blood meal from a human host.

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  • 04/27/16--16:40: Fines for Bullies' Parents

  • Police in one small Wisconsin city are going to new lengths to prevent bullying: fining parents if their child is caught picking on others.

    The new ordinance in Shawano means parents of children acting as “bullies” could be fined hundreds of dollars if they don’t intervene, according to NBC affiliate NBC26 in Green Bay.

    Under the ordinance, police work with the Shawano School District to identify bullies and notify parents, who then have 90 days to intervene. If they don’t, and the child continues to bully, the parents could be fined $366. If the child bullies again within one year, they could be fined $681.

    Shawano Police Chief Mark Kohl told NBC26 the ordinance will help parents know more about what is going on with their kids, noting that many parents don’t know their children are acting as bullies.

    The ordinance includes physical and cyber-bullying and includes children under the age of 18.



    Photo Credit: NBC10

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    The U.S. Secret Service plans to raise the height of the White House security fence by 5 feet and add a new concrete foundation to reduce the risk of fence-jumpers, according to a copy of an agency report obtained by NBC Washington's News4 I-Team.

    The agency, along with the National Park Service, said it intends to begin building a “taller, stronger” fence to protect the White House grounds by 2018.

    Details of the plan were included in an audio recording of a briefing made by federal officials, which was released to the I-Team Wednesday. The same briefing is expected to be presented May 5 at a meeting of the National Capital Planning Commission, which must first approve any changes to White House fencing.

    “The current fence simply is not adequate for a modern era. We’ve said that before. It is becoming more and more acutely clear that that is in fact the case,” Secret Service official Tom Dougherty said in the briefing to federal officials.



    Photo Credit: US Secret Service

    A design of new White House fence coming in 2018.A design of new White House fence coming in 2018.

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    More taxation of Yale University property would harm the state’s economy, Yale officials said Wednesday at a press conference urging state lawmakers to not pass S.B. 414.

    The bill, according to Yale Officials, would tax any building producing more than $6,000 in revenue in a year.

    “S.B. 414 will discourage investment in CT, its bad policy and I believe it’s bad for New Haven’s future,” Yale University President Peter Salovey said in an address stressing how the Ivy League school is central to the Elm City’s economy.

    Yale is already paying the city $4.5 million in taxes for commercial properties, like the row of shops on Broadway. Salovey said the university also pays more than $8 million to New Haven each year in voluntary payments.

    “There is no other state in the country that attempts to tax research laboratory buildings on academic campuses,” Yale Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander told NBC Connecticut.

    Yale officials and business leaders said they fear if passed, the bill would stunt the growth of industries like bio-science and discourage research that produces start-up companies and creates private sector jobs.

    “They’re going to pop up in Boston, Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley, that’s where you’ll find the companies that could have, should have been in New Haven,” said Timothy Shannon of Canaan Partners.

    Lawmakers in support of the bill said it will help close the state’s budget deficit. They also argue the existing law needs to be updated.

    “The exemption that Yale has was created in a context when technology transfer of academic research was not even contemplated,” State Senate President Martin Looney told the Associated Press. “What we are looking to do is make sure that Yale is operating under the same standards the institutions such as Stanford and MIT operate under in their states.”

    Anthony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, said this tax unfairly targets Yale.

    “There’s no reason in the world that they should be beating up frankly on one institution that has been there friend,” Rescigno said, “what do they do to their enemies?”

    New Haven Mayor Toni Harp is backing an amended version of this bill, which exempts Yale’s athletic and entertainment venues, like Ingalls Ice Rink and Woolsey Hall.

    The state legislature recently dropped a bill that aimed at taxing Yale’s $25.6 billion endowment.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    Community leaders in New Haven are trying to garner support for an all-boys school geared toward African American and Latino students.

    The New Haven school district would need approval at the state level, but both Mayor Toni Harp  and auperintendent Garth Harries have expressed an interest in the idea.

    Rev. Boise Kimber, the pastor at the First Cavalry Baptist Church, said this type of school would help at-risk youth in New Haven reach their full potential in the classroom.

    “They can become more focused in a stabilized environment, more disciplined, in reference to how they dress how they look how they perceive each other,” Rev. Kimber said.

    Rev. Kimber and other community leaders want to model New Haven’s all-boys school after the Eagle Academy Foundation for inner city students in New York and New Jersey.

    “They saw the need of helping and trying to save African American boys and Latino boys,” Kimber said.

    Harries told NBC Connecticut he likes the idea of launching an all-boys school, citing his own education. He also points out minority students make up 80 percent of the district.

    “It fits for us in New Haven with a long history of portfolio schools that have themes and focal points,” he said. “It fits with a long history of orienting on the human development and the social, emotional learning of students. We know that boys and girls learn differently in different contexts.”

    New Haven parent Kimberly Nelson said she has her doubts about this proposal.

    “I don’t want them to do it,” she said, “They just can’t. The kids need to stay together. Boys need to be in schools with females and females need to be in school with guys.”

    There are still many questions that need to be answered, like what would the school’s grade structure be, Harries said. He added the district is not in the position to open a new school, but would like refocus an existing one.


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    Nearly 100 soldiers were formally welcomed home Wednesday after successfully completing their missions during months of deployment.

    The ceremony was a chance for Connecticut to thank the soldiers for everything they do. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman spoke and medals were handed out, as the service members and their families were honored.

    The 143rd Regional Support Group based in Middletown spent nearly nine months deployed overseas to Afghanistan. The 35 soldiers commanded a diverse, multi-coalition organization of 500 soldiers and civilians and were responsible for base protection.

    Normally units get up to two years to prepare for deployment, but this unit had only a month and rose to the occasion.

    “They literally had to leave their families and their jobs their school on short notice and answer the nations call,” Col. John Wiltse, Commander of the 143rd Regional Support Group said.

    The 192nd Military Police Battalion out of Niantic spent about 10 months at Guantanamo Bay. The 55 soldiers were deployed in support of detainee operations.

    “It’s difficult because we’re going from a new normal down there with all active duty soldiers to coming back to civilian life and just getting out of the sense that we can actually sit down and relax,” 1st Lt. Matthew Kuchta of the 192nd Military Police Battalion said.

    Several awards were given out including the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Many honored said while they are glad to be home, they would not hesitate to answer the call and serve their country again.

    “I enjoyed every minute of it. It was hot and the food was so-so, but it was great,” 1ST Lt. Mark Soltau said. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    The top two Republicans in the Connecticut General Assembly say Donald Trump's soaring popularity and landslide victory in the Connecticut Presidential Primary need to be embraced by voters across Connecticut.

    While both Rep. Themis Klarides and Sen. Len Fasano said they didn't like everything the businessman GOP presidential frontrunner has said, his popularity among GOP voters in Connecticut can't be denied after he won the state by thirty points on Tuesday night.

    “In terms of the language that’s being used by Donald Trump to talk about the politics, government, he’s a cathartic voice" said Sen. Fasano the Minority Leader in the State Senate who supported Gov. John Kasich in the GOP primary.

    "So those voters are rewarding him for speaking for them because those voices have been muted by our system that we have of political correctness.”

    Trump won across all education and income levels in Tuesday's vote according to NBC News exit polls.

    As Republicans in Connecticut try to win control of the State House and Senate this fall, they say they need to embrace what Trump is selling to capture the support of GOP voters who are participating in the process as a direct result of Trump's campaign.

    Sen. Tony Hwang who supported Kasich, now says there are lessons to be learned from Trump.

    “He has captured a sense of frustration and energy level that has been remarkable in any election cycle and I think it is incumbent upon us in any election cycle to understand that it exists and that we need harness it, capture it, and represent that.”

    Rep. Themis Klarides, the top Republican in the House of Representatives said the party needs to accept and figure out a way to capitalize on Trump's support, even with his comments about women and the notion of having Mexico build a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants from the United States.

    “I think people are ready for somebody who is out of the box and is not your typical politician," Rep. Klarides said.

    The Connecticut Democratic Party attempted to capitalize on the Trump win, saying his policies, rhetoric, and ideas are bad for Connecticut and not what voters want.

    In a statement, the Connecticut Democratic Party's Executive Director, Alynn Woischke said the Connecticut GOP "is no longer the party of reasoned debate and moderation, but has fully transformed into the party of Trump."



    Photo Credit: AP

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    A Southern California actor and acting coach best known for his role in "Jurassic Park" was sentenced Wednesday to six years in a state prison for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl for nearly a year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office confirmed.

    Cameron Thor, who has appeared in "Jurassic Park," "A Few Good Men," and "Hook," and the TV show "Star Trek: The Next Generation," was convicted of lewd acts that occurred seven years ago.  

    He was initially accused of assaulting the girl from April 2008 to March 2009, officials said.

    Thor was ordered to register as a sex offender by the judge after he assaulted the young girl who took acting lessons in his Agoura Hills home, the DA's office said.

    The district attorney said Thor drove the girl to the Santa Monica Mountains in March 2009 where he sexually assaulted her.

    Thor was charged in June of 2014 with sex crimes with a child under 14 years of age, kidnap, robbery, rape, and sexual penetration.

    A jury found Thor guilty of one count of lewd act upon a child and the special allegation of substantial sexual contact in August.

    The 56-year-old actor played Lewis Dodgson, a character who made a deal to buy dinosaur embryos, in the 1993 film "Jurassic Park."



    Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

    Cameron Thor, seen here in a scene from the 1993 film Cameron Thor, seen here in a scene from the 1993 film "Jurassic Park."

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  • 04/28/16--05:36: Boy With Cancer Wants Cards

  • The family of a boy battling incurable cancer is hoping the Chicago community can help give him a very special sixth birthday by sending cards in a show of support.

    Lucas "Bear" Cervone, who lives in the city’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood, was first diagnosed with pediatric leukemia in August 2012.

    "He fought through three very long years and very intensive years of treatment and he won, he beat it," said Lucas' father, Anthony Cervone. 

    But a short time later, he was diagnosed with another form of cancer, this one incurable. After a stem cell transplant in November 2015 and months in the hospital overcoming viruses, Lucas finally returned home, celebrating Christmas with his older brother, Franco, in February.

    Then, just a few weeks ago, the Cervone family received the news it had been dreading: doctors found an incurable tumor near Lucas' heart.

    "It has been decided that there are no further curative options," the family wrote April 25 on a Facebook page set up to support Lucas. "In simplest terms, there is nothing more we can do to fight this. We have started palliative chemo to attempt to slow the growth of the tumor. The tumor is wrapped around the pulmonary artery and is pressing on Lucas' heart."

    "This is our third time having to hear this," said Anthony Cervone. "I guess it's not as numbing but it's deafening."

    Now the Cervone family is focused on making Lucas' remaining days his happiest. 

    "I want him to have the best quality of life I can give him until the end," his father said.

    Lucas loves to read cards and received 500 letters from well-wishers for Christmas. His family is trying to surpass that number for Lucas' birthday on May 7. 

    Letters and cards can be sent to:

    Lucas Bear Heroes or Lucas Bear
    40 E. Chicago Ave., No. 162
    Chicago, IL 60611

    "He's my hero," said his mother, Rina Cervone. "I don't think I could ever be as strong as him."

    "What we want to show him is his family will be here with him, as well as everyone else," Anthony Cervone added.



    Photo Credit: Lucas Bear Heroes

    Lucas Lucas "Bear" Cervone turns six on May 7.

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    The United Nations mediator on Thursday said the couple month-old Syrian ceasefire is "barely alive" and called on the leaders of the United States and the Russian Federation to step in to save it, NBC News reported.

    U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura voiced deep concern at the truce unraveling in Aleppo and at least three other hotspots, although he saw some narrowing of positions between the government and opposition visions of political transition.

    "Hence my appeal for a U.S.-Russian urgent initiative at the highest level, because the legacy of both President Obama and President Putin is linked to the success of what has been a unique initiative which started very well. It needs to end very well," de Mistura told a news conference.



    Photo Credit: AP

    In this image made from video posted online by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, men stand in rubble after airstrikes and shelling hit Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, April 24, 2016.In this image made from video posted online by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, men stand in rubble after airstrikes and shelling hit Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, April 24, 2016.

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    For seasoned court watchers, attorneys, even veteran prosecutors, the sentencing of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert proved to be powerful and troubling.

    "Nothing is more disturbing than having 'serial child molester' and 'Speaker of the House' in the same sentence," Judge Thomas Durkin told a packed but silent audience in his 14th floor courtroom. “Some actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works.”

    For two hours, the gut-wrenching testimony unfolded. Two accusers detailed sordid tales of sexual abuse from Hastert’s days as a wrestling coach in Yorkville. His own attorney conceded he could not contest the allegations. Prosecutor Steven Block told the judge that the government regretted they couldn’t hit him with tougher laws.

    “Had there been an opportunity to charge the defendant with sexually abusing boys in his care, we would have,” Block said. “His decision last year was designed to keep his dark secrets.”

    That decision, to mislead agents investigating massive bank withdrawals to pay off an accuser, eventually led to a person still identified only as “Individual A”, who described sexual abuse at Hastert’s hands when he wrestled for Yorkville High School in the seventies. Eventually, four other alleged victims were discovered.

    One, Stephen Reinboldt, died from Aids in 1995. But in court Wednesday, his sister Jolene Burdge stood before the former Speaker.

    “I hope I have been your worst nightmare,” she told Hastert, who did not react. “You took his life Mr. Hastert…because you took his innocence and turned it against him.”

    Reporters filled the jury box, which went unused because Hastert had entered a guilty plea to a crime called “structuring”. It’s an arcane statute governing massive withdrawals of money. Because of statutes of limitations, he could not be charged with the sex crimes relating to those transactions. But the evidence was presented nonetheless. And it was difficult to hear.

    “As a young boy, I wanted to be part of what Coach Hastert had created,” said another accuser, “Individual D”. A near gasp rumbled through the courtroom when he stated his name as Scott Cross. His brother Tom was well known to most reporters in the courtroom, as a former State Representative, and onetime protégé of the Speaker himself.

    “Coach Hastert sexually abused me my senior year in high school,” Cross said, choking back tears. “I did not say anything to anyone. Coach Hastert and I never spoke of it.”

    Cross said he considered the abuse his darkest secret.

    “I wanted you to know the pain he caused me then, and still causes me today,” he told the judge. “It is important to tell the truth—I could no longer remain silent.”

    As observers watched Hastert, he showed no emotion. No obvious twinges of pride as his attorney Tom Green described his client’s post-9/11 heroics on Capitol Hill. No apparent shame when Green stated, “Mr. Hastert abused.”

    Green concede that his client “made some very poor decisions.” But he begged the judge to consider the total arc of Hastert’s life.

    “Dennis Hastert was able to reshape his life into a career of public service and extraordinary accomplishment,” Green said. Then he conceded, that those “decades of accomplishment have been erased.”

    Then the time came for Hastert himself to state his case. The clock ticked. Reporters leaned forward. His attorneys helped the former speaker push his walker to a lectern. A prepared statement was unfolded before him.

    “I’m deeply ashamed,” Hastert read from the paper. “I’m the only one responsible.”

    But even then, he could not bring himself to use the words “sexual abuse”.

    “I know I am here because I mistreated some of the athletes I coached,” he said. “The thing I want to do is say I’m sorry.”

    But the judge wasn’t buying it, and he interrupted Hastert’s statement.

    “Did you sexually abuse Mr. Cross?” he asked.

    “I don’t remember doing that,” Hastert said. “I accept his statement.”

    “Individual B?” the judge asked.

    “Yes,” Hastert admitted.

    “Stephen Reinboldt?”

    “That’s a different situation,” Hastert said cryptically. He paused to confer with his attorney, before conceding that he could not dispute the comments of Reinboldt’s sister.

    “So you did sexually abuse him?” the incredulous judge asked.

    “Yes,” Hastert said.

    When it came time for him to impose sentence, Durkin spoke for more than 40 minutes. He did nothing to hide his disgust, and clearly demonstrated that the many pleas for mercy had fallen on deaf ears.

    “If I’m going to consider the good, I must also consider the bad,” Durkin said, “which is that the defendant is a serial child molester.”

    “Your actions were cynical,” he told Hastert. “You abused those who wouldn’t or couldn’t cry out.”

    Attorneys had asked for leniency due to Hastert’s failing health and advanced age. The judge said the Bureau of Prisons would offer adequate medical care.

    “Your age did not prevent you from committing crimes,” he said. “Your age should not prevent you from being punished.”

    In the end, he sentenced Hastert to 15 months in prison, and a $250,000 fine. Reporters frantically sent out the news, thumbs flying on silent keyboards. Hastert’s attorneys made last minute arrangements for their client’s surrender, pending assignment to an appropriate prison.

    And then it was over. But not before one last moment of despir from the judge.

    “Nothing today gave me pleasure,” he said. “This is a horrible case. I hope I never have to see a case like this ever again.”



    Photo Credit: NBC 5

    Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives in court for his sentencing on April 27, 2016.Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives in court for his sentencing on April 27, 2016.

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  • 04/28/16--03:15: Baby Otter, Bats at NYC Zoo

  • An adorable otter pup and endangered fruit bats are the newest additions to a New York City zoo.

    The Bronx Zoo announced this week that an Asian small-clawed otter pup and a colony of Rodrigues fruit bats are now in JungleWorld, an exhibit that highlights Asian jungle habitats.

    Both the otter and the bats belong to species that are considered threatened by habitat loss.

    The bats, which are also known as Rodrigues flying foxes, are considered “critically endangered.” They’re only found on the island of Rodrigues in the western Indian Ocean.

    Just across from the bats at JungleWorld is an otter pup that was born to a pair of Asian small-clawed otters this spring.

    Asian small-clawed otters live in a range of Southeast Asian that spans India, the Philippines, Taiwan and parts of southern China. But the species is now classified as “vulnerable” because of habitat loss and exploitation.

    BronxZoo.com has more info on the JungleWorld exhibit. 



    Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of the Bronx Zoo

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    A heavily redacted version of the 3,000-page investigation into the U.S. Army's bombing of a Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan last year will be released Friday, multiple defense officials told NBC News.

    The Oct. 3 airstrike against a Doctors Without Borders trauma center in Kunduz killed at least 42 people, the nonprofit organization, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), has said.

    President Barack Obama has apologized for the airstrike, which was conducted as Afghan troops tried to retake the city from the Taliban, and the military pledged an investigation. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan called it a "tragic mistake."

    The new commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, will brief the findings, which include details about administrative punishment against several U.S. service members — including one general officer. 



    Photo Credit: AP

    In this Oct. 16, 2015, file photo, the charred remains of the Doctors Without Borders hospital is seen after being hit by a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan.In this Oct. 16, 2015, file photo, the charred remains of the Doctors Without Borders hospital is seen after being hit by a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

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