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    East Windsor town officials held a special meeting at East Windsor High School Saturday to vote on a Development Agreement between the town and MMCT Venture LLC, the joint Mohegan-Mashantucket Pequot company, that could pave the way for a third casino in the state.

    In a forum earlier this week, representatives from MMCT said they were close to announcing their preferred location for the project, having narrowed it down to East Windsor or Windsor Locks. 

    Casino allies have said this project is about economic growth, and maintaining critical employment in the state, along with crucial state tax dollars that come from the casinos. The tribes said a third casino in Connecticut is essential to compete with the new MGM Resorts International Casino that is scheduled to open in late 2018 near Springfield, Mass.

    The Coalition Against Casino and Expansion has spoken against plans for a third casino in the state, saying that gambling has negative economic and social impacts.

    Opponents in East Windsor have also voiced concerns about traffic congestion and the toll on the town’s infrastructure and emergency services.

    Voting on a real estate development agreement does not necessarily green-light a project, but rather lays out ground rules for a project, such as a time frame and how the design can move forward. Lawmakers would have to approve a third casino, and the governor would have to sign off on any bill that made it to his desk. 



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

    East Windsor town officials held a special meeting Saturday to vote on a casino development agreement.East Windsor town officials held a special meeting Saturday to vote on a casino development agreement.

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    New Britain fire officials said Friday they cannot complete a full investigation into large fire in a multi-family home on West Street during a major snow storm earlier this month because the damage to the structure made it unsafe for investigators.

    Officials said while they were able to point to unattended cooking as a possible cause, a complete investigation could not be completed because the structure was heavily damaged and unsafe. Because of those restrictions, fire officials ruled the fire undetermined.

    Firefighters had to rescue several people hanging from windows of the burning house on Feb. 9.

    The fire broke out at the home at 116 West St. and left people trapped on the upper floors, according to fire officials.

    Firefighters had to rescue as many as six or eight people who were hanging from windows.

    Four people were taken to the hospital, including one person who suffered serious smoke inhalation. A firefighter was also taken to the hospital to be evaluated for exhaustion.

    Mayor Erin Stewart said the city opened a nearby school to use as a shelter for families who were forced into the snow by the fire.

    In all, about 15 people were affected, she said.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    North Haven police have arrested two men accused of stealing wood from a local wood working company.

    Police said over the past few months, an estimated $100,000 worth of wood has been stolen from a local company, and police began a surveillance operation.

    According to police, Saturday morning two suspects, identified as Jairo Solorzano-Guerra, 38, of New Haven and Luis Chacon, 40, of West Haven, were caught trying to drive away with $13,000 worth of wood.

    Both men were arrested and charged with second-degree larceny and criminal trespass. They were each held on a $5,000 bond and are scheduled to appear in court on March 3.



    Photo Credit: North Haven Police Department

    Luis Chacon and Jairo Solorzano-GuerraLuis Chacon and Jairo Solorzano-Guerra

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    Some students in Hartford spent part of their Saturday at the Hartford Public Library for the annual “African American History Bee.”

    Students from the Milner School, Simpson-Waverly School, Wish School and Martin Luther King Junior School competed at the event, which coincides with Black History Month.

    Jeremy Mendez, who attends MLK, said his team had been preparing for a week or two and studying through lunch at school.

    “It’s good, it’s challenging and I like the fact that everybody knows their stuff,” he said.

    Mendez said he felt the information he learned for the competition went beyond what he was taught at school and that it brought up things he felt were very important to his education.

    “At MLK we don’t have social studies anymore, which means we don’t get the education that we really need, about our past, about our history about our ancestors so, it’s like really important to me that, you know, this is happening,” he said.

    The event ran from noon to 3 p.m. and was hosted by NBC Connecticut’s own Leslie Mayes.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

    Multiple schools competed at the African American History Bee at the Hartford Public Library Saturday.Multiple schools competed at the African American History Bee at the Hartford Public Library Saturday.

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    The 15-year-old giraffe named "April," who has captivated millions of people across the world as they watch a live stream in anxious anticipation of the birth of her fourth calf at an upstate New York zoo, is still pregnant and doing well. 

    Veterinarians with the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, outside Binghamton, said April is experiencing increased belly movement. The happy and healthy mother-to-be has also started to produce milk and shed a few droplets during a Saturday evening examination.

    The spotted beauty gazed into the camera, wiggling her ears as she chewed her breakfast Sunday morning. The zoo said the giraffes will stay inside due to the extreme temperature drop and wet or frozen conditions. 

    "Rest assured, they receive extra enrichment and extra attention on days they do not venture out," the zoo said. "A little extra bonding time!"

    She and her mate, 5-year-old Oliver, had to be separated from each other while they frolicked outside Saturday afternoon because he got aggressive and wanted to rough house. According to vets, bullish behavior is common for male giraffes during the final stages of pregnancy.

    "He does not want to play house -- he wants to ROUGH house," the park wrote in a Facebook post Saturday morning. "That is natural behavior as males take no part in rearing their young, nor have a need for a female once she is pregnant. Sad but true."

    Viewers were concerned about the long-necked lovers' separation and questioned the vet's intentions until the zoo offered reassurance and told animal lovers to trust them.

    Not much changed as the day came to a close: April alternated between standing still, swinging her tail, drinking water and slowly circling her pen. At one point during the afternoon, the calf could be seen kicking around in her belly.

    April's pregnancy was catapulted into global headlines earlier Thursday after YouTube briefly yanked the zoo's live stream following complaints by animal activists that it violated the site's policies concerning "nudity and sexual content." Thousands upon thousands of commenters voiced their frustration on Facebook and YouTube, and the stream was restored within an hour or so. 

    More than 30 million people across the globe have tuned in over the last few days to watch it. You can check out the live stream above.

    April was seen slinking gracefully around her hay-laden home Friday morning in no apparent distress. Once she goes into active labor, zoo officials say the keepers will go in to help her but the first-time dad will be held out of the pen. Active labo

    Giraffe pregnancies last for 15 months. Labor lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The calf will be about 150 pounds and 6 feet tall at birth and up and walking in about an hour. The zoo says it will hold a contest to name it.



    Photo Credit: Animal Adventure Park/Mazuri
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    President Donald Trump's job approval rating stands at just 44 percent — a record low for a newly inaugurated commander-in-chief — and half of Americans say that his early challenges suggest unique and systemic problems with his administration, according to a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, NBC News reported.

    In the poll, conducted February 18-22, 48 percent of Americans said they disapprove of Trump's performance as president and 32 percent said that his first month in office demonstrates that he is not up to the job. Asked about early challenges in the first month of his presidency, 52 percent called the issues "real problems" that are specific to his administration, while 43 percent of Americans attributed them to typical "growing pains" for any new president.

    The new rating comes two days before Trump is set to address a joint session of Congress, a State of the Union-style speech in which new presidents typically lay out their vision for the country.



    Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 24, 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland.U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 24, 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland.

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    Oscar Hernandez-Carranza, the father suspected in a fatal stabbing who prompted a multi-state AMBER Alert when he took off with his young daughter, is locked up on a $1.25 million bond in Pennsylvania as he faces a slew of charges related to his getaway from a homicide scene in Connecticut.

    He’s accused of killing his girlfriend in Bridgeport and then snatching their young daughter, prompting an AMBER Alert across several states.

    As the 39-year-old awaits extradition back to Connecticut, on Saturday night loved ones mourned the death of a mother taken far too soon.

    Candles lit up Greenwood Street in Bridgeport as friends and family came together for a vigil to remember Nidia Gonzalez.

    Police say the 26-year-old mother was stabbed to death in a home.

    Officers blamed her boyfriend Hernandez-Carranza for killing her and hurting another woman in the house.

    Family friends are in disbelief Gonzalez is gone.

    “She never got mad at anyone. She’s the happiest person you could meet,” Henry Rivera, a family friend, said.

    After the gruesome crime, detectives say Hernandez-Carranza grabbed his and Gonzalez’s six-year-old daughter and then took off.

    That prompted an AMBER Alert across several states for little Aylin.

    Police caught up with both of them in Pennsylvania, some 350 miles away from Bridgeport.

    Loves ones are comforted that Aylin – who could cheer up anyone - is safe.

    “She’s just that nice of a little girl and the fact that she was taken. And no one knows what’s going on,” Rivera said.

    Hernandez-Carranza was back in the country despite U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deporting him about four-years ago.

    The El Salvador native had prior convictions for assault and threatening.



    Photo Credit: Centre County Correctional Facility

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    A driver was arrested after he crashed through a fence and took down two telephone poles in Hartford Sunday morning, according to Hartford police.

    Police said the crash happened in the area of Hamilton Street and Bartholomew Avenue around 3:15 a.m. The roads were closed for several hours while utility crews repaired the damage.

    The driver of the car initially fled the scene but was quickly tracked down and taken into custody, police said. He has not been identified at this time.


    A car crashed into a fence and took down utility poles near Hamilton Street and Bartholomew Avenue in Hartford early Sunday morning.A car crashed into a fence and took down utility poles near Hamilton Street and Bartholomew Avenue in Hartford early Sunday morning.

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    Sunday morning, the temperature was 20 degrees colder than the day before. The wind chill made it feel like the mid-20s outside.

    “It’s cold. I feel cold,” said Julio Baqero of Hartford.

    The morning’s chilly temperatures didn’t stop Baquero and plenty of others from pulling up to clean the winter grime off their cars.

    “It feel alright. I like the cold weather,” said Damon Bullock, Hartford.

    “It’s pleasantly cool,” added Kevin Brielmann, Cheshire.

    Miriam Gonzalez stayed inside and let someone else wash the salt and sand off her car.

    “I’ve been getting sick because of this weather. When it’s warm it’s okay, but when it’s getting too cold. Today’s very very cold,” explained Gonzalez.

    The roller coaster weather caused some people to ask Mother Nature to make up her mind.

    “If it’s gonna be winter, I prefer it to be winter. Last night we were in the house and our blood has thickened up and the house seemed so warm we had the windows open and it was a little odd,” said Stephen Kline of West Hartford.

    “Yesterday and Friday were a little bit too warm for my likes, for this time of year,” Brielmann said.

    While he welcomed winter’s return, Brielmann was quick to point out, “I certainly don’t want any more snow.”

    “I also can’t wait until spring comes,” Bullock added.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

    Temperatures dropped Saturday into Sunday but that didn't stop plenty from heading out to clean the winter dirt and grime off their cars.Temperatures dropped Saturday into Sunday but that didn't stop plenty from heading out to clean the winter dirt and grime off their cars.

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    Move over and slow down for emergency and construction vehicles.

    Connecticut state police are again spreading that message after a state Department of Transportation vehicle was struck by another vehicle while working in an active construction zone on Interstate 95 Sunday.

    [[414817723, C]]

    According to police, around 10:48 a.m. a DOT dump truck with a crash trailer working in a marked construction zone near exit 29 on I-95 south in Bridgeport was struck by a Toyota 4runner. The 4runner was traveling in the right lane of traffic and drifted into the right shoulder when the accident occurred.

    Police said the force of the crash caused heavy damage to both vehicles but only minor injuries were reported.

    The driver of the 4runner was charged with failure to obey the Connecticut "move over" law, distracted driving, and following too closely. The driver was not identified.

    Connecticut lawmakers are considering a proposal that would expand the move over law to include any vehicle pulled over on the side of the highway, not just emergency vehicles. 



    Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

    A CT DOT truck was hit by an SUV while working an active construction zone on I-95 Sunday.A CT DOT truck was hit by an SUV while working an active construction zone on I-95 Sunday.

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    Vandals targeted a Jewish cemetery in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia, knocking over hundreds of headstones. 

    Police responded to a report of a vandalism at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday at 9:40 a.m. When they arrived they were met by a man who told them three headstones belonging to his relatives were knocked over and damaged, authorities said.

    At least 100 more headstones were knocked over, police told NBC Philadelphia. A rabbi who walked through the cemetery told NBC10 he counted 460 headstones that were toppled or damaged.

    "This is not just a random act," said Rabbi Shawn Zevit of Mishkan Shalom. "To topple so many headstones clearly is a concerted effort with intent."

    Local rabbis have visited the cemetery throughout the day to comfort those who have loved ones buried there.

    "I'm devastated by this," said Janice Wilson of Overbrook. "I don't know whether to cry or to scream."

    Police believe the vandalism occurred between late Saturday night and Sunday morning.

    "My heart breaks for the families who found their loved ones' headstones toppled this morning," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney wrote in a released statement. "We are doing all we can to find the perpetrators who desecrated this final resting place, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia. I encourage Philadelphians to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters and to show them that we are the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection."

    Governor Tom Wolf also called the vandalism a "cowardly, disturbing act."

    "We must find those responsible and hold accountable," Wolf wrote.

    No arrests have been made and police have not released information on any suspects. The Anti-Defamation League is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. The Fraternal Order of Police is also offering a $3,000 reward bringing the total to $13,000.

    An organizer launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for the damage.

    Both the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect as well as Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon condemned the vandalism.

    Last week vandals damaged 154 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri. The incident sparked national outrage and a crowdfunding campaign that raised around $75,000 for repairs.

    More than 10 Jewish Community Centers across the country were also evacuated last week due to bomb threats.



    Photo Credit: Derrick Cheston
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    Route 10 in Granby will be closed Sunday night into early Monday morning while crews install a bridge shoring for a “super load” move.

    The road will be closed in the area of Canton Road from 8 p.m. Sunday until 2 a.m. Monday and a detour will be posted at Route 189 (Hartford Avenue) to Floydville Road.

    Drivers should avoid the area if possible and expect delays. Drivers looking to get to Bradley International Airport can take Interstate 91 instead of Route 10.

    The super load involves moving heavy turbines and generators to the Oxford power plant. The project will begin Sunday and run for several weeks. The Connecticut Department of Transportation planned out the route and each load will have a Connecticut State Police escort.

    For more information visit the Granby town website. 



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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    About 1,000 people gathered at the Central Connecticut State University campus in New Britain to make their voices heard about President Donald Trump at a town hall event Sunday.

    Many said they are concerned about changes in the country and want something to be done to stop it.

    Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) led the event, where Connecticut residents voiced concerns about the president, including his administration’s recent decision to bar some press from a briefing.

    The group discussed a range of worries, from the environment to programs being targeted for slashing.

    Melissa Daly of Groton told the crowd about how for the first time her insurance covered maternity costs. Now she fears having a child if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

    “Just thinking about all the millions of things that can go wrong during pregnancy and child birth and how I would pay for that while I’m home on unpaid maternity leave is terrifying,” Daly said.

    Blumenthal called for defending freedom of the press, the independence of the courts, and popular programs including health care and Social Security. And he said he’s ready to take on the president.

    “I am not saying Donald Trump wants to be a dictator. I’m not…(crowd disagrees)…We need to stand strong to make sure it doesn’t happen here,” Blumenthal said.

    Some in the crowd also took issues with the Democratic Party. Part of the concern was the money in politics.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

    Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) lead a town hall event at CCSU Sunday where Connecticut residents voiced concerns about President Donald Trump.Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) lead a town hall event at CCSU Sunday where Connecticut residents voiced concerns about President Donald Trump.

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    It has been five years since Trayvon Martin's death on February 26, 2012. And yet the seeds of the movement sewn in those early, tumultuous days, continue to grow.

    "We can't stop," Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father said at the time. "If we stop, the world will stop. We've got to keep fighting."

    In Martin's death, a movement was born.

    Many of the young people who took to the streets in those early days, in some cases by the thousands, had never participated in any form of protest before.

    For the five-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death, his parents released a book they co-authored, "Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin."

    Trayvon Martin's name has been written in textbooks. Legal and political scholars have studied his case. President Barack Obama, who from the Rose Garden a month after the shooting told the world "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," further immortalized the teen's name.

    In death, Trayvon Martin remains a specter of both pain and promise for a generation of young people who came of age in the shadow of his death and who boldly and fiercely proclaim that Black Lives Matter.



    Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    A woman holding a can of ice tea and bag of Skittles candy and hundreds of protesters take part in a 'Justice for Trayvon' vigil outside Los Angeles Federal Courthouse July 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, United States.A woman holding a can of ice tea and bag of Skittles candy and hundreds of protesters take part in a 'Justice for Trayvon' vigil outside Los Angeles Federal Courthouse July 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, United States.

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    President Donald Trump's choice to be secretary of the Navy, businessman Philip Bilden, said Sunday he was withdrawing from consideration for the post, citing concerns about privacy and separating himself from his business interests.

    Bilden's withdrawal raises similar issues to that of Vincent Viola, Trump's nominee for Army secretary who stepped aside earlier this month. Just last week, the Pentagon sought to tamp down reports that Bilden might pull out.

    Bilden was an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve from 1986-1996. He relocated to Hong Kong to set up an Asian presence for HarbourVest Partners LLC, a global private equity management firm. Bilden recently retired from HarbourVest Partners after 25 years.

    In a statement released Sunday by the Pentagon, Bilden said he determined that he would not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without what he called "undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family's private financial interests."

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement that he would make a recommendation to Trump for a nominee in the coming days.

    On Feb. 19, after press reports suggested that Bilden might drop out, the Pentagon issued a statement saying Bilden had assured Mattis he remained committed to serving as Navy secretary if confirmed by the Senate and that Mattis was confident Bilden was "the right leader" to rebuild the Navy and Marine Corps.

    Viola cited his inability to successfully navigate the confirmation process and Defense Department rules concerning family businesses. A military veteran and former Airborne Ranger infantry officer, he was also the founder of several businesses, including the electronic trading firm Virtu Financial. He also owns the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers and is a past chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange.



    Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alyssa Weeks/Released

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    California water authorities will stop the outflow from the Oroville Dam's crippled spillway to allow workers to remove debris blocking a hydroelectric plant from working, officials said Sunday.

    The Department of Water Resources said it will start gradually reducing outflows from the Northern California dam beginning Monday morning and completely halt them by the afternoon.

    The outflow from behind the 770-foot-tall dam will be stopped for several days to allow workers to clear concrete, silt and other debris from a pool at the bottom of the spillway. Removing the debris will protect a shuttered underground hydroelectric plant and allow it to eventually resume operations, the agency said.

    "Once operational, the Hyatt Power Plant can discharge roughly 14,000 cubic feet per second, which will allow DWR to better manage reservoir levels through the remaining spring runoff season," it said.

    The reservoir's water level has been reduced nearly 60 feet since it reached capacity at 901 feet earlier this month, the department said.

    The department said it will continue releasing 50,000 cubic feet of water per second the rest of Sunday and overnight. With inflows of water at only 25,000 cubic feet of water per second, more space will be made at the reservoir before the outflows are cut on Monday.

    On Feb. 11, water managers used the emergency spillway for the first time in the dam's 48-year-history after a chunk of concrete tore out the main spillway, creating a 200-foot-long, 30-foot-deep crater. But the flow of water ripped through a road below and carved out deep chasms in the ground, leading authorities to order a two-day evacuation of 188,000 people for fear the emergency spillway could fail.

    Since then, crews have been working to fortify the badly eroded emergency spillway.



    Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

    Riverbend Park and the Oroville Dam's spillways are seen in Oroville, California on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Almost 200,000 people were under evacuation orders in Northern California Monday after a threat of catastrophic failure at the United States' tallest dam. Officials said the threat had subsided for the moment as water levels at the Oroville Dam, 75 miles north of Sacramento, have eased. But people were still being told to stay out of the area.(JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)Riverbend Park and the Oroville Dam's spillways are seen in Oroville, California on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Almost 200,000 people were under evacuation orders in Northern California Monday after a threat of catastrophic failure at the United States' tallest dam. Officials said the threat had subsided for the moment as water levels at the Oroville Dam, 75 miles north of Sacramento, have eased. But people were still being told to stay out of the area.(JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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    One person is dead and a second was taken to the hospital after a car crashed into the Saugatuck River in Westport Saturday.

    Westport police said that around 7:40 p.m. emergency crews responded to 911 calls that a woman was screaming for help from the river near the Whelk Restaurant at 575 Riverside Avenue. When police and firefighters arrived they found the woman in the middle of the river being pulled with the current.

    Crews were able to rescue the woman using a civilian boat. She told officers she’d been in a car that crashed into the river and that there was another person with her in the car who may still be in the water. She was taken to Norwalk Hospital for treatment. She has not been identified.

    Rescuers found the second victim near the Bridge Street Bridge and pulled him from the water. He was transported to Norwalk Hospital where he died of his injuries. He has been identified as Richard Lamendola, 76, of Syosset, NY.

    Police said no foul play is suspected in the accident and that the Westport Police Department is investigating. The car was found and was removed from the river. Westport firefighters, state police, Norwalk police and Fairfield police all responded to assist with the incident.



    Photo Credit: Westport Police Department

    Rescuers pulled two people from the Saugatuck River in Westport after a car plunged into the river Saturday night.Rescuers pulled two people from the Saugatuck River in Westport after a car plunged into the river Saturday night.

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    Naugatuck police are trying to locate a missing 34-year-old man who was last heard from on Wednesday.

    According to police, Christopher Schatz was last seen around noon on Wednesday in New Britain, and last heard from around 7:30 p.m. the same day. Family members reported him missing.

    He is described as 5-foot-8, 145 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. He was last seen wearing a black Northface coat and a New York Yankees hat. He is believed to be driving a gray 2005 Nissan Altima, with Connecticut plate AA10901.

    Family believes Schatz may still be in the New Britain area. Anyone with information is asked to contact Naugatuck police at 203-729-5521.



    Photo Credit: Naugatuck Police Department

    Christopher Schatz was last heard from on Wednesday.Christopher Schatz was last heard from on Wednesday.

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    You will soon be able to travel non-stop from Bradley Airport to San Francisco. United Airlines is adding seasonal non-stop flights from Bradley International Airport to San Francisco International Airport between June 8, 2017 and Sept 5. 

    The service will be on 128-seat Airbus 319s with outbound flights leaving BDL at 6:30 a.m., Eastern Time and arriving at SFO at 9:46 a.m. Pacific Time. The inbound flight will depart SFO at 10:30 p.m. Pacific Time and arrive at BDL at 6:53 a.m. Eastern Time. 

    Gov. Dannel Malloy, the Connecticut Airport Authority and United Airlines made the announcement today. 

    “It is undeniable that we are witnessing a period of significant growth at Bradley International Airport with the addition of yet another nonstop route to another major hub,” Malloy said in a statement. 

    “United is proud to offer our Connecticut customers a convenient and comfortable travel experience between Hartford and our premier Pacific gateway hub in San Francisco,” Aileen Moriarty, United’s manager of Connecticut sales, said in a statement. “This new route will provide multiple connections to destinations along the U.S. West Coast and to United’s international routes to China and business centers throughout Asia.”



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    Former President George W. Bush said he believes in a "welcoming" immigration policy and called freedom of religion a bedrock freedom Monday in an interview on the "Today" show.

    Those positions are in stark contrast to those of President Donald Trump, who is expected to issue this week a revised version of his controversial travel ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries. Bush did not make an endorsement in the presidential election and did not vote for president, a spokesman has said.

    "Today" host Matt Lauer asked Bush several questions about Trump and his policies, and while Bush didn't criticize the president, whom he noted has been in office for just one month, he did offer positions on religion, immigration, the fight against ISIS and the press that run at odds with views Trump has recently espoused.

    "A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely," Bush said, when asked about the travel ban, which a federal court stayed amid widespread legal challenges.

    Bush went on to say that members of ISIS shouldn't be considered religious people if they cut off the heads of innocent people, and he called the conflict with them an ideological one.

    But he seemed to imply that the U.S. is already making its offensive against ISIS harder by insisting on the travel ban. He said "I think it's very hard to fight the war on terrorism if we're in retreat," when Lauer asked about the ban and the fight against ISIS.

    Bush alluded to the consequences that leaving a conflict can have. He presided over the second U.S. invasion of Iraq, which removed Saddam Hussein from power but left the country split by secterian violence, which ISIS exploited soon after its founding and spread through the country's north — a force the Iraqi military is still battling with in the major city of Mosul.

    Asked specifically if he was for or against Trump's ban, he said, "I am for an immigration policy that is welcoming and upholds the law."

    While Trump spent the beginning of his most recent major speech, at CPAC, attacking the "fake news," a label he's given to outlets like NBC News and The New York Times, Bush called the media "indispensable to democracy."

    "Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse power, whether it be here or elsewhere," he said.

    Bush noted that he tried as president to have Russian President Vladimir Putin embrace a free press, and said that it's harder to insist upon that value abroad if it there isn't one at home.

    When Lauer asked Bush if he'd be in favor of a special prosecutor looking into possible links between Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government, Bush said, "I think we all need answers."

    But he did not know if a special prosecutor was the right way to go about finding those answers.

    Bush was on the "Today" show to discuss his new book of paintings and stories of U.S. veterans called "Portraits of Courage."



    Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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    Former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush arrive for the presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)Former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush arrive for the presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)

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