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    JPMorgan Chase’s network was hacked and personal information for more than 14,000 Connecticut residents who have prepaid debit cards from state agencies, including state tax refunds, could have been compromised, according to the state treasurer’s office.

    JPMorgan Chase said as many as 465,000 accounts across the country might be exposed, including 14,335 accounts in Connecticut.

    People possibly affected are those who received prepaid debit cards from the State’s Department of Revenue Services, Department of Labor, Department of Social Services, and Department of Children and Families in place of checks for tax refunds, unemployment benefits or child support payments, according to a statement from state treasurer Denise Nappier’s office.

    Around 7,000 of the people in affected are those who received their income tax refund on prepaid debit cards, according to the State Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan.
    This is about 2 percent out of the 360,000 total cards issued.

    The JPMorgan Chase servers affected support the UCard website and personal information might have been exposed between mid-July and mid-September,
    particularly when activating cards and transferring balances.

    Information that could have been exposed includes your name, social security number, bank account number, card number, date of birth, security answers, password, address, phone number and e-mail addresses.

    “First and foremost, I want to assure all citizens who have these cards that my Office considers this incident a serious breakdown in security, and holds JPMorgan Chase accountable,” Nappier said in a statement. “We expect JPMorgan Chase to take immediate steps to notify affected account holders, to offer credit protection services to those impacted, and to properly safeguard all private personal information of citizens who receive payments from the State via JPMorgan Chase debit cards. Our constituents deserve nothing less.”

    JPMorgan Chase said it has found no evidence of improper activity on the accounts, but the state has directed it to notify all affected cardholders that it will provide them two years of credit monitoring free of charge as a precaution.

    Nappier said her office was not notified of the breach until two and a half months after it happened.

    “They should have picked up the phone immediately and called us. That the company failed to communicate this security breach in a timely manner raises concerns over its culture of compliance and broader governance issues,” Nappier said.

    Commissioner Sullivan is working with the state treasurer’s office to evaluate JPMorgan’s future as a vendor, remedies the state has under the contract and the future security of income tax refund debit cards.

    State officials have also requested more information about how the breach happened and what steps to take to minimize future risk.


    This is a generic state-issued debit card. State officials said personal information of thousandsThis is a generic state-issued debit card. State officials said personal information of thousands

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    Two men are accused of stealing a part of the wrecked Porsche that "Fast and Furious" actor Paul Walker died in.

    The theft happened as the Porsche was being towed to an impound yard on Saturday night, hours after Walker and his friend and fellow fast-car enthusiast Roger Rodas died, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

    The two perished when Rodas' 2005 Porsche Carrera GT smashed into a light pole and tree, then exploded in flames. The posted limit was 45 mph.

    At 10 that night, as the car was being towed to an impound yard for further investigation, a witness saw someone take a piece of the wreck from a flat-bed truck as it was stopped at a red light.

    The tow truck driver reported the theft and an investigation was launched. Police identified Jameson Witty, 18, of Tujunga, as one of the suspects in the case.

    Authorities later recovered a red roof panel from the Porsche at a location in Canyon Country.

    A second man, described only as 25 and from outside of California, was is in communication with sheriff’s detectives making arrangements to surrender, authorities said.

    The crash happened while Walker and Rodas had taken what was expected to be a brief drive away from a charity fundraiser and toy drive at Rodas' custom car shop in Valencia, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Walker's publicist said the action star was the passenger.

    Thousands of fans of Paul Walker and car enthusiasts are expected to gather Sunday at noon for a memorial and car cruise in honor of the late actor.

    More Southern California Stories:



    Photo Credit: Dan Watson/Santa Clarita Valley Signal

    Actor Paul Walker was killed in a crash on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 in Santa Clarita, Calif.Actor Paul Walker was killed in a crash on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 in Santa Clarita, Calif.

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    A D.C. police officer is being investigated for allegedly “pimping” teenage girls, police sources have told News4.

    Linwood Barnhill, 47, was found with a girl who had been reported missing inside his Southeast D.C. apartment Tuesday. Police executed a search warrant on Barnhill's home Wednesday, and seized several cell phones, marijuana and a laptop computer. Barnhill, who has been with Metropolitan Police for 24 years, is now on desk duty.

    Neighbors told News4 they would often see young girls going in and out of his apartment.

    The investigation may be connected to the Monday arrest of another D.C. officer on child porn charges.

    In that case, officer Marc Washington, who has been with the department since 2006, went to the home of a 15-year-old girl who had previously been reported missing, ordered her to remove her clothing and took photos of her, all while he was on duty. The girl's mother notified police.

    During a hearing Thursday, it was revealed Washington, 32, had hundreds of photographs on his digital camera dating back to 2011, many of which depicted women who were victims of domestic violence.

    Court documents allege Washington, an Iraq war veteran, attempted to delete the pornographic images from his digital camera prior to the arrest.

    A third officer is under investigation for possibly tipping Washington off about his forthcoming arrest earlier this week. He has also been placed on desk duty.

    Washington did not enter a plea at a hearing Thursday. A U.S. magistrate judge ordered Washington released to home detention pending trial, but a 24-hour stay was granted so prosecutors could appeal the decision.

    All three officers work in MPD's Seventh District.

    D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier released the following statement Thursday afternoon, referencing officers Barnhill and Washington.

    The Department is very concerned about the recent allegations of egregious conduct by two officers. We recognize that the actions of individual officers reflect on the entire Department. To uncover any potential malfeasance by officers, the Department regularly conducts audits and investigations of their conduct and behavior, both when on-duty and off-duty. The misguided actions of a few in no way reflect on the professionalism, dedication, and integrity of the Department. As we have seen several times this year with three officers shot in the line of duty, MPD officers put their lives on the line every single day to protect residents and visitors in the District of Columbia. That will not change.
     

     


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    Batkid will return to Gotham City -- err... San Francisco.

    This time, it won't be to arrest the Penguin or to capture the Riddler.

    Five-year-old Miles Scott of Tulelake, Siskyou County, will arrive in San Francisco (most likely in the family van instead of a decked-out Lamborghini ) on Saturday to cheer folks on at "Brave the Bay," formerly known as the SFPD Challenge, Make-A-Wish spokeswoman Jen Wilson said Thursday.

    MORE: SF Morphs into Gotham City for Batkid Battling Leukemia

    Batkid, aka Miles, will lead the "Santa Walk" with his family, who recently set up a "Batkid Fund" to support three groups that helped him during his treatment.

    The shy kindergartener with bright blue eyes was last in town on Nov. 15 when he was the recipient of an internationally inspiring volunteer effort, noted by everyone from the Harlem Globetrotters to President Obama.

    While sick with leukemia - from which he is now in remission  - Miles told the Make-A-Wish people that he wanted to be "Batman for a day."  He was able to realize his dreams and beyond when 12,000 volunteers got wind of his request, and the city of San Francisco morphed into Gotham City for a day.

    Now, Miles is helping the police officers realize their goal to raise $75,000 to help grant wishes for 357 children with life-threatening medical conditions. Organizers are hoping to help 10 children on Saturday alone.

    MORE: "Batkid Fund" Created to Help Other Sick Kids

    The police-run Brave the Bay, now in its 6th year, features a 5K Santa Walk/Fun Run, a Santa plunge in the bay and the Santa Car Pull. Participants can join in either one event or all three to complete the “Santa Triathlon. Each event costs between $25 or $60 for all three.

    Miles' parents, Nick and Natalie Scott, said in a statement that it seemed "only fitting that following a day when the world demonstrated caring and compassion for Batkid, Batkid can now help others."

    DETAILS:

    Brave the Bay runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Aquatic Park at Jefferson and Hyde Streets.  To register, visit www.bravethebay.org.

    All locations are Aquatic Park, Jefferson and Hyde Streets.

    • Santa 5K Walk and Fun Run: 8:30 a.m.

    Batkid Miles Scott and family will be lead lead the walk.

    • Santa Plunge in the Bay: 10:30 a.m.

    This also includes the Executive Challenge, where local CEOs, along with Police Chief Greg Suhr, will be plunging in order to fund individual wishes.

    • Santa Cable Car Pull: 11:00am-1:00 a.m.

    Teams of up to six people compete to see who can pull a cable car the fastest. The challenge is to beat the SFPD teams.

    • Cops & Coffee: 9:00am-3:00 p.m., Buena Vista Café

    Enjoy a traditional Irish Coffee served by San Francisco police. All tips will be donated to Make-A-Wish.



    Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Miles Scott, dressed as Batkid, right, walks with Batman before saving a damsel in distress in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.  San Francisco turned into Gotham City on Friday, as city officials helped fulfill Scott's wish to be Miles Scott, dressed as Batkid, right, walks with Batman before saving a damsel in distress in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. San Francisco turned into Gotham City on Friday, as city officials helped fulfill Scott's wish to be "Batkid."†Scott, a leukemia patient from Tulelake in far Northern California, was called into service on Friday morning by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr to help fight crime, The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation says. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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  • 12/06/13--02:34: Nelson Mandela Dead at 95

  • Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s iconic former president whose lifelong struggle against apartheid helped break the country’s system of racial discrimination, died Thursday at the age of 95.

    South African President Jacob Zuma announced the anti-apartheid crusader's death at a somber press conference Thursday.

    "Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together, and it is together that we will bid him farewell," Zuma told his country.

    He said Mandela would receive a state funeral and that the country's flags would be lowered Friday and remain at half-staff until after Mandela's funeral.

    "He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages," U.S. President Barack Obama said from the White House, in personal remarks acknowledging the profound influence Mandela's activism had had on his own political awakening.

    "Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us," Obama went on. "His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better."

    Mandela had been in and out of the hospital for months this year and had been receiving treatment at home since September.

    In June, he had been admitted to a Pretoria facility for treatment of a recurring lung infection, according to a statement released by South Africa's President Jacob Zuma. He returned home three months later, on Sept. 1, even though his condition remained critical and at times unstable, according to the government. His family applauded the move, saying it would allow them to better provide "love and support" for the ailing icon.

    Mandela had suffered from lung problems since he contracted tuberculosis on South Africa's Robben Island, where he spent 27 years as a political prisoner. Controversial images of the former leader broadcast by state television after an April hospitalization for pneumonia showed him blank-faced and visibly ailing.

    Though his declining health kept him from the public eye in his final years, Mandela’s home on the country’s Eastern Cape remained a routine stopping point for world leaders and dignitaries seeking a visit with one of the century’s most beloved statesmen.
     
    Perhaps even more than his improbable path from South Africa’s most-wanted man to its first democratically elected president (not to mention the first member of the country’s black majority to hold such an office), it was Mandela’s public composure and grace in the face of injustice that elevated him to pantheon of civil rights heroes.

    As a young lawyer and leader of the African National Congress’s Youth Wing, an anti-apartheid activist group, Mandela challenged the white establishment with walk-outs, protests and marches that displayed the frustrations simmering throughout the country’s impoverished townships. When the government responded by tightening its grip, Mandela and his fellow activists pushed harder, enduring beatings and jail time for their defiance.

    As the government ratcheted up its brutality, killing 69 unarmed protesters in the Johannesburg suburb of Sharpeville in 1960, Mandela eventually resorted to sabotage, applying pressure through attacks on state-owned property. For that, he was convicted of treason. At his sentencing, moments before he would vanish behind bars for 27 years, he gave a famously stirring speech on the “ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”—an ideal for which he said he was prepared to die. 
     
    Nearly three decades later, he walked out of prison, 71 years old with a head of gray hair, and pumped skyward. Unbroken by years of hard labor, he soon embarked on an international tour urging supporters to continue their sanctions against the South African government, despite President F. W. de Klerk’s reforms, which included freeing Mandela from prison. (The pair shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for "laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.")

    From the U.S. to Japan to the U.K., Mandela was received with euphoria, drawing throngs of banner-waving supporters. In London, luminaries from the music and movie world gathered at Wembley Stadium for a tribute concert to the recently freed icon. In a visit to New York two months later, according to a New York Times report, Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch wept as Mandela praised David Dinkins, the city’s first black mayor.

    Amid all his travel, Mandela, as a leader of the ANC, was also faced with the domestic challenge of negotiating a path to peace in a country that was arguably more polarized than ever. Working with the government and other opposing political factions, he helped lay the groundwork for the country’s first democratic presidential election, which he won in 1994 with more than 60 percent of the vote. In his victory address, he said it was time to “heal the old wounds and build a new South Africa.”
     
    His five-year tenure was tumultuous, as both crime and unemployment spiked. But his single term was also marked by inspiring glimpses of what a multi-racial democratic South Africa could be. One such glimpse, recalled in Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film “Invictus,” was the country’s unlikely 1995 rugby World Cup victory over New Zealand, when South Africans of all races united to cheer the home team and “their” president, whose name they chanted from the stands.
     
    Even after his presidency, he continued his role of mediator, conciliator and adviser, participating in a variety of peace talks and negotiations between sparring nations. He established the Elders, a group of retired political figures including Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan, who campaigned for human rights, equality and peace. He established the Mandela Rhodes Foundation to help young, talented Africans develop into future political and social leaders, and in 2010, he campaigned for and  appeared at South Africa’s 2010 FIFA World Cup when he was 91 years old and still a powerful living symbol of hope and unity.
     
    Mondli Makhanya, the former editor-in-chief of South Africa’s Sunday Times, called Mandela “the glue that binds South Africa together” in a 2009 interview with The New York Times, and said that upon his death, the fearful question facing the nation would be, “who will bind us?”

    Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mthatha, formerly Umtata, in eastern South Africa. His birth name was Rolihlahla Mandela. He was raised by the chief of the Tembu tribe after his father, a prominent tribal adviser, died when Mandela was still a child. Mandela would come to be known affectionately in South Africa by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba. He was educated at a Christian school, where he was given the English name Nelson, and later went to college, where he first became politically active. He earned a law degree from the University of South Africa.

    His first two marriages — to Evelyn Ntoko Mase, a nurse, in 1944 and Nomzamo Winnie Madikileza, a political activist, in 1958 — ended in divorce. He had four children with his first wife, three of whom died, and two children with his second wife. He remarried again at the age of 80 to Graca Machel, a human rights activist and the widow of the late president of Mozambique.
     
    In addition to his wife, Mandela is survived by three children and more than 25 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Nelson Mandela died Thursday at the age of 95, South African President Jacob Zuma announced.Nelson Mandela died Thursday at the age of 95, South African President Jacob Zuma announced.

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    Crews were unable to find a missing San Jose pilot and his four relatives during a search Thursday, and it is unclear if the search will continue Friday.

    Thursday was the fifth day rescue crews searched for the missing plane and passengers, with efforts intensifying and prayers flowing in from around the country, despite the odds and the cold.

    "We're praying hard," Michael Morgan posted on Crystal Marie Chistensen's Facebook page on Thursday.

    "Been thinking of your family all week, keeping you in our prayers. You and your family are such amazing examples of faith to so many people," posted Kat Bernfeld Andrus.

    Christensen's father, Dale Smith, founder of SerialTek in San Jose, was piloting a BE-36 Beech Bonanza on Sunday when it disappeared in wilderness near the central Idaho town of Yellow Pine about 3:30 p.m.

    Aboard his plane were: daughter, Amber Smith, who graduated from Santa Teresa High in San Jose; her fiancé, Jonathan Norton of Salt Lake City; Smith's son, Daniel Smith; and Smith's daughter-in-law Sheree Smith.

    Amber Smith, a graduate of Santa Teresa High in San Jose, and Norton are both students at Brigham Young University in Idaho, and set their wedding date for Jan. 4. A friend, Aaryn Preece, provided NBC Bay Area their engagement photos. 

    Smith's business partner, Randall Kriech, told NBC Bay Area the family had all left Baker, Ore., after celebrating Thanksgiving with Dale's father, and then headed to Butte, Montana, to drop off Daniel and Sheree Smith. Then, mid-way to Idaho, Kriech said Smith lost contact with air traffic controllers in Salt Lake City.

    Smith's wife, Janis Hansen Smith, is in Idaho with search crews, along with Christensen, who lists that she now lives in Provo, Utah on her Facebook page. The couple have five children in all. They are also very active at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in San Jose.

    The Valley County Sheriff's Office in rural, western Idaho said on Thursday that ground teams were focusing on drainages east of Johnson Creek airport in Idaho, and aerial crews are flying in grid patterns to locate the missing people.

    MORE: Crews Search Idaho Wilderness for San Jose Exec, Family

    Aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol and the Idaho Department of Transportation, as well as helicopters from the US Customs and Border Protection, the Idaho Army National Guard and a private Bell- 407 helicopter are helping out. Some have infrared technology, and helicopters can survey the area at a lower altitude and at slower speeds than fixed-wing aircraft.

    “Today we have clear weather and are continuing the search using every available asset,” Sheriff's Incident Commander Lt. Dan Smith said in a statement.  “The terrain of the search area continues to be a challenge, and our thoughts are with the family of those believed to be on the plane.”

    Smith's wife told KSL.com on Wednesday that her family has been amazed at the outpouring of love and faith.

    "We are indebted to the search and rescue crews working long, cold days in the rugged terrain of the search area," she told the news organization. "We appreciate the resources being pulled in as the search continues for our family."

    While the Smith family is Mormon, the extended family, according to KSL.com, includes members of many faiths.

    "We've got Lutherans praying, Mormons praying, Catholics praying, and I've got many friends of different religions who have been sending prayers throughout the day," Norton's Uncle Matt Dayton told KSL.com. "The religion doesn't matter at this point. As long as they're praying, that's the key."
     


    Dale Smith is seen in this image provided by his family.Dale Smith is seen in this image provided by his family.

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    The holiday spirit is going viral in Chicago thanks to a cover of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" by the city's Gay Hockey Association.

    The players took to the ice last month in red jerseys and Santa hats to tape a music video complete with the team's own recording of the popular tune. The result exudes a heart-warming reminder of acceptance with a catchy, singing-in-the-shower quality that keeps the song in your head all day.

    "Please take a moment to reflect on the real meaning of this project," the team posted to Facebook. "It's a lot deeper than you might expect. Embrace one another for our differences and have some fun!"

    People took notice. The YouTube video was watched more than 10,000 times in the first 24 hours, and since the Nov. 28 debut, its popularity has skyrocketed.

    Members of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association made the rounds on local TV stations and have been quoted in national outlets like Sports Illustrated. The video got a mention on comedian Daniel Tosh's Tosh.0 blog and even writer Dan Savage gave it a hat-tip on Twitter: "Another way the gay community 'out-markets' the Catholic Church (per Dolan): our viral videos are way more fun."

    There's no arguing the video's booty-shaking, head-bobbing fun, but for the team, it's all about a message of acceptance.

    Stephen Leonard, who produced and directed the video, told GoPride.com it captures the spirit of the team. "We're all about having fun and inviting others to do the same, both on and off the ice," Leonard said.

    That's the theme of the note the team left on its video, which as of Thursday afternoon had 80,000 views.

    "We want you to put aside your differences. And to spend some time getting closer to your family and friends. If you take a step back and look, you may surprise yourself with how much you have in common with people. The person next to you on the train could become your best friend. After all, aren't we all just looking for love? Don't forget to laugh a little. And sing a little. Happy Holidays y'all!"



    Photo Credit: Chicago Gay Hockey Association

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  • 12/06/13--06:01: Baby Rattles Recalled

  • Thousands of baby rattles are being recalled because they could break into small pieces that could be dangerous if swallowed, a company announced this week.

    Manhattan Group is recalling The Quixel baby rattle because the toys’ “colored arches can break, and the resulting small parts can pose a choking hazard for small children,” according to a recall notice.

    More than 8,000 of the recalled rattles were sold in the U.S. and more than 4,000 were sold in Canada after the company received four reports of rattles breaking.

    No injuries have been reported, according to the notice.

    Anyone who purchased a now-recalled rattle can return it to the store where they bought it for a full refund.

    More Southern California Stories:

     



    Photo Credit: Consumer Product Safety Comission

    Manhattan Group recalled thousands of The Quixel baby rattle in the U.S. and Canada due to possible choking hazards on Dec. 4, 2013.Manhattan Group recalled thousands of The Quixel baby rattle in the U.S. and Canada due to possible choking hazards on Dec. 4, 2013.

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  • 12/06/13--06:06: NASA Salutes Nelson Mandela

  • Tributes honoring former South African President Nelson Mandela continued pouring in from all over the world -- including one from out of this world.

    NASA remembered the nation’s revered first black leader by highlighting an image of South Africa as seen from the International Space Station.

    "In honor of the anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who passed away today at the age of 95, here is an image of Cape Town, South Africa, from space," NASA said Thursday on its Google+ page.

    Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield captured the image on May 9, 2013, while living and working aboard the International Space Station, according to NASA.

    Hadfield tweeted the image and wrote, “’Cape Town, South Africa and the South Atlantic calling to forever,’” NASA said on Twitter.

    The agency shared the image with 5.4 million of its Twitter followers and 1.7 million Google+ followers.

    Others in the space industry also remembered Mandela, who was known affectionately in South Africa by his clan name, Madiba.

    SpaceX's billionaire founder and a native of South Africa Elon Musk wrote in a Twitter message, "Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela. A man both good and great."

    Legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin called Mandela "a true inspiration and role model for peace and international collaboration."

    "We will continue to learn from him," Aldrin said in a Twitter post.
     



    Photo Credit: Chris Hadfield via NASA / Twitter

    A picture from the International Space Station looks across South Africa to the South Atlantic.A picture from the International Space Station looks across South Africa to the South Atlantic.

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    A Norwich man is facing charges after police say he kicked down the door of a New London home and threatened the residents with a blade.

    According to police, 41-year-old Mychael Wright showed up at a home on Denison Avenue in New London on Thursday afternoon looking for money that one of the residents owed him. Police said that resident was not home, but a man and 4-year-old child were present when Wright broke in.

    Wright is accused of threatening the man with a “blade-type weapon.”

    Officers responded to the scene while the incident was occurring. No one was visibly injured, but the child was taken to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital as a precaution, police said.

    Wright was charged with home invasion, two counts of risk of injury to a minor, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, second-degree threatening and sixth-degree larceny. He was held on a $250,000 bond.



    Photo Credit: New London Police Department

    Mychael Wright, 41, is accused of breaking into a New London home and using a blade to threaten a man with a 4-year-old child.Mychael Wright, 41, is accused of breaking into a New London home and using a blade to threaten a man with a 4-year-old child.

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    Last minute preparations are underway to make sure everything is perfect for Friday's National Christmas Tree lighting.

    Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Train and many others will take the stage before the First Family illuminates the National Christmas Tree. The ceremony will start at 5 p.m., with a 4:30 p.m. pre-show.

    Tickets for the 3,000 seats and 14,000 standing-room spots were made available through a lottery back in October. Only ticketed guests can attend.

    But there are some things you will need to leave at home if you are attending, the National Park Service warns.

    "Leave home anything that is likely to catch the attention of the Secret Service. Pretend like you're going to the airport; leave home backpacks, leave home liquids, obviously no weapons or knives of any kind," Mike Litterst with the National Park Service said.

    Showers and rain are likely throughout the day Friday. But while you are allowed to bring an umbrella, there's a catch -- you can't sit in your seat with your umbrella up.

    For those traveling through the area, the evening commute could be a tough one.

    Starting at 3 p.m., D.C. and U.S. Park Police will direct traffic away from 15th and 17th Streets around the White House, as well as a small stretch of 18th Street.

    More than 30 Metrobus routes may also be delayed or detoured Friday evening. Almost a dozen bus stops will be closed during the ceremony.

    President Barack Obama said in his remarks at last year's ceremony that the tree -- which has been replaced twice after the long-standing National Christmas Tree was felled by high winds in February 2011 -- was a symbol of rebuilding and strength.

    "In times of war and peace, triumph and tragedy, we've always come together to rejoice in the Christmas miracle," Obama said. "But our tree has been having a hard time recently. ... Just goes to show, nobody's job is safe here in Washington."

    Changes to the annual celebration last year included a new stage location to better showcase the White House behind it, a new color scheme for the tree, and, of course, the tree itself.



    Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The First Family is traditionally on hand for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.The First Family is traditionally on hand for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.

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  • 12/06/13--06:40: Wintry Weather on the Way

  • Winter weather is on the way for tonight and a bigger storm heading our way will affect the morning commute on Monday.

    A strong cold front and an area of low-pressure will bring snow and sleet this evening and tonight, making driving challenging in the hills of Litchfield, Hartford and Tolland counties.

    In advance of the storm, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for tonight for the northern half of Litchfield country. 

    We had fog and rain for the morning commute, along with morning highs in the mid-50s, but temperatures will drop to near 40 degrees by 8 p.m. tonight, even colder in the hills. 

    With another surge of moisture tonight, we will get the first accumulating icy precipitation for many. 

    Between a coating and 1 inch of snow and sleet could accumulate along Interstate 84 in many of the cities along the highway. 

    In the higher terrain of interior Connecticut, 1 to 3 inches of accumulation is possible.

    Any precipitation will end by morning, leaving a wintry look to the area for the weekend.

    Another possibly more impactful system rolls in on Sunday night and Monday morning, bringing a wintry mix for the morning commute to start the new week.
     


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    Redding Police investigating two separate incidents yesterday after two 13-year-olds posted photos of guns on Instagram along with what authorities referred to as “questionable comments.”

    Police said no students were ever in any actual danger.

    Just after 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, a 13-year-old boy posted a picture on Instgram of two "air soft" guns and the statement "I think I'm ready to go to school :-) ," police said.

    The student was immediately found and did not have any weapons, police said. He was charged with disorderly conduct and released into the custody of a parent.

    Redding Police said they have seized both weapons and the orange tip that identifies the gun as a facsimile firearm had been removed from one of them.

    Police are also investigating a second incident after another 13-year-old student posted a photo of a gun at 5:30 p.m. and the message, "Damn I love revolvers."

    Police said that student got the photo off the Internet.

    Officers determined that the student did not have immediate access to any other firearms and did not bring any to school.

     



    Photo Credit: Redding Police

    Police have charged a 3-year-old accused of posting photos of guns on Instagram.Police have charged a 3-year-old accused of posting photos of guns on Instagram.

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    'Tis the season for giving, but police have arrested a Salvation Army volunteer accused of stealing donations from a Connecticut supermarket.

    Brandon Martin, 28, is accused of stealing Salvation Army donations customers were making at the Stop and Shop supermarket at 50 Windsorville Road in Vernon Thursday.

    One of the store managers called police at 11:47 a.m. and reported that Brandon Martin, 28, took a Salvation Army collection from in front of the store and stole a sandwich, a bag of chips and a drink from the supermarket.

    When police apprehended Martin, he had the Salvation Army collection bucket. He was working as a Salvation Army volunteer at the time, Vernon police said.

    The manager confiscated the bucket and locked it in the store’s cash room for safekeeping, contacted Salvation Army management to let them know what happened and asked that they pick up the collection bucket.

    While the manager was on the phone with Salvation Army, Martin found another store employee and convinced that person to return him the bucket, police said.

    Martin still had a Salvation Army uniform and a bell, and the employee did not know what had transpired, so the person gave Martin the bucket, police said.

    With bucket in hand, Martin ran from the store and police caught up to him on Berger Road, a short distance from the store, police said.

    In addition to the locked collection bucket, Martin had $16 that police believe was meant to go in the donation bucket.

    Martin allegedly had one $5 bill and 15 $1 bills that were each folded up individually. Police said this was donation money that customers had handed Martin, who put the money in his pocket rather than the bucket.

    When officers confronted Martin, he admitted to trying to steal the money, police said.

    Martin was charged with larceny in the sixth degree. He is being held in lieu of a $500 bond and is due in Rockville Superior Court Friday.

    Police returned all of the money and the donation bucket to the Salvation Army.



     


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    Naugatuck police have arrested a local man accused of beating a child with a belt and a woman who they said was home when the abuse happened.

    Police began investigating on Monday when a school resource officer was notified that a student had been assaulted with a belt at home, police said.

    Police investigated and determined that Robert Anderson, 46, of Naugatuck, had hit the boy with a belt, causing “substantial bruising” on his arms, lower back, thighs and wrists, police said.

    Anderson was charged with third-degree assault, risk of injury to child, second-degree reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons and released on a $50,000 court-set bond.

    Police said Iryna Anderson, 30, of Naugatuck, was at home when the child was struck and has been charged with risk on injury to a child. She was released on a $5,000 court-set surety bond.
     



    Photo Credit: Naugatuck Police

    Robert and Iryna Anderson have been charged in Naugatuck. Robert Anderson is accused of hitting a child with a belt.Robert and Iryna Anderson have been charged in Naugatuck. Robert Anderson is accused of hitting a child with a belt.

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    The transition team for the mayor-elect of New Haven will be holding a public hearing on Monday evening to get input from residents on community policing in the city and other public safety issues.

    The Public Safety Subcommittee of Toni Harp’s transition team will conduct the hearing  in the basement public hearing room of 200 Orange Street in New Haven. It will start at 6:30 p.m.

    “Safe streets provide a foundation for effective job creation and economic development efforts just as safe schools are a cornerstone for a sound public education system,” Mayor-elect Harp said. “It follows that safe neighborhoods and an overall sense of security improve the quality of life for all who live, work, and visit New Haven – since so many people have a stake in this I hope many of them will turn out and contribute to this public safety discussion on Monday.”

    Bill Carbone, who chairs the transition team’s subcommittee, said Harp asked the members to reach out to residents for their ideas on public safety priorities.

    “We know our community is deeply concerned about this issue and our committee looks forward to hearing their ideas on how we can make our city a safer place to live, work, be educated and enjoy the culture and richness of our downtown and neighborhoods,” he said.

    Harp said people who cannot attend the hearing can submit written testimony at the transition team’s website (http://www.harptransition.com/) or sent your thoughts to the Harp Transition Team, P.O. Box 3308 Westville Station, New Haven, CT  06515.


    The transition team for the mayor-elect of New Haven will be holding a public hearing on Monday evening to get input from residents on community policing in the city and other public safety issues.The transition team for the mayor-elect of New Haven will be holding a public hearing on Monday evening to get input from residents on community policing in the city and other public safety issues.

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    A New London man was charged with a hate crime after assaulting a clerk at a local Sam’s Food Store last night, police said.

    Police went to the Sam’s Food Store at 485 Ocean Avenue at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday to investigate a fight between a customer and a clerk and arrested the customer. 

    Police said Max Whitehead, 28, of Ocean Avenue in New London, had become upset with the clerk, threw money at him, climbed over the counter and assaulted the man.

    Whitehead punched the clerk, referencing the man’s nationality and threatening him because of it, during the assault, police said.

    Whitehead was charged with intimidation based on bigotry and bias, assault in the third degree and breach of peace.

    Whitehead is being held on a $50,000 cash/surety bond.

    The injuries the clerk suffered are not believed to be life-threatening, police said.
     



    Photo Credit: New London Police

    Max Whitehead was charged with a hate crime after allegedly beating up a convenience store clerk.Max Whitehead was charged with a hate crime after allegedly beating up a convenience store clerk.

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    Police continue to investigate after "disturbing messages" were spray painted outsided a Stratford elementary school Wednesday and said at this point, there doesn't appear to be any real danger to the students.

    Police said someone spray painted threatening graffiti on a rooftop air conditioning unit at the Second Hill Lane School at 65 Second Hill Lane in Stratford.

    The message said “Death 2 Thee Kids” and police have been investigating since it was discovered.

    "Our goal is to ensure that the person or perosns responsible for this vandalism are identified and charged appropriately, regardless of their age or motivation," said Stratford Police Lt. Frank Eannotti in a release on Friday.

    The spray paint was quickly removed.

    Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact Stratford police at 203-285-4123 or call the tip line at 203-375-8477.



    Photo Credit: Submitted

    This graffiti was found on the air conditioning unit of a Stratford elementary school.This graffiti was found on the air conditioning unit of a Stratford elementary school.

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  • 12/06/13--11:58: U.S. Memorial for Mandela

  • Nelson Mandela will be honored in the United States with an official memorial service next week in Washington, where he inspired early protests against apartheid helped pressure U.S. policy against the practice.

    The Washington National Cathedral said Friday that it will host the memorial service at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

    Seating for the memorial service will be free, but space is limited.

    "We certainly hope that it is a microcosm of our nation. This man deserves it because of what he accomplished," said D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who appeared at a press conference announcing the service with South African Ambassador and The Rev. Canon Gina Gilland Campbell of the cathedral.

    In the meantime, the South African Embassy will begin prayer services each evening at Mandela's statue in front of the Embassy, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. until Tuesday evening, said South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool.

    Condolence books will also be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, Rasool said.

    Washington had a deep relationship with Mandela; it was in the nation's capital that local leaders began sit-ins and protests at the South African Embassy that led to the Free South Africa Movement. That history was invoked throughout the announcement Friday.

    Though this event will be a high-profile remembrance of Mandela, organizers stressed that they hoped other locations would also hold their own celebrations of his life and work.

    "We don't want people to feel discouraged that they couldn't attend," said Nicole Lee, president of TransAfrica. "He meant so much, he embodied so much. There are many ways that the celebrations can be jumping off point for more activism."


    Leading up to Wednesday's memorial, prayer vigils will be held around the statue of Nelson Mandela outside the South African Embassy.Leading up to Wednesday's memorial, prayer vigils will be held around the statue of Nelson Mandela outside the South African Embassy.

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  • 12/06/13--11:29: Pot Clinic Owner Turns Mayor

  • A California city has selected a medical marijuana dispensary owner to be mayor over its 7,500 residents, and officials believe he's the first dispensary owner in the nation to hold that post.

    The Sebastopol City Council selected 36-year-old Robert Jacob as mayor on Tuesday in a unanimous vote. Jacob is the founder and executive director of Peace in Medicine, which operates two dispensaries in Sonoma County.

    Jacob has been on the city council for two years, and most recently was vice mayor. He's worked to create statewide dispensary regulations. He was out of town on Friday and couldn't immediately be reached for in-person comment. But he did issue a statement after being selected for the new post.

    MORE: Angry Customer Rams Van into Pot Dispensary

    "My life has been about service,"  Jacob said. "By addressing social problems such as homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and access to medical cannabis, we can shape a better world for ourselves."

    Sebastopol is a small city about 50 miles north of San Francisco, known for liberal politics and small-town charm. It may be best known for its lush plum and apple growing capabilities. It's known locally for its annual Apple Blossom Festival and Gravenstein Apple Fair.

    The new mayor outlined many of his mayoral goals: Increasing the diversity of local business and prioritizing pedestrian improvements and road maintenance.

    Jacob, a self-described champion of the "disenfranchised," said that he also wants to help patients "who need safe access to medical cannabis."

    "As a mayor," he wrote as a guest commentator in the Sonoma County Gazette, "I can facilitate even more public policy work in my efforts to providing help to those in need."
     
    Americans for Safe Access, which advocates for safe and legal access to therapeutic marijuana, called Jacob's selection as mayor historic and unprecedented.

    "This historic, unprecedented vote in Sebastopol illustrates that the medical marijuana community has political strength and the influence to elect advocates to public office,"  Don Duncan, California Director with Americans for Safe Access, the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group said in a statement.  "Although medical marijuana enjoys the support of 80 percent of Americans, Jacob's election as mayor of Sebastopol brings additional legitimacy to the patient community."

    After opening Peace in Medicine in 2007, Jacob began serving on the Sebastopol Planning Commission in 2011, then successfully ran for city council in 2012.



    Photo Credit: File art/Sebastopol City Council

    Robert Jacob, 36, is selected to be mayor of Sebastopol. He owns two medical marijuana dispensaries.Robert Jacob, 36, is selected to be mayor of Sebastopol. He owns two medical marijuana dispensaries.

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