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    A Southern California man arrested at a bus station after telling a man he thought was an al-Qaida recruiter that he "was born to" serve in the terror network pleaded guilty Friday to a federal terrorism offense.

    Read: Grand Jury Indictment

    Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The plea comes one week after the filing of an agreement in which Nguyen admitted that he intended to provide weapons training to forces in Pakistan, according to prosecutors.

    Sentencing is scheduled for March 21. He faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

    Nguyen, of Garden Grove, was arrested at a Santa Ana bus station, where he had a ticket to travel to Mexico and, eventually, Pakistan to train al-Qaida forces, according to details in a grand jury indictment. He also had a false passport -- obtained during a meeting with an individual posing as a recruiter for al-Qaida -- and a computer drive that contained firearms training videos, according to authorities.

    His admission to the offense was outlined in last week's plea deal. Nguyen said that about one year ago he traveled to Syria and told people he "was fighting against the Assad regime," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

    He returned to the United States and told associates his offers to train al-Qaida forces in Syria had been turned down, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

    But it was between August and October 2012 when Nguyen met with a man he thought was an al-Qaida recruiter, but actually was working for the FBI, according to authorities. He told the man he wanted to return to jihad because "this was what he was born to do, " the U.S. Attorney's Office statement continued.

    Nguyen provided the "recruiter" with a photo of himself for a passport and agreed to travel to Pakistan to train al-Qaida fighters, prosecutors said.

    He was arrested at the Santa Ana bus station Oct. 11.

    Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, in a court sketch.Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, in a court sketch.

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    A car fire shut down the northbound lanes of the Wilbur Cross Parkway (Route 15) in Meriden around 6 p.m. on Friday.

    The incident occurred just prior to exit 68, according to state police.

    No one was injured, but traffic was backed up for miles while firefighters put out the flames and crews removed the car from the highway.

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    The hospital at the center of a battle over a brain-dead Oakland teen on Friday sent a letter to the girl's family, saying they can move the 13-year-old to another facility, if her relatives will arrange it.

    Chris Dolan, the attorney for Jahi McMath’s family, said Friday afternoon Children’s Hospital Oakland has expressed to him that doctors will allow an outside physician to come to the hospital to perform the procedures necessary to safely transport Jahi to a long-term care facility.

    Dolan said the family has been in talks with a facility in Southern California, where Jahi could be moved.

    Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, also said the family is in talks with additional nursing homes -- another in Los Angeles and one in New York -- that may be willing to take her.

    A San Francisco Bay Area nursing home that had agreed to provide long-term care for Jahi backed out after the Children's Hospital refused to insert the breathing and feeding tubes necessary for her long-term care.

    The Alameda County Coroner's Office on Friday told NBC Bay Area that it will not block the transfer of Jahi to another facility.

    Earlier in the day, the hospital said doctors planned to take Jahi off life support on Monday, barring a court order, according to Sam Singer, president of a San Francisco public relations firm hired by the hospital. Jahi's family is due in court Monday and has already said they will ask the judge for more time.

    Children's Hospital Oakland Chief of Pediatrics Dr.  David Durand indicated that until he knows which facility Jahi is going to, and whether it will accept a brain dead person, then the hospital can't do much to help. The letter asks the family to give the name of the facility willing to take Jahi. It also says the family must identify a transportation plan, including the name of the company that will move the girl.

    MORE: Hospital Says Surgery to Move Jahi McMath Not  "Appropriate"

    "Children's is willing to cooperate in this regard even though Judge (Evelio) Grillo has confirmed that Jahi is deceased and that statutory patient transfer procedures do not apply here," the letter says.

    On Thursday, Children's Hospital doctors said they would not perform a tracheotomy or other surgeries, including one to give her a gastric tube for nutrition, on the 8th grader, who was declared legally dead by a judge just before Christmas.

    "Children's Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice," Durand stated earlier.

    Friday's letter addressed to the family's attorney, Dolan, brings up this unique legal and medical matter.

    "At a minimum, the Alameda County Coroner needs to consent to any proposed transfer since we are dealing with the body of a person who has been declared legally dead," the letter states.

    Jahi went in for a tonsillectomy and two other tissue-removal procedures on Dec. 9 in an attempt to cure her sleep apnea. She suffered unknown complications about 30 minutes after the surgery, when she started coughing up blood and suffered a heart attack.

    Jahi was first declared brain dead on Dec. 12, and her extended family and Dolan have been fighting in court and the media to keep her alive since then.

    Before Children's Hospital sent the letter on Friday, Sealey told reporters that his family was "willing to fight" in court to move her to an unnamed long-term care facility in the Bay Area.

    Sealey did not want to say where but added on Friday that there were "several" options open to the family. He also said Jahi's mother, Latasha "Nailah" Winkfield, had been "considering" moving her daughter even without the surgeries.

    Jahi's family members are devout Christians who believe the girl is still alive because brain death is not true death and that if her heart is beating, even with the aid of a ventilator, there is still room for a miracle.

    Winkfield has launched a fundraising effort to help pay to fly Jahi to a facility out of state. Details can be found on the "Keep Jahi McMath on Life Support" Facebook page.

    Jahi's family reached out to Dr. Paul Byrne, a retired neonatologist in Ohio and the former president of the Catholic Medical Association, for help in this matter and formally asked him to speak on their behalf in court.

    Byrne has not formally been called in to testify. But in an exclusive on-air interview with NBC Bay Area on Friday, Byrne said he last talked to Dolan on Thursday and last talked to a family member "several days ago."

    He declined to detail much of what he knows regarding Jahi, but he did say that his organization, the Life Guardian Foundation, helps people across the world give "respect" to all human life from "conception until his or her natural end."

    "Jahi is a living person. She is not truly dead. Her soul has not separated from her body," Byrne said. Three other doctors have said Jahi is brain dead.

    "Her kidneys work. Her liver works," Byrne said. "These things could never happen to a cadaver."

    Byrne did say, however, that her condition is worsening because she is being fed a diet of "sugar water" at the hospital. He said Jahi needs to receive better nutrition and needs repair on her pituitary and thyroid glands.

    "She is a living girl and dearly loved by her mother, her grandmother, her uncle," Byrne said. "And they do not want anything to shorten or hasten her life."

    NBC Bay Area's Chase Cain, Kim Tere, Geoffrey Eisler, Kristofer Noceda, Jean Elle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Photo Credit: Cheryl Hurd

    A collage of photos showing Jahi McMath who went into Children's Hospital in Oakland on Dec. 9 for a tonsillectomy. She was declared brain dead on Dec. 12. Her family is fighting to keep her on life support.A collage of photos showing Jahi McMath who went into Children's Hospital in Oakland on Dec. 9 for a tonsillectomy. She was declared brain dead on Dec. 12. Her family is fighting to keep her on life support.

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    It was a very merry Christmas for a 9-year-old SoCal boy who successfully climbed the highest peak this side of the globe, a feat that makes him the youngest person to do so and raises awareness for a type of muscular dystrophy that only affects young boys.

    Tyler Armstrong reached the summit of Argentina’s 22,837-foot-tall Mount Aconcagua on Christmas Eve, two days ahead of schedule, according to a post on the “Top With Tyler” Facebook page, which is tracking his progress.

    Armstrong and his father set out Dec. 7 on the arduous journey, which the young climber dedicated to those who can’t walk. He’s raising awareness and money for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which affects 1 in 3,600 boys.

    Must-See Photos of 2013

    “It’s when muscles get smaller every time you use them and by 14 they can’t walk,” Armstrong said of those afflicted with the disease.

    Temperatures along the route to the top of Mount Aconcagua typically drop to 20 degrees below zero this time of year. And the pinnacle is just below the elevation where oxygen is mandatory.

    Now that he’s summited, Armstrong is the youngest person to scale the towering peak (the record had been held by a 10-year-old climber).

    Mount Aconcagua – the highest in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres – is now added to an already impressive list of summits the fourth grader from Yorba Linda has reached.

    At age 7, Armstrong climbed 14,505 feet up Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States.

    Last year, he scaled Mount Kilamanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 19,341 feet. He had to apply for a special permit for that trek because, at age 9, he was a year younger than the age limit.

    Armstrong’s Argentina itinerary planned for him to summit between Dec. 26 and 29. It should take him about three days to climb down from the mountain, and is set to be back in the U.S. on Jan. 5, 2014.

    To donate to Tyler’s mission, click here.

    Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

    This Dec. 24, 2013 photo released by Lhawang Dhondup shows Tyler Armstrong, from Southern California, standing by a cross on the summit of Aconcagua Mountain in Argentina. The 9-year-old boy has become the youngest person in recorded history to reach the summit of Argentina's Aconcagua mountain, the tallest peak in the Western and Southern hemispheres. (AP Photo/Lhawang Dhondup)This Dec. 24, 2013 photo released by Lhawang Dhondup shows Tyler Armstrong, from Southern California, standing by a cross on the summit of Aconcagua Mountain in Argentina. The 9-year-old boy has become the youngest person in recorded history to reach the summit of Argentina's Aconcagua mountain, the tallest peak in the Western and Southern hemispheres. (AP Photo/Lhawang Dhondup)

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    New Haven police are investigating after a person was shot to death at Hemingway and Russell streets early Saturday morning.

    Police said they received a 911 call reporting a person lying in the road around 1 a.m. Saturday.

    They arrived to find that 18-year-old Javier Martinez, of New Haven, had been shot and killed. He was pronounced dead on the scene, according to police.

    Police have not identified a suspect.

    The New Haven Police Major Crimes Unit and Bureau of Investigation are actively investigating.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact New Haven police at 203-946-6304.

    An NBC Connecticut crew is at the scene.

    View Larger Map

    Photo Credit:

    Police are investigating a fatal shooting at the corner of Hemingway and Russell Streets in New Haven.Police are investigating a fatal shooting at the corner of Hemingway and Russell Streets in New Haven.

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    Police are searching for the person who broke into a New Haven, Conn., home, tied and bound a 10-year-old girl and stole more than $1,000 and a computer.

    According to New Haven police, the girl was home alone at her apartment in Fair Haven when an unidentified man broke in, blindfolded her and tied her hands and demanded money.

    It happened around 10 a.m. Friday, but police weren’t called to the scene until almost 5 p.m.

    Police said the robber searched the apartment before stealing money and the computer.

    After he left, the girl managed to free herself and went upstairs to report the incident to a neighbor, who called her father around 11:30 a.m. According to police, the victim’s father arrived home around 1 p.m. and waited until almost 5 p.m. to call police.

    The state Department of Children and Families and clinical staff from the Yale Child Study Center’s Child Development are involved in the investigation, police said.

    Photo Credit:

    Police are investigating the home invasion and robbery that left a 10-year-old blindfolded and bound.Police are investigating the home invasion and robbery that left a 10-year-old blindfolded and bound.

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    A 45-year-old Maine native was found dead in the Saugatuck River in Westport on Friday morning, according to police.

    Annette L. White was originally of Maine but had been living in Westport, police said. She was discovered in the river just after 9 a.m. Friday. It’s not clear how she ended up in the water.

    Police said a duck hunter who was kayaking on the river noticed the body and stayed until officers arrived.

    The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office is working to determine the cause of death.

    Police are actively investigating.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact Westport police at 203-341-6000.

    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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  • 12/28/13--08:28: Mall Chaos Forces Shutdown

  • A brawl at a Brooklyn mall involving a large group of teens Thursday night forced the mall to temporarily close on one of the busiest days of the holiday season and has prompted mall security to start telling customers it is banning anyone under 18 from entering without a guardian.

    Video posted to social media sites show hundreds of teenagers scuffling with police and mall security at Kings Plaza Mall the day after Christmas, some violently. Bystanders also appear to get caught up in the apparent roughhousing as they gather to watch or run from the teens. 

    Keishawn Gibson, one of the witnesses who shot video of the brawl on his cell phone, said there were multiple fights breaking out at the same time.

    "There was another fight in the other section of the mall, the same floor," he said. "There was another fight in the corner. There was just a lot of stuff happening at one time." 

    "It was just chaos. Everybody was just running from different directions, everyone was getting bumped, people was falling," he added. "It was madness."

    It's not clear what sparked the melee. The Daily News reports it began as a fight among a group of teenage girls. The New York Post says it was a flash mob that gained traction on social media. 

    The NYPD says officers were called to the mall for a disorderly crowd and once they arrived, dispersed a large group of teens and escorted them out. No arrests were made and no reports of any stolen items or injuries have been filed with police.

    A spokeswoman for the mall said only that a "large group of teens caused an incident at Kings Plaza." After mall security and NYPD responded, the mall was able to quickly resume normal operations, she said. 

    It's not clear how long or how much of the mall was shut down. Some merchants chose to close for the day at their own discretion, the spokeswoman said. 

    The mall took immediate action to reassure shoppers and security officers were telling customers Friday night it was banning anyone under 18 from entering without an adult. Mall officials didn't return requests for comment after hours on the new rules.

    The NYPD also said it will be deploying additional officers to prevent similar incidents in the future.

    Gibson, the 17-year-old boy who shot video of the chaos at the mall, is himself now banned as a result of the mall's new policy and he doesn't think it's fair.

    "It wasn't everybody's fault, so for you to just ban everybody 17 and under is drastic," said Gibson.

    One security expert said he did not think banning teens under 18 would be effective.

    "In the short term it's going to be a simple solution to institute, but in the long run that's going to be very difficult and I don't think it's going to be effective," said Sal Lifrieri, president of Protective Countermeasures, a consulting firm.

    An image of the brawl taken from amateur video.An image of the brawl taken from amateur video.

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    Police say they've arrested an animal shelter worker for allegedly placing a dog inside a plastic bag and throwing it into a commercial Dumpster on Long Island on Christmas Eve.

    Michael Papini, 30, of Lindenhurst is charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty, animal abandonment and other charges in the case, Suffolk SPCA detectives say.

    The 1-year-old dachshund mix was discovered in the trash at a gas station early Tuesday. Officials think the dog chewed its way out of the bag.

    The female pup was taken to a 24-hour animal hospital, where SPCA officers named her Noelle because she was discovered on Christmas Eve. She was then taken to the Town of Islip Animal Shelter, where Papini was employed as a kennel attendant, according to authorities.

    Noelle had severely matted and dirty fur when she was found, but was otherwise in good health.

    A gas station surveillance video taken nearly 24 hours before the dog was found showed a person, believed to be Papini, carrying a plastic bag that appears to contain a box and placing it in the Dumpster.

    Kevin Zabawski, the man who discovered the pooch in the Dumpster, told NBC 4 New York, "I just happened to look to the side and there was a face looking at me. There was this dog in there, and I thought 'Who the heck would leave an animal like that in the Dumpster?' It's way too much for me."

    Papini was being held overnight and is expected to be arraigned in First District Court in Islip Saturday. The Town of Islip Animal Shelter was closed Friday night and no one was available to comment.

    Michael Papini, insetMichael Papini, inset

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    A caged Yorkshire terrier was found abandoned on the side of a snowy road in an upstate New York town Friday morning.

    A passerby near the intersection of White Pond and Farmers Mills roads in Kent contacted police after spotting the pooch.

    Officials say the dog, an approximately 4- to 6-year-old male Yorkie, was found huddled in a small black metal crate in a snowy patch of property just off the side of the road. 

    Anyone with information is asked to contact Putnam County SPCA at 845-520-6915.

    Photo Credit: Putnam County SPCA

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    A former University of Connecticut women’s lacrosse goalie was killed in a rollover crash in Willington yesterday, according to police.

    Police said 24-year-old Brittney Testa, of Bridgewater, Vt., was driving northbound on River Road near Baxter Road when she lost control of her Jeep Cherokee.

    The Jeep rolled over onto the northbound shoulder, and Testa was pronounced deceased at the scene, police said.

    The cause of the crash is still under investigation. Police documents show Testa was not wearing a seatbelt.

    According to the UConn lacrosse team roster, Testa started every game in the 2011 and 2012 season and played as a senior in 2013.

    UConn athletics spokesman Mike Enright said Testa was back on campus this fall to finish her degree.

    Teammates said they're still in shock and have not yet planned a vigil or ceremony.

    Enright said the school will hold a memorial service after students return from winter break. Counseling will also be available to affected students and staff.

    Photo Credit: University of Connecticut

    Brittney Testa, the former starting goalie of the UConn women's lacrosse team, died yesterday in a car accident.Brittney Testa, the former starting goalie of the UConn women's lacrosse team, died yesterday in a car accident.

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    Route 20 is closed at Route 187 in East Granby while crews work to repair a telephone pole that was struck by a car early Saturday morning.

    According to the state Department of Transportation, the road was shut down around 3:45 a.m. and remains closed between Horseshoe Drive and Newgate Road.

    State police said no one was injured in the crash, but CL&P crews are at the scene.

    They're assessing the damage and will need to gather the necessary materials before they can get to work making repairs, according to CL&P.

    Three town buildings are without power as a result of the crash, including the East Granby Public Library, CL&P said.

    Police said the road should reopen around 4 p.m. 

    View Larger Map

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    A Texas district judge was arrested and charged with family violence assault overnight Friday, NBC 5 has learned.

    Early Saturday morning NBC 5 received the mugshot for Judge Carlos Cortez, who was booked into a Dallas jail at about 4:30 a.m.

    According to a Dallas police report, Cortez and his girlfriend of 13 months got into an argument over the location of a child's medication while at an apartment on McKinney Avenue.

    While talking with police, the woman told officers that they had been drinking alcohol for several hours. The woman then told police that Cortez grabbed her by her throat several times, dragged her by her hair to a balcony and leaned her over the edge while verbally threatening to kill her.

    The woman, identified in the report, displayed several marks on her neck to officers before being examined and treated.

    According to the report, a juvenile witnessed the entire incident.

    Earlier this month, a report said Cortez has spent more than three years and $135,000 in legal fees fighting to keep certain aspects of his private life from the public.

    Cortez, who was arrested and charged in the family violence case, bonded out shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday.

    Cortez has presided over the 44th State Civil District Court in Dallas County since 2006.  Earlier this year, Cortez, a Democrat, filed for re-election in the 2014 race, according to the TCJL PAC.

    NBC 5's Eric King and Ray Villeda contributed to this report.  An initial version of this story reported that Cortez had been in elected office since 1996 instead of 2006, we regret the error.

    Inset, mugshot of Judge Carlos Cortez, 44th State Civil District Court, Dallas County.Inset, mugshot of Judge Carlos Cortez, 44th State Civil District Court, Dallas County.

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    Route 82/Norwich Road is shut down in the area of Route 354/Old Colchester Road in Salem after a van hit a pole, according to police.

    The accident was reported just before 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Police said are still on scene evaluating but said the injuries appear to be serious. The phone pole and wires are also down.

    Connecticut Light and Power crews are at the scene, but according to a spokesperson, passengers are still inside the van and need to be removed before CL&P can begin making repairs.

    CL&P said 367 customers are without power due to the crash. Crews plan to cut the wire and reenergize the line on two separate circuits in an effort to restore power as quickly as possible.

    The road will be closed for hours. It's not clear how many people were involved.

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  • 01/02/14--14:59: Plastic Bag Ban Begins in LA

  • The first step in phasing out plastic bags in the city of Los Angeles has begun.

    Shoppers in the city will have to pay 10 cents a recyclable paper sack at large retail stores unless they bring their own reusable bags under a new law that begins today, Jan. 1, 2014.

    Must See: New Year's Celebrations Around the World

    Stores that make more than $2 million per year, such as supermarkets Vons and Ralph’s, are seeing the change. Smaller independent markets won’t be affected by the law until July 1.

    Protests Expected at Today's Rose Parade

    About 2 billion single-use plastic bags are used in Los Angeles every year, according to an environmental report conducted by the city.

    Los Angeles is now the largest of nearly 90 American cities to ban plastic bags.

    Opponents of the ban say the new law will lead to job losses.

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    Days after a deadly shooting outside a West Haven bar, Mayor Ed O'Brien is calling for action.

    He wants more control over what he calls "problem bars" in the city. In fact, O'Brien said if it were up to him, he would have closed Lager House immediately after Sunday's incident.

    It's the sort of power he wants going forward but not something that residents in West Haven think is necessary.

    "These are people who are trying to make a living," said Victor Otero of West Haven. "These are establishments that have been here for a while."

    Otero feels that giving the city more control over liquor licensing would not solve the problem.

    "If you're going to hold punitive measurements on the establishment just because something happened outside of it, I think that's not right," Otero said.

    He and others were quick to point out that the incident early Sunday morning didn't happen inside the bar.

    Police said the victim may have been involved in a fight inside the bar's bathroom and that continued onto the street.

    But according to O'Brien, "We have fights, we have had the murder as you know, we have had a stabbing, somebody was beat with a baseball bat and it doesn't seem like there's a lot we can do."

    O'Brien, just four weeks on the job, believes West Haven can take action to make the area safer.

    "If we had more control I believe we would have more background checks," he said. "If there was a problem such as a beating, stabbing or a shooting we can immediately close them down and take the permit away."

    As it stands now his city has little influence when it comes to regulating liquor licenses; that job belongs to the state Department of Consumer Protection.

    "If we have a little more control over them, we can weed out these problem establishments," O'Brien said.

    O'Brien says he's just trying to help make the downtown area safer and to attract more business. Yet residents feel otherwise

    "If you're talking about commerce, why would you impede commerce? That's like going in the other direction," Otero added.

    West Haven's current nuisance law only addresses blight.

    The owners of Lager House were not available for comment when NBC Connecticut stopped by Wednesday night.


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    Police have canceled a missing persons report for a 2-year-old Waterbury boy and his mother, who were missing since Tuesday.

    Police said Abdiel Laguer and his mother, Solianie Alvarez-Davila, had not been seen since New Year's Eve.

    The two were located safe and sound on Thursday, police said.

    Photo Credit: Silver Alert

    Police have issued missing persons reports for Abdiel Laguer and his mother, Solianie Alvarez-Davila.Police have issued missing persons reports for Abdiel Laguer and his mother, Solianie Alvarez-Davila.

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  • 01/02/14--04:12: 3 Displaced By Danbury Fire

  • Three people are displaced after fire damaged a home in Danbury early this morning.

    Fire broke out at the single-family home at 20 Springside Ave. at 1:56 a.m.

    It appears to have started in a bedroom, where most of the damage is.

    No injuries are reported.

    The American Red Cross is assisting the family.

    Photo Credit:

    Fire appears to have started in a bedroom at 20 Springside Ave. Danbury.Fire appears to have started in a bedroom at 20 Springside Ave. Danbury.

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    A school bus was involved in a crash at Woodbridge Avenue and Clarke Street in Ansonia and students were on the bus, according to Ansonia Police.

    EMS responded to the scene. No students were injured. The driver of a car suffered minor injuries.

    The scene has since cleared.

    Several schools are either closed today or dismissing early.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    There is a crash involving a school bus at Woodbridge Avenue and Clarke Street in Ansonia and students are on the bus, according to Ansonia Police.There is a crash involving a school bus at Woodbridge Avenue and Clarke Street in Ansonia and students are on the bus, according to Ansonia Police.

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    The investigation into an attack on the Chinese consulate in San Francisco is now fully engaged on a federal level.

    Firefighters arrived Wednesday night to see the front door ablaze at 1450 Laguna Street in the city's Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood.

    The U. S. State Department and FBI both waded into the search for the person or persons responsible, a motive and a timeline for the events that transpired Wednesday night.

    David Johnson, special agent for the FBI, told reporters that "an incendiary device fueled by gas" tore up the facade and entrance of the building, incredibly without any injuries.

    "The FBI has opened a full investigation into this matter at this point in time," Johnson said.

    But he added that the Bureau cannot elaborate on a possible motive or perpetrators, as it's still conducting an ongoing investigation.

    Johnson said the act appears 'criminal' in nature, but not national security-related.

    FBI spokesperson Peter Lee elaborated on that point, indicating officials do not believe there are any ties to terrorism, and that the explosion was "likely an isolated incident."

    Lee said the FBI is also looking at the explosion as a possible hate crime and targeted act of arson- arousing the fears of community civic groups and legal alliances for Asian Americans.

    "I do worry that this attack is a hate crime and it might generate other hate crimes from folks who feel that this sort of behavior is acceptable," said Michele Lew of Asian American Community Involvement. "And it's not acceptable."

    The South Bay group advocates for some 10,000 to 15,000 Asian Americans in the Bay Area, and also provides health and social services.

    Lew hopes that if the violence is labeled a hate crime, it doesn't continue to fuel stereotypes.

    "Unfortunately, there's a common misperception that Asian Americans are perpetual foreigners in this country," she said. "And for Chinese Americans in particular, there's a myth that they are more loyal to China than to the United States."

    To repel such stereotypes, Lew encourages civic involvement.

    "Bringing Asian immigrations together with other communities and learning from each other so we can become a multicultural community that we all want," she said.

    According to a statement released on the consulate's website Thursday by a Chinese Consulate spokesperson, a person was seen coming out of a minivan parked in front of the consulate's main entrance at about 9:25 p.m. and pouring two buckets of gasoline onto the front door before setting it on fire.

    The consulate didn't say how officials know about the suspect in the minivan, but there are 12 security cameras on the property.
    According to a fire dispatcher, the fire was reported at 9:33 p.m. and was brought under control by firefighters at 9:42 p.m. Chinese Central Television provided photos of the fireball raging at the front door. And on Thursday morning, the front door was charred, and glass shattered all over the sidewalk. One of the two stone decorative lions in front of the building was blackened, another was not.
    No one was hurt in the fire that charred the building's doorway, damaged the lobby and burned toward the roof.
    Still, the Chinese took the fire as a serious "despicable" affront.
    "We strongly condemn this vicious, destructive act of arson towards the American consulate of China, which severely damaged the facilities and threatened the safety of consulate personnel and others," the statement said.  "We urge the U.S. side to take all necessary measures to provide adequate protection for Chinese consular personnel and properties, and bring the culprit(s) to justice as soon as possible."
    In March 2008 the Chinese consulate in San Francisco was similarly attacked, when a group of people poured a flammable liquid onto the building's back gate and set it ablaze. As of right now, the FBI does not believe there is a connection between the two attacks.
    Though it is common for protests to occur outside Chinese diplomatic missions in Western countries, acts of violence are rare.  

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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