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    The U.S. has dominated snowboarding since its addition to the Winter Games in 1998, racking up 19 medals--nearly a dozen more than Switzerland, its closest competitor. This year, as two new events--slopestyle and parallel slalom--are added to the mix, expectations remain high for America's 23 Sochi-bound snowboarders.

    The group, ranging in age from 16 to 35, includes eight athletes with Olympic credentials, an X Games legend, high school students and a guy who lived out of the back of his truck while training for his chance to go to Sochi.

    The team's first competition--qualifiers for mens' and women's slopestyle--airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on NBC. Before tuning in, brush up on who's who and what exactly is at stake.

    MEN'S HALFPIPE

    Shaun White, one of the pioneers of professional snowboarding, has been a household name for years. Splitting his time between skateboarding and snowboarding, he was the first cross-over athlete to medal in both the Winter and Summer X-Games. He has two Olympic golds for halfpipe--the last of which he earned for a jaw-dropping performance in Vancouver. There, he debuted the Tomahawk--two flips, three and a half spins--which had never been performed during a competition. White also has eight Winter X Games wins, a band, and a new grown-up look: Short hair has replaced the mop of red that earned him his early nickname, the Flying Tomato.

    This year he goes for his third gold in the halfpipe. He also qualified for slopestyle--a new Olympic event that includes a mix of jumps, rails and quarterpipes--but he dropped out the day before the first competition. In a statement to NBC News he said that after much deliberation, he wanted to focus solely on claiming his third halfpipe gold. 

    Joining him in halfpipe are Olympic rookies Taylor Gold, Danny Davis and veteran Greg Bretz--a strong trio of competitors with plenty of medal potential. 

    Davis, a 25-year-old with wild hair and a history of bad luck, heads to Sochi after missing out on two previous chances take the Olympic stage. In 2006 he just missed the halfpipe cut-off for the Torino Games. In 2010, he appeared on track for Vancouver but crashed an ATV, injuring himself and putting his Olympic dreams on the shelf for another four years. He recently won the halfpipe event at the Winter X-Games, which Shaun White sat out. His friends told The Associated Press that they would celebrate by "locking Danny in his hotel room" to keep him safe for Sochi.

    Bretz placed 12th at the Vancouver Games but has made big strides since then. Late last year he won first place over Shaun White at the Dew Tour Ion Mountain Championship, delivering him a big confidence boost. 

    Gold, 21, will travel to Sochi with another Olympic novice--his kid sister Arielle who will compete on the women's halfpipe team.

    MEN'S PARALLEL SLALOM 

    The U.S. is sending just one guy to Sochi to compete in parallel slalom--a downhill one-on-one race debuting at the Games. That guy is Justin Reiter, who wanted the Olympics so badly he slept in the back of his Toytoa Tundra in Park City, Utah to devote as much of his time and resources to training as he could. The sacrifice paid off. The 2013 world champ in parallel slalom earned hist first Olympic spot. He will be the only competitor from the U.S. men's team in the new event--a downhill one-on-one race.

    MEN'S SLOPESTYLE

    Chas Guldemond--aslo known as Chuck G”-- Ryan Stassec and Sage Kostenburg will represent the U.S. in the Olympic's slopestyle debut. Guldermond, who worked a string of part-time jobs to fund his Olympic ambitions, won bronze last year at the U.S. Open and gold at the Grand Prix. Stassec, a 21-year-old Alaska native is a three-time U.S. Revolution Tour champion who will be making his Olympic debut.  Kostenburg, a "big air specialist" was invited to two X Games last year and progressed in world slopestyle rankings from 21st to 10th. A pair from Canada--Max Parrot and Mark McMorris enter the contest as heavy favorites.

    MEN'S SNOWBOARD CROSS

    At 35, Nate Holland is the oldest member of the team and brings with him years of experience. He is a seven-time Winter X Games champion, with 17 world cup medals. He placed 14th at the 2006 Games and 4th at Vancouver. He'll be joined by fellow Olympic vet Nick Baumgartner, who placed 20th in Vancouver, as well as Olympic rookies Alex Deibold and Trevor Jacob who you may recognize from MTV stunt show "Nitro Circus" which takes up some of the 20-year-old's off-time. 

    WOMENS HALFPIPE

    Of all the ladies on the team, Kelly Clark heads to Sochi with the most Olympic experience. At 30, she has participated in three Olympics, taking the gold in 2002, placing fourth in 2006 and winning bronze in 2010. And she's not slowing down. Last month she dominated the X Games notching her fourth halfpipe gold. 

    She'll be joined by fellow veteran Hannah Teter, 27, won the Olympic silver in 2010 and gold in 2006. She is also an eight-time World Cup medalist and philanthropist whose "Sweet Cheeks" undies line helps out a children's charity

    Also on the team are 17-year-old Arielle Gold (who was inspired to trade her skis for a snowboard after watching her big brother and now-Olympic teammate practicing on his) and fellow rising star Kaitlyn Farrington. Fun fact: To fund her training, Farrington's parents had to sell off all the cows on their Idaho farm. Farrington told NBC Olympics that they just wanted to see her do well.

    WOMEN'S SNOWBOARD CROSS

    Lindsey Jacobellis leads the ladies' snowboard cross teamSochi will be the third Olympics for Jacobellis--one of the winningest women of the X Games. In addition to her eight X golds (the most recent notched last month) she has a silver medal from Nagano. She returns to the Games after months off the snow thanks to a bad injury in 2012. She's joined by Jackie Hernandez, a motorcycle aficionado, and Faye Fulini, who was still a teen when she made her Olympic debut in Vancouver, where she placed 12th. 

    WOMENS SLOPESTYLE

    Four young women will compete in the debut Olympic event. Ty Walker, 16, is the youngest of them. The "straight A student," from Vermont placed fourth at the 2013-14 U.S. Grand Prix and fifth at the world championships last year. She's joined by Jamie Anderson who knows what it's like to be the baby. Now 23, Anderson became the youngest X Games medalist when she notched her first at the age of 15. Olympic rookies Karly Shorr and Jessika Jensen round out the team, both making their Olympic debut.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Shaun White will go for his third Olympic halfpipe gold at the Sochi Games.Shaun White will go for his third Olympic halfpipe gold at the Sochi Games.

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  • 02/05/14--16:11: Snow Totals By Town

  • We’re starting to dig out from another winter storm and snow totals range from around 5 inches to over a foot in isolated areas.

    If your town is not on the list, comment and let us know how much snow you have. 

    • Ashford: 8 inches
    • Avon: 10.3 inches
    • Bridgeport: 7.5 inches (official snow total)
    • Bristol: 8 inches
    • Burlington: 10.5 inches
    • Canterbury: 8 inches
    • Clinton: 5.5 inches
    • Colchester: 3.5 inches
    • Coventry: 9 inches
    • Cromwell: 10 inches
    • Danbury: 9 inches
    • East Windsor: 10 inches
    • Fairfield: 9.8 inches
    • Gales Ferry: 4.5 inches
    • Glastonbury: 9.5 inches
    • Guilford: 9 inches
    • Hamden: 9 inches
    • Hampton: 6 inches
    • Litchfield: 8.8 inches
    • Manchester: 10 inches
    • Meriden: 5.1 inches
    • Middletown: 8.5 inches
    • Milford: 7 inches
    • Moosup: 5.5 inches
    • New Canaan: 6.3 inches
    • New Haven: 8 inches
    • New Fairfield: 11 inches
    • New Milford: 10 inches
    • Newington: 11 inches
    • North Canaan: 9.8 inches
    • North Haven: 8 inches
    • Norwalk: 8 inches
    • Norwich: 3.3 inches
    • Old Saybrook: 3.8 inches
    • Pomfret: 11 inches
    • Ridgefield: 8.5 inches
    • Simsbury: 8 inches
    • South Windsor: 10 inches
    • Stafford Springs: 8 inches
    • Storrs: 10 inches
    • Suffield: 9.5 inches
    • Thompson: 10 inches
    • Tolland: 9.4 inches
    • Torrington: 12 inches
    • Trumbull: 10.5 inches
    • Wallingford: 6 inches
    • Waterbury: 4.8 inches
    • West Hartford: 9.5 inches
    • Westbrook: 5 inches
    • Wethersfield: 9.5 inches
    • Windsor Locks: 10 inches
    • Wolcott: 11 inches


    Photo Credit: Sumbutted

    The Dunkin Donuts in BrooklynThe Dunkin Donuts in Brooklyn

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  • 02/05/14--08:26: Fire in Vernon

  • Firefighters responded to a fire in an unoccupied building on High Street in Vernon this morning.

    It broke out at 65 High Street. The cause is under investigation and a dog is being brought in to check for accelerants.

    No additional information is available.
     



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    Hands-on training for the real world is the mission in one Newington class room. But it’s not at a trade or technical college – it’s the John Wallace Middle School.

    The school offers STEM classes – science, technology, engineering and math – and all 700 students in grades 5 through 8 spend 22 days of instruction inside the walls of a learning lab, building bridges and designing robots, rather than traditional classes.

    Aleandra Calderone, a sixth grader, said the class is much more than words in a textbook.

    “In all other classes like math, language arts and social studies, you don't get to build with Legos and learn about mechanics and technology,” Calderone said. “You get to see what you're doing and it just helps you understand better than just reading something and then not knowing what to do or how to do it.”

    The same is true for Luigi Tarantello, a seventh grader. 

    “We can learn about this and it will lead us to another thing. Since it is hands on, it makes me learn it more,” Tarantello said. 

    Their teacher, Jennifer Reed, brought the program to the Newington school. 

     “They have time to work the process here, whereas in a regular curriculum, it's forced because there's so much to get through that you're really kind of forced to keep moving it along,” Reed said.
                   
    Not many middle schools in the state offer this program Principal David Milardo said.

    “There are many students who come to life when they come to STEM class,” Milardo said.

    The program translates well into the district’s biomedical academy or aerospace engineering academy high schools. 

    “This is giving them a taste of what real engineering is all about,” Reed said. 

    The goal is to prepare children for an ever-changing economy, where having a marketable skillset is at an ever-increasing premium.

    “The job market that they'll be going into is so different than anything that any generation before them has gone into.  And this gives them a broader sense of what they can do,” Reed said.

    Reed said she makes sure her class doesn’t push away the less mechanically inclined. 

    “It allows everybody to try the science, technology, engineering and math. It's not just for those kids that are really good at math, or really good at science.  It's for everybody,” she said. “I have some kids in here that are artists, and artists are needed in engineering just as much. And, it gives those artists the chance to see how they might use their creativity.”

    For all students, STEM is a way to develop solutions for real-world problems. 

    “What you have is a controlled chaotic situation in that classroom, a lot of materials, a lot of parts, a lot of pieces.  But at the end of the 22-day cycle, what you see is a finished product that the kids are very proud of,” Milardo said.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    Dr. William Petit, whose wife and two daughters were killed in a 2007 home invasion that horrified the country, has decided not to run for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional seat.

    Dr. Petit had been approached about running for public office and said and October that it was “50-50” that he would run. 

    Today, a spokesperson for Dr. Petit released the following statement.

    "I  will not be a candidate for the 5th Congressional seat.

    "I had been approached by a number of people who urged me to consider this possibility and suggested that I could make a difference if elected. I have always felt it is a great responsibility and privilege in a democracy to run for public office, and that those who care about good government need to be willing to get involved.  That said, I am newly re-married and have a 10 week old son with whom I am spending a lot of loving time. That is my clear priority, and I feel particularly blessed to be able to devote my time to them and to continue to volunteer for the Petit Family Foundation at this stage of my life" ---  William A. Petit, Jr. MD, FACP, FACE

    Dr. Petit remarried in 2012. In November 2013, they had a baby boy.
     
    Dr. Petit, the only survivor of the hostage ordeal in Cheshire, has campaigned against the repeal of Connecticut's death penalty after his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, were killed.

    In memory of his wife and their daughters, Petit created the Petit Family Foundation, which helps educate young people, improve the lives of those with chronic illnesses and protect those affected by violence.

    Steven Hayes, 50, and Joshua Komisarjevsky, 33, have been sentenced to death for the killings.
     


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    Interstate 84 eastbound has reopened between exits 4 and 5 in Danbury following a crash.

    The crash happened around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, state police said.

    Gov. Dannel Malloy said the crash involved two cars and appeared to be minor. No injures were reported.



    Photo Credit: Connecticut Department of Transportation

    A multi-car crash has closed I-84 eastbound in Danbury.A multi-car crash has closed I-84 eastbound in Danbury.

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    Police are investigating after a man with a box cutter robbed a Windsor gas station Tuesday night.

    According to police, the man parked near Jay’s Mobil 2 at 680 Poquonock Avenue/Route 75 and entered the gas station store around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

    Police said he jumped over the counter, flashed a box cutter and demanded that the clerk open the cash register. He took the entire cash drawer and ran out to his car, which police described as small and dark colored.

    The suspect was last seen driving northbound on Route 75.

    He’s described as a white male with an average build. Police said he was about 5 feet 10 inches tall and was wearing dark sweatpants with a white stripe, a gray hooded sweatshirt, a blue-and-gray plaid jacket, a black ski mask, black sneakers and white socks over his hands.

    No one was injured during the robbery.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact Windsor police at 860-688-5273.


    View Larger Map



    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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    Weather is affecting public transit, including trains and air travel, and Gov. Dannel Malloy is asking people to stay off the roads if possible.

    Malloy held a 5 p.m. news conference in which he asked Connecticut residents to avoid unnecessary travel and look out for black ice during the morning commute.

    He said 632 state Department of Transportation trucks have been out treating the roads today and are focused on widening highways and improving secondary road conditions this evening.

    AAA responded to 790 emergency assistance calls in Greater Hartford and eastern Connecticut between midnight and 9:40 p.m. Wednesday. Many of those calls were for towing and helping remove cars that had gotten stuck in the snow, according to a spokesperson.

    State police have responded to more than 1200 assistance calls, including 69 "somewhat serious accidents" in which 12 people were injured, according to Malloy.

    The governor issued a "soft ban" on tandem trucks on the highways today.

    As of 4 p.m., 46 departures and 39 arrivals were canceled at Bradley International Airport. Four departures and eight arrivals had been delayed. Contact your airline for more information

    CT Transit warns of delays and detours throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Express routes will operate on a reduced schedule today.

    The #26 and #27 express routes in Torrington and Winsted will not operate today due to the winter storm.

    CT Transit service in Hartford, New Haven and Stamford was delayed until after 7 a.m. Wednesday because of poor road conditions.

    DATTCO is operating regular scheduled express runs (#19, #21, #23, #24). Customers should anticipate snow accumulation in Park & Ride lots and slow-go on the roadways.

    CHECK HERE FOR UPDATES

    Metro-North is operating on a reduced schedule through peak time this evening, with hourly service after 9 p.m. Wednesday.

    "Most of Metro-North's territory is under a foot of snow and overnght temperatures are expected to be in the single digits," railroad representatives said in a release. "Because of the continued extreme winter weather, the railroad may experience weather-related problems."

    The railroad expects to return to a normal schedule Thursday.


    A bus hit a pole on Main Street in Hartford on Wednesday morning.A bus hit a pole on Main Street in Hartford on Wednesday morning.

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    The Tarrant County intoxication manslaughter case involving "affluenza" teen Ethan Couch touched off more controversy Wednesday, as the teen was spared further jail time but ordered to rehab.

    The 16-year-old was back in court Wednesday after prosecutors requested jail time on charges related to two people who suffered injuries in the crash that killed four others last June.

    On Wednesday afternoon, Couch's attorney said Judge Jean Boyd ordered his client to a rehabilitation facility that would be paid for by his parents, but didn't require a minimum amount of time to be spent there. The family previously offered to pay for a facility in California that cost around $450,000 per year. 

    Others said the facility is in Texas but they declined to say where.

    The judge also ordered no further jail time for the teen in connection with those who were injured, but survived, the crash.

    She also set conditions of his probation, including that he not drive or use drugs or alcohol.

    Family members of the victims were outraged he received no jail time.

    "No matter where he goes, no matter what game he or his family think they've beaten, the world is never going to take their eyes off of him," said Marla Mitchell, whose daughter was killed in the crash.

    Couch's defense had claimed the teenager was coddled and had no sense of responsibility because of poor parenting, and during his trial, an expert termed his condition "affluenza." His defense attorneys argued, successfully, that Couch needed treatment and not incarceration.

    Wednesday's hearing on where Couch would get treatment was scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. A few minutes before the hearing was scheduled to start, several reporters, including NBC 5 DFW's Scott Gordon, were ordered by bailiffs to leave the courtroom.

    The district attorney's office argued to let the public into the hearing and victims' family members said they wanted it open, but the judge rejected their appeals.

    Couch has been in custody at juvenile detention since his Dec. 12 sentencing and remained locked up Wednesday night.

    Couch's attorney Reagan Wynn ripped the media and the public's focus on "affluenza" and said that his client was misunderstood.

    "It's ridiculous to think that we walked into court and said, 'Oh this is a rich white kid' and she decided to probate him," Wynn said.

    But Alpert accused Wynn of hypocrisy, pointing out that a defense witness made the comment in the first place.

    "His witnesses don't say things by accident," Alpert said. "So they thought maybe that would help -- that's my interpretation -- and it blew up on them. It was a stupid thing to say."

    Couch's parents did not speak to reporters as they entered the courtroom. Several relatives of Couch's victims also attended Wednesday's hearing.

    "The families feel like the same way they felt the last time they were here," Alpert said.

    Asking Boyd to give Couch jail time for intoxication assault was a last-ditch effort by prosecutors, who have said they have almost no way to appeal the judge's sentence in the case.

    Alpert said he hoped the Couch case would lead the Texas Legislature to allow juries to sentence some juvenile defendants. The case has already spurred calls for potential changes. Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who serves as president of the Senate, has asked for a study of sentencing guidelines in intoxication manslaughter cases.

    Couch was 16 at the time of the accident. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit for an adult and there were traces of Valium in his system when he lost control of his pickup truck and plowed into a group of people helping a woman whose car had stalled.

     

    Seven passengers were riding in Couch's truck. One, Sergio Molina, is paralyzed and can communicate only by blinking. The other, Solimon Mohmand, suffered numerous broken bones and internal injuries.

    On Tuesday several news outlets, including NBC 5, argued to keep all future Couch hearings public. But Boyd ruled against the media's motion.

    Victims' family members are suing Couch's family in civil court.

    Associated Press writer Nomaan Mercant contributed to this report.


    Ethan Couch (inset left with graphic) faces five civil lawsuits for a June 2013 crash that killed four people and injured two others.Ethan Couch (inset left with graphic) faces five civil lawsuits for a June 2013 crash that killed four people and injured two others.

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    A San Francisco man was indicted on Tuesday on charges he was the mastermind behind a secret website that brokered more than $1 billion in transactions for illegal drugs and services.

    The indictment unsealed in federal court in Manhattan charges Ross William Ulbricht with drug trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering and other counts.

    MORE: Man Allegedly Behind "Silk Road" Wants Bitcoin Returned

    A lawyer for Ulbricht, Joshua Dratel, said his client would plead not guilty at an arraignment scheduled for Friday.

    “The indictment was expected and does not contain any new factual allegations,'' Dratel said in a statement. “We look forward to preparing Ross' defense.'”

    Ulbricht, 29, was arrested late last year at a public library in San Francisco. Authorities say he operated the Silk Road site under the alias “Dread Pirate Roberts,'' an apparent reference to a character in the movie “The Princess Bride.”

    MORE: "Silk Road" Drug Site Suspect Held After Murder-Plot Claims

    The website allowed users to anonymously browse through nearly 13,000 listings. Authorities say the categories included “Cannabis,'” “'Psychedelics'' and “Stimulants.'” Purchases were made using the virtual currency Bitcoin. 


    Ross Ulbricht, an alleged drug kingpin, was indicted on Tuesday on drug trafficking charges.Ross Ulbricht, an alleged drug kingpin, was indicted on Tuesday on drug trafficking charges.

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    A Watertown man is facing charges after investigators discovered hundreds of prescription drugs, marijuana, hash and more than $2,000 in cash in his home on Greenwood Street, according to police.

    Jason Perillo, 35, of 151 Greenwood Street, was arrested Feb. 4. Police said they had reason to believe Perillo had been selling drugs out of his house and car and obtained a search-and-seizure warrant to investigate.

    The search and seizure turned up 140 Alprazolam pills, 22 Lidocaine patches, 49 Suboxone films, 65 Oxycodone pills, 10 Roxicodone pills, four small bags of marijuana, hash and marijuana butter and $2,150 in cash, which police believed to be proceeds from drug sales, according to police.

    Perillo is facing multiple drug charges, including possession with intent to sell and sale of narcotics within a school zone.

    He was issued a $25,000 bond and released on a promise to appear. He’s due in court Feb. 18.

    Police said the case is ongoing and investigators expect to make additional arrests.



    Photo Credit: Watertown Police Department

    Jason Perillo, 35, is facing charges after police reportedly found hundreds of illegal prescription drugs, marijuana, hash and more than $2,000 cash in his home on Greenwood Street.Jason Perillo, 35, is facing charges after police reportedly found hundreds of illegal prescription drugs, marijuana, hash and more than $2,000 cash in his home on Greenwood Street.

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    Snowboarding superstar Shaun White will no longer compete for two golds at the Sochi Games.

    Less than a day before the first slopestyle competition, White told NBC News that he is pulling out of the event.

    "After much deliberation with my team, I have made the decision to focus solely on trying to bring home the third straight gold medal in halfpipe for Team USA," he said in a statement Wednesday." The difficult decision to forego slopestyle is not one I take lightly as I know how much effort everyone has put into holding the slopestyle event for the first time in Olympic history, a history I had planned on being a part of."

    His announcement comes as his teammates and competitors prepare for the first slopestyle competition of the Winter Games--one of the few qualification events scheduled before Friday's Opening Ceremony. It also comes a day after White jammed his left wrist during a test run at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. 

    In an interview with The Associated Press, White described the course as "a little intimidating" but added that he didn't expect the minor injury to slow him down.

    White was not the only snowboarder to get injured on the slopestyle course or comment on its difficulty. Norweigan favorite Torstein Horgmo broke his collar bone on the same course earlier in the week, ending his Olympic chance. The following day, Finnish snowboarder Marika Enne hit her head on a rail during practice, resulting in a concussion.

    Without White, the U.S. men's slopestyle team will be down to three Olympic rookies--Ryan Stassel, Chas Guldemond and Sage Kotsenburg--who will face steep competition from Canada's Max Parrot and Mark McMorris.

    This year is the first year slopestyle--a downhill course with pipes, rails and jumps--will be included in the Winter Games. The competition begins Thursday morning in Sochi.

    Halfpipe, which White is favored to win, begins Feb. 11.



    Photo Credit: Michael Kappeler/picture-allianc

    Shaun White of USA attends a press conference of the US snowboard team at Gorki media center in Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi, Russia on Feb. 5, 2014.Shaun White of USA attends a press conference of the US snowboard team at Gorki media center in Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi, Russia on Feb. 5, 2014.

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    British luxury carmaker Aston Martin says it is recalling 17,590 sports cars because of a problem with the accelerator pedal molding.

    The company said Wednesday there had not been any accidents or injuries stemming from the fault, which can cause the engine to idle unexpectedly.

    The global recall will affect all of the company's left-hand drive cars made between late 2007 and the end of 2013. Right -hand drive cars made between May 2012 and December 2013 also will be recalled.

    The new Vanquish model is not affected.

    The company says molding from a Chinese supplier was found to be defective.

    The Aston Martin is regarded as one of the world's finest sports car and has long benefited from its association with the James Bond films.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    An Aston Martin One-77 is shown on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The car show opens to the public tomorrow and runs through November 27. Aston Martin is recalling thousands of cars after a part supplied by a Chinese supplier was found to be defective.An Aston Martin One-77 is shown on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The car show opens to the public tomorrow and runs through November 27. Aston Martin is recalling thousands of cars after a part supplied by a Chinese supplier was found to be defective.

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  • 02/05/14--18:38: Chicago Cop Killer Gets Life

  • A woman found guilty of killing a Chicago police officer in 2008 has been sentenced to life in prison.

    A Cook County judge sentenced Robin Johnson Wednesday to natural life in prison without parole for the shooting death of Officer Richard Francis.

    Francis, a 27-year veteran of the force, was responding to a call of a disturbance at the Belmont and Western bus stop and confronted Johnson, who had been involved in a fracas with another woman on a CTA bus.

    Johnson grabbed the officer's gun and shot him in the face.

    Johnson was convicted last October of first-degree murder, disarming a police officer and aggravated discharge of a firearm.

    Francis’ wife, Deborah, said Wednesday that her family is still distraught from the murder, and the guilty verdict offered them little closure.

    “Our family was completely torn apart by his murder,” she said in a statement.

    Attorneys for Johnson asked for a minimum sentence Wednesday, arguing that she had been suffering from seizures that caused her to become combative during that time and that she did not remember what happened.

    But Judge Thomas Gainer instead handed down a maximum sentence of life in prison.

    "Robin Johnson, you earned that sentence," he said.

    "The most difficult days in my 33 years as a police officer have been when a colleague who devoted their life to protecting public safety is killed in the line of duty," said Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. "It is a measure of comfort, even if bittersweet, to bring to justice the woman who murdered Officer Richard Francis. On behalf of the entire Chicago Police Department, I want to thank all those involved in bringing this offender to justice."


     


    Robin JohnsonRobin Johnson

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    Someone with knowledge of how a major electrical substation works sneaks into the sensitive area during the dead of night. First, he or she cuts fiber cables to knock out 911 and cell phone service. Then, he or she takes more than 100 shots from a high-powered rifle to "methodically" make transformers overheat and shut down, knocking out the substation. He or she then escapes, and is never caught.

    This all happened last year during the night of April 16 at the Pacific Gas & Electric Company's Metcalf power substation southeast of San Jose, and according to a former PG&E official who talked to the Wall Street Journal, it could be a "dress rehearsal" for a major terrorist attack.

    "These were not amateurs taking potshots," said Mark Johnson, a former PG&E official. "My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal," he told the paper.

    MORE: Surveillance Video Release From Sabotaged PG&E Substation

    It may be far worse than that: Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time of the attack, calls it "the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred" in the U.S., according to the Journal.

    Michael McNerney, a security consultant for Delta Risk, and also the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said the incident could be the latest example of how cyber terrorism could be used to attack America.

    "Yes, this is a likely target, and something we're becoming more concerned about," McNerney said. "Critical infrastructure are things we rely on as a country in order to function: electric grid, air traffic control, water system, stock market. And if they go down, it could potentially be catastrophic."

    The incident was first classified as vandalism by local authorities, but the investigation has since been taken over by the FBI, Foreign Policy magazine reported in December.

    PG&E and the FBI have not officially called the April attack an act of terrorism.

    The strange attack has grabbed attention of members of Congress. Retiring U.S. Rep. Harry Waxman said at a public hearing that it's proof that the country's electrical grid -- without which life as we know it would be powered off -- is not protected from attack.

    Nobody lost power as a result of the substation attack after authorities rerouted power around it, but the substation was down for 27 days.

    About a month later, sheriff's deputies spotted a "man in black" in a field not far away at 3 a.m. He also escaped.

    So the attacker is still out there -- and now, people are worried.

     

    NBC Bay Area's Scott Budman contributed to this report.
     


    This is the substation that was attacked. What was initially described as This is the substation that was attacked. What was initially described as "vandalism" is now being investigated as "terrorism."

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  • 02/06/14--07:53: Ligety's High Expectations

  • Eight years have passed since his unexpected, “surreal” victory in the Alpine super-combined in Turin, Italy, and skier Ted Ligety has yet to feel comfortable with being called an Olympic gold medalist.

    “I’m always taken aback by it, still,” he said.

    Back then, Ligety was a confident but relatively unknown 21-year-old with the freedom to race as if he had nothing to lose.

    Now, however, Ligety is a marked man. Last season was the best of his career and he is shouldering the aspirations of the U.S. Olympic ski team, which is looking to him for at least one gold medal in Sochi. With an array of major endorsements, Ligety has become a familiar face in the weeks leading into the 2014 Winter Games.

    The attention and lofty expectations — and the need to atone for a disappointing 2010 performance in Vancouver — make the 2006 experience seem quaint. But Ligety, 29, says he’s a much better skier, technically and psychologically, and is up to the challenge.

    “I think I’ve definitely matured a lot as an athlete since my first Olympics,” he said. “I think I have figured out how to become more consistent on the World Cup, figured out how to get my best performances, especially on those important days.”

    A native of Park City, Utah, Ligety is a notoriously late bloomer who attributes much of his success to hard work.

    As a kid racer, he was never the fastest, and getting beat all the time motivated him to train more intensely, and to become a student of the technical aspects of the sport.

    He spent years honing his distinctive method of attacking a course, carving edge-to-edge turns through an entire race and virtually eliminating the sliding maneuver that most skiers often resort to. The result is the appearance that he is skating.

    “He’s figured out a way to ski…in a manner that was really different from any of his peers, and I’d say a lot of that is his astuteness,” said Forest Carey, one of Ligety’s U.S. Ski Team coaches. “He’s pretty analytical. He has a science-y mind.”

    That approach propelled Ligety to his dark-horse gold-medal performance in Turin. But it really made a difference after the International Ski Federation in 2011 changed the rules for his signature event, the giant slalom, mandating a return to longer, straighter skis.

    The move was attributed to a rise in injuries blamed on the rise of parabolic-shaped skis that made turning easier.

    Ligety was one of the most outspoken critics of the ruling, but it ended up doing him a favor. His “catapult” technique suited the use of the old-style skis.

    He started the 2012-13 World Cup season by winning the giant slalom in Soelden, Australia by 2.75 seconds, the largest winning margin in three decades. He went on to eight more first-place finishes, including gold medals in the giant slalom, super-combined and super-G at the world championships in Schladming, Austria. He was the first man in 45 years to win three events at a world championship.

    It was another example of Ligety exceeding everyone’s expectations. But he is quick to remind that the Schladming performance was virtually impossible to repeat, especially at the Olympics.

    He’s not taking anything for granted, though. He’ll be racing five events — the giant slalom, slalom, super-combined, super-G and downhill — all winter in preparation for what could be his defining Olympic moment. He could be a medal contender in all but the downhill, his weakest event.

    “I feel like right now I’m at the peak of my career, so I’m really looking forward to the opportunity,” he said.



    Photo Credit: AP

    Ted Ligety of the US celebrates with the US flag after winning the gold medal in the men's giant slalom, at the Alpine World Skiing Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Friday, Feb.18, 2011. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)Ted Ligety of the US celebrates with the US flag after winning the gold medal in the men's giant slalom, at the Alpine World Skiing Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Friday, Feb.18, 2011. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

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    On Wednesday, Hartford police asked residents to move their cars out of school parking lots so they can be plowed in time preparation for the school day today.

    Schools are operating on a two-hour delay today and police are towing cars belonging to people who did not heed the warning.

    The city's parking ban ended at 10 p.m.

     


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    After several surgeries and intensive rehabilitation therapy, a New Britain police officer who was dragged while chasing a suspected car thief in New Britain is going home.

    On Sunday, Jan. 19, New Britain Police Officer Brett Morgan was dispatched to North and Willow streets to investigate. He was struck by the car and dragged 100 feet on the pavement, according to police. 

    Jaheem Snype, 19, was arrested and charged with assault on a public safety officer, first-degree assault and attempt to commit murder. He is being held in custody and is due in court on Feb. 26.

    Morgan spent more than two weeks in an area rehabilitation hospital.

    Police said Officer Morgan will continue his therapy and rehabilitation as an outpatient as he continues to heal and recover from his injuries.

    "All of us at the New Britain Police Department are so very pleased with Officer Morgan’s progress and the fact that he is able to sleep in his own home tonight," a statement from New Britain police said.

    Several fundraisers have been set up to help Morgan and his family deal with the medical expenses.

    How to Help:

    Feb. 23:

    Bolo Bakery & Café in Plainville will host a fundraiser on Feb. 23, from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    The Bolo Bakery & Café, at 33 Whiting St. in Plainville, will donate 25 percent of all sales to Officer Morgan’s Benefit Fund at the New Britain Police Department. Donations will also be accepted.

    The Fund:

    The New Britain Police Department and New Britain Police Union have set up the Brett Morgan Benefit Fund at TD Bank.

    To donate to the fund, go to any TD Bank branch and ask to make a contribution to the Brett Morgan Benefit Fund c/o Robert Martin New Britain Police Department.

    You can also donate by mailing checks to the New Britain Police Department, Brett Morgan Benefit Fund, 10 Chestnut Street, New Britain CT, 06051. Checks should be made payable to the “Brett Morgan Benefit Fund.”

     


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    Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday said LaGuardia Airport is like a "third world country" while speaking about infrastructure in Pennsylvania.

    Biden said if someone were blindfolded and taken to the airport in Hong Kong at 2 a.m. and asked "where do you think you are," the person would say "'This must be America, it's a modern airport.'"

    He went on: "If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York you must think, 'I must be in some third world country.'"

    "No, I'm not joking!" he added. "Why did we lead the world economically for so long? We had the most modern infrastructure in the world."

    The vice president was unveiling Amtrak's newest engine at an event in Philadelphia and touting the need for more investment in U.S. infrastructure.

    LaGuardia was turned into a private flying field in 1929 after it was transformed from an amusement park. It became New York Municipal Airport-LaGuardia Field in 1937, and was leased to the Port Authority 10 years later.

    It has four terminals, the newest of which was built in 1992.

    It's among the busiest airports in the world, with more than 25 million travelers passing through in 2012.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

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    Police are investigating a serious three-car accident involving a state Department of Transportation vehicle on Interstate 95 southbound in North Stonington.

    The crash happened around 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the area of exit 93 on I-95 southbound. I-95 was closed briefly in both directions. The southbound side remained shut down until 6:30 p.m.

    Crews were patching potholes on the highway when a minivan entered the work zone at a high rate of speed and crashed into one of the DOT trucks, according to Kevin Nursick, a department spokesperson.

    State police said at least three people were seriously injured.

    The driver of the minivan was seriously injured and was flown to the hospital via LifeStar, Nursick said. None of the DOT workers was injured, he said.

    According to state police, a third vehicle was also involved in the crash. State police accident reconstruction teams were called to the scene to investigate.

     



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    I-95 southbound was shut down for hours Thursday evening following a three-vehicle crash involving a DOT truck.I-95 southbound was shut down for hours Thursday evening following a three-vehicle crash involving a DOT truck.

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