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    Passengers onboard a disabled cruise ship being towed to shore in the Gulf of Mexico told relatives they are using plastic bags to do "their business" and are otherwise trying to make the best of a bad situation by sleeping under the stars instead of in their stuffy, hot cabins.

    “Last that I heard, there's some sewage leaking down the walls. And they're still having to use the restroom in showers,” said Lindsey Peterson, an Irving, Texas resident whose parents are among the 3,143 guests stuck aboard the broken down vessel. “And she says the boat smells awful and people are getting sick because of the smell."

    The head of Carnival Cruise Lines says his company is working hard to ensure passengers stranded in the Gulf of Mexico are as comfortable as possible while the vessel is towed to port. 

    On Wednesday the company wrote in a statement that it had reserved more than 1,500 hotel rooms, and prepared charter flights and coaches to accommodate travelers when they arrive in Mobile, Ala. later this week. A third tugboat has been dispatched to help tow Carnival Triumph back to port and passengers have been offered full refunds, discounts of 15 to 25 percent on a future voyage and $500 compensation. 

    In the meantime, however, passengers who have been baking on a powerless ship since Sunday, continue to complain of poor conditions.

    Jimmy Mowlam, 63, said his 37-year-old son, Rob Mowlam, told him by phone Monday night that the lack of ventilation onboard the ship had made it too hot to sleep inside. He said Rob and his new bride -- they got married onboard Saturday -- are among the many passengers who have set up camp on the ocean liner's decks and in its common areas.

    "He said up on deck it looks like a shanty town, with sheets, almost like tents, mattresses, anything else they can pull to sleep on," said Mowlam, 63, who is from Warren, in southeast Texas. 

    His son added that there is no running water, few working toilets and passengers were given plastic bags to "use for their business."

    The ship’s crew, Mowlam’s son said, had started giving away free alcohol to passengers raising concerns about what could happen if the drinking got out of hand.

    Other passengers have described more dire conditions, including overflowing toilets and limited access to food.

    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    Texas resident Brent Nutt, whose wife is on the cruise ship, said Monday that she told him the "whole boat stinks extremely bad" and some passengers were getting sick and throwing up. Nutt said his wife reported "water and feces all over the floor."

    Despite the abundance of complaints about the lack of functioning restrooms, Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill said at a news conference Tuesday in Miami that most public restrooms on the ship are working, as are some bathrooms in guest cabins. He also said there's running water on the ship. 

    The Triumph left Galveston, Texas, for a four-day cruise last Thursday carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members. On Sunday, the ship was about 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula when an engine room fire knocked out its primary power source, crippling its water and plumbing systems and leaving it adrift on only a backup power.

    There were no reported injuries caused by the fire, but Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said Tuesday that a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken off the ship as a precaution.

    Everyone else will likely have to remain onboard until the ship reaches Mobile, Ala., which is expected to happen Thursday, weather permitting.

    Besides the three tugs, at least two other Carnival cruise ships have been diverted to the Triumph to transport supplies and a 210-foot Coast Guard cutter was at the scene, Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm said Tuesday.

    "If they do need any help, we're there," he said.

    Carnival hasn't determined what caused the fire or how it caused the electrical problems that have crippled the ship's water and plumbing systems, said Oliva, the company spokeswoman.

    The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday it has opened an investigation into the cause of the fire. The NTSB said the Bahamas Maritime Agency will lead the investigation because the ship carries a Bahamian flag.

    The ship was originally going to be towed to the port in Progreso, Mexico, but after currents pushed it northward, a decision was made to take it to Mobile to make it easier for passengers without passports to get home, the company said.

    A similar situation occurred on a Carnival cruise ship in November 2010. That vessel was also stranded for three days with 4,500 people aboard after a fire in the engine room. When the passengers disembarked in San Diego they described a nightmarish three days in the Pacific with limited food, power and bathroom access.

    Carnival said in a statement that it had canceled the Triumph's next two voyages scheduled to depart Monday and Saturday. 

    NBC 5's Ben Russell and Associated Press writers Michael Graczyk and Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston and David Warren in Dallas contributed to this report.

     



    Photo Credit: AP

    In this image released by the U.S. Coast Guard on Feb. 11, 2013, a small boat belonging to the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous patrols near the cruise ship Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, Feb. 11, 2013. The Carnival Triumph has been floating aimlessly about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula since a fire erupted in the aft engine room early Sunday, knocking out the ship's propulsion system. No one was injured and the fire was extinguished. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard- Lt. Cmdr. Paul McConnell)In this image released by the U.S. Coast Guard on Feb. 11, 2013, a small boat belonging to the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous patrols near the cruise ship Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, Feb. 11, 2013. The Carnival Triumph has been floating aimlessly about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula since a fire erupted in the aft engine room early Sunday, knocking out the ship's propulsion system. No one was injured and the fire was extinguished. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard- Lt. Cmdr. Paul McConnell)

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    As Waterbury continues to dig out from more than 2 feet of snow that fell during the blizzard, the mayor turned to the city’s teens to help shovel at the schools and 500 people showed up for the work.

    “Mayor O'Leary has just announced that any youth ages 14-up that want to earn minimum wage to help shovel out the schools should show up at his office on Grand Street tomorrow at 12noon (on Tuesday) dressed warm with a shovel. See you then,” the Waterbury Police Activity League Web site says.

    The mayor's office is paying minimum wage. Shovelers had to bring an ID. If they were under 18, they had to bring a parent.

    Waterbury schools are out for the day and students will be shoveling until 5 p.m. Everyone will be back at 9 a.m. on Wednesday for a second day of clearning.

    For more information, call 203-574-6712.

    Dozens of streets have not seen a snowplow since the blizzard on Friday and Saturday and the mayor’s office has posted a street plowing progress report on the city’s Web site.

    As of 7 p.m. on Monday, plows had touched most of districts 1, 2, 3 and 4, so Danbury has come to Waterbury’s aid.

    On Monday, Mayor Mark Boughton sent a convoy of trucks to help clear the streets. 

    The move led to some kudos from Waterbury on Twitter. 



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut/Dianna Russini

    Hundreds of teens showed up at Waterbury City Hall Tuesday to offer their services to shovel out the city's schools.  Mayor Neil O'Leary put a call out and promised to pay the teens minimum wage for their work.Hundreds of teens showed up at Waterbury City Hall Tuesday to offer their services to shovel out the city's schools. Mayor Neil O'Leary put a call out and promised to pay the teens minimum wage for their work.

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    A man is in critical condition and a woman has been rescued after emergency workers responded to 158 Roberts St. in Bridgeport for report of gunshots, then fire at house, according to Bridgeport police.

    The police and fire departments, as well as the National Guard, responded and treated this as an active shooter situation, but police said on Wednesday afternoon that it doesn't appear that there was a gun.

    The fire department rescued a female from the third floor. She is OK and with a neighbor, police said.

    Police went into the house and found a male suffering from burns in a second-floor apartment that was on fire, police said. He suffered second-degree burns and was taken to nearby hospital, where he is in critical condition, according to the assistant fire chief.

    A resident reported hearing several pops before the fire started. Investigators do not yet have anything to substantiate the report of shots fired.

    The fire is now out and police are investigating the cause.

     



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut/Audrey Washington

    Police and firefighters responded to reports of shots fired and a fire at a home in Bridgeport Wednesday morning.Police and firefighters responded to reports of shots fired and a fire at a home in Bridgeport Wednesday morning.

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    The boards of American Airlines and US Airways both on Wednesday approved a merger deal, NBC 5 has learned.

    Sources tell NBC 5 that a formal announcement is not expected until Thursday.

    Under the widely reported merger scenario that has been described to NBC 5, US Airways CEO Doug Parker would run the combined airline. American CEO Tom Horton would be named non-executive chairman for a period of one or two years.

    The new airline would keep its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. The company would also keep the American brand, with the US Airways name to go away.

    The Wall Street Journal first reported that both boards had voted on Wednesday to approve the merger.

    The deal has been in the works since August, when creditors forced American to consider a merger rather than remain independent. American has been restructuring under bankruptcy protection since late 2011.

    Together, American and US Airways will be slightly bigger than United Airlines. Travelers won't notice immediate changes. It will likely be months before the frequent-flier programs are merged, and possibly years before the two airlines are fully combined.

    If the deal is approved by American's bankruptcy judge and antitrust regulators, the new American will have more than 900 planes, 3,200 daily flights and about 95,000 employees, not counting regional affiliates. It will expand American's current reach on the East Coast and overseas.

    The merger is a stunning achievement for Parker, who will run the new company. Parker's airline is only half the size of American and is less familiar around the world, but he prevailed by driving a wedge between American's management and its union workers and by convincing American's creditors that a merger made business sense.

    Just five years ago, American was the world's biggest airline. It boasted a history reaching back 80 years to the beginning of air travel. It had popularized the frequent-flier program and developed the modern system of pricing airline tickets to match demand.

    But years of heavy losses drove American and parent AMR Corp. into bankruptcy protection in late 2011. The company blamed bloated labor costs; its unions accused executives of mismanagement.

    NBC 5's Scott Gordon contributed to this report.



    Photo Credit: NBC 5

    An American Airlines jet taxis at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.An American Airlines jet taxis at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

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    State police have charged a truck driver from Wisconsin in connection with a crash that killed a state Department of Transportation employee on Route 8 in Waterbury in March 2012.

    Daniel Dinardi, a 41-year old DOT general supervisor from Rocky Hill, was picking up debris on Route 8 North on March 22, 2012, when he was hit by the truck, according to police.

    His DOT truck was parked on the shoulder of the road and the emergency lights were flashing, according to police.

    After the crash, police said the truck driver was cooperating and the preliminary indication was that this was an accident.

    However, state police charged Gina Davies, 48, of Janesville, Wisconsin, on Wednesday morning.

    Charges files against Davies include violation of the maximum driving hours allowed, false statements regarding Chfa documents, failure to drive in proper lane, interfering with an officer and misconduct with a motor vehicle, according to state police.

    Davies was held on $4,000 bond and was brought to Waterbury Superior Court for arraignment.
     



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

    A tractor trailer (in the distance on the right), hit and killed a DOT worker on Route 8 in Waterbury Thursday afternoon.A tractor trailer (in the distance on the right), hit and killed a DOT worker on Route 8 in Waterbury Thursday afternoon.

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    Connecticut towns, especially in the state’s largest cities, continue to work to clear streets five after the first snowflakes of the blizzard began.

    Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said city crews and private contractors have opened 60-percent of city streets as of 12 noon Wednesday, almost doubling the number of streets made passable in 24 hours.

    At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the travel ban will be lifted, but Finch is asking motorists to drive safely through the city.

    “Our crews, with the assistance of private contractors, made incredible progress overnight and into the morning, doubling the number of streets open to traffic,” Finch said. “The plow drivers and heavy equipment operators are working very hard to get all of our streets open and passable so our residents can get to work and get back to normal. I want to thank the residents of Bridgeport for their patience and understanding during this time.”

    On Tuesday, payloaders and other heavy equipment from as far away as Buffalo, N.Y., and neighboring Danbury, Wilton and Greenwich came into Bridgeport, so around 100 vehicles are working to clear snow from the streets.

    The list of passable streets is posted online. http://bridgeportct.gov/content/87201/137292.aspx

    The National Guard has been in Bridgeport since Saturday and two groups are assisting the police and fire departments.

    All Bridgeport city schools will be closed on Thursday, Feb. 14 and Friday, February 15.

    The public is urged to stay off the roads as much as possible while cleanup crews are clearing streets.

    Garbage and recycling pickups are suspended until further notice and the Transfer Station is closed until further notice.

    A list of passable streets can be found online.  

    The City asks residents to help clear the inlets and catch basins near your house or business. Keeping catch basins clear of snow and ice will reduce the possibility of street flooding during heavy rains or snow melting periods.

    Following snowstorms, residents and businesses with flat roofs are particularly vulnerable.   As the snow on most roofs has frozen, removing any new snow and its additional weight will be very important. If not cleared off, snow piled high on roofs can act as a sponge, absorbing any rain, adding additional stress to structures.

     


    Bridgeport is still digging out after the blizzard.Bridgeport is still digging out after the blizzard.

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    A University of Connecticut basketball player issued an apology after his arraignment on charges he roughed up his girlfriend inside her campus apartment.

    Junior center Enosch Wolf appeared in Rockville Superior Court Wednesday afternoon following his arrest on Monday morning. His case was continued until March 20, which is after the UConn basketball season ends.

    In a hallway outside the courtroom, Wolf addressed reporters saying, "I'm sorry and apologize for what I put the university through, what I put my coaches through, my teammates, my family."

    He declined to answer questions about the Monday morning incident.

    Wolf refused to leave the victim's apartment inside the LaFlesche Building on campus when asked to do so, according to police. He grabbed her hair, pushed her head, and knocked her glasses off her face with his hand, police said.

    He was suspended from the basketball team following his arrest. In a statement released by the university, head basketball coach Kevin Ollie said, "We are aware of the situation concerning Enosch and we are taking the matter very seriously. He has been suspended from the team indefinitely, until the legal and university process is finalized."

    In court, the judge issued a partial protective order for the victim. It prohibits Wolf from assaulting, threatening, or harassing her. It does not ban all contact between them.

    Wolf is charged with criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, and burglary. He is not charged with assault.

    He was released without having to post any bond.


    UConn center Enosch Wolf appeared in Rockville Superior Court Wednesday after being arrested in an incident on campus involving his girlfriend.UConn center Enosch Wolf appeared in Rockville Superior Court Wednesday after being arrested in an incident on campus involving his girlfriend.

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    A silver alert has been issued for a four year old child who was last seen with his mother in Norwich.

    Norwich police are searching for Yahquin Warren, who was last seen around 6:30 a.m. wearing a black jacket and hat. He was taken by his mother Keyett McDonald.
     
    According to State Police, McDonald’s parental rights were recently revoked.
     
    Warren is described as a black male, weighing approximately 37 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. McDonald is a black female. She is described as 5’2”, 150 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes.
     
    They may be en route to New York.
     
    Anyone with any information is asked to call Norwich Police at 860-886-5561.

     

     


    Yahquin Warren, left, and his mother Keyett McDonald.Yahquin Warren, left, and his mother Keyett McDonald.

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    Shoreline cities like New Haven and towns like Waterford are still trying to clear away snow even as more snow falls overnight.
    No matter how much falls each town says it's prepared and some have more help than others.
    "You feel good helping your community and helping people who can't help themselves around town you get something out of it," said Austin Miner, a senior at Waterford High School.
    He helped shovels driveways in and around town. Not only did he get community service hours out of it but he says he gets the satisfaction of knowing he's helping those who can't shovel, especially with more snow overnight.

    "They were like can we tip you?" Miner said, referring to the people whose driveways he worked on. "Can we give you hot chocolate? All sorts of things. One lady gave us a pie and some cookies and they were real nice about it."

    Waterford Police Chief Murray Pendleton says things have gotten mostly back to normal here though it's been slow. Residents have had issues with driveways and sight lines like this one. More accumulation is not welcomed but something they'll deal with.

    "We've got the kids back to school, we've got the major roads open," Pendleton said. "And thanks to the 40 degree weather a lot of snow has disappeared."

    Erin Eccleston is the program coordinator for Waterford Youth Services. They helped the city get some of the roads that plows couldn't get to by having high school students like Austin pitch in.
    "I believe they get a lot of personal satisfaction out of helping the community," Eccleston said.
    "Helping these senior citizens do something they wouldn't normally do."

     

     



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

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    Forensic experts will determine whether the charred remains found Tuesday after a deadly shootout at a Big Bear-area cabin are those of Christopher Dorner -- the former LAPD officer wanted in a series of shooting deaths that were part of a revenge plot involving law enforcement agents and their families.

    Timeline: Revenge-Plot Slayings | Map: LAPD Manhunt | 10:30 a.m. PT: Memorial for Slain Officer

    Investigators remained Wednesday at the burned cabin where a man believed to be Dorner was involved in a shootout that killed a San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputy -- one of four deaths connected to the 33-year-old fired officer in a revenge plot that targeted law enforcement officers and their families.

    The slain officer was identified Wednesday afternoon as Detective Jeremiah MacKay, 35. The father of two young children, MacKay was a 15-year veteran of the department, Sheriff John McMahon said in a press conference.

    Deputy Alex Collins was also struck during the shootout and is expected to recover after surgeries at Loma Linda University Medical Center, McMahon said.

    A positive identification of the charred remains found in the cabin will require forensics tests, authorities said.

    The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Dorner's driver's license was found in the cabin. The AP cited a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

    Positive identification might require days or weeks to complete, police said.

    "Those types of identifications can be expedited, and I'm sure everything will be done to do that in this case," LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said at a Wednesday morning news conference.

    Until that identification is confirmed, the LAPD will continue protecting law enforcement officers and their families that were named as possible targets in an 11,400-word manifesto apparently written by Dorner, according to the LAPD.

    "About a dozen or so" subjects mentioned in the Dorner document remain under protection, Neiman said.

    Neiman did not provide details on the investigation in the San Bernardino Mountains, adding that San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department investigators will address questions regarding events at the cabin. The sheriff's department planned to conduct a news conference Wednesday, but it was not immediately clear when that would occur.

    The homicide investigations involving Dorner will continue, Neiman added.

    "We don’t just stop a murder case simply because we suspect that the suspect in that case is no longer with us," Neiman said. "There are some families that are literally traumatized."

    A man believed to be Dorner entered the cabin Tuesday afternoon after abandoning a stolen vehicle near Highway 38 at Seven Oaks Mountain Cabins in the unincorporated community of Angelus Oaks (map). The man never came out of the structure, which was destroyed in the fire.

    It is not clear how the fire started, and McMahon on Wednesday said that authorities were not involved in starting the blaze.

    "We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out," the sheriff said.

    Several walls of the cabin were knocked down with an armored vehicle, then authorities heard a single gunshot from inside, a law enforcement source told NBC4.

    The cabins are southwest of Big Bear, where Dorner's burned-out vehicle was discovered Thursday after he allegedly shot and killed a Riverside police officer.

    Brief Pursuit Leads to Cabin Shootout

    Events unfolded Tuesday after authorities initially responded to a stolen vehicle report at 12:22 p.m. in the 1200 block of Club View Drive in Big Bear, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

    A man believed to be Dorner held a couple captive at a Big Bear cabin near a command center that was set up to coordinate the multi-agency search, according to sources inside the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. The two were interviewed by investigators and released.

    The pair came to the house on Tuesday morning, surprising the man believed to be Dorner, who was inside, according to a spokesman for the California Fish and Wildlife Department.

    The couple was tied up by the man, but the woman was able to free herself and call 911, officials said.

    Initially, it was reported that the two captives were mother-daughter housekeepers. Mountain Vista Resort owners Karen and Jim Reynolds on Wednedsay night told media that they were tied up by the man before he stole their SUV.

    After leaving the cabin, Dorner is believed to have stolen two vehicles before the gunfight.

    A Department of Fish and Wildlife warden first noticed a driver matching the fugitive's description driving on Highway 38 at about 12:45 p.m. near Glass Road. The warden then called for backup and three additional CDFW wardens in two separate trucks began pursuing the driver, said Lt. Patrick Foy, with CDFW.

    Foy said the man was driving a purple Nissan -- which he may have commandeered from the two captives -- when he was first spotted by the CDFW warden. The driver crashed the Nissan before carjacking a white pickup truck, Foy said.

    One of the wardens exchanged gunfire with the subject before the man fled into the cabin, authorities said. Officers could hear audio of the cabin shootout, Neiman said.

    "It was horrifying to listen to that firefight," Neiman said. "To hear those words, "officer down," is the most gut-wrenching experience you can have as a police officer."

    The manhunt conducted over a widespread area of Southern California led to Big Bear Thursday after the discovery of Dorner's burned-out pickup south of Big Bear Lake. The truck was found about seven hours after Dorner shot and killed a Riverside police officer, according to investigators.

    Officer Michael Crain's 10:30 a.m. memorial service was attended by some 8,000 people Wednesday.

    NOTE: NBC4 incorrectly reported that the pair held captive inside a Big Bear cabin were mother-daughter housekeepers. A couple who own the Mountain Vista Resort on Club View Drive on Wednesday evening told media that they were tied up by the man before he stole their SUV. 


    An aerial view of the property at which authorities believe Christopher Dorner was involved in deadly shootout Tuesday.An aerial view of the property at which authorities believe Christopher Dorner was involved in deadly shootout Tuesday.

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    A New Haven school resource officer caught two bank robbery suspects while on traffic duty Wednesday morning.

    Officer Albert McFadden has been reassigned to snow traffic control on Whalley Avenue while schools are closed. On Wednesday, McFadden heard a police radio broadcast about a man and woman who had just robbed a Citizens Bank branch in Woodbridge.

    He noticed a silver Subaru station wagon fitting the description of the suspects' vehicle driving toward his traffic checkpoint around 9:45 a.m. McFadden pulled the car over into a gas station at Whalley Avenue and Fitch Street and took the suspects into custody, police said.

    Employees of the Citizens Bank were brought to the scene and positively identified the man and woman as the suspects who robbed the bank.

    Woodbridge police arrested Jason Carasone, 39, of West Haven, and Katie Walkley, 31, of Milford. 

    Carasone is charged with  robbery, larceny and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. He is being held on $500,000 bond.

    Walkley is charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit larceny.  She is being held on $300,000 bond.

    Both suspects are scheduled to be in court Thursday.

    Woodbridge police and the FBI are investigating the robbery.



    Photo Credit: Woodbridge Police

    A surveillance photo captured the man suspected of robbing a Citizens Bank in Woodbridge Wednesday.A surveillance photo captured the man suspected of robbing a Citizens Bank in Woodbridge Wednesday.

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    The cleanup from the weekend blizzard has yet to be completed, but areas of the state could see a bit more snow by Thursday morning.

    A storm system moving from the Mid-Atlantic states will develop south of Connecticut Wednesday night. The northern fringe of the storm is expected to brush Connecticut, bringing a light snow overnight.

    Inland areas of the state should see no more than a coating of snow, but the immedate shorline could see 1-2 inches by morning, according to NBC Connecticut Chief Meteorologist Brad Field. The snow will begin sometime around 10 p.m. Wednesday and should end before daybreak Thursday morning.

    There will be another chance for light snow Friday into Saturday.

    You can see the snow on our interactive radar.

    See closings and cancellations here.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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     President Barack Obama on Thursday pitched a new plan to make preschool available to all 4-year-old children, declaring, "Education has to start at the earliest possible age."

    With teachers as a backdrop, Obama made his case for greater access to preschool, arguing that poor children in particular can benefit. "Study after study shows that the earlier a child starts learning, the better he or she does down the road," he said. "But here's the thing: We are not doing enough to give all of our kids that chance."

    It was Obama's second day on the road, after Tuesday's State of the Union address, to promote initiatives for his second term directly to the public.

    For full U.S. news and politics coverage, visit NBCNews.com.

    His visit came on the same day Education Secretary Arne Duncan told senators on Capitol Hill that pending budget cuts could be devastating to current students and could hurt the nation's economy for years to come, if students aren't learning now.

    "We're trying to do a lot more in terms of early childhood education, not go in the opposite direction," Duncan said. "Doing that to our most vulnerable children is education malpractice, economically foolish and morally indefensible."

    Obama's team is warning Congress — and lawmakers' constituents — what is expected to happen if leaders fail to avert $85 billion in automatic budget cuts set to begin March 1. With the cuts looming, the administration has increased its pressure on lawmakers, and Obama's address Tuesday made clear he was not looking for compromise as he begins his second term.

    Before his remarks in Decatur, Obama stopped by a classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center, which serves kids from infancy through pre-kindergarten. He played games with about a dozen children, bending down to give hugs or offer a fist bump.

    "If you're looking for a good bang for your education buck , this is it right here," Obama said afterward. He praised the teachers as highly qualified. "This is not babysitting. This is teaching."

    The White House fleshed out Obama's plan Thursday, proposing a "continuum of high-quality early learning for a child, beginning at birth and continuing to age 5." The government would fund public preschool for any 4-year-old whose family income is 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level — a more generous threshold than the current Head Start program, which generally serves kids from families below 130 percent of the poverty line. All 50 states and the federal government would chip in.

    Obama also is proposing letting communities and child care providers compete for grants to serve children 3 and younger, starting from birth. And once a state has established its program for 4-year-olds, it can use funds from the program to offer full-day kindergarten, the plan says.

    Still missing from Obama's plan are any details about the cost, a key concern among Republicans. The White House says federal investment in Head Start, an $8 billion program that serves almost 1 million kids, will grow. But Obama's aides have stressed that the new programs would not add to the nation's nearly $16.5 trillion debt.

    "The last budget had over $1.5 trillion of mandatory and revenue savings, things like reductions in entitlements, closing loopholes," Jason Furman, a deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters Wednesday. He said the new initiatives would be smaller than that. Obama will outline details about the plan's cost when he sends his 2014 budget proposal to Congress next month, Furman said.

    Ahead of that, the White House and Congress are weighing whether to let the deep automatic spending cuts to take hold on March 1. If that happens, some 10,000 teachers could be out of work and 70,000 students could be kicked out of Head Start programs, Duncan warned lawmakers. The cuts would also force an additional 14,000 Head Start workers to be laid off and would mean 1.2 million students from low-income families would have their schools' funding cut. Washington also would stop paying its share of 7,200 special needs educators' salaries.

    If the White House wants to move ahead, officials are going to need help from the states to provide political cover and dollars alike. House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday involving the federal government in early childhood education was "a good way to screw it up." The Republican chairman of the House committee overseeing education policy, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., was cool toward the proposal and was unlikely to support new spending on it. And even Obama's allies acknowledged there was little Washington could do without governors' help.

    Kline said that "before we spend more taxpayer dollars on new programs, we must first review what is and is not working in existing initiatives, such as Head Start."

    Republicans and conservatives have questioned the effectiveness of Head Start programs, citing studies such as a Health and Human Services Department report last year showing that, while at-risk students enrolled in the pre-kindergarten programs saw tremendous gains in vocabulary and social development, those benefits largely faded by the time students reached third grade. The HHS report didn't explain why the students saw a drop-off in performance or predict how they would fare as they aged.

    "There's reason for huge skepticism," said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank. "Most states are still in a ditch financially, and it's going to be a couple years before they're out of it. ... I don't know where the states are going to come up with the money for this."

    Scores of other studies, however, were more favorable toward the program, which has been shown to make at-risk students more likely to complete high school and avoid criminal arrests. In pure dollars and cents, academics called it a smart investment.



    Photo Credit: AP

    President Barack Obama is set to speak on early childhood education in Georgia on Thursday, two days after he raised the issue in his State of the Union address.President Barack Obama is set to speak on early childhood education in Georgia on Thursday, two days after he raised the issue in his State of the Union address.

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    Flower Wonderland in Branford is determined to get Valentine’s Day flowers out to customers today, even after the blizzard delayed their flower delivery and caused part of the roof to collapse.

    The shop received three days-worth of flower deliveries on Tuesday because of the backlog from the blizzard.

    ‘As a matter of fact, we just got shoveled out yesterday, so then we were waiting for the flowers to come in because we were supposed to get deliveries Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so that's three days of deliveries that we got in one day," said Gigi Fusco, who owns the shop.

    Flower Wonderland is also working with their delivery service to make sure they can actually get around some of the still snow-covered roads in the area to make Valentine's Day flower deliveries.

    "Our motto is, ‘If it's passable, it's possible.’ So, if your driveway is done, if the streets are done, we'll be there," Fusco said.



     


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    A marriage counselor charged with sexual assault is on trial in Texas, accused of using her position of authority to have sex with a patient.

    Sheila Loven counseled a couple in 2009 and allegedly used her counseling influence to encourage the wife to file for divorce, then had an affair with her husband, according to prosecutors.

    Tarrant County Assistant District Attorneys Betty Arvin and Sean Colston are prosecuting the case.

    The wife took the stand on Thursday and testified about her relationship with Loven, which she described as "visiting her best friend once a week to talk."

    The wife said Loven spoke unfavorably about her husband for months and encouraged the two to divorce. 

    "It wasn't marriage counseling, it was divorce counseling," the wife said in court. 

    In September 2009, after the wife filed for divorce, she met Loven at a restaurant in the Dallas area. Throughout lunch, she disclosed to Loven suspicions she had about her husband seeing someone. She testified that after a possible girlfriend was mentioned, Loven admitted her involvement.

    "It's me, it's me," the wife said Loven told her. "She had developed an interest in my husband and wanted to seek a relationship with him," she said in court.

    The wife added that she was numb after the conversation with Loven and eventually got up and left the restaurant. 

    The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Loven and the husband had an affair for two months in 2009 before he and his wife reconciled, after realizing that Loven had been deceiving them during their separate counseling sessions.

    "I thought she was my friend. I thought she cared," the wife testified.

    After the couple’s reconciliation, they started receiving sexually graphic, threatening and insulting text messages in Jan. 2010, allegedly from Loven. 

    The defense argued in court that the messages could not be authenticated. Judge Ruben Gonzalez overruled the objections.

    Prosecutor Betty Arvin quoted in court a text message to the husband that read: "When are you going to figure out that you are nothing without me? I made you a man." 

    A text sent to the wife read: "I want you to suffer.”

    The couple is now divorced.

    Loven could face two to 20 years in prison if convicted. If convicted, as a first-time offender, she could get probation.

    The trial is expected to resume on Thursday. 


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    Opponents of plans for a state-run nursing home proposed for the site of the former Rocky Hill Nursing home on West Street plan to hold a rally at the state Capitol in Hartford next week.

    Under an agreement with the state, the owner of the nursing home is preparing to bring patients in as early as this month.

    When residents heard about the state’s plan in December, a controversial debate began and many said they feel this would amount to having a prison in their backyard.
     
    Neighborhood organizers and political leaders have met weekly and collected more than 2,000 signatures from people who are against the project.

    A rally will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

    Organizers are offering free bus service for residents who don’t wish to drive into Hartford.  The buses will leave Elm Ridge Park at 10:30 a.m.

     


    Rocky Hill residents fight nursing home.Rocky Hill residents fight nursing home.

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    A 150-foot asteroid estimated to weigh 143,000 tons offered astronomers and armchair audiences alike a rare spectacle when it whizzed close by the Blue Planet on Friday.

    The chunk of space rock, discovered by amateur astronomers in Spain and not-so-catchily dubbed 2012 DA14, moved Friday closer to us than ever before. That happened near the Indonesian island of Sumatra at about 2:24 p.m. ET. The asteroid will still be visible as it moves away from earth this evening.

    Here's what you should know about the asteroid's historic travels and why you should count yourself lucky.

    A historic flyby

    Flybys like Friday's only occur once every 40 years.

    This one was by far the closest that DA14 will come to Earth for many decades, NASA says. The next closest will be 33 years from now, when it won't come within 620,000 miles from Earth's center.

    The closest the asteroid came Friday was within 17,200 miles, over 5,000 miles closer than the group of GPS and weather satellites that rings the planet.

    Dr. Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid investigation, told NBC Washington before the flyby there was "absolutely nothing to worry about."

    "The asteroid will not hit the earth," he said. "It will not hit the space station. It’s not going to hit any of our critical satellite assets -- so you don’t have to worry about losing your TV.”

    Still, the flyby was unusually close, which is why the asteroid prompted such intense interest, not only from scientists and curious stargazers but also from private companies that smell profits in the space rocks.

    Scientists from firms like Deep Space Industries have recently been eying such asteroids as the future of alternative fuel, with resources like hydrogen, oxygen, nickel and iron.

    "Would you rather rip the heart out of a living mountain to get the metals you need, or go mine an asteroid that’s just a piece of dead rock that’s going to kill us if we don’t eat it?" its board chairman said last month.

    What if it hit Earth?

    If it did collide with the planet, the asteroid's impact could have been enough to wipe out the entirety of New York City, plus a good chunk of its suburbs.

    Asteroids the size of DA14 only hit Earth every 1,200 years or so, The Associated Press reported. The last major asteroid impact hit in in 1908 — in the middle of the Siberia, mercifully, rather than near a city. The impact by that asteroid, about the same size as the DA14, unleashed a massive TNT blast — more than 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima — and obliterated 750 square miles of forest.

    In a separate development early Friday, nearly 1,000 people were injured when a huge fireball believed to be a meteorite fell over Russia's Chelyabinsk region, causing an explosion and sonic boom that shattered glass windows.

    The Russian Academy of Sciences estimated the meteor weighed about 11 tons before entering the Earth's atmosphere with a speed at least 33,000 mph, according to BBC News.

    Astronomy experts said the event was not connected to DA14's flyby, having come from a different trajectory.

    Earth gets hit by several tons of material every day but most of it burns up in the atmosphere, Lisa Will, resident astronomer at the California-based Fleet Science Center, told NBC 7 San Diego.

    A meteor the size of the fireball in Russia occurs possibly every couple of months but statistically ends up in water so humans don’t see a lot of them, Will added.

    If 2012 DA14 were to hit Earth, the impact would be far more powerful, NBC News reported.

    NASA scientists stressed before the flyby that wouldn't happen, but that's not to say they're not worried about possible future impacts.

    The agency's Near Earth Object Observation program finds and tracks asteroids and comets near earth and keeps track of them all to see if any could threaten Earth. For those it fears might, it's also working on technology to deflect the asteroids from their paths.

    How can I watch 2012 DA14?

    Not by looking skyward, unless you're in Europe, Asia or Australia and you've got a telescope or binoculars. In that case, there are websites that can tell you where, when and how to look.

    That's important because of parallax. DA14 is passing so close to the Earth that people in different parts of the world will have to look in different parts of the sky to see the rock.

    NASA carried a livestream with views of the asteroid from Australia that included commentary as it passed its closest point to earth.

    A three-hour live online feed of the flyby from a telescope at NASA's Huntsville, Ala., facilities starts at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, too.

     



    Photo Credit: AP / NASA

    This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013. The 150-foot object will pass within 17,000 miles of the Earth. NASA scientists insist there is absolutely no chance of a collision as it passes. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013. The 150-foot object will pass within 17,000 miles of the Earth. NASA scientists insist there is absolutely no chance of a collision as it passes. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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    The  4-year-old boy reported missing from Norwich on Wednesday was found safe in Maine on Thursday night.

    Norwich police issued a silver alert for Yahquin Warren after his noncustodial mother, Kayette McDonald, took him from his grandmother's house.

    Yahquin's grandmother was looking after him after McDonald lost her parental rights

    Yahquin’s teachers at the Samuel Huntington School Day Program in Norwich reported him missing on Wednesday.

    On Thursday, Norwich Police received information that McDonald had fled to the state of Maine and Maine State Police and FBI located McDonald and Yahquin at a residence in the city of Auburn.

    The child was in good health and turned over to Maine child services.

    McDonald was placed under arrest as a fugitive from justice.

    Criminal charges are pending.


    Yahquin Warren, left, and his mother Keyett McDonald.Yahquin Warren, left, and his mother Keyett McDonald.

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    A video posted to YouTube that shows young men jumping into snow banks from the roof of a building across the street from the Frog Hollow Fire Station has caught the attention of the Hartford Fire Chief because it was recorded from inside his fire house, he said.
     
    The video that shows young men jumping more than 30 feet into the giant snowbank was taken from a second floor window of the firehouse on Park and Affleck streets, according to Fire Chief Ed Casares,  and he is not happy about it.
     
    "I kind of recognized where it came from and was concerned with the subject matter," he said.  
     
     
     
    Those responsible for the recording can be heard cheering on the jumpers and laughing instead of stopping them like they should, according to the chief. 
     
    "It's bad judgment," said Casares, who added that an investigation was pending
     
    Casares could not provide details on the investigation, but he said the firefighters might have felt unsafe intervening, based on what happened before and after the video was taken. 
     
    He did not want the public to rush to judgment based the short YouTube video, or doubt the Hartford Fire Department.
     
    "We have proved over the weekend, over the past 4 days, what we do day-in and day-out," he said.
      
    No firefighters has yet to be disciplined.
     
     
     

     


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  • 02/14/13--09:41: Prom Invite to Melt Over
  • A teen from Granby woke up to a great Valentine’s Day surprise and a senior prom invitation her family will be talking about for decades to come.

    Stephanie Samuelson’s boyfriend, Dan, turned the feet of snow the weekend blizzard dumped onto Connecticut into a 5-foot sculpture asking her to the big dance.

    Stephanie’s mother, Michelle Hébert, said Stephanie, a high school senior in Granby, and Dan, a high school senior in Simsbury, have been dating for almost a year.

    Last night, Michelle’s 19-year-old son, Jamie, pulled her aside and told her about Dan’s plan to come over to the house and start working on the creative prom invitation, so she was prepared.

    At midnight, construction began. Dan and Jamie worked until 5:30 a.m., just taking a coffee break.

    When Stephanie woke up on Valentine’s Day morning on Thursday, it was dark.

    Hebert knew she needed to get her daughter to a window, so she said told her a tree fell in the yard.

    When Stephanie went to the window, she saw her surprise and her boyfriend waiting there for her and an answer.

    Stephanie said yes, according to Hebert, and the happy couple will be going to both proms.
     



    Photo Credit: LeAnne Gendreau

    This is the prom invitation that a Granby teen woke up to.This is the prom invitation that a Granby teen woke up to.

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