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    Firefighters battled a fire at a vacant house at on 394 Elm Street in Enfield on Friday morning.

    The street was closed near Market Terrace as crews put out the fire.

    The town assessor's office lists the owner of the property as the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    No injuries are reported and fire officials were beginning to clear the scene as of 7:30 a.m.



    Photo Credit: Kerri Pliszka

    Fire broke out at a vacant home in Enfield on Friday morning.Fire broke out at a vacant home in Enfield on Friday morning.

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    Watertown police have arrested a husband and wife suspected of committing robberies in Watertown and Naugatuck after determining that a person who they had previously arrested was not the robber.

    On the morning of July 23, a man approached an 80-year-old woman while she was getting a cart inside the Stop & Shop supermarket on Straits Turnpike, grabbed her purse, knocked her to the ground and drove away, police said.

    After the crime, police arrested a 28-year-old Waterbury man, but said they discovered some discrepancies.

    No information was released on what the discrepancies were, but that led to police collecting more evidence and releasing the original suspect.

    With a new investigation underway, police received some information about robberies in Naugatuck that had been committed by a man with a similar description to the culprit in the Watertown case, police said.

    Joseph Smith, 29, of Waterbury, was identified as the new suspect and police obtained surveillance footage that showed him cashing checks in the company of a woman, police said. Police would later determine that the woman as Smith’s wife, Kimberly Dimaria-Smith, 26, and obtained arrest warrant for both of them.

    Naugatuck police arrested Joseph Smith on Aug. 21.

    As he was in Waterbury Superior Court on Aug. 22 to face charges out of Naugatuck, Watertown police arrested him in connection with their case and charged him with assault of an elderly person in the third degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, larceny in the second degree, credit card theft, two counts of illegal use of a credit card, robbery in the third degree, breach of peace in the second degree, four counts of conspiracy to commit identify theft in the second degree, four counts of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, four counts of conspiracy to commit forgery in the third degree and four counts of conspiracy to commit larceny in the sixth degree.

    Bond was set at $200,000.00.

    Watertown police also arrested Kimberly Dimaria-Smith on Aug. 21 and charged her with four counts of identity theft in the second degree, four counts of criminal impersonation, four counts of third-degree forgery and four counts of sixth-degree larceny. She was held on a court-set bond of $100,000.00 court set bond and will be arraigned today.

    Watertown Police investigators have been in touch with the Waterbury States Attorney’s Office about the original arrest of the 28-year-old Waterbury resident, said a nolle will be entered in the case and the defense attorney has made a motion to dismiss.

    Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut



    Photo Credit: Watertown Police

    Watertown police have arrested Joseph and Kimberly Dimaria-Smith in connection with a robbery.Watertown police have arrested Joseph and Kimberly Dimaria-Smith in connection with a robbery.

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    New Hampshire wasn't kind to Texas Governor Rick Perry back in 2012. He's hoping voters in the granite state will give him a fresh start as he considers another presidential bid in 2016.

    On Friday, Governor Perry returned to New Hampshire for a series of GOP sponsored events.

    He met with business leaders in Portsmouth and focused many of his remarks on border concerns and the growing threat of ISIS, even connecting the two by speculating members of ISIS could enter the U.S. through unsecured borders.

    "ISIS has said we are coming to America and they are going to attack us, I take them at their word," said Gov. Rick Perry.

    Governor Perry also addressed his recent indictment on coercion charges by a Texas grand jury. He called the charges politically motivated and said he will fight them with every fiber of his being.

    He also acknowledged making mistakes in New Hampshire back in 2012, saying he didn't spend enough time in the state and wasn't as prepared as he would have liked.

    Governor Perry will make several more stops in New Hampshire through Saturday.



    Photo Credit: AP

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, that he would be open to sending U.S. combat forces to Iraq to fight the deadly Islamic State after its attacks on a Christian minority and the beheading of an American journalist. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, that he would be open to sending U.S. combat forces to Iraq to fight the deadly Islamic State after its attacks on a Christian minority and the beheading of an American journalist. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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    Officials with the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety have issued a statewide emergency bulletin about a dangerous "fire challenge" teens are taking.

    They are dousing their bare skin in flammable liquids, like alcohol, and lighting it on fire.

    The teens are recording the acts and posting the videos on YouTube and Facebook. But the stunt has already resulted in serious injuries across the nation.

    Derrick Robinson, an 11-year-old from the Miami-area, had to be hospitalized in a regional burn center after trying the challenge. He suffered burns to his torso, chest and shoulder and has to undergo weekly hospital visits as he heals.

    “Do not do the burn challenge!” Robinson told our sister station NBC6 South Florida.

    In Arkansas, a 14-year-old girl suffered second degree burns to 27 percent of her body after pouring nail polish remover on her skin and igniting it.

    "I saw a lot of people do it, and I never saw anyone die from it," the girl, Monica Hamilton, told the NBC affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas, as she discussed her motivation.

    A mother in Charlotte, North Carolina, was arrested after police said she helped her 16-year-old son undertake the dangerous act.

    While there haven't been any reported injuries to New Jersey teens, officials want everyone to be aware of how dangerous lighting yourself on fire is.

    "I have seen some people who have died from burns. It's just devastating," said Frank Primavera, an official with the Hamilton Township, New Jersey, Fire Department.

    Officials say that teens taking the challenge risk burns not only to their skin but also to their respiratory system, since they are inhaling the ignited vapors.

    Primavera is hoping parents will talk with their kids to help put an end to the risky challenge.

    "The adults need to speak with their teenagers and find out why they would even want to do something like this and explain to them how devastating burns can be. They're forever," he said.

    Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut



    Photo Credit: YouTube

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    Milford police have arrested a New Haven man who they said pretended to swap gaming systems with someone through Craigslist but gave the victim a box of rocks instead.

    The victim made arrangements through Craigslist to swap video game systems with Daryl Johnson, 19, of New Haven and the two met on New Haven Avenue  on July 2, police said.

    After making the swap, the victim checked the gaming system box he was given and found that it held rocks, not the item promised.

    Police seized the gaming system from Johnson during what they said was a separate and unrelated investigation the same day.

    Johnson was arrested on Thursday and charged with larceny. He is due in court on Sept. 16.
     


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    The former operations manager for a Spring Hill Suites hotel in Milford is accused of stealing $33,000 from the hotel while she was employed there. 

    Staff from the hotel at 50 Rowe Avenue hotel contacted police on November 26, 2013 after discovering more than $33,000 in unauthorized business transactions, police said.

    Police said Tonisha Parker, 36, of New Haven, is accused of accepting payments for room rentals at the hotel, completing the unauthorized transactions and keeping the money between June 2012 and October 2013.

    She was arrested and charged with first-degree larceny. Bond was set at $100,000.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    The operations manager of a Milford hotel is accused of stealing more than $30,000 in room rental fees.The operations manager of a Milford hotel is accused of stealing more than $30,000 in room rental fees.

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    A Sacred Heart University student suffered serious injuries when she was hit by a car on Madison Avenue in Bridgeport on Monday afternoon.

    The victim was with another female pedestrian on the 200 block of Madison Avenue when she was struck by a red Nissan Coupe that was heading northbound around 1 p.m., police said.

    The woman, who police said is a junior at the university in Fairfield, suffered serious injuries and was taken to Saint Vincent’s Medical Center.

    The CT Post reports that the victim was outside her sorority house when she was struck.

    The driver stopped and is cooperating with police.

    Sacred Heart released a statement, which police distributed with a news release.

    "A Sacred Heart University student, who is a junior, was involved in a motor vehicle-pedestrian accident in the City of Bridgeport this afternoon. The student is being treated at St. Vincent's Hospital. The family is aware of the situation and out of respect for them, we are not releasing the student's name. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Sacred Heart University community are with the student and her family," the statement from the school states.

    No additional information was immediately available.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    A Sacred Heart University student suffered serious injuries when she was hit by a car on Madison Avenue in Bridgeport on Monday afternoon.A Sacred Heart University student suffered serious injuries when she was hit by a car on Madison Avenue in Bridgeport on Monday afternoon.

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    Officers have arrested a man sleeping in a stolen car in Berlin and his two accomplices, who had been stealing from unlocked cars when they were caught and confronted by a resident, according to police.

    Police said Wiliam Oathout, of Terryville, who was wanted for violation of probation, was found sleeping in the backseat of a stolen car on Spring Valley Drive around 1 a.m. Aug. 20.

    Authorities learned that two other people, identified as Nicholas Roy, of Plainville, and Sara Byczynski, of Bristol, had been stealing from unlocked cars in the area, according to police.

    A resident of Renn Lane encountered the two rummaging through parked cars and confronted them, police said.

    Oathout, Roy and Byczynski were each charged with larceny and burglary and held on $50,000 bond.



    Photo Credit: Berlin Police Department

    Roy Nichols, Sara Byczynski and William Oathout have been arrested on burglary and larceny charges in Berlin.Roy Nichols, Sara Byczynski and William Oathout have been arrested on burglary and larceny charges in Berlin.

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    Organic supermarket giant Whole Foods has removed a version of its store-brand yogurt from shelves after lawsuits were filed in local courts over the dairy product's sugar content.

    A company spokesperson tells NBC10.com Friday that the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt is not being sold as they investigate how much sugar is in each serving.

    Two class-action lawsuits were filed earlier this month on behalf of Pennsylvania and New Jersey shoppers.

    The suits were brought forth after testing by Consumer Reports found yogurt samples to contain six times the sugar content that was displayed on the nutrition label. The label said 2 grams of sugar was in one container of the product, but the group's analysis found 11.4 grams per serving.

    The lawsuit alleges the supermarket knew the label was wrong, but continued to sell the product.

    Whole Foods has declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but the spokesperson previously said they were working to determine the discrepancy between their test results and what Consumer Reports found.

    Attorneys for the lawsuits are seeking $100 per plaintiff and could represent some 35,000 people. Should they win, the supermarket chain could be forced to pay $3.5 million.

    The company spokesperson said several other Greek yogurt options remain stocked for customers in the meantime.


    The nutritional label on Whole Foods 365 Everyday Vale Plain Greek Yogurt.The nutritional label on Whole Foods 365 Everyday Vale Plain Greek Yogurt.

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    With the killing of an unarmed, black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, putting police departments under scrutiny, an expert on racial profiling says that the race of police officers tends not to make a difference on whether they use force.

    “Blue is the most powerful color in terms of determining behavior," says Phillip Atiba Goff, a co-founder of the Center of Policing Equity at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an assistant professor of social psychology at the school.

    Where race matters most is in the hierarchy of the force, among the officers who are in positions to make decisions, and to the community being policed, he said. Residents want to see themselves represented in the officers who make up their department.

    The violence that erupted in Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer has drawn attention to the racial make-up of police departments versus the communities they serve and ways to change the imbalance. The police force of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, is more than 90 percent white in a community that is 67 percent black.

    Goff’s group was brought in to look at racial profiling and other issues in the St. Louis County police department in the spring — one of about 20 law enforcement agencies it has worked with. Among the others are some that have had well publicized troubles, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, whose deputies have twice accidentally killed innocent men in the last four months, and the Oakland Police Department, which has been under a federal court order to make reforms.

    Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said Ferguson did not fit the profile of a community where tensions, particularly between young black men and the police, would boil over into violence. It has pockets of economic disadvantage but also middle- and upper-income residents, and in fact has benefited from recent growth in the northern part of St. Louis County, he said.

    There are "hundreds and hundreds" of communities like Ferguson across the country, Rosenfeld said.

    His recommendation for those communities: get to work diversifying the police force immediately.

    “That’s not a cure-all but is certainly a necessary first step to ease some of those tensions,” he said.

    Growing Poverty in Suburbs

    Recent economic progress aside, Ferguson’s unemployment rate rose from less than 5 percent in 2000 to more than 13 percent by 2012. Its poor population doubled, with about one in four living below the federal poverty line, according to Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution. More poor residents now live in suburbs like Ferguson than in big cities or rural areas, a significant shift compared to 2000 when urban poor still outnumbered suburban poor, Kneebone noted in a research brief published in July.

    “Suburbs often haven't developed the same infrastructure or safety net supports that cities have built up over decades for dealing with these issues,” she said. That fragmentation means many suburbs lack the staff and resources necessary to tackle the problem.

    Goff's group tells police departments they have to devote resources to creating a more representative force, a step that can be difficult in a time of shrinking budgets.

    "This is not something that’s going to happen overnight and it’s not something that’s just going to happen because you want it to," he said. "You’re going to have to devote money."  

    Plus, he said, it is hard for police departments to attract candidates from communities with which police have had poor relations. Even after officers have been hired, retention can be difficult and burnout rates are higher.

    “If you and your community feel there’s an organization that is set up to oppress you and your community, it’s very difficult for you then to decide, 'I’m going to feel good about going to work for them,'” he said.

    Departments also have to consider how they are policing communities, he said. People tend to comply with the law when they see law enforcement officers behaving fairly and when they feel safe. If a community feels that it has been occupied, not policed, its resistance intensifies, he said.

    A 1999 report, "Use of Force by Police," by the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics noted that the use of force appears to be unrelated to any officer's personal characteristics, such as age, gender and ethnicity. But the report cautioned that additional research was needed.

    “If you’re involved in a use-of-force incident with an officer, it doesn’t make you feel any better if the person who is hitting you with a night stick is the same color as you,” Goff said.

    A Problem of Trust

    Victor Torres, a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer in San Diego, said he regularly gets calls from people who accuse police officers of misbehavior, from lying to physical assault.

    “I think the problem is trust and when the police officers treat everyone like they’re at war with them, there’s not much trust,” said Torres, a director of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association. “You have to actually speak to the people when there’s not some crisis going on. You actually have to ask people questions instead of accusing them.”

    To address racial profiling, San Diego's police chief is appearing in a public service announcement to ask possible victims to report problems. Torres applauded the video, but said that many people in the community believe they are discouraged from making complaints.

    “It’s great that she’s making an effort but she needs to be accountable and let us know what happens to the reports,” he said.

    Goff's group has worked with police departments to determine whether they are engaging in racial profiling, improve training, help commanders identify implicit bias and address issues of race and gender.

    It is also creating the first national database of police behavior, including pedestrian stops, vehicle stops and use of force.

    “What we’re trying to do is create a broader, big data approach so that there’s evidence-based approaches to social justice,” he said.



    Photo Credit: Phil Rogers/NBCChicago.com

    Police stand outside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri, as a grand jury convenes inside.Police stand outside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri, as a grand jury convenes inside.

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    The parents of slain journalist James Foley said they had hoped to negotiate with ISIS terrorists before their son was executed and his killing broadcast in a YouTube video.

    “I didn’t realize how brutal they were and I actually hoped we would engage in negotiations with them if they were willing to send us any sort of communication because we had none prior,” John Foley said on NBC’s “Today” show Friday.

    The group sent John and Diane Foley an email on Aug. 12, stating that their son would be “executed.” It was the first communication the Foleys received from the captors since December 2013. On Aug. 19, ISIS posted a video claiming responsibility for Foley's beheading.

    A French journalist who was released in April and shared a cell with Foley reportedly said he was singled out for abuse because he was American. Yet Foley was said to be a source of comfort and strength for other captives.

    “Jim’s courage and particularly his compassion and love in that box, which they called it, was an answer to prayer,” said Diane Foley. “We had so many people praying for Jimmy. We had begged for prayer but we didn’t need to. Everyone was so good in praying and Jim’s strength and love was the answer to prayer.”

    U.S. special operations units were sent into Syria this summer to rescue Foley and other hostages, but the mission was unsuccessful because the hostages were not where they were expected to be, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

    President Barack Obama denounced Foley's execution and pledged to continue to "do what is necessary" to protect Americans and support the Iraqi forces fighting back ISIS.

    The Foleys said Friday they were deeply moved that Pope Francis called them after three of his relatives were killed in a car accident in Argentina.

    “Pope Francis was so dear because he is grieving himself having just lost three members of his family, his nephew critically ill, so here in the midst of his tremendous grief he took the time to call and our whole family was there,” Diane Foley said.

    The parents vowed to keep their son’s legacy alive and said they are praying for the release of Steven Sotloff, another American journalist held captive by ISIS, as well as other hostages.

    “We pray that they are set free and Jim will live on we are going to establish a fund in his memory so that his compassion can live on,” Diane Foley said.
     



    Photo Credit: www.facebook.com/FindJamesFoley

    James Foley, an American journalist, was killed by an Islamic militant.James Foley, an American journalist, was killed by an Islamic militant.

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    A California firm is recalling chicken Caesar salad kits sold at Sam's Clubs nationwide for possible listeria contamination.

    APPA Fine Foods is recalling more than 92,500 pounds of fully-cooked chicken Caesar salad kit products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Thursday.

    The salad kits were shipped nationwide and sold at Sam's Clubs' in-store cafes according to the USDA.

    The following products are subject to recall were in 11oz. clear plastic containers and 6.5-lb. boxes labeled, "APPA Fine Foods/Sam’s Club Daily Chef CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD KIT" with case codes 141851, 141922, 141951, 141991, 142021, 142201 or 142131 with use by dates of 8/14/14, 8/21/14, 8/27/14, 9/1/14, 9/3/14 or 9/17/14. The kits were produced on July 4, July 11, July 14, July 18, July 21, July 25, Aug. 1 and Aug. 8, 2014.

    The USDA's FSIS and the company said there have been no reports of illnesses, but anyone concerned about an illness should contact a healthcare provider.

    Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. The invasive infection can spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract. In pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. In addition, serious and sometimes fatal infections in older adults and persons with weakened immune systems.

    Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics.

    More: California Firm Recalls Chicken Caesar Salad Kits For Possible Listeria Contamination



    Photo Credit: NBC

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    The Charter Oak Bridge has reopened in Hartford following a tractor-trailer crash, according to the state Department of Transportation.

    Route 15 southbound was closed Friday afternoon while police and fire officials responded to the scene.

    State police said a tractor-trailer was towed away and four flatbeds were called out.

    It's not clear how many cars were involved in the accident.

    There has been no word on injuries.


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    A Rhode Island man will serve 14 years for for his role in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 95 in December that killed three people, including a mother and daughter.

    State police said Frank Sundstrom, 52, of Warwick, Rhode Island, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he got onto I-95 South in Old Lyme, driving northbound, and struck an oncoming car driven by Tamara Nolin, 71, of Branford around 9 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2012. The 14-year sentence is the result of a plea bargain.

    Marjorie Minore, 90, of North Haven, and her daughter, Barbara Prato, 63, of East Haven, were also in Nolin's car. All three were killed.

    Sundstom was charged with three counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence, operating under the influence, driving the wrong way on a divided highway and improper entry. 

    When Sundstrom was arraigned, he appeared before a judge while in a wheelchair.

    "He's still breathing," said Prato's daughter, Melissa Prato, outside the courthouse. "I really could care less what his ailments are. It actually means nothing to me. I lost my whole life."

    Sundstrom, from Warwick, RI, has had five operations since the crash, his lawyer, John Manni, said last August. "He and his family are devastated over this, especially for the families of the victims," Manni said.

    Tina Shaw, Minore's neighbor, said that she had last saw Prato pick up her mother to go to a casino.

    The crash happened hours after the National Transportation Safety Board released findings on wrong-way crashes. Prior to this crash, there were fatal wrong-way crashes in eight states over nine days.


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    A Vernon food pantry is in desperate need of supplies, and four local Stop & Shop stores are holding emergency food drives to help.

    The Hockanum Valley Community Council Food Pantry in Vernon serves about 2,100 homes in the area and “lately, the demand is greater than the supply,” according to HVCC CEO David Engelson. The pantry distributes some 7,000 food items every week.

    Four Stop & Shop locations will hold food drives to benefit the pantry on Aug. 23 and 24.

    Donation bins are available at the following stores:

    • 10 Pitkin Road in Vernon
    • 318 West Middle Turnpike in Manchester
    • 1739 Ellington Road in South Windsor
    • 50 Windsorville Road in Rockville

    Each location will have a list of items in need, including non-perishable foods such as pasta and peanut butter.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

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    In an open field in Simsbury this week, SWAT teams from across the country are converging on Connecticut to compete in the SWAT Team Challenge.

    The West Hartford Police Department is hosting the competition, which is not only an opportunity to win, but also to learn. 

    “You can count on one hand how many events there are like this in the country,” Lt. Jeremy Clark, of the West Hartford Police Department said. “You can count on one finger how many of those do as much as we do. It’s only us.”

    Twenty eight teams from across the region are taking part in the event, which is happening at a time when police presence is top of mind. Even those who are competing said it is hard to escape the images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, where police shot an unarmed teen.

    “Every situation is different, whether it’s Ferguson or Sandy Hook, our number one concern and number one goal here in Connecticut is to keep the public safe and have the best training so we can make the best decisions,” Lt. Clark said.

    The training includes everything from sharp shooting to throwing flash bang grenades, and each team has a limited amount of time to complete each drill. They say making snap decisions is a big part of being on the front lines of a crime scene.

    “I think just that stress they put on you to complete the event so quickly, it helps us in real-life events,” Joao Chaves of the New Bedford Special Reaction Team, said.

    The SWAT Team members breathe a little easier knowing the courses are filled with fake targets, but it is all based on scenarios that are very real. It is the type of training they said is key for when it is not a drill.

    “The world is getting to be kind of a crazy place and unfortunately these types of tactical teams aren’t going away,” said Michael Shaw, who responded to the bombings in Boston. “There’s a need for them.”



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    In an open field in Simsbury this week, SWAT teams from across the country are converging on Connecticut to compete in the SWAT Team Challenge.In an open field in Simsbury this week, SWAT teams from across the country are converging on Connecticut to compete in the SWAT Team Challenge.

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    A 45-year-old Willington man has died after his car struck a pole on Route 32/River Road in Willington on Friday morning, according to state police. 

    Thomas Anderson was driving southbound on the 200 block of Route 32 when his car veered off the road and collided with a tree and metal guardrail, according to police.

    The crash happened around 6:45 a.m. and the road was closed for hours between Route 74 and Pinney Hill while emergency officials responded to the scene.

    The cause of the crash is under investigation.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    One person was killed in a crash on Route 32 in Willington on Friday morning.One person was killed in a crash on Route 32 in Willington on Friday morning.

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    For giant panda cub Bao Bao's first birthday, the Smithsonian National Zoo is holding a traditional Chinese ceremony to predict her future. But one thing's for sure: Her future contains cake.

    As Bao Bao approaches this milestone, enjoy a Smithsonian video above, with highlights from her first year.

    Bao Bao is more than just the poster panda for all things cute. Her birthday represents another success in the conservation of the highly endangered giant panda species.

    The World Wildlife Fund estimate there are only 1,000 giant pandas living in the wild. About 100 live in zoos around the world for the purposes of breeding and conservation.

    In just one year of life, the roly-poly cub has become famous in the District for her adorable antics. She even has a few celebrity fans. You may well wonder how we quenched our thirst for cute before Bao Bao came to town.

    Some of our favorite highlights include the time she slurped down a frozen fruitsicle, her first foray into the outside world and the YouTube video that started it all: Bao Bao loudly protesting her tail being measured by keepers.

    Bao Bao will be sent to China when she is four years old, but there's still plenty of time to celebrate before then, and the zoo is holding a party in her honor Saturday.

    At 9 a.m., the giant panda cub will be given a traditional Zhuazhou (pronounced dra-JO) ceremony, similar to the one that many Chinese children are given on their first birthdays.

    During the ceremony, a little one is presented with three symbolic objects to choose from, and the baby's choice is supposed to indicate his or her future. Bao Bao will be presented with three painted symbols on posters for either her or her mother, Mei Xiang, to pick from.

    The event is closed to the public but Cui Tiankai, ambassador to the People's Republic of China, will answer media questions afterward to explain the significance of the ceremony.

    Members of the "Friends of the National Zoo" program can attend the ceremony and will recieve panda party hats, a free game download and a piece of birthday cake.

    At 11 a.m., the celebrations open up to zoo visitors, with a special panda-keeper demonstration. Bao Bao and Mei Xiang will be treated to a frozen cake.

    There will also be an extra talk held at 1:30 p.m. and guests will be served complimentary Dandan noodles, a dish from the Sichuan province where the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in Wolong is located. Food is first-come, first-served.

    The zoo are asking guests to share photos and memories of Bao Bao's birthday on social media using #BaoBaoBday.



    Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institution

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    Nearly five months after a raging fire destroyed the Toce Brothers tire warehouse in Torrington, many neighboring homes have been cleaned up and repaired.

    But Tara Holmberg says her home is uninhabitable.

    “It’s coated with oil and tar and things from the fire; the soil is also contaminated,” said Holmberg, who lived directly next door to the warehouse at 94 Albert Street for nine years before being evacuated during the fire on April 3.

    She hasn’t been back since.

    The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, responded with a statement that reads, in part, “After assessing conditions resulting from the fire… there did not appear to be any significant health risks in the area.”

    Holmberg, a two-time cancer survivor and asthmatic, is not convinced. She’s waiting on the results of environmental site testing ordered by her own insurance company.

    In the meantime, she’s living elsewhere, but is still paying a $1,400 monthly mortgage on the 94 Albert Street house.

    Representing Holmberg, Attorney Rachel Baird says O&G Industries, the warehouse owner, should be held responsible, but won’t respond to their requests for help.

    “We believe that O&G, as the next door property owner, and or Toce Brothers, should buy this property and take it off my client’s hands,” said Baird.

    One neighbor on nearby Wilson Avenue didn’t want to give his name, but said his insurance company told him to contact O&G after denying his claim for damages.

    ”Yeah they [O&G] wouldn't give us an answer. They always said we'll call you back, it's still under investigation, and I just gave up,” he said.

    The Torrington Fire Marshal says the official cause of the fire was undetermined, and the case was closed.

    O&G has not returned a request for comment.

    Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    A resident of Albert Street in Torrington says her home is uninhabitable due to contamination from a warehouse fire in April.A resident of Albert Street in Torrington says her home is uninhabitable due to contamination from a warehouse fire in April.

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    California communities are finding some ingenious ways to cope with the state's severe drought, one of the worst on record.

    Their ingenuity comes as the severe shortage, now in its third year, puts increasing pressure on residents to save water.

    Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency, and last month, tighter restrictions went into effect on washing cars or trucks, cleaning driveways and sidewalks or using water fountains. New swimming pools in could be next in line, as Orange County considers a plan to prevent new pools from being filled.

    As the drought drags on, here are a few of the more ingenious responses.

    COLOR ME GREEN

    There's a way to turn lawns green without watering them. A Los Gatos-based company called Green Canary uses a green, water-based coloring to transform brown, parched lawns.

    The company had been working on foreclosed homes in California’s Central Valley, keeping lawns green to make the upkeep easier and keep criminals away from the abandoned homes, said its president Shawn Sahbari.

    Now, his business is expanding to include other clients, though Sahbari said the service has not taken off, even if it is in the spotlight because of the drought.

    “Obviously, this is a hot topic, because of the drought and the cost of water and people trying to conserve,” Sahbari said.

    The Almaden Valley Athletic Club in San Jose is among its clients, prompted by its members' concerns about conservation.

    “It provides immediate water conservation,” he said. “That's immediate savings, and that's immediate transformation.”

    CASH FOR GRASS

    Cities and towns across California are offering cash for grass to encourage homeowners to replace their water-guzzling lawns. 

    Long Beach calls its program Lawn-to-Garden and pays $3.50 for every square foot of turf removed.

    “We don’t want people to just take out the lawn,” said Joyce Barkley, the city’s water conservation specialist. “We want them to replace it with a beautiful garden.”

    Some possible replacements, she said: sage, blue fescue, rosemary, lilac, lavender and olive trees.

    "We have big hurdles," she said. "A lot of people love their lawn so it's just a challenge."

    DIRTY CAR CHALLENGE

    Ventura is urging car owners to skip washing their cars for the month of August with its “Don’t Wash Your Car” challenge.

    The city is asking residents to post photos of their filthy rides on the Ventura Water Facebook page.

    Among the photos: a no longer quite white Honda that has not been washed in four months and an electric Fiat with “Save H2O” written in the dust on the rear window.

    Last month, the three vehicles that earned the most "likes" won complete professional car details. Professional car washes use far less water than do-it-yourself washes at home, county officials note. 

    Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut



    Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

    A pond in the South Bay runs dry due to California's severe drought. Californians have found some ingenious ways of coping with the severe water shortage.A pond in the South Bay runs dry due to California's severe drought. Californians have found some ingenious ways of coping with the severe water shortage.

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