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    Former President Bill Clinton's 8,300-square-foot Harlem office near the Apollo Theater costs taxpayers nearly $450,000. George W. Bush spends $85,000 on telephone fees, and another $60,000 on travel. Jimmy Carter sends $15,000 worth of postage — all on the government's dime.

    The most exclusive club in the world has a similarly exclusive price tag — nearly $3.7 million, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. That's how much the federal government spent last year on the four living ex-presidents and one presidential widow.

    Topping the list in 2012 was George W. Bush, who got just over $1.3 million last year.

    Under the Former Presidents Act, previous inhabitants of the Oval Office are given an annual pension equivalent to a Cabinet secretary's salary — about $200,000 last year, plus $96,000 a year for a small office staff. Taxpayers also pick up the tab for other items like staff benefits, travel, office space and postage.

    The $3.7 million taxpayers shelled out in 2012 is about $200,000 less than in 2011, and the sum in 2010 was even higher. It's a drop in the bucket compared with the trillions the federal government spends each year.

    Still, with ex-presidents able to command eye-popping sums for books, speaking engagements and the like in their post-White House years, the report raises questions about whether the U.S. should provide such generous subsidies at a time when spending cuts and the deficit are forcing lawmakers and federal agencies to seek ways to cut back.

    Departing presidents also get extra help in the first years after they leave office, one reason that Bush's costs were higher than other living ex-presidents. The most recent ex-president to leave the White House, Bush was granted almost $400,000 for 8,000 square feet of office space in Dallas, plus $85,000 in telephone costs. Another $60,000 went to travel costs.

    Clinton came in second at just under $1 million last year, followed by President George H.W. Bush at nearly $850,000. Clinton spent the most government money on office space: $442,000 for his Harlem digs.

    Costs for Carter, the only other living former president, came in at about $500,000.

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

    Widows of former presidents are entitled to a pension of $20,000, but Nancy Reagan, the wife of former President Ronald Reagan, waived her pension last year. The former first lady did accept $14,000 in postage.

    The cost totals for ex-presidents don't include what the Secret Service spends protecting them, their spouses and children. Those costs are part of a separate budget that isn't made public.

    Funding for ex-presidents dates back to 1958, when Congress created the Former Presidents Act largely in response to President Harry Truman's post-White House financial woes, the Congressional Research Service said. The goal was to maintain the dignity of the presidency and help with ongoing costs associated with being a former president, such as responding to correspondence and scheduling requests.

    These days, a former president's income from speaking and writing can be substantial, and ex-presidents also have robust presidential centers and foundations that accept donations and facilitate many of their post-presidential activities.

    Noting that none of the living ex-presidents are poor, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced a bill last year that would limit costs to a $200,000 pension, plus another $200,000 that ex-presidents could use at their discretion. And for every dollar that an ex-president earns in excess of $400,000, his annual allowance would be reduced by the same amount. The bill died in committee.



    Photo Credit: AP

    In this Dec. 26, 2008 file photo, President George W. Bush walks with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. The younger Bush topped the list in 2012 for the highest expenses paid for by taxpayers.In this Dec. 26, 2008 file photo, President George W. Bush walks with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. The younger Bush topped the list in 2012 for the highest expenses paid for by taxpayers.

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    A 33-year-old Naugatuck mom has been charged with risk of injury after leaving her 3-year-old son alone while she went to work, according to police.

    Police responded to Hill Street Extension just before 3 p.m. on March 7 after a resident found a little boy in her driveway who was wearing no shirt or shoes and crying, police said.

    Police spoke with a neighbor, viewed surveillance footage from the area and investigators determined that Latasha Ward, 33, had to get to work that day and left her 3-year-old son alone, knowing her 12-year-old daughter would be home soon, police said.

    In the minutes he was alone, the little boy managed to get outside and wandered about a block away.

    Police started to investigate when they received a call on March 7, 2:50 p.m. from the resident who found the boy.

    As officers were investigating, they spoke with a 12-year-old girl who told them she was looking for her brother.

    Police said the girl got home minutes after the mother left, noticed that the back door was open but no one was home, so she called her mother. 

    Ward told her daughter she left the little boy alone, police said, and the pre-teen frantically began searching for her brother.

    Ward originally claimed she left her son with her 18-year old sister, but police said they learned that was not true.

    Ward turned herself in to police at 11:15 p.m. on Monday. She was released on a written promise to appear and is due in court on Tuesday.
     


    Latasha Ward is accused of leaving her 3-year-old son alone as she went to work.Latasha Ward is accused of leaving her 3-year-old son alone as she went to work.

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    More than $250 million in federal assistance has been approved to help people and businesses with disaster expenses from Superstorm Sandy since President Barack Obama approved Disaster Declaration request as a result of Super Storm Sandy.

    Federal disaster assistance has been approved for:

    • 12,380 Connecticut residents who registered for federal disaster assistance during the application period, which ended February 12
    • $12,068,937 has been approved for housing assistance, including short-term rental assistance and home repair costs
    • $997,312 has been approved to cover other essential disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses and lost personal possessions;
    • $40,829,200 in low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses and private nonprofit organizations has been approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration;
    • $10,969 in Disaster Unemployment Assistance has been approved;
    • $3,529,608 in Public Assistance grants has been obligated to municipalities statewide for Sandy-related expenses; and
    • 4,939 flood insurance claims under the National Flood Insurance Program totaling $195,555,764 have been paid to date.

    A Milford home floods following Hurricane Irene.A Milford home floods following Hurricane Irene.

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    The Passaic, N.J., father of five who won the $338 million Powerball jackpot claimed his coveted prize Tuesday, describing the moment he won the jackpot as "pure joy" and "just happiness."

    Wearing a bright yellow windbreaker and even brighter grin, Pedro Quezada said he didn't have all the answers just yet, as New Jersey Lottery officials introduced him in a news conference in Lawrenceville. After living in the United States for 26 years, he wasn't sure if he would return to the Dominican Republic or stay in New Jersey.

    He said he knew his life would change immediately in some ways: neither he nor his son would return to the bodega his family operated from early morning to late night. 

    My life "has to change — because imagine so much money, but it will not change my heart," Quezada said in Spanish.

    Quezada said he would get himself a "good car" and his wife "whatever she wants." When a reporter asked what he currently drives, he replied "my feet."

    The 44-year-old purchased the lottery ticket at Eagle Liquors in Passaic, N.J., and matched all six numbers in Saturday night's Powerball drawing, winning the the fourth-largest jackpot in Powerball history.

    On Monday, the bodega owner walked into the liquor store, packed with reporters waiting to meet the winner, and had his ticket validated, but lottery officials could not confirm his name.  

    The family's apartment sits at the end of a short dead end block that abuts a highway. Neighbors stood out in the rain Monday night and spoke with pride that one of their own had struck it rich.

    Eladia Vazquez has lived across the street from Quezada's building for the past 25 years. The block has a half-dozen three-story brick apartment buildings on each side, and Vazquez says it's a neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, including what car they drive and what parking space they use.

    Vazquez described Quezada and his wife as "quiet and not overly talkative" but sensed that they seemed to be working all the time.

    "This is super for all of us on this block," she said. "They deserve it because they are hardworking people."

    Richard Delgado, who lives down the block from Quezada's building, said the man was "a hard worker, like all of us here. We all get up in the morning and go to work."

    The liquor shop owner himself is due $10,000 for selling the lucky ticket.

    Thirteen other tickets worth $1 million each matched all but the final Powerball number on Saturday night. Those tickets were sold in New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. Two were sold in both Florida and Pennsylvania.

    The numbers drawn were 17, 29, 31, 52, 53 and Powerball 31. A lump sum payout would be worth $221 million.



    Photo Credit: AP

    Pedro Quezada, the winner of the Powerball jackpot, flashes a million-dollar smile during a news conference at the New Jersey Lottery headquarters on Tuesday.Pedro Quezada, the winner of the Powerball jackpot, flashes a million-dollar smile during a news conference at the New Jersey Lottery headquarters on Tuesday.

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    Adding insult to injury, people are finding that grave sites of their loved ones in Middlefield are being targeted by thieves.

    Of the hundreds of tombstones lining the St. Sebastian Cemetery on Meriden Road, some have memorial urns that people use to leave flowers for their loved ones and at least 10 of those memorial urns were reported stolen this month.

    Connecticut State Police are trying to figure out who’s behind it.

    “We actually have some evidence and leads that we’re pursuing,” Lt. Paul Vance said.

    The urns cost about $500 each and Vance said investigators are working to make sure more aren’t stolen.

    “We’ve increased our patrol checks in the cemeteries. We have troopers that are in the area on a regular basis.”

    State police are advising people who have relatives buried at the St. Sebastian Cemetery, to make sure their memorial urns are still intact.

    Joseph and Josephine Bartolotta of Middletown were unaware the urns on the headstone they purchased 3 years ago were stolen until NBC Connecticut contacted them Tuesday afternoon.

    "This is the first time I'm hearing something like that," Josephine Bartolotta said. She travelled to the cemetery with her husband to see the damage, "Stealing things from the cemetery that's really awful. I can't believe it.

    Frank Vecchitto of Middletown comes to the cemetery once in a while to put flowers on the grave of a family member. He was shocked when he found out what had happened, "How low can you go really? I can't believe it."

    Connie Degra of Middlefield had a similar reaction when she read about the stolen urns in the paper this morning, "I was sick to my stomach thinking about it. How could they do that?"

    No suspects have been identified in the case. As state police continue their criminal investigation, they’re appealing to the public for help.

    “We’re asking anyone that has any information, to come forward, to contact us, even if it’s anonymously. We’ll take any additional information, so that we can bring closure for the families of these victims,” Vance said.
     



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    Several urns worth several hundred dollars were stolen from a Middlefield cemetery and state police are investigating/Several urns worth several hundred dollars were stolen from a Middlefield cemetery and state police are investigating/

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    As the U.S. Supreme Court wades into the gay marriage fight Tuesday, supporters have changed their Twitter and Facebook icons to a red equal symbol.

    On Tuesday morning, the Human Rights Commission asked people to wear red to show support for gay marriage, posted the equality symbol and asked people to make their Facebook profile red too.

    Among those who did is Gov. Dannel Malloy, who leads a state that years ago passed a law making same-sex marriages legal.

    “Equal rights is an American value. We are proud to have marriage equality in Connecticut. It's time to ensure these rights for all,” the Facebook page for Malloy states.

    Malloy also Tweeted his support.

    On Tuesday, the Supreme Court Justices suggested that they could find a way out of the case over California's ban without issuing a major national ruling on whether gay Americans have a right to marry.

    NBC News' Pete Williams said after the hearing that it seemed "quite obvious" the court was not prepared to make a sweeping ruling declaring gay marriage a constitutional right.

    You can read more about what happened in the U.S. Supreme Court here.
     

     



    Photo Credit: Governor Malloy facebook page

    This symbol was popping up all over Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday in solidarity for gay marriage.This symbol was popping up all over Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday in solidarity for gay marriage.

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    Two years ago, the Roberson family lost three family members in a fire at 48-50 Wolcott Street in New Haven that authorities said was intentionally set.

    Wanda, Jaquetta and Quayshawn Roberson all died during the fire.

    On Monday, the father and son accused of starting the fire, then trying to cover it up, started what will be a weeks-long trial.

    On Tuesday, the judge ruled that the victims’ families will not be able to wear clothing or buttons that have photos of the deceased.

    Hector Natal was charged with arson and father, Hector Morales, was charged with trying to intimidate witnesses and mislead investigators.

    “Nothing is going to give us closure right now, because you can't bring my family back,” Loretta Parker, Wanda Roberson’s aunt, said.

    Parker sat in court with other family members and listened as firefighters recounted what happened in the early morning hours of March 9, 2011.

    One firefighter called it chaos. Another got choked up as he recalled finding the three bodies in a third-floor bedroom.

    “We're just trying to get through this because it's going to be rough,” said Parker.

    Jasmine Roberson was called to the stand and told how she was inside the burning house and threw her then 1-year-old son to safety before jumping out a second floor window herself.

    However, the defense told the jury not to be swayed by the tragedy of this case, but to listen to the facts.

    While they won't dispute that this fire killed three people, the defense said the prosecutors are building their case based on testimony from unreliable sources, who are people who changed their tunes for personal gain and payment from the government.

    “We just want to see justice and we want to see the truth come out and get to the bottom of this,” said Parker.

     


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    A family in Southbury  say they will be forever grateful to some firefighters who saved their beloved pit bull Monday night.

    Connie Fluman was out walking her pit-bill on Monday night at Hidden Pond Park when3-year-old her pit-bull Roxy decided to make a run for it.

    Roxy saw a group of geese in the middle of the frozen pond. She broke free of her leash and made  a run for the geese.

     

    "I saw the geese, then I saw her and I saw her drop," said Fluman.

     

    Roxy made it about half way before crashing through the ice into the icy water below. Luckily, Roxy is a pro at the doggie paddle and she was able to swim in place for about ten minutes before firefighters could get to her.

    Southbury Firefighters Tim Keefe, Garrett Dielmans and Bob Bedard made their way out to Roxy, dressed in buoyant cold water suits.

    Roxy was brought to shore in the arms of Keefe and is doing fine at home with her family.

    "I’m thankful. I’m happy. She would not be here without them," said Fluman.


    Southbury Firefighters rescue pit-bull Roxy from the ice waters at Hidden Pond Park. (Courtesy Rick Harrison/Republican American)Southbury Firefighters rescue pit-bull Roxy from the ice waters at Hidden Pond Park. (Courtesy Rick Harrison/Republican American)

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    Members of the Enfield Board of Education voted on Tuesday night, 5-4, in favor of placing an armed guard in every school and residents are split on the idea and the decision.

    Many board members said that it isn’t worth taking a risk after the school shooting about an hour's drive away at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last year, where 26 people were killed.

    Enfield's new plan will take effect by the start of next school year.

    “I think it would be overboard to have an armed guard here,” Jeffery Haddock, a parent, said. “I don't think they need them here. We've never had problems here.”

    Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza disagreed.

    “I want to make sure Enfield does everything humanly possible to protect our kids,” Sferrazza said.

    The police chief believes that after the shootings in Newtown, Enfield needs to be prepared for the possibility of an active shooter.

    “For those people who say it couldn't happen here, we're about 50 miles from Sandy Hook,” he said.

    Middle and high schools in Enfield currently have armed school resource officers and they will keep their positions.

    The police chief said he would hire 11 extra armed guards, but they would not be sworn policeman.

    They would have qualifications and training to carry weapons and Sferrazza said law enforcement could be the best candidates.

    “Either we take a stance and do all we can to protect the most precious children or we just sit back and wait for something to happen,” he said.

    Sferrazza said the new hires would cost taxpayers more than $600,000 for the first year and the money would come from the town budget.

    Some thought the spending was too much.

    “I think the town could probably use the money on something else besides that,” Haddock said.

    School leaders said they couldn’t put a cost on keeping students safe.

    The town council and Board of Education will be holding a security meeting at town hall at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.  The agenda includes an executive session about matters concerning security strategy or deployment of security personnel or devices affecting public security. 

    Security strategies will be discussed after the executive session.



    Photo Credit: NBC10.com

    Enfield school officials voted to put armed guards in schools.Enfield school officials voted to put armed guards in schools.

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    A steady stream will help Pennsylvania minor league baseball fans stay entertained and learn about prostate health while answering nature’s call at the ballpark.

    The Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Philadelphia Phillies' AAA-minor league team, will introduce the first "urinal gaming system" when the season kicks off at Coca-Cola Park next week.

    Screens installed above urinals will display the game, which is a downhill snowmobile competition.  The user’s flow controls the virtual snowmobiler as he tries to hit penguins on the route — directing the stream left or right will move the driver in that direction.

    "It’s just like a joystick on a video game," said Brian Downs, Director of Media Relations for Lehigh Valley Health Network. The health system will be advertising on the game’s screens.

    Downs says his team had a few laughs when they were approached to be a sponsor but quickly decided it would be a great way to educate men about prostate health.

    "You kind of have a built-in audience and an opportunity to create an awareness about the importance of prostate health," he said.

    The game screens will display information from the health system when the urinal is not in use. When a guy walks up to use the urinal, the information will go away and switch into game mode.

    "There’s a lot of ways you can market different programs and healthcare. In this case, it made a lot of sense," Downs says.

    In the U.S., prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men, behind lung cancer. One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.

    IronPigs spokesman Jon Schaeffer says the "pee" game will be installed in four men’s rooms inside the 10,100-seat ballpark — one per restroom. Anyone using the urinal can play the game, and it doesn't cost extra.

    Players will be given a score at the end of their game. The high scorers will be displayed in real-time on video boards inside the ballpark. Players will also be ranked and recognized on the team's website.

    "Our fans are always looking for the next big thing and these 'X-Stream Games' are another example of our commitment to providing an unparalleled entertainment experience in all aspects of Coca-Cola Park, including our restrooms," IronPigs General Manager Kurt Landes said in a statement.

    The urinal gaming system is already in use at bars in the United Kingdom, but has never been installed in a sporting venue.

    The system will debut with the downhill snowmobile game, but that six to 12 others will be swapped in as the season progresses. Schaeffer says the team has gotten a huge response from fans so far -- even before the system's debut.

    “The feedback that we’ve gotten, it’s been overwhelmingly positive," Schaeffer said. He added that the team's Twitter feed has been blowing up over the announcement.

    Aside from the fun, Downs hopes the system will remind men to get a checkup and hopefully save lives by catching cancer early.

    “The idea is that you see the health network and remember to talk with your doctor, especially if you have issues. And at least keep it in the back of their mind.”

     



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    A urinal gaming system is coming to the men's rooms of Coca-Cola Park in the Lehigh Valley. This image shows televisions in the men's room of a Miami Beach club.A urinal gaming system is coming to the men's rooms of Coca-Cola Park in the Lehigh Valley. This image shows televisions in the men's room of a Miami Beach club.

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    It was way back in 1984 when Lawrence Konyves was convicted for his first DUI. But the Yardley, Penn., man, who was 16 at the time, was just getting started, receiving a dozen more DUI charges since then. Amazingly, Konyves managed to avoid any significant jail time. That was until Monday, when he was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in state prison for his 13th DUI.

    Yet while Konyves is finally getting justice, an important question remains. How did he avoid state prison time for that long? Prosecutors say he did it by manipulating the system.

    "If he was sentenced to jail time, as he was as the law mandates, he would manage to talk people into a house arrest situation which he served from home," said Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler. "Or a situation where he was in a halfway house."

    According to court records, Konyves immediately checked himself into a halfway house for months at a time whenever he was arrested for DUI. When he went before a judge, they were often lenient toward him, putting his time in rehab toward his sentence so that he never spent any significant time behind bars.

    In Pennsylvania, a DUI conviction carries a sentence of two and a half to five years. Heckler says judges are inclined to give the minimum when a defendant pleads guilty and shows they’re getting help, as Konyves did every time he was arrested.

    "Somebody just didn’t pay enough attention to this guy and say, 'Wait a minute,'" said Heckler.

    That finally changed on Monday, however, when a top prosecutor in Heckler’s office convinced a judge to give Konyves the harshest sentence. According to the Philly Burbs, the judge rejected Konyves' plea to be permitted to serve time partially in the county jail and partially in an in-patient treatment program. Instead, he sentenced him to at least five years in state prison.

    Prior to his sentencing, many victims wondered whether Konyves had to kill someone before he spent time in state prison.

    “Happily in this case, we got him a bit before that,” said Heckler.

    NBC 10 Philadelphia’s Katy Zachry reached out to Konyves' attorney on Tuesday but never received a call back.
     



    Photo Credit: NBC10.com

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    David Petraeus apologized Tuesday for the extramarital affair that led to his resignation as CIA chief in November. 

    Petraeus, who before he retired was one of the most decorated and respected military figures of his generation, gave the keynote address on Tuesday night at the University of Southern California’s annual dinner for veterans and ROTC students at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

    "I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now," Petraeus told the crowd.

    Petraeus opened his speech with a mea culpa about his affair, his personal journey and a new chapter since his resignation working in the private sector in economics, energy and veterans issues.

    "I regret — and apologize for — the circumstances that led me to resign from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters," Petraeus said.

    "Life doesn't stop with such a mistake," he added. "It can and must go on."

    Petraeus received a standing ovation from the 600-plus attendees. He accepted the invitation to speak last year, before his resignation.

    Petraeus served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from Sept. 6, 2011, until his resignation on Nov. 9, 2012 over an affair with Paula Broadwell, the author of his biography, "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."

    Petraeus reportedly ended the affair about the time he learned that Broadwell had allegedly been sending harassing emails to a longstanding family friend of the Petraeuses, Jill Kelley.

    An FBI investigation had led authorities to Broadwell’s email account.

    Before that, Petraeus was a decorated four-star general, serving more than 37 years in the Army, including as commander of the International Security Assistance Force and commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.



    Photo Credit: AP

    Gen. David Petraeus is expected to give a speech at USC on Tuesday, March 26, 2013. In this photo, he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 29, 2010, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to be confirmed as President Obama's choice to take control of forces in Afghanistan. At right is his wife, Holly Petraeus.Gen. David Petraeus is expected to give a speech at USC on Tuesday, March 26, 2013. In this photo, he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 29, 2010, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to be confirmed as President Obama's choice to take control of forces in Afghanistan. At right is his wife, Holly Petraeus.

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    The Burger King, at 2500 Berlin Turnpike in Newington, is closed today because of a fire in the deep fryer.

    No additional information is available.
     



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    This Burger King in Newington is closed because of a fire in the deep fryer.This Burger King in Newington is closed because of a fire in the deep fryer.

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    The United States Postal Service will be closing two postal processing centers in Connecticut by Labor Day.

    The facilities in Wallingford and Stamford were scheduled to close next year but, because of recent financial trouble, the Postal Service decided to speed up the process.

    Almost 1,200 jobs will be impacted because of the facilities closures.

    Connecticut’s Congressional delegation is expressing outrage at the sudden decision and says they are committed to preventing further closures and ensuring that no delays in mail delivery occur because of the closings.

    Postal facilities in Hartford and Springfield will handle Wallingford’s mail, while Westchester, New York will handle Stamford’s mail.
     



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    The United States Postal Service will close two facilities in Connecticut.The United States Postal Service will close two facilities in Connecticut.

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    A 46-year-old Clinton man has died after crashing through a concrete barrier in Windsor and plunging 25 feet below, according to Hartford Hospital.

    Police said Richard Mazzella was driving a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee north on a high-occupancy vehicle lane lane of I-91 N near exit 37, went off the highway, hit the wall of the bridge on the north side of Route 305 and landed on the median of Interstate 91 in a fiery crash.

    Mazzella, who did not have identification,  was trapped inside, according to police.

    Capt. Tom LePore, of Windsor police, said he had to be going at a high rate of speed to crash through the concrete.

    Mazzella was the only person in the car and he was transported to Hartford Hospital. He was in critical condition on Tuesday. Hospital officials said on Tuesday that Mazzella has died.

    Windsor Police and the North Central Municipal Accident Investigation Team are investigating.

     



     



    Photo Credit: Liz Dahlem, NBC Connecticut

    A car went through the wall, over the bridge and landed on the ground below.A car went through the wall, over the bridge and landed on the ground below.

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    As the end of her afternoon shift collecting tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge ended, Dawnette Reed felt the tears begin to come.

    She stepped out of her booth at lane three and made the walk back to the office for the last time. After 18 years collecting tolls at the bridge, her job was done.

    "I always say I know customers from the car seat to the driver's seat," Reed said of her regular customers.

    With the bridge switching to fully electronic toll collecting early Wednesday morning, the humans no longer had a place on the bridge for the first time in its more than 75 year history.

    The Bridge District offered the toll takers other jobs, but Reed wasn't interested in any of them. Driving a bus? Not for her.

    "I'm going to miss the customers," Reed said.

    The drivers knew it was the toll takers last day. Some gave Reed flowers, cards - someone she'd never met gave her a bag of cookies.

    She'd gotten to know her customers, even in the brief time it took hand over the six dollar fare. They'd invited her to birthday parties and weddings.

    Sometimes she saw strange things collecting tolls. "We've had naked people come through with painted on bikinis," she laughed. "Sometimes we get naked people without paint on them."

    Toll collector Jacquie Dean had eighteen years on the job herself. She was angry she was being replaced by electronic gizmos and cameras that would soon photograph license plates and send drivers a bill for the toll.

    Those things couldn't give directions to lost drivers, or watch out for trouble on the bridge. "We're not obsolete, they chose to do this to us," Dean said. "They chose to have us here. They could've kept a couple lanes open."

    The Bridge District said it would save $16 million over the next few years by replacing the toll workers.

    It was only a matter of time before humans weren't needed. "For the economic health of our organization I think it makes sense," said Kary Witt, manager of the Golden Gate Bridge. "Obviously the savings of doing this automatically, electronically as opposed to employing people, it's not avoidable."

    Still, as some of the workers finished their last shifts on Tuesday and walked toward the office, some in tears clutching bouquets,

    Witt seemed to be choking back his own tears.

    "We do lose a bit of the human touch," Witt said. "I think that's one of the things, you know, is a bit ironic."

    Dean said the severance package offered to employees was disappointing. She wasn't sure what she would do next. But knew there would be another job somewhere.

    She said she'd miss her co-workers the most.

    "We've all gone through it together," she said, choking back sobs. "And I can say through all those tragedies in my life, this has been my normal, this is what kept me grounded."

    When the big clock on the Golden Gate Bridge will reach 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning, the last shift of toll collectors would grab their trays of cash, and step gingerly across the lanes, back to the office one last time. They would turn in their cash, change into civilian clothes and drive away one last time. The gizmos had everything covered.



    Photo Credit: AP

    Toll taker Dawnette Reed, left, is embraced by co-worker Marsha Brandhorst, right, at the end of her shift on the Golden Gate Bridge Tuesday, March 26, 2013 in San Francisco.Toll taker Dawnette Reed, left, is embraced by co-worker Marsha Brandhorst, right, at the end of her shift on the Golden Gate Bridge Tuesday, March 26, 2013 in San Francisco.

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    A community group in northern Virginia is warning neighbors about a four-leg predator stalking the neighborhood. Residents are reporting seeing coyotes in yards and near businesses. News4's Jackie Bensen found out why these very wild animals are able to survive so close to civilization.

    This verified image of a coyote in Arlington County was taken last year.This verified image of a coyote in Arlington County was taken last year.

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    New York City payphones are hardly used for actual calls anymore. But now, thousands of them are being turned into time machines -- they're making just one stop, to 1993. Tracie Strahan reports.

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    The school board in Enfield, Conn. voted Tuesday night, 5-4, in favor of placing an armed guard in every school.

    Many board members said that it wasn't worth taking a risk after the school shooting about an hour's drive away at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last year, where 26 people were killed.

    Enfield's new plan will take effect by the start of next school year.

    “I think it would be overboard to have an armed guard here,” Jeffery Haddock, a parent, said. “I don't think they need them here. We've never had problems here.”

    Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza disagreed.

    “I want to make sure Enfield does everything humanly possible to protect our kids,” Sferrazza said.

    The police chief believes that after the shootings in Newtown, Enfield needs to be prepared for the possibility of an active shooter.

    “For those people who say it couldn't happen here, we're about 50 miles from Sandy Hook,” he said.

    Middle and high schools in Enfield currently have armed school resource officers and they will keep their positions.

    The police chief said he would hire 11 extra armed guards, but they would not be sworn policeman.

    They would have qualifications and training to carry weapons and Sferrazza said law enforcement could be the best candidates.

    “Either we take a stance and do all we can to protect the most precious children or we just sit back and wait for something to happen,” he said.

    Sferrazza said the new hires would cost taxpayers more than $600,000 for the first year and the money would come from the town budget.

    Some thought the spending was too much.

    “I think the town could probably use the money on something else besides that,” Haddock said.

    School leaders said they couldn’t put a cost on keeping students safe.

    The town council and Board of Education will be holding a security meeting at town hall at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.  The agenda includes an executive session about matters concerning security strategy or deployment of security personnel or devices affecting public security. 

    Security strategies will be discussed after the executive session.



    Photo Credit: NBC10.com

    Enfield school officials voted to put armed guards in schools.Enfield school officials voted to put armed guards in schools.

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    Florida Gov. Rick Scott waded into a religious-infused campus controversy Tuesday, asking the state university system chancellor to look into a classroom lesson at Florida Atlantic University in which students were instructed to stomp on sheets of paper that had "Jesus" written on them.

    Scott said in a letter to State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan that he was "deeply disappointed" by the recent incident in an intercultural communications class and said it raised questions about "the lessons being taught in our classrooms." He said he wanted a report on the incident and how it was handled, as well as a statement of the university's policies to ensure such "lessons" don't occur again.

    "As we enter the week memorializing the events of Christ's passion, this incident gave me great concern over the lessons we are teaching our students," Scott wrote in the letter.

    A FAU spokeswoman told NBC 6 that the university received Scott's letter and appreciated his perspective.

    "Florida Atlantic University is deeply sorry for any hurt that this incident may have caused the community and beyond," wrote Lisa Metcalf, the school's director of media relations, in an email. "As an institution of higher learning, we embrace open discourse in our classrooms, but with that comes a level of responsibility. The exercise was insensitive and hurtful; it will not be used again."

    She added that lessons learned from the incident "will help us ensure our educational opportunities always reflect the university’s core values."

    Youngest Bachelor's Graduate at FAU Gets Master's

    Scott cited news reports indicating students were told by the class instructor to write "Jesus" in large letters on a sheet of paper and to place the paper on the floor in front of them. The students were given a brief time of reflection and then were told to step on the paper and tell the class how they felt.

    The exercise has outraged religious leaders such as the Rev. Mark Boykin, who plans to lead a march from his Boca Raton church to FAU to condemn the assignment next week.

    "We find this to be unconscionable, completely unprofessional and unacceptable," he said.

    At least one student found it so unacceptable that he refused to participate. Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon and a junior at FAU's Davie campus, claims he was punished for doing so.

    His lawyer Hiram Sasser shared the notice of charges that Rotela received from FAU for violating the student code of conduct.

    "You are requested to attend a Student Conduct Conference," the notice read.

    "In the interim, you may not attend class (SPC 3710) or contact any of the students involved in this matter – verbally or electronically – or by any other means," the notice stated.

    Dr. Charles Brown, FAU's senior vice president of student affairs, said that Rotela was never up for punishment for refusing to participate in the exercise, however.

    "We apologize to all of our students and the community and people beyond the community who felt it was too sensitive," Brown said.

    Scott applauded Rotela, whom he spoke with on Tuesday, "for having the courage to stand up for his faith."

    "I told him that it took great conviction and bravery to stand up and say what he was asked to do was wrong, and went against what he believed in," Scott said in a statement.

    Sasser said that Rotela is again in good standing with the university. He has re-enrolled in the class, but one that is being taught by a different professor.

    Florida Gov. Scott to Universities: No More Tuition Hikes

    State University System spokeswoman Kim Wilmath said officials would work closely with FAU in preparing a response to Gov. Scott's concerns.

    "The State University System prides itself not only on its commitment to academic freedom, but at the same time, its awesome responsibility to the people it serves," she said in a written statement. "We are gratified to know that FAU has apologized for any offense the exercise has caused and has pledged never to use this exercise again. Clearly, there were things the university could have done differently by its own acknowledgement."

    The governor didn't seem satisfied with the apology, saying it was "in many ways inconsequential to the larger issue of a professor's poor judgment."

    "The professor's lesson was offensive, and even intolerant, to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom," Scott said in his letter. "Our public higher educational institutions are designed to shape the minds of Florida's future leaders. We should provide educational leadership that is respectful of religious freedom of all people."

    Crist Leads Scott in 2014 Florida Governor's Matchup: Poll



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Gov. Rick Scott told State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan in a letter that he was Gov. Rick Scott told State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan in a letter that he was "deeply disappointed" by the FAU classroom incident. Scott is shown above in a January visit to Miami.

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