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    Suzy Lee Weiss, the browbeaten teen who sounded off in a humorous op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal about her college rejections, said she was just having some fun.

    “It’s a satire. That’s the point. Just like ’30 Rock’ is a satire, which pokes fun at things that are politically correct. That’s what I was trying to do,” Weiss said on Thursday's "Today" show.

    Weiss took jabs at the college admisssion process and the impossibly high standards in the controversial essay, which was published last week in the Journal. She poked fun at diversity, volunteer work and chastised her parents for not encouraging her to take on more hobbies.

    "For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would've happily come out of it," Weiss wrote. "'Diversity!' I offer about as much diversity as a saltine cracker."

    Weiss said she wrote the piece after receiving multiple rejection letters in one day. Depite a 4.5 GPA and a 2120 SAT score, she was rejected from Yale, Princeton, Vanderbild and University of Pennsylvania. The mass rejection left her wondering where she went wrong.

    "I also probably should have started a fake charity. Providing veterinary services for homeless people's pets. Collecting donations for the underprivileged chimpanzees of the Congo," she wrote. "Raising awareness for Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter Syndrome. Fun-runs, dance-a-thons, bake sales—as long as you're using someone else's misfortunes to try to propel yourself into the Ivy League, you're golden."

    While some dismissed the essay as a whiny diatribe, Weiss said she received nothing by positive feedback, especially from other high school students.

    “Everyone my age, whether they wanted to get into Penn State their whole lives, or Harvard, is agreeing with me that it’s just a rat race nowadays, and it’s such a business model as opposed to who’s most qualified should get in,” she said. “It’s a crapshoot, and I understand that.”

    The precocious teen did have some good news to share on the show. She was accepted to Pennsylvania State, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. She hasn't made a decision.



    Photo Credit: AP

    A 2012 tassle hangs on a cap during Princeton University commencement ceremonies in Princeton, N.J. Despite Weiss' 4.5 GPA, she did not get into the prestigious Ivy League school.A 2012 tassle hangs on a cap during Princeton University commencement ceremonies in Princeton, N.J. Despite Weiss' 4.5 GPA, she did not get into the prestigious Ivy League school.

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    A Danbury Superior Court jury has awarded $6.5 million to the family of a man who died at Danbury Hospital because of excessive sodium, according to attorneys for the family, who believed this is the highest personal injury verdict from the Danbury Superior Court.

    Jeffrey Pattison, formerly of Newtown, was admitted to Danbury Hospital on March 1, 2006 and died on March 16, 2006 when his sodium level rose rapidly, according to attorneys from Michael J. London.

    Pattison was in the moving business.  His son is a high school teacher in Newtown.
     


    A jury awarded millions of dollars to the family of a man who died at a Connecticut hospital from too much sodium.A jury awarded millions of dollars to the family of a man who died at a Connecticut hospital from too much sodium.

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    Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto of a bill that would require employers to give workers paid sick time has put the issue on ice in his city, at least for the time being.

    But the wider battle continues to gain momentum, with a growing number of cities and states debating whether to impose similar mandates—or block them altogether.

    These disputes have escalated as the country struggles through a weakened economy and confronts a shift in political power that has labor unions fighting to keep pace with corporations.

    Unions, as well as liberal activists, say paid sick leave—in which workers earn a certain number of days a year, depending on the size of their employer—is necessary for a healthy, vibrant workforce (and in the case of restaurants, to prevent the spread of illness). Groups representing employers, including some that voluntarily provide the benefit, argue that forcing it on businesses could cause worse financial damage.

    The truth is hard to come by, since paid sick leave has recently become law in only five cities—San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Washington D.C. and Long Beach, Calif.—and one state, Connecticut.

    A business-oriented research company’s survey of Connecticut employers reported that many had cut jobs and benefits as a result of the paid sick leave law.

    But the head of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce countered that the state’s employment figures had improved since the law was passed.

    In San Francisco, where the nation’s first paid sick leave law was passed in 2007, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research—which advocates for such benefits—found that most businesses hadn’t noticed any discernible negative effects.

    That sentiment was supported in recent interviews with San Francisco business owners. They said they agreed with the need for paid sick leave, adding that the impact of the 2007 law paled in comparison with the effects of measures that raised the minimum wage and required they provide health benefits.

    Art Swanson, president of the San Francisco Small Business Network, said employers were skeptical at first about having to offer paid sick leave. They worried that the benefit would be abused, or would cripple their budgets.

    “Over time, though, it’s become less and less and less of an issue, and how it has been dwarfed by health care reform,” Swanson said.

    An estimated 40 percent of private-sector workers, or more than 40 million people, don’t get paid time off when they get sick. There are some protections under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, but advocates say additional measures are needed because the 20-year-old statute doesn’t cover workers at small businesses, or those out with relatively routine illnesses like the flu.

    A federal paid sick leave bill has been repeatedly introduced in Washington, but the odds of it passing remain distant.

    At the same time, there are organized efforts in several states, including Florida, Washington and Michigan, to restrict municipalities’ ability to impose paid sick leave. Such measures are already in effect in Mississippi and Louisiana and Wisconsin, where an earlier Milwaukee mandate was nullified.

    Eileen Appelbaum, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, blamed the gradual weakening of labor unions, which has hurt the ability of even non-organized workers to negotiate better benefits.

    That has been made more acute by the widening wealth gap between workers and their bosses in recent years, Appelbaum said. “So employers are emboldened to do what they want to do."

    Appelbaum argued that the costs of paid sick leave are ultimately born by workers anyway, since they typically sacrifice salary for better benefits.

    In theory, the aversion to government-mandated benefits would divide Republicans and Democrats. But the reality has been more complicated, particularly as union power has waned and Democratic mayors, a traditional source of support, have swayed.

    That list includes Nutter and Denver’s Michael Hancock, whose opposition to paid sick leave lead to the rejection of a public referendum.

    In New York City, pro-business Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican turned independent, and Democratic City Council speaker Christine Quinn, who hopes to succeed him, blocked paid sick leave for three years. Only recently, as Bloomberg nears the end of his final term and the political blowback threatened to damage Quinn’s chances, did she give in.

    Nutter’s Thursday veto was the second time in as many years that he’d blocked a paid sick leave measure. Both times, he said it would be too damaging to local businesses.

    His opponents on the city council have so far been unable to gather enough votes to override him.

    But they vowed to keep fighting.



    Photo Credit: NBC10 Philadelphia

    Philadelphia Michael Nutter has twice vetoed bills to mandate paid sick leave.Philadelphia Michael Nutter has twice vetoed bills to mandate paid sick leave.

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    With nearly 1,100 sea lions found ill and stranded on Southern California beaches this year, rehabilitation facilities are full, and newly sick marine mammals must be treated on the sand, a federal scientist said Thursday.

    The stranding epidemic — mostly affecting sea lion pups born last year — began in January and has not ceased since, said Sarah Wilkin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on a conference call with reporters Thursday.

    The pups, which are part of a broader "robust and healthy" sea lion population in California, are being found underweight, suffering from starvation and dehydration, she said.

    "You can see bones through their skin," Wilkin said.

    Wilkin, who is the coordinator for NOAA's stranding program in California, said an initial hypothesis is that the high number of sick young sea lions is due to "environmental factors that would limit prey availability for the pups."

    Pups are being likely disproportionately affected because they're not as experienced in foraging for alternate prey, and they can't swim as deep or as far as older animals, Wilkin said.

    Last week, after a review of the evidence by an international scientific panel, NOAA declared the stranding epidemic an "unusual mortality event." The title comes even though most of the animals stranded are still alive when found, Wilkin noted.

    About 20 to 30 percent of those sea lions that have entered facilities have died – a figure that's fairly low for wildlife rehab work, Wilkin said.

    With the "unusual mortality event" designation, NOAA is forming a team of scientists to investigate the causes of the illnesses. In addition to looking at prey-related causes, researchers will also consider infectious diseases, parasites, and toxins and pollution in the water as causes of the strandings.

    The 1,100 figure is for sea lion standings from Santa Barbara County south to San Diego County, she said.

    In Northern California, 83 strandings have been reported. The numbers correspond to animals that have entered rehab facilities, she said.

    Those figures will likely go down as facilities are unable to accept new sea lions, she said.

    Those pups being found going forwarded will be triaged at the beach, sometimes being moved away from the public, and left under observation, Wilkin said. Lifeguards began helping out last month.

    Rescuers will try to find rehab spots for the worst cases, she said.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Federal scientists are trying to figure out why more than 1,000 sick sea lions -- mostly pups -- are being found on Southern California beaches. Here, a pup sits on the edge of a pool during a feeding at the Marine Mammal Center on April 1, 2013 in Sausalito, where the animal was transferred from a facility in Southern California.Federal scientists are trying to figure out why more than 1,000 sick sea lions -- mostly pups -- are being found on Southern California beaches. Here, a pup sits on the edge of a pool during a feeding at the Marine Mammal Center on April 1, 2013 in Sausalito, where the animal was transferred from a facility in Southern California.

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    Soon after Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the new gun law into effect on Thursday, the National Shooting Sports Foundation issued a statement saying it is “carefully studying all provisions of the law for possible challenge in the courts.”

    The National Shooting Sports Foundation, based in Newtown, a trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry, issued the following statement:

    “Gov. Dannel Malloy today signed into law a package of gun control legislation that was assembled in secret by a small group of state legislators and that never received a public hearing.  Most legislators had little time to even read the actual bill language.
     
    “The unfortunate results of this process, which made it appear that all points of view were being heard when in fact true expertise was shut out when it was most needed, means that mistakes in what is now enacted law will have to be corrected.
     
    “For example, language in the new law specifies a procedure for licensed firearms retailers to perform mandatory “universal” background checks on private party transactions that is not permissible based on federal law and regulations governing the National Instant Criminal Background Checks (NICS) system.  As we read it, this mistake in lawmaking means that all private party transactions in the state now cannot be accomplished legally. 
     
    “We share the goal of wanting to make Connecticut safer for our citizens following the unspeakable tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the end, however, public safety has not been enhanced and the unintended consequences of behind-closed-doors lawmaking will cause considerable confusion until the General Assembly corrects its mistakes.
     
    “Here is where we stand today.  Law-abiding citizens of this state now have greater restrictions on their Second Amendment and state constitutional rights while Connecticut’s firearms manufacturers will be forced to seriously weigh the impact on their businesses and their employees of the state’s double-standard of you can build it here, but not sell it here, public policy formulation.    
     
    “We will be carefully studying all provisions of the law for possible challenge in the courts.”


     



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

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    The University of Connecticut is officially rebranding itself as UConn.

    President Susan Herbst said in her annual State of the University address that the school plans to adopt the UConn nickname as the "primary visual word mark for the entire institution."

    She said Thursday most people already refer to the school as UConn and the change recognizes the value of this "unique identifier."

    Herbst says the name UConn will replace University of Connecticut on the school signage, letterhead, banners and web pages.

    The school is also updating its Husky dog logo for the athletic department. The new logo will be unveiled April 18. Herbst promises it will be sleek and beautiful, not mean and menacing.

    She says the school will retain its traditional oak leaf logo and the university seal.
     



    Photo Credit: UConn

    This is the new Wordmark for UConn.This is the new Wordmark for UConn.

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    An openly gay New York man says he was barred from his church duties after marrying his partner of 10 years.

    Nicholas Coppola, 47, who was born and raised Catholic, has been an active member of St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church in Oceanside, a New York City suburb on Long Island.

    He volunteered at the church, participating in services and teaching a children's religion class. But he was stripped of those duties when he and his partner David Crespo became legally married.

    "It has been difficult, very difficult for me," said Coppola. "Because I'm trying to fill that void of good deeds."

    "I was accepted into the church being openly gay," said Coppola. "But once I got married, which went against Catholic teaching, they had to remove me from my teaching position."

    Coppola said he is openly gay, and that was never an issue with his parish. In fact, in the parish yearbook, Coppola and Crespo are pictured together as a couple. Coppola said parishioners and even some clergy attended their October wedding.

    But news of their wedding was not well received by the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Bishop Bob Brennan sent Rev. Nicholas Lombardi at St. Anthony's a letter stating the diocese had received a letter from an anonymous person saying a married, gay man was teaching religion at the church.

    "While not on a witch hunt, I know it would be of concern to you if a catechist were in fact 'married' as described," Brennan said in the letter.

    Coppola said Lombardi had no choice but to take action.

    "I don't want anyone to think this is Nick Lombardi's fault," said Coppola. "He did this with a very heavy heart. You could see it in his face. I felt sad for him that he had to make this decision. In fact, he's still struggling with this now and it's sad."

    Janine Maloney is a parishioner at St. Anthony's, and her children attend the pre-school.

    "This is a nice man, what does it matter?" she said of Coppola's marriage. "This is a good parish, and I feel bad they had to do this."

    Coppola's story comes days after Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the Catholic Church should do a better job of reaching out to gay men and lesbians. But a spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre says its decision is in line with what Dolan preaches.

    "We are not denying him the right to participate in church or to receive sacrament," said Sean Dolan, spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. "We are just saying marriage is a holy sacrament between one man and one woman."

    Dolan has also said, "The church is not a democracy. We have certain faiths and morals we believe in."

    Even though Coppola is saddened by what happened, he still attends church at St. Anthony's in the hopes that one day, he'll be able to resume his work with the congregation.



    Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

    Nicholas Coppola says he was stripped of his teaching duties at his long-time church after he married his partner.Nicholas Coppola says he was stripped of his teaching duties at his long-time church after he married his partner.

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    President Barack Obama's whirlwind fundraising jaunt in the San Francisco Bay Area is being overshadowed by a compliment he paid California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

    "She happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country," he said of the rising Democratic star during his prepared remarks at a Democratic National Committee event in Atherton.

    The comment was greeted with laughter by the paying crowd. "It's true. Come on," he responded.

    (See full Pool Report of Thursday's events in the Bay Area here.)

    On Twitter, #KamalaHarris became very popular with people reacting the remark.

    The president also noted Rep. Mike Honda's height (or lack thereof).

    "He's not like a real tall guy, but he's a great guy," he said while introducing the Silicon Valley congressman, whom he had trouble finding in the crowd.

    Here is the transcript from the White House of those two introductions:

    We've got some elected officials who are doing incredible work -- great friends. First of all, somebody who works tirelessly on behalf of California every day, but also works on behalf of working people and makes sure that we've got a more inclusive America -- a good friend of mine, somebody who you guys should be very proud of, Congressman Mike Honda is here. Where is Mike? (Applause.) He is around here somewhere. There he is. Yes, I mean, he's not like a real tall guy, but he's a great guy. (Laughter.)

    Second of all, you have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country -- Kamala Harris is here. (Applause.) It's true. Come on. (Laughter.) And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.

    The president arrived on Wednesday evening and attended two events in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood, including a dinner at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty, to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    The Atherton fundraisers included a morning brunch hosted by Liz Simons and Mark Heising, then a luncheon at the home of Marcia and John Goldman. Those stops were to benefit the Democratic National Committee.

    Outside the fundraising events, a variety of protesters gathered, including some who oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to Texas.

    Opponents of the pipeline were in Atherton this morning for an 8:15 a.m. rally.

    Air Force One departed from San Francisco International Airport this afternoon.

    The president was in the Bay Area for less than 24 hours and made no public appearances. His last visit to the region was in October during his re-election campaign.
     



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    President Barack Obama also called California's Attorney General Kamala Harris brilliant, dedicated and tough.President Barack Obama also called California's Attorney General Kamala Harris brilliant, dedicated and tough.

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    Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and television personality who invented the  thumbs-up, thumbs-down reviewing style, died Thursday after a years-long battle with cancer. He was 70.

    Ebert's death, first reported by the Sun-Times, came two days after he marked his 46th anniversary of becoming the newpsaper's movie reviewer with a note on his website in which he vowed to keep working through a recurrence of cancer.

    He leaves behind a wife, Chaz Hammelsmith, along with millions of fans who devoured his newspaper reviews, watched his groundbreaking television show and followed his blog.

    To many of those fans, he'll be the guy who shared their love of movies, and helped them understand how they could enrich their lives.

    "If it's a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more what it's like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class," Ebert once told an audience in 2005, according to NPR. "It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that to me is the most noble thing that good movies can do—and it's a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them."

    An indefatigable worker and unabashed fan of the movie business, Ebert lost part of his jaw to cancer in 2006. The surgery left him unable to speak or eat, but he never stopped writing. His 2011 autobiography, "Life Itself," one of 17 books he wrote, earned widespread praise, and is now being made into a documentary by his friend Martin Scorcese.

    Ebert was hospitalized last fall with a broken hip, which his wife tweeted was caused by "tricky disco dance moves." Last May, he unveiled plans to reinvent "Roger Ebert Presents at the Movies" on PBS, and Tuesday he said he planned to launch a fund-raising campaign via Kickstarter. 

    Roger Ebert was born on June 18, 1942 in Urbana, Ill., where he also saw his first movie, the Marx Brothers' "A Day at the Races." As a child, he wrote and published the Washington Street News, which he delivered to his neighbors. He continued his journalism pursuits in high school and at the University of Illinois, where he edited the student newspaper.

    Ebert joined the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966. After six months as a part-timer, the paper's film critic retired, and an editor told him the job was his.

    “I didn’t know the job was open until the day I was given it,” Mr. Ebert recalled later, according to the Sun-Times. “I had no idea. Bob Zonka, the features editor, called me into the conference room and said, ‘We’re gonna make you the movie critic.’ It fell out of the sky.”

    Reviewing movies back then was not considered serious journalism. But Ebert's career coincided with a dynamic era in American film-making, as old Hollywood conventions fell away and edgy, creative narratives burst forth. Ebert chronicled the evolution. He also wrote two screenplays for B-movie "sexploitation" director Russ Meyer.

    He worked on other scripts until his editor demanded he choose between screenwriting and newspaper writing, according to the Sun-Times.

    He chose the latter.

    "My newspaper job is my identity," he later said, according to the Sun-Times.

    In some years he wrote nearly 300 reviews.

    In 1975, Ebert won the Pulitzer Prize, making him the first film critic to win journalism’s most coveted award.

    Soon afterward, Ebert joined his rival at the Chicago Tribune, Gene Siskel, on a public television criticism program called "Opening Soon at a Theater Near You." The name was changed to "Sneak Previews" in 1978, and it reached national syndication. At the program's height, it was seen in 180 public television markets and was, according to Television Week, "the highest-rated entertainment show in the history of public broadcasting." The show coined the terms "thumbs up" and "thumbs down," to sum up the reviews.

    Siskel and Ebert fought and argued like brothers. It was part of their charm, and got them parodied on "Saturday Night Live." But when Siskel died of cancer in 1999, Ebert wept. "I miss him all the time," he said.

    The program continued with Richard Roeper, but like any good film, an unexpected twist was about to occur: Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid and salivary gland cancer.

    A 2006 operation left him speechless, and a portion of his chin was removed.

    Undaunted, Ebert never shrank from public view, often accompanied by his wife, Chaz. He continued to act as a champion of good movies, and an enemy of bad ones. He also devoted a film festival to movies he thought were under-appreciated classics.

    He continued to write. He embraced the Internet, starting a blog, and gathering more than 800,000 followers on Twitter.

    For more than five decades, Ebert’s reviews were weekly reading in as many as 250 papers across the country.

    He earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, ensuring his memory among the legends he wrote about.

    Now, as Roger Ebert might say, the script is complete.

    In addition to his wife, Ebert is survived by a step-daughter and two step-grandchildren, the Sun-Times reported.



    Photo Credit: AP

    Roger Ebert was 70. Ebert and Siskel, who died in 1999, trademarked the Roger Ebert was 70. Ebert and Siskel, who died in 1999, trademarked the "two thumbs up" phrase for movie reviews.

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    A 12-year-old Hamden girl hit by a tree branch in her yard last week, has died.

    Gabriela Hudak was injured March 29 outside her Gilbert Avenue home and rushed to the hospital. She died on Monday, according to the Hamden Patch.

    Hamden Public Schools posted a message on its website about Hudak's death.

    "HPS is deeply saddened to report the passing of one of our students. Gabriela Hudak passed away this morning after sustaining a serious injury last Friday."

    Hudak was a student at Hamden Middle School, according to school officials.

    "She will be remembered as the bright and shining star that she was - an avid reader with an inquiring mind, and a good friend to all," the statement read.

    A "Service to Celebrate Gabby's Life" will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 7 at the Dunbar United Church of Christ, 767 Benham Street, according to the website.

    Counselors are being made available at Hamden Middle School on April 6 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

    Gabriela Hudak, 12, died Monday, three days after suffering a serious head injury when a tree branch fell on her in her Gilbert Avenue yard.Gabriela Hudak, 12, died Monday, three days after suffering a serious head injury when a tree branch fell on her in her Gilbert Avenue yard.

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    The 33-year-old driver whose Cutlass rammed into a California Walmart on Easter Sunday was charged Thursday with attempted murder, along with a slew of other charges, in a bizarre and violent rampage that could land him a life sentence in prison if he is convicted of all counts.

    Haamid Zaid now faces 12 charges, which also include assault with a deadly weapon, hit-and-run and vandalism, stemming from Easter Sunday at 11:15 a.m.

    That's when witnesses and prosecutors say the Seaside, Calif. mechanic, who has a prior criminal record, rammed his 1974 red Cutlass into a Walmart in San Jose. His car smashed into a beer display, and he allegedly began attacking customers with a metal club.

    In court on Thursday, Zaid did not enter a plea and was told to return to court on April 10. He has declined a jailhouse interview.

    His lawyer said outside court he thought the charges were off base. He said that he wasn't ready to make a full statement, adding he had just received a lot of discovery material. When asked about his client's mental state, he said he was "doing fine emotionally."

    WATCH: Raw video of the Walmart aftermath

    Prosecutors said on Thursday that two people were hurt and an employee was struck unconscious. Zaid was ultimately subdued by irate customers who held him down until police could arrive. Some of the aftermath was caught on YouTube, in a video shot by Raymond Raborar, who was shopping in the pharmacy while his mother was nearby at church.

    “This is a very serious case,’’ Deputy District Attorney Deborah Hernandez said. “Mr. Zaid endangered innocent people in that neighborhood, in the parking lot, and spending their Sunday shopping inside a store.”

    In court records reviewed by NBC Bay Area earlier this week,  Zaid was facing other charges, which show a pattern of drug use, paranoia and violence. Some of those cases are active, and Zaid was supposed to have returned to court on April 9 on those separate drug charges.

    The past cases were mostly misdemeanor charges that included being under the influence and driving with a suspended license from 2011 and 2012.

    But in a case from December 2012, Zaid was charged with having a felony amount of methamphetamine and for causing property damage when he plowed a 2004 silver Lexus into Capitol Premier Car Wash on West Capitol Expressway in San Jose.

    The car crashed through double-pane glass into the store, destroying several food and beverage stands, and nearly missing two employees, records show. Owner Chuck Brassfield said it was lucky no one was hurt, and he was floored when he learned that the same driver was now accused of the Walmart rampage.

    Zaid told the officer at the time, court records show, that he had "snorted meth" that day and thought people were out to shoot him. (Watch exclusive video of that car wash incident here.) 

    In October of that same year, Zaid was charged with property destruction when he threw a chair through a window of Rosie McCann's Irish Pub and Restaurant in Santana Row while high on cocaine.

    Zaid's mother, Rosemary Zaid, told NBC Bay Area on Monday that her son had no criminal record and that he was an "excellent" student at Seaside High School, where he attended before moving to San Jose, where she said he had automotive companies. NBC Bay Area did not immediately find a record of those companies.

    The story has made national news, in large part because of the brazen attack on Easter and in part because of the cell phone video taken by customers inside the store. NBC Bay Area obtained some of that video that showed a wild and hectic scene inside the store.

    PHOTOS: Driver Plows Through San Jose Walmart



    Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area/San Jose police

    Haamic Zaid, 33, of Seaside, Calif., right, drove this Cutlass, left, into a Walmart in San Jose. He now faces 12 charges in connection with the bizarre Easter Sunday attack.Haamic Zaid, 33, of Seaside, Calif., right, drove this Cutlass, left, into a Walmart in San Jose. He now faces 12 charges in connection with the bizarre Easter Sunday attack.

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    She's 81 years old and her age didn't get in the way of fighting back a thief.

    Violet Mackiewicz had a robber reach into her car Wednesday and grab her purse. Her next instinct was to chase after him. The incident happened outside the Cromwell Post Office on Main Street.

    "I'm going to be 82 next month. I said oh my god I'm running," said Mackiewicz, who was walking to her car in the parking lot.

    "I think I look like an easy target. Little old lady. Who knows? He doesn't know me though. What I'm capable of."

    Mackiewicz had driven to the post office to pay her bills when a man lunged into her car and said "..Don't talk lady. Don't do anything maam and then he grabbed my pocketbook and he ran."

    Violet says she sat in shock and screamed for a moment but then she took action.

    "I ran after him. I didn't know I could run," Mackiewicz added, saying the man was too fast. "I don't know. I thought maybe I could catch the car or something."

    But she did manage to get a look at him and his black car before calling Cromwell police. She describes him as clean shaven and in his mid 30s. She says her biggest concern at the time was "my glasses. I said I need my glasses."

    "It does happen occasionally but not a lot," said Lou Tobias of Cromwell Police, who say that these types of crimes are more common in shopping plazas; and what Violet did isn't necessarily a good idea.

    "I certainly wouldn't recommend chasing after him. I don't know what she would have done if she had actually caught him."

    Mackiewicz says she was still shaken up last night and didn't fall asleep until 6 this morning. But now that she's gotten her license and check book back, "Next week I will have forgotten all about it. Life goes on right."

    Mackiewicz says the robber got away with a couple hundred dollars of cash.

    Anyone who witnessed the incident is urged to contact Cromwell police at 860-635-2256.
     


    81-year-old Violet Mackiewicz went running after a thief who tired to steal her purse outside a Cromwell Post office on Wednesday.81-year-old Violet Mackiewicz went running after a thief who tired to steal her purse outside a Cromwell Post office on Wednesday.

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  • 04/05/13--04:02: Malloy Hears Gun Law Critics

  • In a matter of 23 hours, the state debated, passed and signed a new gun bill into a law that officials call one of the strongest in the nation. 

    Much of it was already in effect on Thursday night and Gov. Dannel Malloy did not have much time to savor his signing of the bill. 

    Hours later, he attended a town hall meeting in Manchester, where he was backed by supporters and faced his critics.

    “This bill does nothing for public safety,” Zachery Davis told Malloy. 

    “I read the summary of gun control legislation it's not what I would of chosen,” Dan Novak said. 

    “Why, as a responsible citizen, do I have to be held responsible for the actions of a mad man. I  am not Adam Lanza, I did not commit those crimes,” Mike Silva said.

    Malloy stood by his decision and said it could prevent another massacre.

    “We made a decision in our state and that is, we don't want these instruments sold any longer in our state,” he said.

    Many supported Malloy on the new measures.

    “I don't want to have to go to church, to the mall, to the theater, to the baseball game, to take a course at MCC, and worry someone's going to shoot me,” one woman said. 

    Several people said they hoped the gun laws, which are the toughest in the country would make them safer.

    “This is our opportunity and we're so thankful and grateful,” Bethy Guiles-Smith said.


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    Wendy and Randall Casey don't talk much over breakfast these days. Or lunch. Or even dinner.

    Truth be known, even though the mother and son share a home in Dixmoor, a village south of Chicago, they usually just pass each other in the night. After all, one doesn't want to reveal too much campaign strategy to your opponent.

    The two Caseys are running against each other for Village President in Dixmoor. Although Randall said he prefers to put it this way: "I'm not running against my mom. I'm running for the people of Dixmoor."

    "Our relationship hasn't been as strong as it normally was," Wendy Casey conceded, in a room festooned with family photos of Randall at a much younger age. "We just interact, saying, 'Good morning,' and 'Good evening' when he comes in from work."

    By all counts, the very poor south suburban community could use some help. Abandoned buildings stand like rotting trees citywide. The elder Casey says a fire engine was recently repossessed. The community famously missed payroll for city employees not once, but twice.

    Against that backdrop, mother and son say they both want the job. And they both want to win.

    "I feel, in my honest opinion, that he is not mature mentally to take on the responsibility of running a community," she says. "If I win, I think he will be very supportive."

    Randall prefers not to talk about the contest against his mother, saying he doesn't want what some might perceive as a humorous sideshow to detract from the genuine problems Dixmoor faces.

    "I don't want to embarrass the people of Dixmoor," he said. "The people of Dixmoor have had enough embarrassment."

    Indeed, Dixmoor seems almost comically at odds with itself. Incumbent mayor Keevan Grimmett was thrown off the ballot earlier this year after he was accused of being effectively homeless and living in his city hall office.

    "He has no gas, no electricity, and no running water," the elder Casey said.

    Grimmett denies that, and after an appeal managed to get reinstated to the ballot.

    "I have all the amenities that anyone would have," he said. "And I guess the biggest thing I have is a lot of electricity for the Village of Dixmoor."

    The town could use more than electricity. Stories of unpaid bills are legendary. A would-be community center, started with a federal grant, sits half finished and open to the elements, seemingly abandoned. Per capita income for the town's 3,500 residents is just under $13,000. Warring factions have led to walkouts by trustees during village board meetings.

    "The town is split," agrees write-in candidate David McWilliams, a local merchant. "I'm here to pull both sides together."

    At times, it's difficult to tell the players without a scorecard. Trustee Dorothy Armstrong is also seeking the post. Michael Smith, a former trustee, is running for his old job on the village council. He lost it after he was accused of stealing gasoline, and it was Smith who initiated the investigation of the mayor's residency.

    Even Randall Casey brings a complicated linage. His father, Donald Luster, is a former mayor who was forced to step down after he was convicted of fraud. Luster has endorsed his son.

    Wendy Casey says if her son wins, she will be respectful.

    "I will hold him accountable," she says.

    For now, that accountability includes collecting rent from her son, once a month.

    "Of course," she says. "I can't let him live here rent free. I wouldn't be a good mother if I did that."
     



    Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com

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    Two Glastonbury men accused of sexually abusing their adopted children are set to be sentenced on lesser charges and avoid prison time.

    George Harasz and Douglas Wirth of Glastonbury are to be sentenced Friday in Hartford Superior Court.

    The married couple pleaded guilty to felony charges of risk of injury to a minor in January and is to get suspended prison sentences and probation.

    Harasz and Wirth adopted nine children through the state Department of Children and Families beginning in 2000 and were arrested in November 2011.

    Police said two boys, ages 5 and 15, accused Harasz of sexually assaulting them.

    Harasz was charged with first-degree sexual assault and Wirth was charged with third-degree sexual assault of the 15-year-old boy.

    Other children in the home told authorities they weren't abused.


    George Harasz and Douglas Wirth have been charged with sexual conduct with a minor.George Harasz and Douglas Wirth have been charged with sexual conduct with a minor.

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    Target has apologized for unintentionally comparing its plus-sized customers to a super-sized mammal.

    A shopper browsing Target’s online store Wednesday spotted a label on a plus-size maxi dress that described its grey hue as “manatee gray." Manatees are large, gray marine mammals.

    The same kind of dress available in a standard size was labeled “dark heather gray.”

    Susan Clemens, a self described “Digital Maven,” tweeted the discrepancy to Target, and fast received tons of retweets.

    On Thursday, Target spokeswoman Jessica Deede called the incident an “unintended oversight.”
    “We never want to offend any of our guests. We apologize for any discomfort that we may have caused,” she told NBC’s TODAY.com.

    Another Target spokesperson Joshua Thomas, pointed out that many of Target’s products across a range of categories, are labeled “manatee gray,” including towels, rain boots and T-shirts, some of them in women’s regular and even petite sizes, according to Forbes magazine.

    In the case of the dress, Thomas told Forbes there were two different teams of buyers responsible for the regular and plus-size product lines, and the teams didn’t coordinate when they entered the product description for the site. One team, he said appeared to used the color’s official name, and the other chose to use a different one.

    Still shoppers found the dresses’ labeling offensive. “It is insulting — they should have known better,” Claudia Belisle, who was at the Atlantic Terminal Mall Target in Brooklyn, told The New York Post.

    The “manatee gray” Mossimo Women's Plus-Size Kimono Maxi Dress is no longer available on Target’s website.

    Deede told Today.com Target was “in the process of fixing the discrepancy and updating Target.com so the gray dress will be available in all styles. We’re working on updating our systems right now.”

    “We’ll use this instance as a learning experience so we can do better moving forward,” Deede added.


     



    Photo Credit: AP

    Target spokesperson Joshua Thomas, pointed out that many of Target’s products across a range of categories, are labeled “manatee gray,” including towels, rain boots and T-shirts.Target spokesperson Joshua Thomas, pointed out that many of Target’s products across a range of categories, are labeled “manatee gray,” including towels, rain boots and T-shirts.

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    Now that the state of Connecticut has enacted new, sweeping gun laws, Sandy Hook Promise, a group of Newtown residents, is focused on Washington to press for federal gun control legislation and some members will be making the trip to D.C. next week.

    Before Gov. Dannel Malloy put ink to the paper that created the toughest gun control law in the nation on Thursday, Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hool Elementary School, was thinking about national legislation.

    "This makes me hopeful that despite everything we’ve been reading. the U.S. Senate will also take the time to listen to us when we go to Washington next week," she said.

    On Thursday, Sandy Hook Promise wrote a letter asking Congress to act now.

    The families wrote that the never imagined that they would be “enmeshed in a national discussion of gun violence,” and made recommendations in the hopes that it will prevent other families from enduring the loss they are living with.

    “It is important that you understand at the outset that we believe the 2nd Amendment protects the individual right of Americans to own guns. We live in a typical American community and those of us who do not own guns have neighbors, friends or relatives who do. We believe the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and law abiding; we do not support any law that would “take” or “confiscate” guns from law abiding citizens,” they wrote. “But no rights are absolute; with all rights come responsibilities.”

    The families are asking for background checks for every gun sale and that Congress limit the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines.

    They are also asking for firearms trafficking and straw purchases to become federal crimes. 

    “We are under no illusion that making these changes will end gun violence or prevent all mass shootings.  That, however, cannot be the test that determines whether America chooses to act or remain complacent.  These measures will surely save many lives.  And they will prevent other families from experiencing our grief,” the families wrote.

    Before the group goes to Washington, they will rally outside Hartford City Hall this morning,  starting at 11:30 a.m.

    “We have promised that Newtown will be remembered not for our tragedy, but for transformation, and you have the power to help fulfill that promise,” the letter states.

    You can read the full letter on the Sandy Hook Promise Web site. 
     



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (4th L) hugs Mark Barden (2nd R), the parent of a Sandy Hook shooting victim. after the signing of a gun control law event at the Connecticut Capitol April 4, 2013 in Hartford, Connecticut, After more than 13 hours of debate, the Connecticut General Assembly approved the gun-control bill early April 4, that proponents see as the toughest-in-the-nation response to the December 14, 2012 Newtown school shootings. (Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (4th L) hugs Mark Barden (2nd R), the parent of a Sandy Hook shooting victim. after the signing of a gun control law event at the Connecticut Capitol April 4, 2013 in Hartford, Connecticut, After more than 13 hours of debate, the Connecticut General Assembly approved the gun-control bill early April 4, that proponents see as the toughest-in-the-nation response to the December 14, 2012 Newtown school shootings. (Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)

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    81-year-old Violet Mackiewicz was finishing up mailing a few bills at the Cromwell Post office when a man reached into her car, grabbed her purse and took off. Violet yelled at him, then got out of her vehicle and gave chase.

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    An off-duty police officer stopped an attack against a TSA officer while he was going through security at the Honolulu International Airport.

    Justin Rogers, a corporal with the Pinole Police Department in California, was trying to get through the security line on Saturday on his way home from a Hawaiian vacation when he noticed a woman punching a TSA agent.

    WATCH: Raw video of the tackle in the Honolulu airport

    Security video footage shows Rogers hurdling a glass barrier and taking down the attacker. He's seen in his socks because he had taken off his shoes to get through the TSA security line. After the take-down, Rogers waves to the onlookers - all captured on video - to show everyone that "he's got this."

    "Police officer or not, the woman was being assaulted," he told NBC Bay Area. "She was defenseless. Had her arms up, trying to defend herself and somebody really needed to help her and luckily I was close enough to be able to help."


    Authorities said the attacker is a homeless woman. She was charged with assault over the incident. The TSA agent suffered minor bruising, and the TSA issued a statement expressing the agency's gratitude toward Rogers.



    Photo Credit: TSA security video

    Off-duty Pinole police officer tackles a woman who was allegedly attacking a TSA agent on March 30 in the Honolulu airport.Off-duty Pinole police officer tackles a woman who was allegedly attacking a TSA agent on March 30 in the Honolulu airport.

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    A firm will scan license plates and boot your car if you owe taxes or fees.

    Waterbury residents with overdue vehicle taxes and unpaid tickets just might find a boot on their vehicle soon.

    Waterbury has teamed up with a firm from Georgia that that will begin roaming the streets of the Brass City in search of vehicles associated with overdue fines.

    The crackdown begins at midnight on Sunday.

    "They have automated equipment that will be reading license plates and if they identify a delinquent motor vehicle with back taxes or parking tickets, the plate will be identified and they'll be booted where they find them," Deputy Tax Collector
    Karen Mulcahy said.

    Initially, Waterbury will only boot vehicles with violations that are parked on public property, including city streets and government-owned parking lots.

    Dave Rombre, a Waterbury resident, thinks the program will be effective.

    "People who don't pay their taxes are putting a burden on other people and that's not fair, so if this is one way to catch up with the scofflaws, then do it," he said.

    In all, the city hopes to recoup millions of dollars in overdue car taxes and unpaid parking tickets, that tax records show Waterbury is owed.

    "So probably a fair guess would be about $2 and half million uncollected per year and over the last two years. That's about $5 million," Mulcahy said.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    If you owe taxes or fees, your car could be booted in Waterbury.If you owe taxes or fees, your car could be booted in Waterbury.

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