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New Britain Pets-A-Palooza Event Set for Thursday


Attention, animal lovers: New Britain is holding a special event for pets and their human friends Thursday evening.

Originally planned for Wednesday, Pets-A-Palooza has been rescheduled because of a rainy forecast and will now be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Walnut Hill Park.

The event will include a K-9 Frisbee Dog Show, a costume pet parade, a one-mile fundraising walk and other activities.

On top of the pet-friendly events, Pet-A-Palooza will also feature a live concert by Sharades, a cover band performing popular music from the '50s, '60s and '70s. The concert will take place from  7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Darius Miller Band Shell.

Pet-A-Palooza will also attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most cat food donated at a public park. If you would like to help attempt break the record, you can bring along a can or bag of cat food.

Photo Credit: NBC 5

Men Pose as Water Company Workers in Newington


The Metropolitan District Commission is warning of imposters after two men showed up at a home in Newington on Wednesday claiming to be water company employees.

MDC officials said the imposters gained access to a house near Timothy Street after telling the resident they needed to check the water. It's not clear what happened once they got inside.

The MDC is reminding customers that all field employees will wear logoed clothing and drive marked cars. Workers will also carry photo identification and will not show up at your home unannounced.

If you have any questions, call the MDC Command Center at 860-278-7850 ext. 3600. If you are at all suspicious, call the police.

Family Violence Task Force Leaders Appointed


State leaders are teaming up with advocates against domestic violence to challenge the problem across Connecticut.

Senate President Martin M. Looney and Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey announced their selections to the Family Violence Task Force.

With nearly 1,200 children living in domestic violence shelters a year in Connecticut, state leaders say it was time to study and respond to the problem of domestic violence.

The task force is made up of Karen Jarmoc, President and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Garry Lapidus, director of the Injury Prevention Center of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Hartford Hospital; State Representative Diana Urban (D-Stonington); and State Senator Dante Bartolomeo (D-Meriden).

"Frankly, we don’t have a coordinated and comprehensive approach within our state departments as to how to deal with children that have been exposed to that level of family violence," said Speaker Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden).

State leaders recalled the recent tragedy of Middletown baby, Aaden Moreno. The 7-month-old boy was was found dead in the Connecticut River last week, just days after his father allegedly threw the boy over a bridge. The father then jumped in himself in an attempt to commit suicide, but was unsuccessful and is now charged with his son's murder.

"This horrendous circumstance in Middletown very recently and its for that reason and all of those other circumstances that this is just so hugely important," Said Jarmoc, president and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV).

The group will look at state policies, practices and models.

"Not everything is legislative, right? And so there are best practice models out there that other states are using to help kids because we know the longterm impact on kids is enormously devastating," Said Jarmoc.

The team will then make recommendations they believe will better prevent and respond to family violence.

The hope is that the same thing does not happen to other children, like that of Moreno, who’s mother filed a restraining order before the baby’s death. The order was denied by the judge.

"It gives us now an opportunity to look at from the judicial department, to look at the extent and relevance of its current practices and perhaps increase them," Said Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven).

Greek Parliament Passes Austerity Bill


Greece's Parliament has approved an austerity bill demanded by bailout creditors, despite a significant level of dissent from the governing leftist Syriza party.

The bill to impose sweeping tax hikes and spending cuts was approved with the support of three pro-European opposition parties.

Several prominent members of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' ruling party voted against his recommendation, including Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

Eurozone rescue lenders demanded the fresh round of cuts in a deal reached this week to place Greece in a new bailout program.

Dissenters argued that Greeks could not face any more cuts after six years of recession that saw a sharp rise in poverty and unemployment.

New Haven Police Find Arm Under Chapel Street Bridge


More human remains have been discovered in New Haven.

Police said just a few hours after two human legs were discovered in some brush next to the State Street train station, a human arm was found in a plastic bag about a block away. The remains were all discovered in downtown New Haven on Wednesday.

“It’s gruesome, "said Hannah Grill of New Haven. "It’s really gruesome.”

Just as the sun was setting over the scene at the corner of State Street and Court Street where the two legs were found in some overgrown brush, the arm was found, police say. A passerby alerted an officer about a very strong rotting odor coming from just below the Chapel Street bridge next to a set of railroad tracks.

"Detectives from our forensic unit opened the bag and what appears to be a human arm; at least one human arm," said David Hartman, spokesperson for the New Haven Police Department. "It's not probable that the dismembered body parts were dismembered at either of the two locations that we've found," he added.

Police said only forensic testing can help identify the age, sex or ethnicity of the person that the legs and the arm came from. The Medical Examiner's office and Connecticut State Police are aiding in the investigation.

“This is different," said Grill of the discovery near her home. "This is scarier.”

“I hope they figure out what’s going on", said Briggs Harlan, a New Haven resident. "I have absolute faith in the police department around here. I think they’re doing a good job.”

Investigators, meanwhile, ask the public to be on alert.

"As much as I'd like to say we can tie these together, it's certainly probable but we cannot at this time," said Hartman.

Bristol Passes Ordinance Addressing Feral Cat Problem


For the last several years Bristol leaders say feral cats have been a thorn in their side. Over time, the city has seen a feral cat community grow and run wild.

"They're getting hit in the roads. They're going into the sewers for food. It's a horrible situation," said Stacy Gagnier of Bristol.

Back in January, the situation became enough of a nuisance volunteers and city officials came together to find a solution.

"Right now we have several uncontrolled cat colonies which was affecting quality of life in many of our neighborhoods," said Bristol City Councilwoman Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.

In response, the city council recently passed an ordinance aimed at controlling the population. Now "No person shall own, harbor or keep a cat over the age of six-months which has not been spayed, neutered or other method of sterilization."

"Sometimes we have property owners not willing to allow us onto their property. This will now compel animal control officers to say to them, 'Please cooperate. Otherwise, you may receive a citation,'" said Zoppo-Sassu.

The ordinance has no bite without help from the public because it's complaint driven, which means those who do not irresponsibly breed and do not let their cats run wild won't be affected. Those who do could face a $90 fine that will increase if the issue is not fixed.

"The important thing is no tax dollars are being spent. It's all volunteer-driven," said Zoppo-Sassu.

If you would like to help out the volunteer effort, you can donate to Kitty Quarters, c/o Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, 58 Merriman St, Bristol, CT 06010.

To check out the Kitty Quarters Facebook page, click here. 

Mother Arrested after Leaving Infant Alone in Car


Norwalk police have arrested a woman they say left her infant alone in a car twice in one day.

Police and fire crews responded to a parking garage at 770 Connecticut Avenue around 12:20 p.m., after receiving a call from a woman who found the child crying alone in a Toyota SUV. While crews were working to get the child out of the car, the baby’s mother returned.

Police determined that the mother, identified as 46-year-old Hiroko Kurihara of Stamford, had left the child alone while she was working out at the gym for approximately 30 minutes. She had also left the child alone for roughly an hour earlier that morning, according to police. She was arrested on scene.

The child was transported to Norwalk Hospital for evaluation and later released to the custody of the father. Kurihara was arrested on two counts of risk of injury to a minor, two counts of unattended child left in a car. She is being held on a $10,000 bond.

Photo Credit: Norwalk Police Department

Human Legs Found Near Train Station in New Haven


Police are investigating after a pair of human legs were found near the State Street Railroad Station in New Haven.

New Haven police spokesman Officer David Hartman said a resident made the grisly discovery late Wednesday morning. He approached a nearby officer and led police to an overgrown area, where the legs were located under thick foliage along a fence.

Investigators said they suspect the body parts have been there for at least a week. Police said it's impossible to determine the age, gender or race of the person to whom the legs belong without a forensic examination.

The chief medical examiner's office will retrieve the legs and work to identify them.

"We do not, at this point, know if there are other body parts that are in the same area," Hartman said Wednesday. "We are unable to go in there until the medical examiner's office has removed the legs."

Authorities have blocked off roads in the area while police investigate.

Court Street is shut down between State Street and Artizan Street, over the railroad tracks. The northbound side of State Street is closed from Chapel Street to Elm Street.

Shore Line East said commuters can access the station by foot to board trains, which are running as scheduled.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Couple Arrested After Infant Found With 20 Fractures


Police have arrested a young mother and father from Waterbury after their 1-month-old infant suffered 20 broken bones and injuries to his mouth and eye as a result of "inflicted trauma," according to the arrest warrants.

Authorities learned of the baby's injuries after his mother, Kali Sastrum, 18, brought him to St. Mary's Hospital with a swollen right leg on July 2, according to police.

Police said X-rays revealed the infant had a broken femur. Sastrum allegedly told police she was "shocked" to find out the baby's leg was broken and "had no idea" how it might have happened.

The baby was transferred to Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, where doctors discovered more than a dozen rib fractures "in different stages of healing," along with a torn frenulum in the baby's mouth and a broken blood vessel in his eye, according to the warrant for Sastrum's arrest.

A doctor at Connecticut Children's told police the baby's injuries were the result of "inflicted trauma" and could not have been accidental, the warrant states.

Police said the baby has been released to the custody of the Department of Children and Families and will continue testing and outpatient treatment.

Sastrum and the baby's father, Nikolas Radaskie, 21, were arrested Monday and each charged with risk of injury to a minor.

A woman who answered the door at the couple's home on Sunnyside Avenue asked NBC Connecticut crews to leave the property Wednesday afternoon. An attorney representing Sastrum and Radaskie has not returned multiple requests for comment.

Photo Credit: Waterbury Police Department

California Kidnap Suspect 'Bipolar' and 'Extremely' Smart, Friend and Lawyer Say


The suspect at the center of a kidnap case out of Vallejo, California, is a smart, determined trumpet player who graduated from Harvard law school – the place where he likely began suffering from bipolar disorder, according to documents, friends, family and his lawyer.

Matthew Muller’s mental illness will be most likely used as his defense strategy, said his Sacramento-based lawyer, Thomas Johnson. And he's had his share of legal troubles, including the time he was accused of sleeping in a law office and stealing client information. He's also been linked by police to home invasions in Dublin and possibly the Peninsula.

But the 38-year-old didn’t always suffer from mental illness, which he told federal agents is “Gulf War Illness,” even though he served in the Marines years after the Gulf War.

In interviews with NBC Bay Area, Johnson and his former college roommate, Alex Volberding, who is working at a law firm in San Francisco this summer, described Muller, of Orangeville, California, as someone who stood out in college because of his drive and wit. These are among the first accounts that highlight a different side of the accused kidnapper since his arrest was announced by the FBI on Monday.

“He was a very, very hard worker,” said Volberding, a UCLA law student who also attended Pomona College with Muller from 1999 to 2003. “He approached college in a very regimented manner, unlike most of our classmates, myself included.”

Volberding said he saw no signs of criminality during his years at Pomona College. Not only was Muller a good student, he was in top physical condition, running five miles a day before class started. He thought that one day Muller would be "sitting behind a desk in an elected capacity, not sitting in a jail cell."

“This news comes as a total surprise,” he said. “Any abnormality he might have shown in college was his drive.”

Muller is charged with kidnapping Denise Huskins and boyfriend Aaron Quinn from Vallejo in March. Their case became of national public interest when police didn’t believe their story, calling it a hoax. The details of the kidnap were extraordinary, involving drugs, ransom, duct tape, wet suits, swim goggles and anonymous emails to newspapers.

Quinn was let go and Huskins dropped off two days after she was abducted near her family’s home in Huntington Beach. A home invasion in Dublin in June led police, and then the FBI, to Muller, through evidence in his car, including goggles with a long blond hair attached. 

Muller, who is in Santa Rita Jail facing the Dublin charges, has not yet been moved to federal court in Sacramento to face his kidnap case. He will enter a not guilty plea when he arrives in about two to three weeks, Johnson said.

Johnson said the evidence that will be presented in court will likely show that Muller’s bipolar disorder began while he was in Harvard, where he earned a law degree and was a research assistant. The evidence will also show that Muller had been prescribed medication to control his manic-depressive states, Johnson said.

“A component of the defense is going to be a progressive debilitating illness,” Johnson said, adding that Muller did not show any signs of mental illness before graduate school.

Muller had always been a good student, according to Johnson, who culled his information by meeting his client’s family and friends. When he attended Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks near Sacramento, Muller took classes in the high achiever’s program. His GPA was over a 3.8, Johnson said, “and that was falling short of his academic potential.”

Muller’s stepfather declined to speak with NBC Bay Area, deferring all calls to his lawyer. Johnson said that Muller grew up with his parents, who divorced sometime after high school. He has a brother and a sister, Johnson said. He described Muller as someone who loved music and studying, who didn’t have a wide circle of friends.

Right out of high school, Muller joined the Marines. He wasn’t in combat. But he was stationed at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, at Camp Pendleton, at the Naval School of Music in Little Creek, Virginia, and at the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan. Muller also served in the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in El Toro through his stint that lasted from Oct. 2, 1995, to Aug. 8, 1999. Pentagon records show he rose to the level of sergeant and played the trumpet — something he did in high school, too. He also won the National Defense Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal and the Nave—Marine Corps Achievement Medal. His discharge records were not immediately available.

After the Marines, Muller enrolled at Pomona College. Johnson said he graduated summa cum laude with degrees in economics and public policy analysis.

He did very well at Harvard, too, Johnson said, adding that he couldn’t detail exactly when his client’s mental state began to deteriorate, or how it played out.

Another former classmate, Noah Helpern, went to both undergraduate and graduate schools with Muller. "Despite going to both Pomona and Harvard with him I didn't know him especially well," Helperen wrote in an email. "Certainly never observed any mental illness; just a lot of intelligence and drive."

But some of Muller’s problems are documented in legal filings in federal and state court.

In 2011, an immigration law firm he was working for, Reeves & Associates, sued Muller for allegedly sleeping in their offices and stealing client information and passwords, with the hunch that he wanted to start his own firm. Surveillance video even showed Muller “late at night walking into a room [at the firm] with a couch carrying a sleeping bag,” the suit claims, and then later, allegedly stealing software, passwords, training guides and the boss’s archived emails.

Muller ended up resigning from the firm and the suit was settled.

Lawyer Kerry McInerney Freeman said in an email that she was "not authorized" to comment about the case, or share the video.

Muller also worked for a year as an associate in the San Francisco office of immigration attorney firm Kerosky, Purves & Bogue. He left in 2012 for reasons that haven’t been disclosed.

In 2013, the California Bar Association suspended Muller’s license and began disciplinary proceedings that led to his disbarment, according to documents. A court in January issued a default judgment, saying Muller failed to refund $1,250 to a client and had told a client that he had filed necessary immigration papers when he had not.

In addition to the Dublin home invasion and kidnap charges, Palo Alto and Mountain View police suspect he may be linked to 2009 robberies in their cities, too, though they haven’t made any arrests.

And in emails to the San Francisco Chronicle during the kidnap saga, someone who purported to be behind the abduction of the Vallejo couple also boldly stated he or she was part of a wide car thief ring in the Bay Area, stealing cars to make some quick money. The emails sent to the newspaper described the ring as "a sort of Ocean's Eleven, gentlemen criminals who only took stuff that was insured from people who could afford it."

On Tuesday, federal search warrants obtained by NBC Bay Area show that the FBI seized drones, black night vision goggles, an empty zip tie bag and a blood pressure cuff, among other items.

If any of these accusations are true, Johnson said that it’s very likely his client’s mental state played a part. “With a bipolar disorder, the pendulum swing can be tremendous: from feeling grandiose to not being able to put your two feet on the floor.”

NBC Bay Area's Mark Matthews contributed to that report.

Photo Credit: Alameda County Sheriff
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Part of Route 10 Reopens in Simsbury


Route 10/Hopmeadow Road has reopened in Simsbury after a tree fell and brought down wires Thursday morning, according to the Department of Transportation.

Police said the road was closed between Wescott Road and Wolcott Road.

About 100 customers lost power Thursday morning in Simsbury, according to the Eversource outage map.

Photo Credit: Google Maps

West Haven Police Nab Accused Car Burglar


Police have arrested a man accused of breaking into and stealing two cars from Captain Thomas Boulevard in West Haven last month.

Devyne Drayton, 26, of New Haven, was arrested after forensic evidence linked him to the crime, according to police. Authorities said Drayton left items behind that helped police identify him.

He was charged with first-degree burglary, larceny and conspiracy. Drayton was held on $150,000 bond.

Photo Credit: West Haven Police Department

Armed Robbers Hold Up Gas Station at I-95 Truck Stop


Police are searching for two men who robbed a gas station at an Interstate 95 truck stop in North Stonington at gun- and knifepoint early Thursday morning.

Police said the robbers, clad in black, walked into the gas station at the exit 93 truck stop around 1 a.m. Thursday. One held a knife and went around behind the counter. He demanded money from the cash register while the second robber held two clerks at gunpoint.

The perpetrators got away with a "small amount" of cash and may have left the area in a black SUV or van, according to state police.

Authorities are asking for help identifying the robbers.

Police said the knife-wielding robber stands about 6 feet tall and 140-150 pounds. He was wearing a black sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his head, along with black high-water pants and blue sneakers.

The robber carrying a rifle is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. Police said he was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black pants, brown shoes and a black bandanna over his nose and mouth. He was carrying a small rifle.

Police are asking anyone with information to call the Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crime Squad at 860-848-6530 or Troop E at 860-848-6530.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

Pet Adoption 101: Expert Tips on Animal Adoptions


Welcoming a furry addition to the home can be a fun and exciting event. But ensuring the animal and rest of the family live in healthy and happy harmony takes some preparation and work. Here are some tips from animal shelters about what to do before, during and after the adoption. 


Make sure everyone in the family wants a pet: Pet ownership can affect many aspects of family life, from deciding who gets to take the puppy out in the middle of the night to making sure everyone understands an animal is a long-term time, emotional, and financial investment. And because the pet will be part of the family for the long haul, it's important that everyone is on board about the kind, size and personality of the companion of choice. Shelter experts advise discussing the delegation of responsibilities and going through the process of picking out the pet as a group to avoid problems later on. “Understand all the responsibilities involved, and pick a time where you can all go pick a pet," said Madeline Bernstein, president of SPCA Los Angeles. "Many people have completely different ideas of what they want.”

Do your research: Experts suggest researching breeds and characteristics to identify animals that best fit your lifestyle before you arrive at the shelter, where you could find yourself falling for a cute cat or dog that wouldn't be a great match. “Some people think Jack Russell Terriers are so cute, but they require a lot of work because they have a lot of energy," Stephanie Knight, communications specialist at SPCA of Texas, said. "So if you don’t go for walks or outside much, you may want to consider getting something like a pug.” It's also smart to research and budget for the costs you'll face when you bring the pet home, such as vaccinations for young animals, license fees and pet supplies. 

Check the requirements: To avoid delays once you meet that perfect pet, shelters recommend looking into what paperwork is required for adoption. This can range from leases or other proof of residency to vet references.  “If you haven’t owned a pet, you can’t have a vet reference, but if we see they have in the past we’ll ask," Mantat Wong, director of Animal Haven in New York said.  While home or apartment renters may be more aware of requirements needed for pets, it is important for homeowners to see if they have any pet restrictions as well. “If you’re a renter you have to be aware of requirements but even as a homeowner, insurance doesn’t always cover larger dogs," said Marc Peralta, executive director of Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles. 

Puppy-proof your home: Similar to preparing for a new baby, it is important to make sure a home is safe for a new arrival of a dog or cat. Animals can get into just as much trouble as young children, so working ahead to keep valuables out of reach of the furry friends can save time and money in the end. “Look around and try to figure out what a puppy or kitten can get into, like if you leave your shoes around," said Michelle Groeper, executive director at Tails Humane Society in DeKalb, Illinois. "Take the time to clean up. It’s easier to do a little work ahead of time instead of buy new shoes, because you know your puppy will chew your favorite pair.” It's also recommended that prospective owners purchase as many essential supplies as you can before adopting, such as getting a leash, toys, a bed, or a crate. Getting set up ahead of time can help smooth the transition from the shelter to the home.

Check out the shelter before stepping foot inside: Most shelters have websites that many experts recommend surfing. Beyond looking up requirements needed for adoption, people can see all the animals the shelter currently has to get a better idea of what they're in for. “Look for any animal they have online that may catch your eye,” Groeper said. “It can be overwhelming if you walk in and see all these furry animals.”


Bring your dog if you already have one at home: Many shelters require families to bring any dogs they already have at home for a meet-and-greet with the potential new pet, a policy meant to ensure chemistry between the two animals won't be an issue. “Most places require you to bring your dog," Bernstein said. "They get an idea whether they’re coping with each other. Occasionally the situation shows it’s a bad idea (to bring another dog home) most of the time it works out and helps with an introduction.” 

Check the chemistry with humans, too: While some may have their heart set on a certain breed or look of dog or cat, it's important to keep an open mind when looking for a forever friend. “There’s going to be a lot of dogs, so just go where the chemistry takes you,” Bernstein said. “People have a preconceived idea of what they want and they almost never leave with that.”

Ask questions about the animal: Don't be afraid to ask questions about anything regarding the animal, such as their health history or the situation that put them in a shelter. The more information the shelter can give, the better prepared a family will be when questions arise long after they have left the shelter. “You want to ideally know as much as the shelter knows,” Bernstein said. “You want to know the medical conditions, if they’ve been spayed or neutered, any behavior issues. Anything they can tell you about the animal is useful.”

Bring that paperwork you prepared: Meeting lease requirements for adopting an animal can delay a pet's release for a day or more if the paperwork isn't ready in advance. Many times, the lease is used as confirmation of what is and is not allowed on the property. Without that proof, a family would not be able to bring home their chosen pet the day they picked it out. “Anyone who rents, it saves us a lot of trouble because then we’ll have to call the landlord or building and sometimes they don’t answer,” Wong said. “It’s usually the roadblock that prevents a same day adoption.”


Go to a training class: Puppies and kittens aren't always easy to train, especially when their cuteness gets in the way of efforts to establish boundaries and rules. Taking an obedience class is a simple way to teach an animal the proper way to behave, while also creating an important bond between the animal and its family. “The more you can share a language with your dog, the less behavioral issues there are later on,” Bernstein said. “Making sure the pet is healthy, happy, and taking a training class as a whole family makes it a more enriching experience, and everyone will be happier in the end.”

Don't sweat it if you new pet is shy: Dogs, and especially cats, tend to want to hide when they first get in a new environment.Shelters recommend leaving shy animals alone to get used to their new home on their own terms, which means not following the pet around as they explore. Also, even if they were housebroken in the shelter, animals can revert back to old behavior when scared. “If you see a dog or cat acting funny, it’s most likely because of their new environment,” Knight said. “Especially with cats, it’s in their nature. ... It’s important to remember they do grow out of it.”

Keep asking questions: Many shelters encourage families to call when they need anything -- these are the places that know a lot more about the animal than their new family. It's also good to keep up-to-date with your vet. They can answer health-related questions, as well as give the recommended yearly vaccinations. “We have a behavior department that will answer any questions the adopters have,” Knight said. “Also follow up with your vet, make sure you have your vaccinations every year.”

Track your animal: Animals can stray away from home and get lost, and to make sure it's easier to find your beloved pet, experts recommend registering your animal, or putting a microchip in them. This way if someone finds them and returns them to a shelter, an employee can scan for the pet's unique ID number and contact the pet recovery service, which will connect them with the owner. 

Accept if it’s not a good fit: While some families want an animal and think a breed or specific pet is perfect for them, this isn't always the case. If the animal and family would be happier separated, it's important to talk to the shelter and look into returning the pet. “If it’s not a good fit, we want the animal back,” Peralta said. “Obviously we don’t want to see the animals come back, but in the ‘people world’ sometimes it doesn’t always work out with your high school sweetheart. The same thing can happen in the animal world.”

Send pictures: An easy way to say thanks to a shelter for all their hard work: send photos of the animal in its happy new home. Many workers don't get to say goodbye to animals before they get adopted, so keeping up-to-date with them is affirmation that they went with the right family. “A lot of adopters really understand how much we put in to the animals we care and get attached and want us to be reassured they went to a good home,” Wong said. “This is very thankless job, and it’s such a nice morale boost to hear success stories.”

Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Experts Release Weevils to Fight Invasive Weed


Invasive weeds from the other side of the world have forced their way into Connecticut meadows and swamps, but state experts are fighting back – with beetles.

The concern stems from a bright green vine with triangular leaves and barbs on its stem to hook and smother plants in its way.

"It is something that we're very concerned about. It's one of many invasive plants in the state that will out compete. It grows very quickly, six inches a day, 25 feet a year. That's why they're called mile-a-minute weeds," said Donna Ellis, of UConn Extension's plant sciences office. "It was introduced accidentally from Asia, East Asia."

Ellis and other state experts deployed defenses against the weed Thursday morning at Great Pond Preserve in Glastonbury. They released weevils, beetles that also originate in Asia, which "skeletonize" the weeds by eating holes in them.

The weevil apparently has no appetite for anything else. It's not known to eat any other species of plant, just the mile-a-minute weed.

"Everything's been checked very carefully – all the stages have been followed and they do not attack anything other than Mile a Minute," said Carole Cheah, entomologist at the agriculture experiment station lab in Windsor.

The 500 weevils let loose in Glastonbury brings the total count to 44,000 weevils released in Connecticut over the last six years. Experts say that means several generations of weevils have been on the job.

The next town to get the weevils is Southbury. Weevils will be released Friday along the Pomperaug River.

Car Smashes Into House in Chester, Driver Runs: Cops


A 24-year-old man is facing charges after police say he slammed his car into a home on Castleview Drive in Chester early Thursday morning, then took off running.

Steven Douglas Kellum, 24, of Niantic, has been charged with evading an accident and making an improper turn.

State police said troopers were called out around 1:45 a.m. Thursday after a witness saw a car speeding from Route 154 onto Castleview Drive, then heard a loud collision. Kellum was gone when police got to the scene.

Troopers brought in a state police K-9 to search for Kellum, and the fire marshal's office and building inspector came out to check the home. Footage from the scene shows damage to the corner of the house, which police described as minor.

Investigators found Kellum at his home in Niantic a short time later and arrested him, according to police.

Police said no one was hurt in the crash.

ECB Increases Greece's Emergency Lending


The European Central Bank has increased its emergency lending to Greece, President Mario Draghi revealed Thursday, raising hopes that banks may be able to open their doors after more than two weeks of closures.
He said the bank would raise its funding to lenders in Greece by $978 million over one week. The move comes after the Greek parliament voted in favor of an austerity reform package in the early hours of Thursday morning, paving the way for a bailout program.
"We have today accommodated the Bank of Greece request, though scaled to one week. We want to see how the situation will evolve," Draghi said, speaking from the central bank's headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

Angela Merkel Comforts Sobbing Girl at Refugee Debate


German Chancellor Angela Merkel was mocked online Thursday over an awkward encounter with a Palestinian girl who sobbed during a televised discussion of the country's policy on asylum.

The hashtag #merkelstreichelt (merkelstrokes) and video clip of Merkel's exchange with the girl went viral. The girl, identified as Reem from Lebanon, has lived in Germany for four years but her family may face deportation.

During a discussion forum in the northern city of Rostock, Reem told Merkel in good German that she wanted to study in Germany. It was unpleasant that she could not share the enjoyment of life experienced by her peers because of uncertainty over whether she will be able to stay, she said.

"I understand," said Merkel. "However ... sometimes politics is hard. When you stand in front of me and you are a very nice person, but you know in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon there are thousands and thousands [of people] and if we say you can all come and you can all come from Africa and you can all come. We can't manage that."

At that point, Reem began to cry.

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Chicken Nugget Recall


More than 20,000 pounds of gluten-free chicken nuggets are being recalled after testing positive for Staphylococcus bacteria, which can cause food poisoning.

Federal officials said Pennsylvania-based Murry's Inc., is recalling 12-oz. boxes of Bell & Evans Gluten Free Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets with a "best by" date of March 25, 2016. The brand is sold in multiple locations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and in most states across the nation.

Consumers who purchased the product are urged to return it to their place of purchase. No illnesses have been reported.

The problem was discovered by the Colorado Department of Agriculture during a routine retail surveillance and sampling program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at at a Federal Emergency Response Network lab. After being notified of the positive test result, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service conducted traceback activities.

Staphylococcal food poisoning is a gastrointestinal illness. It is caused by eating foods contaminated with toxin-producing Staphylococcus aureus.

Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people and animals. Staphylococcus aureus can produce seven different toxins that are frequently responsible for food poisoning.

Staphylococcal enterotoxins are fast acting, sometimes causing illness in as little as 30 minutes. Thoroughly cooking product does not prevent illness, and symptoms usually develop within one to six hours after eating contaminated food. Patients typically experience several of the following: nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. The illness is usually mild and most patients recover after one to three days.

To prevent Staphylococcal contamination, keep kitchens and food-serving areas clean and sanitized. Keep hot foods hot (over 140 °F) and cold foods cold (40 °F or under). Make sure to wash hands and under fingernails vigorously with soap and water before handling and preparing food. Do not prepare food if you have an open sore or wound on your hands or if you have a nose or eye infection.

Anyone concerned about a reaction should contact a healthcare provider.

"Food safety is a core value for Murry’s. We value the trust our customers place in the products we produce for them," Murry’s, Inc. President Ira Mendelson said in a statement. “We will conduct a full internal investigation in response to Colorado’s findings and take every action possible to prevent this problem from happening again."

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Foodcollection

Autistic Son Saves Mom From Burning Wreck


An 18-year-old high-functioning autistic man who saved his mother after their car burst into flames following a crash on Long Island, despite having a broken wrist, told NBC 4 New York a day after the accident that he's not a hero -- yet.

"I am not a hero until my mom is OK," Tyler Gianchetta said.

The 18-year-old's mother, Susan, remained hospitalized in critical but stable condition Thursday with a broken hip, neck and pelvis, among other injuries.

Susan Gianchetta's husband says his 50-year-old wife was driving their son to a doctor's appointment shortly before noon Wednesday when she suffered some type of medical condition on Cold Spring Hills Road in West Hills and lost control of the car. The white Subaru spun out and smashed into a tree.

Tyler Gianchetta pulled himself out of the car; he managed to pull his mother mostly from the vehicle, but her feet were still inside as it burst into flames, a witness said. Passing drivers pulled over and helped pull Susan Gianchetta the rest of the way to safety. Video from the scene showed the vehicle entirely encompassed in flames as emergency personnel worked to douse the fire.

Tyler Gianchetta's father says he just finished his freshman year at Clark University studying mathematics. He called his son a hero, saying Tyler Gianchetta had been through a lot in his life and, "for him to do this is incredible." The father said Susan Gianchetta is awake as she recovers from her injuries and aware of what their son did. She feels the same way he does, the father says. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York
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