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Bond Commission to Vote on Funds to Expand CTfastrak


The state plans to extend CTfastrak bus service east of the Connecticut River, into East Hartford and Manchester and the State Bond Commission is scheduled to vote next week on a $7 million allocation.

Those funds would allow the Connecticut Department of Transportation to buy buses and other equipment necessary to expand the service, according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office.

The 9.4 mile bus-only route runs between New Britain, Newington, West Hartford, and Hartford and includes 10 bus station. The expansion would include using existing HOV lanes on Interstate 84.

“The numbers we are seeing on CTfastrak are surpassing expectations. We’re proud of the work we’ve done, but also know how much more we need to do to transform our transportation system. Extending this service east of the river into East Hartford and Manchester will only open even greater opportunities for people to take advantage of this transit system, in addition to the potential to grow more transit-oriented development opportunities along the line. It’s good for jobs, it’s a boost for business, and it’s a step towards making Connecticut’s transportation system best-in-class,” Gov. Malloy said in a statement. “By growing this service east of the river, that means service extensions to Pratt & Whitney and Goodwin College, in addition to many of the other large businesses in those towns. If we want to make Connecticut’s transportation system the best in the nation, we need to make these investments now.”

According to the governor’s office, the system is averaging 14,000 passenger trips on weekdays, with 9,000 on Saturdays and 5,000 on Sundays.

The state Department is working on a feasibility study to determine the best routes to extend into Manchester, funded by a $500,000 allocation the bond commission approved earlier this year.

“Service across the Connecticut River is a natural expansion of the very popular CTfastrak system,” State Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker said. “Our target for the additional service is late 2016. We are grateful for the Governor’s consistent support, leadership and shared vision.”

The State Bond Commission is scheduled to vote on the allocation at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

The CTfastrak system currently provides direct service to and from: Waterbury, Cheshire, Southington, Bristol, Plainville, New Britain, Newington, West Hartford and Hartford.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Follow #PopeFrancis During Historic U.S. Visit


Pope Francis sets foot in the U.S. for the first time as pontiff this week. Follow NBC Owned Television Stations' live social media stream as people on Twitter document Francis’ historic visit. From President Barack Obama's greeting in Washington, D.C., to a walk in Central Park in New York City, and the celebration of Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, you will have a front row seat to history with our #PopeFrancis stream. Check out full coverge of the visit here

Photo Credit: AP

Clergy Abuse Victims to Hold Vigil as Pope Arrives


A support group of sex abuse survivors will hold a vigil Tuesday outside St. Matthew's Cathedral in D.C., just a few hours before Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in the area.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) will bear signs and childhood photos of adults who committed suicide after being molested by priests as children. SNAP Outreach Director Barbara Dorris said she expects at least five or six survivors to attend the vigil.

"Right now, this is a really tough week for survivors," said Dorris. "The pope is being hailed as this hero, and yet for survivors he's done pretty much nothing. He has't done anything that makes children safer or discipline bishops that protect predators."

The group will meet at 1 p.m. outside the church at 1725 Rhode Island Ave. NW to express their disapproval for the pope's popularity "largely obscuring the ongoing sexual violence and cover-up crisis in the church," SNAP said in a release.

"As I see fences surrounding the sites Francis will visit, I'm reminded of how much this week, a lot of victims will feel like outsiders," Becky Ianni, SNAP's volunteer Virginia director, said in the release. "Many of us feel abandoned by church officials and the pope's time here will be tough. His visit will bring back memories of childhood abuse and adult betrayal for some. Others are hurting because the positive and extensive media coverage reminds them of the faith that was stolen from them."

The pope has spoken openly about the issue of child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, calling it "evil."

"The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed," he said. "On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children."

In March 2014, the pontiff appointed a victim of sex abuse to a "commission for safeguarding minors," which plans to tackle the problem of sex abuse and its cover-up within the Church.

"Pope Francis has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst Her highest priorities," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement at the time.

Photo Credit: AP

ISIS Magazine Singled Out Pope Ahead of U.S. Trip


Security officials preparing for Pope Francis' first ever visit to the U.S. have stressed that there is no specific, credible threat against the pontiff — but for the second time in two years an ISIS propaganda magazine has singled him out for scorn, NBC News reported. 

Dabiq is an English-language magazine aimed at U.S., British and Australian Muslims in the vein of Inspire, a magazine for jihadists put out by al Qaeda.

The latest issue of Dabiq, published last week, includes an image of the pope meeting with the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, at Turkey's Blue Mosque last year. Neither is identified in a caption that reads: "Apostate government 'scholars' with the crusader pope."

Laith al-Khouri, an analyst with Flashpoint Intelligence, said he believes the image is meant to send a message that "real Muslim imams" don't cozy up to Christian icons. Francis has denounced ISIS in the past.

Photo Credit: AP

Swiss Guards: What You Should Know About the Pope's Protectors


As Pope Francis visits the United States protected by Secret Service agents, police officers and others, those closest to the pontiff will be familiar faces to him: members of his Swiss Guard.

“You can assume that they are always the people right next to the pope,” said Andreas Widmer, who as a member of the Swiss Guard served Pope John Paul II and is now director of entrepreneurship programs at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Members of the Swiss Guards and Vatican security force or gendarmes travel with the pope, albeit in plainclothes and not the colorful costumes the Swiss Guards are known for, he said.

The oath that the guards take is to use their bodies as the pontiff’s first line of defense, inserting themselves between him and any danger. It is a challenge that can be heightened for a pope famously prone to diving into crowds, a religious figure whom people want to touch.

“You cannot make that man 100 percent safe,” Widmer said. “The way you can increase his safety is using your own body as a shield.”

The Swiss Guards’ long history of protecting the pope, and sacrificing their lives if necessary, dates to 1506. They are his personal body guards, whose mission is to sacrifice their lives if necessary.

A key date in their history: May 6, 1527. As armies of mercenaries fighting on behalf of Emperor Charles V closed in, 147 Swiss Guards were massacred on the steps of the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. But the 42 who survived allowed Pope Clement VII and his men to escape to safety through the Passetto, a secret tunnel connecting the Vatican with the Castle Sant’ Angelo that was made famous by Dan Brown in his novel Angels & Demons. To this day, new recruits are sworn in on May 6 to commemorate the bravery during the Sack of Rome.

Each recruit swears his oath of loyalty with his right hand raised and three fingers open as a symbol of the Trinity: the father, the son and the holy spirit. Their patron saints are St. Martin, St. Sebastian and St. Niklaus von Flue. 

While in the Vatican, the guards wear full-dress Renaissance-style uniforms in striped blue, red and yellow, the colors of the House of Medici, with a white collar, white gloves and a morion or open helmet with an ostrich-feather plume.

The guards carry a halberd, a combined spear and battle ax that came into use in the 14th century, though they also train in the use of modern weapons such as SIG Sauer and Glock pistols, Heckler & Koch submachine guns, tear gas and pepper spray.

The guards have faced scandal as well.

The commander of the Swiss Guards, 43-year-old Alois Estermann, his wife and another Swiss Guard were found shot to death in the commander’s apartment in the Vatican on May 4, 1998. The Vatican concluded that the younger guard, 23-year-old Cedric Tornay, had shot the two and then turned the gun on himself, upset that he had been passed over for a decoration.

Tornay’s mother refused to believe that her son had committed suicide and insisted his death was the result of a broader conspiracy.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Police Find Crack, Painkillers, Anti-Nausea Drugs


Police raided a home in Norwich on Monday night and seized a large amount of crack cocaine, pain killers, antihistamines and anti-nausea drugs, as well as a stolen gun.

Police raided unit 20 at 575 Boswell Ave. around 7 p.m. and said they found a substantial amount of crack cocaine; hydrocodone, which is the pain killer; and promethazine, which treats nausea.

The resident, Terrell Fraizer, 42, was arrested and charged with possession of crack cocaine, possession of crack cocaine with intent to sell, possession of hydrocodone, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, possession of promethazine and codeine, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft of a firearm, possession of high capacity magazines and possession of narcotics.

He was held on a $300,000 bond and will be arraigned in Norwich Superior Court on Oct. 1.

Trump Tries Regaining Attention by Restarting Battle With Fox News


Donald Trump tried to get the attention back on himself after Scott Walker's decision to end his presidential campaign dominated headlines by restarting his war with Fox News after appearing on the cable news channel.

Trump said Fox News host Bill O'Reilly treated him "unfairly" because the host didn't use polls that were more favorable to the Republican presidential candidate.

"He wants people to like him. When people criticize him, he takes it personally. And then, you know, this machine, this tweeting thing, that's like the worst thing you could give Donald Trump is this tweeting thing," O'Reilly told Matt Lauer on TODAY. "So I just think this is just an extension of his reality show."

Photo Credit: AP

Police Arrest Suspects in Stamford Home Invasion


Stamford police have arrested two suspects in a home invasion and assault at a home in the Belltown area of Stamford.

Police said Joseph Donofrio, 32, and Michael Polizzi, 31, knocked on the door a 46-year-old man’s home and said his car had been struck, police said.

After getting his attention, they viciously attacked the victim, beating and hitting him, then pushed him into the house, where the assault continued until the victim grabbed a knife and stabbed Donofrio in the arm to protect himself, police said.

The fight then continued onto the front lawn, but several residents saw what was happening and called 911.

When police arrived, they saw Donofrio running down the street, so officers chased and brought him into custody a short time later.

Donofrio was treated for a stab wound to his arm.

Soon after, police saw Polizzi hiding under a van in the back yard of a house, so they took him into custody.

The victim of the home invasion was taken to Stamford Hospital, where he is being treated for several fractures to his face and skull. Police said he is expected to survive his injuries.

Police said they found a vehicle that belonged to Donofrio down the street from the home invasion, as well as evidence linking both suspects to the crime. Investigators are processing the vehicle.

Polizzi and Donofrio were charged with home invasion, armed robbery, first-degree assault and conspiracy.

Bond for both was set at $500,000 and both were arraigned in Stamford Superior Court this morning. It’s not clear if the men have attorneys.

The investigation continues and police are trying to determine why the suspects targeted the victim and looking into whether the two men have been involved in any other criminal activity in Stamford.

Police ask anyone with information to call the Stamford Police Department detective bureau at 203-977-4417.

Photo Credit: Stamford Police

Microsoft Rolls Out New Office 2016


Microsoft launches the first new version of Office in three years to focus on improving collaboration while saving users time.

Office 2016 adds features like "co-authoring" in Microsoft Word, which lets multiple users type in a document and see what others are doing in real time. There will also be new chart styles for Excel and "Smart Lookup" function that lets users drop information from the web into a document. 

The new update features are meant to execute real-time collaboration, cloud-based storage, team chat and other team-focused features from competitors like Google Drive, Slack and more.

Photo Credit: Hindustan Times via Getty Images

'I Believe': Crowd Chants Soccer Song for Pope Francis Arrival


A crowded tarmac greeted Pope Francis on his first ever trip to the United States on Tuesday with boisterous chants before the pontiff rolled away in a Fiat. 

Before the pontiff's plane landed, the excited crowd chanted a modified version of a familiar lick to U.S. soccer fans. Back when the U.S. soccer team played during the World Cup, fans chanted: "I believe that we will win!"

However, in the pope's case, the chant was a little different— the crowd at Andrews Air Force Base sang, "I believe. I believe that. I believe that we. I believe that we love the pope. I believe that we love Pope Francis!"

The chant didn't originate with American soccer fans, according to the Washington Post. It started with Navy football supporters in December 2003, after midshipmen won eight games which qualified the team for their second bowl game in 22 years. 

Francis, originally from Argentina, is a huge soccer fan—his favorite team is San Lorenzo de Almargo of Argentina. The pontiff still keeps his associate membership card for the team. When asked in an interview if he plays soccer himself, the pope said he was not so good at kicking a ball or a 'patadura.'

The soccer chant wasn't all the crowd yelled. 

"Ho, ho. Hey, hey. Welcome to the U.S.A.," many chanted once President Barack Obama greeted Francis upon his plane's arrival.

Social media had mixed reactions toward the chanting.

Photo Credit: AP
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Charges in Nutella Waffle Fight


A 24-year-old man has been charged in connection with punching a 78-year-old shopper in the face after the victim protested about how many samples the man had taken at a Nutella waffle tasting station at a Costco in Burbank, police said.

Derrick Gharabighi, of Burbank, has been charged with felony elder abuse and personal infliction of great bodily injury against a person over 70 years of age, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The suspect is accused of striking a man in the face Sunday morning when the man told him he shouldn't take so many waffles after the alleged assailant took multiple samples off the table at the Costco at 1051 West Burbank Boulevard, officials said.

The victim suffered a cut above his left eye and swelling around his face and was hospitalized, officials said.

Gharabighi was booked into jail with bail set at $50,000.

It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney.

Hillary Clinton Opposes Keystone XL Pipeline


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she opposes the Keystone XL pipeline after months of declining to take a position on the construction of the project.

"I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone XL pipeline as what I believe it is: A distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change, and, unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward and deal with other issues," she said during a campaign event in Iowa Tuesday.

"Therefore, I oppose it. I oppose it because I don't think it's in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change."

Clinton has previously declined a position on the controversial construction, citing her former job as secretary of state as the reason for hte delay. She said she wanted to wait fo the administration to formalize its opinion first. 

Photo Credit: AP
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Tree Loved by Helen Keller Is Cut Down in Alabama


An oak tree in Alabama that Helen Keller loved as a child had to be cut down.

The oak stood for more than 200 years, but it was hollowed by decay and infested with insects causing the city of Tuscumbia to bring it down with chainsaws on Monday.

"Isn't that the saddest thing?" Sue Pilkilton, the executive director Ivy Green, Tuscumbia, said.

Keller, born in 1880 and left blind and deaf by illness, enjoyed climbing the tree as a child.


Drug CEO Who Hiked Pill Price Has History of Serious 'Harassment'


The pharmaceutical company boss who jacked up the price of the drug Daraprim 5,500 percent overnight allegedly has a history of "harassment" to a former employee, according to court documents. 

Martin Shkreli, 32, said on Friday that he would be lowering the new price but did not clarify what the new price would be, NBC News reported.

Shkreli allegedly gained access to social media accounts of an ex-employee and contacted his relatives, including his teenage son and wife, accusing him of stealing money from Shrkeli's then pharmaceutical company, Retrophin. 

"Your husband had stolen $1.6 million from me and I will get it back. I will go to any length necessary to get it back," Shkreli allegedly wrote the wife of former Retrophin employee Timothy Pierotti in a January 2013 letter, according to court documents.

"Your pathetic excuse of a husband needs to get a real job that does not depend on fraud to succeed. ... I hope to see you and your four children homeless and will do whatever I can to assure this," Shkreli allegedly wrote.

Retrophin's board later moved to replace Shkreli as CEO, and he resigned his positions. Retrophin is now suing him for $65 million in a case where he is accused of acting against the interests of the company.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Quinnipiac Shuttles Drop Hamden From Route


Quinnipiac University shuttles are no longer stopping at retail centers in Hamden.

The new route was implemented at the beginning of the school year, even though, as the mayor of Hamden reportedly pointed out, Quinnipiac's main campus is in Hamden.

Now students are shuttled only out of town, to New Haven and shopping centers in North Haven.

"Most, if not all, of its future growth will occur in North Haven. The revised shuttle routes reflect the university’s move in that direction," Quinnipiac Vice President Lynn Bushnell said in a statement.

But shuttles don't stop at the Walmart in Hamden anymore.

Quinnipiac prevents freshmen from having cars on campus, which some say is frustrating given the shuttle's new route.

"They're miserable, and walking to the shuttle especially in the winter was really difficult," said Quinnipiac junior Carli Jo Russo. "I hated it, actually. Having a car now is a lot more convenient. I can go to any store I want."

Other students, such as senior Karley D'Angelo, find the shuttles useful.

"Honestly, every year until this year, when I got a car, I took the shuttles everywhere," she said. "They take us to anywhere we want to go, especially on the weekends. New Haven isn't the safest place, so when you want to go on the weekends, they're running until 2 a.m."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Malloy Pushes for Reformed Offenders Opportunities


Gov. Dannel Malloy said facilities such as the Chrysallis Center in Hartford, where former inmates and reformed convicts receive job training, are critical to the Second Chance Society initiatives that lawmakers approved earlier this year.

He joined Department of Corrections Commissioner Scott Semple in touring the Chrysallis Center Tuesday and said the state needs more job opportunities in the private sector in order to become a real state of second chances.

"What we have to do is get more employers to be willing to give people that Second Chance after they’ve completed their sentence. If they’ve done time, they’ve done time," he said. "They’ve got their training. What we need is employers to step up and say hey, we’re going to give somebody a shot."

Staff at Chrysallis work directly with former inmates, teaching them to use computers, craft resumes and even develop technical skills like how to work in a kitchen.

Samantha Pacheco recently found employment in Glastonbury.

"Before the program I was lost," she said. "I’m going to be honest: I didn’t know what to do with myself."

Pacheco said she learned how to cook and work in a real kitchen and is now on a path she never could have imagined if it weren't for the opportunities afforded her.

"The experience in the kitchen, it just brings me very prepared to be employed out in the community," she said.

Marcus Lopez, who works with program participants, said the goal is to get them into positions where they can be successful in all facets of life after leaving prison.

"We want to get these guys a foundation and make sure they get back into the community in order to get back into their homes," he said. "We want to get them working, not just a basic job, we want to set them off on a foundation of trying to get a career. You know, trying to get them off and working."

Hartford Mayor Withdraws From Race, Endorses Opponent


Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra is ending his mayoral campaign, withdrawing from the race and endorsing Luke Bronin, the candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party.

"The voters have spoken, and although the result was not the result that I was hoping for, and the one that I worked so hard for, for the good of the city, and in order to being unity to the city, I am announcing that I am ending my campaign," Segarra said during a news briefing late Tuesday morning.

This decision comes after he lost the mayoral primary last Wednesday to Bronin, a political newcomer and former legal adviser to Gov. Dannel Malloy.

The decision to drop out of the race ends a more than five-year resign as mayor for the former city councilman who stepped in to become mayor after disgraced Mayor Eddie Perez resigned. 

Perez stepped down from office in June 2010, after he was convicted on corruption charges and Segarra took office during a Friday evening swearing-in ceremony. 

"I came to office at a very critical time, a time in which many people were losing hope -- were losing hope in elected officials, at the same time that we faced the height of what was a great recession that hit cities like Hartford most especially hard," Segarra said. "While there is still much more work to be done, I see a city that is moving forward. I see a city that is having a lot of new investment, new jobs and a renewed sense of vitality." 

Segarra was the city's second Latino mayor and made history by becoming the capital city's first openly gay mayor. 

He said he saw being mayor as an opportunity to give back to the city that he loves and to bring people together and wants to leave the job feeling that residents can come together for the good of the entire city.

Segarra publicly asked his supporters to stand behind Bronin.

"I ask that we all come together and that we support my colleague, Luke Bronin, for mayor," Segarra said.  

Bronin attended the briefing and commended Segarra for his long record of service to the city said he respects for Segarra's commitment and love for the city.

"I am deeply appreciative of his support today and the spirit of unity that he just spoke to," Bronin said.

Archbishop of Hartford Heads to D.C. for Pope


The archbishop of Hartford is joining hundreds of Connecticut residents in Washington, D.C., as Pope Francis visits the nation's capital.

Archbishop Leonard P. Blair is one of many bishops around the country who will meet with the pontiff at St. Matthews Cathedral on Wednesday.

"I’m very pleased that the Holy Father seems to be so very well received by the people," he said before boarding a plane at Bradley International Airport.

Blair plans to keep a travel log on the archdiocese website, allowing residents who could not make the trip to following along in real time. People can also send in prayer requests.

"I think a lot of our Catholic people they experience church with their own neighbors on Sunday, but when they have a chance to be together for a big and joyful thing that reminds them of the universality of the church, I think that they always come away with it very encouraged and uplifted," Blair said.

Students at Enfield Montessori School, along with Catholics across the country, are excited about the pope's engagement with Americans.

"It’s so exciting because he’s going to... make things better in the world," said student Abbie Ellis.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Suspect Caught After Chase on I-91 in Enfield


Authorities captured a man wanted for a home invasion in Georgia after chasing him Tuesday morning on Interstate 91 in Enfield, according to Enfield police.

Police said Devron Smith was arrested during a car chase, which drew a heavy police presence to I-91 late Tuesday morning.

Smith was charged as a fugitive from justice and held on $1 million bond.

Foster Couple Sues After Being Cleared of Sex Abuse Allegations


A former Glastonbury couple accused and later cleared of sexually abusing their foster children has filed a $100 million lawsuit in connection with the case.

George Harasz and Douglas Wirth adopted nine boys, including three groups of brothers, between 2000 and 2008. They were arrested on sexual assault charges in 2011 and were cleared in 2014.

According to a complaint filed Monday in Hartford Superior Court, the couple were "heralded as heroic foster and adoptive parents" because sibling groups can be difficult to place.

Since they were also raising Wirth's biological son and daughter, the couple made it clear they did not want to take in children with histories of sexual abuse.

Nonetheless, the Department of Children and Families "deliberately hid the first boys' sexualized past from Haraz and Writh," according to the complaint, which claims four of the couple's adopted children had sexually abused other kids in previous foster homes.

The child at the center of the allegations, a 15-year-old boy identified in the lawsuit only as "Doe #4," had "pathological problems" and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the complaint. He later admitted to lying and recanted the claim that Harasz had sexually abused him.

The complaint alleges DCF "mistakenly believed the outlandish lies of a troubled teen" who had "pathological problems" and had previously accused a DCF social worker and juvenile court judge of fondling him.

It claims the DCF system "is designed to convict people accused of child sexual abuse; it does not exist to protect falsely accused people, and in this case was used to fabricate a case that was not based on facts."

Wirth was found not guilty in September 2014. A month later, the court dismissed all charges against Harasz. Their parental rights had already been terminated.

According to the compaint, Wirth and Harasz "went through years of costly hell," losing their jobs, children and home as the result of "an incomplete, misleading and biased investigation."

They're now suing DCF Commissioner Joette Katz, DCF social worker Elizabeth Ferreira, the town of Glastonbury and two members of the Glastonbury Police Department who were involved in the investigation.

Harasz and Wirth are seeking at least $100 million in damages and a trial by jury.

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