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Stowaway Agrees to Mental Exam


It appears so-called "serial stowaway" Marilyn Hartman’s long, troubling journey through the criminal court system in Cook County, Illinois, is about to enter its final chapter.

Hartman, looking haggard and confused, appeared this morning before Cook County Judge William Raines, where she agreed to a mental examination, which may lead to a guilty plea when she next appears in court Nov. 3.

Officially, Hartman is charged in her current case only with her most recent attempt to get past security at a Chicago airport, a July 4 incident at O'Hare. But prior to that, starting last April, Hartman had five other encounters with airport security, four at O'Hare and one at Midway. In two of those, she received warnings and was escorted off airport property. The other three resulted in arrests.

Cook County prosecutors previously made clear they intended to put Hartman on trial, an almost certain conviction scenario. Hartman was told in court that she faced a year behind bars. At a prior hearing, Raines ruled that authorities would be allowed to put officers on the stand to discuss prior encounters and warnings she had received.

But today, the judge, prosecutors and Hartman’s court-appointed public defender adjourned to chambers. Afterward, Hartman was advised that if she would consent to the evaluation, all would return in two weeks to determine, as Raines said, "How we can better help you."

Across America, Hartman has tried repeatedly to get past security and stow away on airplanes, and it’s believed she’s succeeded at least three times. Her methods of actually getting aboard aircraft are not entirely clear. But security videos of previous attempts depicted the casual way the 63-year-old grandmotherly figure attempted to slip past the TSA.

In one video from Minneapolis, recorded Jan. 9, Hartman was observed in the TSA security line, attempting to blend in with the man in front of her, as if she were his traveling companion. As his ID and boarding pass were checked, Hartman slipped past the agent. But that TSA officer spotted her, and demanded to see her documents. She was then seen fumbling in her purse, and then eventually, slipping back into the terminal.

The attempt was thwarted, and airport police spotted Hartman sleeping on the airport’s mezzanine level about an hour later. Security cameras showed officers, who recognized Hartman, checking her identification and taking her away in handcuffs.

When Hartman was arrested last year in Phoenix, even she seemed amazed at what she had managed to do time and time again.

"Why has the government allowed me to get past security points until I forced the issue back in February?" she asked. "And pretty much had to beg to be arrested?"

Getting arrested is something Hartman does very well. When she was discovered in a vacant room at a Nassau County Florida resort a month after the Twin Cities incident, Hartman told investigators she had flown in that day aboard an aircraft on which she had stowed away at the Minneapolis airport. The TSA has disputed that claim.

Hartman was advised during Monday’s hearing that accommodations would be made to get her fitted with a new pair of glasses, a replacement for a pair which was reportedly broken during her stay at Cook County Jail.

Photo Credit: KNBC

ICE Probes Claims Employee Invited Co-Workers to Swinger Parties


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Tuesday that it is investigating reports that a supervisor used government time to recruit workers for private sex swinger parties at his home, NBC News reported. 

An internal misconduct investigation is looking into the claims centered on workers in San Diego, ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack told NBC News in a statement. It follows a report by the San Diego Union Tribune that an accusation of gross sexual misconduct was made in a complaint submitted to the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year.

The newspaper said employees at the ICE Enforcement Removal Operations office in the city complained that they had been approached during work hours to participate in the parties held at the home of a supervisor in the office along with his wife, who is also an agent.

"The agency takes all allegations of misconduct seriously," Mack said in the statement. "The matter you reference has been referred to ICE Homeland Security Investigations Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for further investigation. That inquiry is ongoing and, as such, we are unable to offer further comment at this time."

Photo Credit: File--AFP/Getty Images

Vial Marked 'Ebola' Brought to Danbury Business


Crews from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the FBI are investigating after someone dropped off a vial marked “Ebola” at a company in Danbury, claiming it was a cure for the disease.

DEEP said a man dropped a package off at International Communications, 3 Corporate Drive, mistakenly believing it was a medical facility, and claimed it contained a cure for the disease.

The building was secured, but everyone has been allowed back inside after local health officials  determined it could reopen.

The Danbury Fire Department called in crews from DEEP, who said they do not believe the contents of the vial pose any risk and field tests are being done to verify that.

As a precaution, DEEP said they would pack the vial up and transport it to the state laboratory for more tests.

Photo Credit: clipart.com

Person Struck, Killed By Train in Southport


A person was struck and killed by a train in Southport on Tuesday afternoon, according to police.

Officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the person was struck by an Amtrak train
at the Southport railroad station at 1:42 p.m.

The train was heading from Virginia to Boston and MTA police are investigating.

Metro-North is warning New Haven Line customers that there could be delays of up to 30 minutes.

Photo Credit: Chris Van Horne

NTSB: El Faro Cargo Ship Was Scheduled for Boiler Service


The doomed cargo ship El Faro was supposed to have its boilers serviced a week after it headed out on what turned out to be its final voyage — in which it suffered a "hull breach" and power loss during a hurricane and sank to the bottom of the sea, investigators revealed on Tuesday, NBC News reported.

A timeline released by the National Transportation Safety Board said that on Sept. 11, the ship's owner got permission from the Coast Guard to shut down one of the boilers so it could be inspected during a trip. The inspectors then recommended that both be serviced during a drydock scheduled for Nov. 6.

But first, the container-laden ship had to make one more run — from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It departed Sept. 29, hours after forecasters warned that Tropical Storm Joaquin was likely to morph into a hurricane.

Thirty-six hours later, the captain reported an emergency: a hatch had blown and one of the holds was filling with water. The ship had lost its main propulsion unit and engineers could not get it started again, the NTSB said.

Photo Credit: Capt. William Hoey/MarineTraffic.com

Trash Becomes Treasure at Essex Landfill


If one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, some might consider Pamela Chandler the queen of the Essex Dump.

As a child, Chandler would spend weekends with her family, combing through the items others no longer had use for.

“We would come home with a carload of what they would call “junk,” but in reality there were beautiful things that we would restore.” Chandler said.

Over the past 11 years, she has brought that passion for repurposing to the town of Essex. Two or three times a week, she can be found at the town landfill, rummaging through a shed so small you might miss it if you weren’t looking.

“I really love to come in here,” Chandler said. “There is new stuff every time and really unusual things.”

According to town officials, the shed dates back to 1995 and is named in honor of the late Betty Pierson.

Essex Selectman Bruce Glowac remembers Pierson as the former chairman of the Sanitary Waste Commission who cared about the environment and hated to see good things go to waste.

“She always said it would be great if we had somewhere to put things that people could come and look at things and if they wanted them, they could take them back,” Glowac said.

Over time, Pierson’s vision came to life and Essex residents, like Chandler, have made the most of it.

Chandler has even turned her joy of “junking” into a side job, selling and gifting updated versions of the best things she finds.

“That has been very resourceful over the years as a single parent,” she said.

Chandler takes the old treasures to her at-home workshop, where she makes them new again.

Her favorite items are small wooden pieces and pottery, which she sands, scrapes and then paints by hand. The process is labor intensive, but Chandler said it is all a labor of love.

“It just completely gives a new face and a new story to each piece,” Chandler said.

To her, they are new stories and new creations, all chosen with love at the landfill.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Windsor Locks Officials to Hear Casino Proposal for Bradley


The Connecticut Airport Authority is interested in having a casino at Bradley Airport and town officials in Windsor Locks will hear the plan during a special Board of Selectmen’s meeting next week.

First Selectman Steven Wawruck said the airport authority will present its plan during the meeting on Oct. 27.

Sources previously told NBC Connecticut that the Bradley Airport off-track betting location in Windsor Locks, Enfield Square Mall and he former Showcase Cinemas property in East Windsor are vying for the casino.

According to Mohegan Sun President Bobby Soper, officials at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos have been receiving proposals from towns willing to host a potentially $300 million facility that would house slots, table games, restaurants and bars.

There are, however, legal hurdles in the way of a potential third casino opening. 

Existing casinos in the state are located on sovereign tribal land and Attorney General George Jepsen told the legislature in April that he has concerns about the effect a casino located off of tribal land could have on the existing compact between the state and the tribes.

The compact allows gambling only on tribal land. In return, the tribes give the state 25 percent of all slot revenues. The states have received more than $6.6 billion since Foxwoods opened its doors in 1993.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Plainfield High Investigating Inappropriate Group Chat


Plainfield High School is investigating a group chat among some members of the football team that evolved from a discussion about football to something inappropriate.

Principal Jim Worth said only that the chat between students evolved and contained a variety of topics, some of which were inappropriate.

School officials learned about it on Thursday, Oct. 15, after school dismissed, and launched an internal investigation the next day.

They then reached out to Plainfield police for advice, but said there is no police investigation.

Worth said he has spoken individually with the parents of the students involved.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

East Hartford Takes Another Step Towards Becoming Casino Destination


At Tuesday night's East Hartford Town Council meeting, council members voted 7 to 1 to allow Mayor Marcia Leclerc to respond to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes' Request for Proposals regarding where a good site would be for a casino.

Many council members argue the Showcase Cinema on Silver Lane, which has been vacant for ten years, is the perfect spot for revitalization in the form of a casino, adding that its visibility from I-84 makes it ideal.

"I don't think there's any site up 91 or any other sites that compare to this," said Tony Ravosa, developer and managing member of Silver Lane Partners.

Those for an East Hartford casino say it'll bring life to an "urban wasteland," spur further development in the area, and bring in much-needed tax revenue.

At the town council meeting, not everyone agreed with that assessment.

"I've been broken in twice before a casino came in there, and I know what crime is like in East Hartford. It's not getting better, and a casino is not going to make things better," said John Finn, who lives a couple miles from the proposed site.

Others argue that those who go to a casino stay within the walls of a casino and don't venture out into the surrounding area, so there wouldn't be much economic impact.

While Council Chair Rich Kehoe expressed frustration with the lack of details regarding the casino, he emphasized that the council's vote is in no way binding and that the council will need to approve any final proposal.

The mayor will now need to act on the request for proposal by November 6th, and the tribes have said they're looking to make a decision on a site sometime in December.

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

CT Warns Customers to Check Electric Bills Due to Overcharging


As the weather gets colder, most electric bills get higher and several Connecticut consumers who use third-party suppliers are being overcharged, according to the State Consumer Counsel.

“Overall, they paid about $23 million more for energy than if they had stayed with the standard offer,” Elin Swanson Katz, of the State Consumer Counsel, said.

The standard offer is between 8 and 9 cents per kilowatt hour, but the counsel found some customers paying double or triple that to third-party suppliers who locked them in at a lower rate and then started charging them more.

“It just raises alarms with us that consumers really need to be paying attention to their bills,” Swanson Katz said.

Because of this issues, several consumers lined up at public hearing in front of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority on Tuesday night.

“At this time of year, I would like to pay less, like everybody else,” Mal Doyle, of West Hartford said. “Now I’ve noticed Eversource rates have gone down, lower than I’m currently paying my third-party supplier and that’s my concern.”

The State Consumer Counsel says customers need to be vigilant about checking their bills every month in addition to doing research. EnergizeCT.gov allows consumers to compare prices to find the lowest rate.

As of October 1, third-party suppliers can no longer charge variable monthly rates.

The state also recently capped cancellation fees to $50 for customers who realize they need to switch in order to save.

However, now there is another cost. For the first time in Connecticut, some third-party suppliers are charging as much as $100 for customers to enroll.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Slovenia Gives Army More Power Amid Migration Crisis


The Slovenian army will have more power to help guard the border as more migrants flood into the country from Croatia, Reuters reported.

The country’s parliament passed new legislation allowing soldiers to control borders when police aren’t present.

Prime Minister Miro Cerar told reporters he will ask the European Union for police back-up and financial help in the ongoing migrant crisis on Wednesday.

Opposition parties are urging the government to follow Hungary’s lead and put up a fence on Slovenia’s border with Croatia to prevent more migrants from entering.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

GOP Focus Group Looks for Unconventional Leadership


A focus group of Republican voters in Indianapolis say they feel betrayed by their elected officials in Washington, NBC News reported.

Pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the focus group, said there was unity among the participants over their criticism of those in Washington.

The group’s participants said one of the qualities they’re looking for in a presidential candidate is a lack of political experience.

Of the two unconventional GOP frontrunners - Donald Trump and Ben Carson - the group noted Carson’s calm demeanor makes him a more durable choice.

Photo Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Sean Rayford/Getty Images

UVA Student Files $3M Lawsuit in Violent Arrest Case


A University of Virginia student who was arrested in a bloody encounter in March has filed a $3 million lawsuit against Virginia's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, NBC News reports.

Martese Johnson was arrested after being thrown to the ground by liquor control agents outside an Irish pub near campus on March 18. 

The suit lists the three agents involved in the arrest, who weren’t charged, as well as the department’s director.

Johnson's attorney, Daniel Watkins, told NBC affiliate WVIR that the suit "presents important issues." The suit also accused the department of failing to properly train its agents.

Toyota to Recall 6.5 Million Cars for Power Window Switch


Toyota announced Wednesday it would recall 6.5 million vehicles globally to fix a defect in the power window switch, Reuters reported.

Toyota said modules in the power window master switch may have been lubricated inconsistently during the manufacturing process.

The glitch affects the Yaris/Vitz subcompact, Corolla, Camry and other models. The company said there have been no reports of crashes caused by the glitch.

The vehicles being recalled were produced between January 2005 and December 2010. About 2.7 million affected vehicles are in North America, Toyota said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

U.S. Companies Slow to React to Hackers: Report


Foreign countries are targeting U.S. companies, but few are taking threats seriously, NBC News reported.

A new report from cybersecurity research firms Ponemon Institute and CounterTack shows 75 percent of the IT practitioners surveyed said they aren’t ready, can’t detect or combat cyber attacks. Only half of those surveyed said they are taking precautions to prevent or deter attacks.

"The world has really changed," Larry Ponemon, the Institute's founder, told NBC News. "Companies are doing a good job — but attackers, and not just nation-states, but all attackers, they're becoming more sophisticated, strategic and just nastier. The gap is growing."

Cybersecurity researchers have traced many attacks to China — despite protestations by the country's president, Xi Jinping, that it does not engage in such behavior. North Korea, Iran, Russia and Syria have also been implicated in intrusions, NBC News reported.

Photo Credit: AP

Pressure Mounts on Pitino Amid Ex-Escort's Claims


Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and his University of Louisville basketball program are under increasing pressure following claims that a former athletic staff member at the university paid for strippers to attend parties with high school basketball recruits, NBC News reported. 

Former escort Katina Powell claims in a new book there were more than 20 sex parties for basketball recruits on the University of Louisville campus between 2010 and 2014. 

She alleges Andre McGee, a former assistant coach, paid her and her escorts to help lure high school recruits to the school. McGee is on paid administrative leave while a review is conducted.

Pitino says he was unaware of the allegations. The university said in a statement, "the allegations have been taken very seriously. In no way would anyone at this institution condone the alleged activities. To preserve the integrity of the review process, the University will withhold comment on any details until the review is concluded."

Photo Credit: AP

Asteroid Nears Earth on Halloween


If you were hoping something spooky would happen on Halloween, well, it just might.

According to NASA, an asteroid is expected to pass incredibly close to Earth on Halloween, marking the closest approach since 2006.

The asteroid, called 2015 TB145, is slated to come closest to Earth around 12:12 p.m. Central Time. The object could come as close as 1.3 lunar distances from Earth, or 310,000 miles, NASA predicts.

The asteroid is expected to travel at 35 kilometers per second, which officials called “unusually high.”

“The flyby presents a truly outstanding scientific opportunity to study the physical properties of this object,” NASA said in a release.

It was first discovered on Oct. 10 in what NASA officials called an “extremely eccentric and a high inclination orbit.”

The last approach closer than this was in July 2006, where an object came to 1.1 lunar distances away. The next time an object is expected to come this close to Earth is August 2027, when 1999 AN10 is expected to reach within 1 lunar distance.

While it won’t be visible to the naked eye, it can be seen through a small telescope.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Pilot Dies When F-18 Crashes Near U.S. Base in England


An F-18 fighter jet crashed Wednesday after taking off from a U.S. Air Force base in England, killing the pilot, a spokeswoman from Cambridgeshire Police confirmed to NBC News.

The plane crashed after leaving from RAF Lakenheath, around 70 miles northeast of London, according to Senior Airman Amanda Sampson, a spokeswoman at the base. Lakenheath is the largest U.S. Air Force-operated base in England, NBC News reports.

The plane was an F-18C Hornet from Marine Attack Fighter Squadron 232 based in the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, the Marine Corps said in a statement Wednesday.

Cambridgeshire Police said the pilot was killed and appears to have been the only person on board.

Photo Credit: AP

Restaurant Could Face Lawsuit


At least two of the 80 people who fell violently ill in connection with a bacterial outbreak at a San Jose, California, restaurant are considering legal action, according to their attorney.

Fifteen of the 80 cases are confirmed to be Shigella, according to the Santa Clara County Health Department. The intestinal infection causes fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Twelve of the people who fell ill have been taken to the intensive care units of local hospitals, the health department said.

"You don't generally see 12 people, a dozen people, in ICU, even in some of the worst foodborne illness cases," said Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer who was contacted by two people looking to sue the restaurant after getting sick. "It's medical bills, it's wages lost, and then obviously you may have long-term complications," he added.

Officials have said the number of Shigella cases may grow because the bacteria is highly contagious. All have been linked to the Mariscos San Juan restaurant on 205 N. Fourth Street in San Jose.

"Right now all of the cases are directly from the restaurant," said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Public Health director. "But there is a possibility there could be more who did not eat there because of secondary spread."

Marler's firm also represented 16 families who contracted Shigella in 2000. During that outbreak, more than 100 people fell ill and one died after eating at the Viva Mexico restaurant in Redwood City. The restaurant has since shut down.

In that case, the families split a settlement of $1 million.

Records show Mariscos San Juan in San Jose was cited for a violation two months ago after inspectors found the restaurant did not have the documents to prove employees had proper food handling training.

Santa Clara County food inspection reports show the seafood restaurant had its permit suspended on Sunday.

Shigella can mostly be treated with antibiotics, though some strains are proving resistant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC tracked 1,633 cases of Shigellosis in California in 2014, up from 949 cases in 2011.

Within the Bay Area, San Francisco had 278 cases of Shigella last year, while Santa Clara and Alameda counties each had 81, the CDC reports.

There are three Mariscos San Juan restaurants in San Jose. The original restaurant on Willow Street had its permit suspended in August, county records show. The second restaurant, on Senter Road, has not been cited this year. The third, located at 205 N. Fourth Street, has been linked to the Shigellosis outbreak.

To report a case of Shigella, click here or call 408-885-4214.

NBC Bay Area's Kris Sanchez, Lisa Fernandez, Marianne Favro and Terry McSweeney contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

Drug Firms Reap Billions by Paying Rivals: Critics


Sharp overnight increases in the cost of prescription drugs are not the only pharmaceutical industry practice that adds billions of dollars to the price that consumers pay for their medicines.

Pharmaceutical companies also use "reverse settlement payments," or "pay-to-delay" deals, financial arrangements that allow drug manufacturers in some instances to pay competitors not to manufacture generic versions of their products, thereby ensuring that they maintain patent protection for as long as possible, NBC News reported.

Critics say that unlike the steep drug price increases that have received wide media attention, reverse settlements have drawn little scrutiny.

Regulators and courts are struggling to figure out when the agreements cross the murky legal line laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago. But in the meantime, the deals have cost consumers billions of dollars over the past 22 years, according to a 2009 study of the practice.

Photo Credit: File/AFP/Getty Images
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