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The Divided House: How to Get Through Thanksgiving This Year


Last Thanksgiving, "Saturday Night Live" parodied every stereotype in the book at a family holiday meal — the racist aunt, the transphobic grandfather, the progressive daughter disgusted by her relatives. Just as the characters launch into political arguments, a little girl rushes to the stereo to play Adele's "Hello." Everyone remembers their shared love of the British soul singer, and Thanksgiving dinner is saved.

While political tensions surged in the primaries, they’ve exploded since last November. The United States drilled even deeper into differences during an incendiary and scandalous general election. After all the heated debate, even Adele might not save some family and friends now. 

“We’re beyond unification,” says former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh.

He made headlines in October after posting a tweet claiming “if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket.” Now, he says “the revolution’s going to continue” as “Americans give a large middle finger to the government.” 

The former Republican congressman has lived in another kind of divided house at home. While his family isn't very political, his friends are and range in ideological bent. Some are liberals, and many were never Trumpers during the campaign. Though most of them were able to talk politics while sipping a beer, “There were very few people where it got to the point where we couldn’t even discuss this race,” Walsh said. 

He's not alone in thinking it was a "tough year" for friends and families. 

"There were some hurt feelings that we wouldn't accept each other's viewpoints," Bill Seavey, whose perspective on the election differed from his wife's, told The Associated Press. "We're civil people, love each other and we agreed to disagree. But I'm glad the election is over."

Political divides have harmed personal relationships “that come Thanksgiving (are) going to be difficult to repair,” according to Charity Hagains, senior therapist at Noyau Wellness Center in Dallas, Texas.

“I always recommend people to never talk about politics,” Hagains said.

Texas has long been a Republican stronghold, but in 2016 it was more of a battleground than in the past. In relationships where couples may not share the same political beliefs, Hagains said she saw patients adopting the personas of both candidates and having "all-out battles if they (didn’t) keep themselves in check.” Some of her clients also experienced surges in post traumatic stress disorder symptoms from sexual assault and abuse because of Trump’s comments on women. 

Indeed, the 2016 presidential election’s effect on mental health in the U.S. was undeniable, according to data taken from the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America Survey.

“Fifty-two percent of American adults report that the 2016 election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress,” the APA released in a statement.

While millennials and older voters seemed especially concerned about the election results, Lynn Bufka, the APA’s associate executive director of practice research and policy, said that a moderate faction of Americans would just be “happy that the campaign is over and hopeful that the negative rhetoric and hateful communications will be done.”

The APA reported that there was a correlation between social media use and stress during the elections: 38 percent of respondents said that political posts online bothered them, and social media users were more likely to feel significant stress because of the elections than those who abstained from Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

High-profile tweets like Walsh’s got people’s attention, but average Americans also weighed in with ideas that countered those of former high school classmates and friends from back home, provoking combative replies.

“We certainly see that there appears to be less filter that goes on, that people will say things online that they would be much less likely to say to someone else’s face,” Bufka said. 

Hagains said that during the elections families threw most of their punches over the internet. Generational gaps led to comment wars, where passive aggressive posts created tensions among loved ones.

“People are usually reading these messages through the worst possible lens,” Hagains said. She joked that life was easier during past elections because she didn’t have to worry about her grandparents following her social media presence.

Facebook was founded in 2004, Twitter in 2006. Both were well established during the last two elections, but Hagains said she didn’t think politically driven social media was “as prevalent as it is now.” In 2015, the election was the most discussed topic worldwide on Facebook. Between January to Oct. 1, 2016, 5.3 billion likes, posts, comments, and shares from American users on the platform related to the presidential election.

Over the internet, loosened inhibitions and miscommunications make discord common. 

“I think it’s a lot harder to respectfully disagree, particularly when emotions are very high, and it seems that the rhetoric and the points of view have been pretty polarizing,” Bufka said. “In those situations it’s a lot harder to try to find the commonalities and the middleground. Which means that for families where there are differences, or communities where there are differences, the hurt is likely to be greater and the need for healing and figuring out how to re-engage and find the commonalities will be more challenging."

Bufka added, "It’s certainly doable, and it’s important to do that, but it is going to be more difficult.”

Hagains said that people can ease the transition by using "I feel" sentence structures, sharing their thoughts as opinions instead of fact. She also recommended that if people choose to talk politics, they should try to make conversations about policy instead of diverging into personal attacks. And at social events, attendees should consider whether it is more important to prove to others that they're right, or to enjoy the company. 

Bufka urged locals to try to connect with one another, and especially for Trump supporters, as the winners, to make amends with Hillary Clinton's followers. 

“First, if you’re not happy with the outcome, vent, let it out," she said. "But then think about, ‘Okay, this is what it is. How do we move forward, and what is it that we need to do to be able to move forward? Are there ways that we can try to make a difference?’”

Hagains emphasized the need to remind Clinton voters that they’re still part of the citizenry and their opinions are valued. “If your side loses, it’s hard not to feel that you’re not wanted,” she said. 

Vincent Hutchings, a professor at the University of Michigan and member of American National Election Studies, downplayed how much famililes are affected by politics. 

“It’s a relatively rare thing for most people to have a falling out about politics, mostly because most people don’t talk that much about politics,” he said. “Politics will not be uppermost in people’s mind, or it won’t be a potential casual topic of conversation anymore. And in that regard, some of the animosity may diminish on the mass level.”

Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts, disagrees.

“Come December or January, there’ll still be a lot of political discussion… and it’s going to be really nasty,” he said. “It’s going to continue. There’s no reason an election marks the end to that. The day after will be just as nasty as the day before.”

But though Berry predicts continued issues on social media, he says mobilizing the public would take action that most people who use angry rhetoric online aren’t willing to execute in reality.

He also said that neighborhoods are becoming more politically homogeneous, so the healing process among neighbors should be expedited by their similar views.

While healthy relationships between family members may be imperative for a nice holiday dinner, a healing process for the country might not be the right path for America, according to Todd Gitlin, American studies professor at Columbia University. He blames the Republican party and the mass media for what he deemed an uninformed electorate. “They are forces of ignorance, and you can’t heal ignorance. You have to defeat it, you have to overcome it,” he said. 

He argued that you can’t reason with people who don’t believe in climate change but do think that doctors perform nine-month abortions. 

John Fortier, democracy project director at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said, "We shouldn’t expect that everybody’s going to agree.” 

But he thinks that government officials will lead by example, collaborating on less polemical issues like infrastructure and tax reform regardless of party.

As for families, Berry thinks ideological problems between mom and dad will probably be replaced by other concerns as Thanksgiving approaches. 

“I suspect families will heal more so than the country in general,” Berry said. “Family polarization revolves around many other things than politics. So eventually Uncle Fred will be forgiven for being for Trump.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Meet Yale’s New Handsome Dan


Yale has a new mascot and he’s just a puppy.

Handsome Dan XVIII, an Olde English Bulldog, was born on Sept. 23.

The puppy comes from a breeder in Maine and has become Yale’s mascot after the passing of Sherman, also known as Handsome Dan XVII.

When the search process began, the athletic department was aware of breeding concerns of English bulldogs and Chris Getman (Class of 1964), the caretaker of four Yale mascots, recommended looking for an Olde English Bulldog -- or Olde English Bulldogge -- a larger, stronger and healthier version of the breed.

Handsome Dan XVIII will attend a training school and Kevin Discepolo, a 2009 Yale graduate and former lacrosse player who is now Yale’s Assistant Athletic Director of Facilities, Operations and Events, will be the new keeper. 

The history of Handsome Dan dates to 1889, when Andrew Graves, a football player and rower during the days of Walter Camp, first named Yale’s mascot.

The new Dan arrives in New Haven on Friday but will not be on the sideline at Harvard on Saturday.

Follow him on Instagram @HandsomeDanXVIII and on Twitter @HandsomeDan18.

Photo Credit: Yale University Athletics

Police Release Video of Brawl Before Shooting at Sweet 16


Police are trying to identify the people who were at a Sweet 16 birthday party in Bridgeport where five people were shot over the weekend and they have released surveillance video.

A large group of unwanted guests crashed the party at the Italian American Club, Club Sportivo, around 10:30 p.m. Saturday and a fight broke out inside and spilled out into the parking lot, where more than 300 teens had gathered, according to police.

That’s when the gunshots were fired.

Police said at least two people fired the shots and they hope surveillance video will help identify the shooters.

So far, police believe the shooters fled in a silver Honda Crosstour.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police
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Cigna Volunteers Help Needy Families in Kenya


More than 1,300 Cigna http://www.cigna.com/ employees volunteered on Thursday to package non-perishable food for needy families in Kenya. 

Cigna worked with Feeding Children Everywhere, a charity group created after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. 

Employees made a goal to package 336,000 meals, made up of lentils, rice, dehydrated vegetables and salt. 

The meals Cigna employees helped put together will go to a program in Kenya where women with HIV are taught about nutrition, get medicine and learn job skills. 

“For the children in these homes or for these mothers, for many of them it’s the only meal they’re going to get that day so it’s actually really vital for them,” David Green, the CEO of Feeding Children Everywhere, said.

This is the third year Cigna is helping Feeding Children Everywhere and employee said it’s fulfilling. 

“Oh, it’s amazing. The cause is everything and I’m proud to be an employee of Cigna today,” said Jonah Francis, a Cigna employee who has volunteered all three years. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Fire Closes Elmwood Avenue in Norwalk

New Britain Stores Use Patrons' Photos to Promote Business


In Little Poland, Polish markets, restaurants, and roughly 100 other businesses dug their roots into the stretch of broad street since 1890.

To ensure growth continues in the New Britain community, a three year construction project is replacing roads and century-old infrastructure.

"Pipes that have been touched have been collapsing, they've been replacing the gas pipes, electrical and everything else," Polonia Business Association Secretary Margret Malinowski said.

The construction is a welcomed change. But business owners said it comes with some growing pains.

"The business is suffering a little bit," said Bogdan Malinowski, a restaurant owner.

Malinowski has owned his restaurant up the hill for decades. After the second phase of construction down the hill was completed last year, he knew he was next.

"Local people know how to get around, and around the streets, but other people from other towns (don't)...So we are losing business," said Malinowski.

To mend diverting sales, the Polonia Business Association created what they call a "Cash Mob".

The movement encourages customers to still visit the cone-walled shopping stores and asks patrons to post photos of themselves inside the stores to share on the Cash Mob's Facebook Page. Posting the photos on the Facebook page could win someone a prize before December's over. 

"You go into a business and you have to spend between $10 to $20," said Margret Malinowski.

It's an idea, Bogdan says, grew on him, because although his restaurant is named Starapolska, which means "like old Poland," he is excited for the newer Poland to finally boom. 

"It looks like we are getting closer to the end and we can't wait for it," smiled Malinowski.

City officials said the construction should be complete by winter. The Cash Mob said the contest to win ends Dec. 12 but the businesses are open for years to come.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Candace Bushnell’s Roxbury Home Goes on the Market


The woman who wrote “Sex and the City” and created the beloved characters Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda is selling her home in Litchfield County.

Klemm Real Estate has just listed Candace Bushnell’s mini-estate in Roxbury for $1.365 million.

The three-bedroom Victorian house built in 1890 is on three acres and includes a guest and pool house, outdoor shower, four garage bays, a barn and gardens.

“One of the jewels of Roxbury in a coveted location has been the home of two major people: Harrison Salisbury and Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell. A great opportunity for a buyer,” Carolyn Klemm, founder of Klemm Real Estate said in a statement.

Bushnell is also author of The Carrie Diaries, One Fifth Avenue, Lipstick Jungle, Trading Up and Four Blondes. 

“Classically charming country perfection, will take your breathe away, combining antique chic with current, recreation, flowers, trees, birds and bees,” said Maria Taylor, of Klemm Real Estate who is also representing the seller.

Photo Credit: Klemm Real Estate

11-Year-Old Hartford Boy Reported Missing

2 Charged With Murdering NY Grad Found in Shallow Grave


Authorities charged two men with murder in the case of a missing Hofstra graduate from Stamford, Connecticut, who was stabbed 15 times in the chest in a luxury Manhattan apartment and then buried in a shallow grave in New Jersey. 

James Rackover and Lawrence Dilione both face charges of second-degree murder, concealment of a corpse and tampering with evidence. Dilione was also charged with hindering prosecution. 

Police said 26-year-old Joey Comunale appears to have been stabbed to death in some sort of dispute after he, two other men and three women returned from a nightclub on 14th Street late Saturday or early Sunday. 

One official said that Comunale was stabbed sometime after the three women left the luxury apartment building. Police aren't sure how the body was removed from the apartment, but believe it was ultimately transported to the shallow grave in Monmouth County and partially burned. 

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, at a news conference Thursday, confirmed that Comunale was stabbed 15 times in the chest.

Chopper 4 showed an extensive law enforcement presence at the scene where Comunale's body was found — a wooded area behind an old police department that had to relocate due to Sandy devastation. NYPD vehicles were spotted in addition to local law enforcement. 

Police had said there were signs of foul play in the disappearance of Comunale, who was last seen on surveillance video entering the Grand Sutton building near the corner of East 59th Street and First Avenue Sunday morning.

Stamford police said on Wednesday that the man had gone to New York City with friends on Saturday night and separated from them at some point. Police in Connecticut have not yet contacted the friends, but are aiding the NYPD in its investigation.

He was reported missing by his father.

Crime scene investigators were later seen carrying out bags of evidence from the apartment building. Law enforcement sources said they found bloody clothing and bloody sheets, along with a luggage cart that had evidence of blood on it. Boyce described the blood spatter in the apartment as "quite noticeable."

Comunale's family was asked to come to New Jersey to make an identification. 

"He was one of a kind," Comunale's stunned father, Pat, told reporters from his Connecticut home Wednesday. "We're just in denial. This is not something that happens to kids like this. I don't know if it was pre-meditated. I don't know how it happened." 

Comunale graduated from Hofstra University and was an avid hockey player.

"He was that kid, life of the party, never did anything wrong. Good-hearted kid," said friend Devin Edwards. "A lot of people, a lot of friends loved him very much." 

"He didn't deserve this," Pat Comunale said. "He didn't go looking for trouble. It wasn't right. This is not right." 

Photo Credit: AP/Handout

Man Linked to Teen's Overdose, Prostitution Pleads Guilty


A Uncastville man pleaded guilty to trafficking a 17-year-old girl who died of an overdose in May, plus heroin distribution charges, federal prosecutors said. 

Ramon Gomez, 40, of Uncasville, was charged with possession with intent to distribute, distribution and conspiracy to distribute heroin, according to the the U.S. attorney's office said. Adele Bouthillier, 42, of Groton, faced the same charges.

Police found the teen suffering from a drug overdose when they responded to a hotel room in the town of Groton just after 2:30 a.m. on May 29. She was later pronounced dead at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, according to police. 

Gomez is accused of bringing the teen to the motel to engage in prostitution the night before her death and the 17-year-old spent the evening with Bouthillier, who bought heroin that she snorted, according to authorities.

When Bouthillier woke up, she found the victim was unresponsive with vomit coming out of her mouth, but she did not call 911 for four hours, prosecutors said. 

Authorities gave the teen two doses of NARCAN, but the teen died at the hospital that morning.

In June, Gomez was charged with first-degree prostitution promotion in connection with the case and he has been in state custody on those charges.

Gomez is expected to be sentenced on Feb. 10, 2017 and has been detained since his arrest. 

Photo Credit: Groton Police

Bristol Man Attempts Meeting Preteen for Sex: Police


A Bristol man attempted to solicit and patronize what he thought was an underage prostitute, police said.

Charles A. Stone exchanged messages with an undercover state police detective posing as a preteen, Connecticut State Police said. 

Stone attempted to meet with the minor to engage in sex with them, police said. 

Police arrested Stone in Southington and was in possession of a dangerous weapon at the time he was taken into custody. 

The 36-year-old man was charged with criminal attempt of risking injury to a child and sexual assault, in addition to patronizing a prostitute, trafficking in persons and weapons in a vehicle. 

Stone posted a $50,000 bond and is expected to appear in court on Nov. 28. 

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

Part of Connecticut Now in ‘Extreme Drought’


Parts of western and central Connecticut are now in “extreme drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

More than 40 percent of the state was upgraded on Thursday morning from severe drought to extreme drought amid deficits of close to 20 inches since Jan. 1, 2015. See Ryan Hanarahan's story for a more in-depth explanation

In October, Gov. Dannel Malloy issued the first ever drought watch for the six counties in the state and asked residents to be mindful of water consumption and limit unnecessary water usage when possible.

Eastern Connecticut is in moderate drought, while part of central Connecticut is in severe drought.

In New Canaan, police are warning residents to expect delays on Jelliff Mill between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. for the next two to four weeks for emergency service work because of the drought.

The said it's for installation of a temporary water line because of the drought.

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Nursing Assistant Accused of Sex Assault on 82-Year-Old


A 26-year-old certified nursing assistant at a rehabilitation and health care facility in Wilton is accused of sexually assaulting an 82-year-old woman and a 66-year-old woman.

Police said Wilton Meadows Health Care Facility, at 439 Danbury Road in, Wilton, contacted authorities on Monday to file a complaint about inappropriate contact between 26-year-old Hunter Scott McGinty, of Danbury, and an 82- year-old female patient, police said.

Another certified nursing assistant reported that McGinty inappropriately touched the victim during the course of his duties, according to police, and the administrative staff then contacted the Wilton Police.

Police said McGinty is also accused of sexually assaulting a 66-year-old woman at the same facility in August and September.

McGinty was arrested on two warrants. The first carries the charges of fourth-degree sexual assault for the incident on Nov. 14 and the other carries three counts of second-degree sexual assault.

He was held in lieu of $32,500 cash bond and will be arraigned today.

Photo Credit: Wilton Police

Google's Digital Death Sentence


Some of Google's unwitting users are learning a harsh lesson: If you violate the company's policies, it can abruptly cut you off from your Gmail account, online photos and other vital digital services.

Several people who recently bought Google's new Pixel phone on behalf of a New Hampshire dealer are now suffering that punishment after the company detected their online purchases and judged they violated its terms of service. Those rules, outlined in a document that few people read closely, forbid the purchase of the Pixel for "commercial" resale.

"There isn't an hour that doesn't go by that I don't think about the enormity of what Google has done to me," said one of the affected resellers, Shmuel Super of Brooklyn, New York. "This is like a digital death sentence."


Super and his fellow resellers got into trouble for buying up to five Pixel phones from Google's online store and having them delivered to New Hampshire for resale. They received $5 for each phone. As of Sunday, some started finding themselves locked out of their Google accounts.

In a Thursday statement, Google described the resale arrangement as a "scheme" devised by a dealer looking to sell the Pixels at marked-up prices in violation of its policies.

Google declined to say how many people were affected by the account lockdown. DansDeals , a consumer-focused website that first reported Google's crackdown, concluded that more than 200 people had been blocked from their Google accounts after talking to the New Hampshire dealer behind the Pixel buying spree. The Associated Press was unsuccessful in its efforts to identify and interview the dealer.

The crackdown may come as a surprise to the hundreds of millions of people who now routinely rely on Google, Facebook, Apple and other tech companies as the caretakers of their digital lives. Few of the people involved in this situation appear to have backed up their data outside of Google.

Google said it plans to restore the accounts of customers who it believes were unaware of the rules, although the company didn't specify how long that might take.


Once they figured out why they were being locked out, the exiled consumers realized how dependent they had become on Google as the custodian of their digital communications, records and other mementoes.

Some said they couldn't retrieve confirmation numbers for upcoming flights or notices about an upcoming credit-card payment. Others couldn't fetch work documents or medical records. Some started getting phone calls from friends, family and colleagues wondering why they weren't responding to emails.

Like other two other people interviewed by the AP, Super said he had no idea that he was violating Google's policies when he bought the Pixels for the New Hampshire dealer. He can't believe Google would do something as extreme as locking him out of his account without warning, rather than just banning him from buying its phones in the future.

"Google's slogan is 'Don't be evil,' but to me, there is nothing more evil that what Google has done here," Super said.


Some of the Pixels purchased for resale were delivered before Google recognized the violations and meted out a punishment spelled out in a separate terms-of-service document . "We may suspend or stop providing our services to you if you do not comply with our terms or policies or if we are investigating suspected misconduct," Google warns in one section.

Google doesn't give any advance notice before it shuts down an account, and doesn't make distinctions between minor and major violations. Affected users can appeal for reinstatement, though it's unclear how long that might take or what criteria Google uses in such cases.

Apple also forbids online purchases of iPhones for resale, although its terms of service say only that the company reserves the right to cancel any order suspected of breaking the rule.

Daniel Levy, who has been locked out from his Google account since Monday, said he has learned a hard lesson, though not necessarily the one the company intended.

"They confiscated my property and shouldn't be trusted," said Levy, who lives in Lakewood, New Jersey. "I will never use their services again."

Photo Credit: AP

Thames River Apartments Tenants Pose Questions About Moving Out


Tenants in the Thames River Apartments in New London learned more about their fate Thursday, and how quickly they'll have to move out of the properties.

Several of the apartments are plagued by roaches, mice and holes in the structure.

"I've been here since 2007 to 2008. It hasn't gotten any better," said Angie Franceschi.

Inside her apartment, where she houses four kids, Franceschi faces crumbling walls and roaches feeding in the kitchen.

Thursday, in a packed house, she learned more about the New London Housing Authority Board of Commissioners' plan to move her and her family out, along with the 123 other families in the Thames River Apartments.

Residents would eventually get U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) vouchers to move elsewhere.

"My main concern is the expiration on the vouchers. Like, how long do we have to look for somewhere to go," Franceschi said.

That was a main concern of most of the residents in the room. Another, whether their children would be forced to change schools.

The board's chair, Betsy Gibson, and a city representative used the day to field questions and concerns. They told tenants it could be at least a year before they even see those vouchers since it would take months just to fill out the application.

"l have to see it to believe it," said Shayla Burgos, who lives in one of the Crystal Avenue apartments and wants to leave.

Her preschooler has asthma and the living conditions are harmful, Burgos said.

But according to some residents, just cleaning up could make all the difference. They said some tenants dirty up the property just minutes after it's cleaned, and because of that destructiveness, they shouldn't be forced to leave their home and their neighbors.

The board and the city will help tenants with Section 8 applications, according to Gibson.

"We can talk to landlords, start getting them on board, start letting them know what has to happen," she said.

The biggest concern now is a boiler system at the housing complex that's renting for $15,000 a month. It isn't working right.

Tenants said hot water is limited, which is forcing them to shower after midnight or very early in the morning.

"If it was to happen that there was no heat and no hot water, and HUD was to come in and say, 'this building has to be closed right now,' it would probably break the treasury of New London," Gibson said.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Mayor Calls on Middletown Community to Help Grieving Mother


A Middletown woman dealing with the tragic death of her little boy, who was thrown from a bridge, is now rebuilding after fire tore through her home. 

Adrianne Oyola, who lost her baby son, Aaden Moreno, last year, was the victim of a fire that raced through her apartment on Summer Hill Road in Middletown Wednesday night.

Firefighters said a pan left on the stove started the fire, which destroyed or damaged almost everything in the one unit.

Fortunately, smoke detectors alerted everyone to get out, but Oyola and her mother have lost of their clothes, beds and almost all the basics.

“Fortunately everybody is safe but the family that suffered through this fire suffered an unspeakable and unendurable tragedy last summer,” Middletown Mayor Dan Drew said.

Oyola’s 7-month-old son, Aaden, died after his father threw him from the Arrigoni Bridge in July 2015, according to police.

“We want to help them out. They’ve been through a lot and this community rallied around them once before. And we’re going to rally around them again,” Drew said about the community coming together for Oyola.

The mayor has started a collection drive at City Hall to help a resident who is again in a great time of need.

“She’s a very strong woman, but she’s been through more than any of us should ever have to be through,” Drew said.

People are encouraged to donate women’s clothing, toiletries, gift cards and linens, among other things.

You can stop at City Hall and leave items at the mayor’s office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Oyola family said this has been overwhelming, but they are thankful for the prayers and the donations, especially after the call for help from City Hall.

Aaden’s father, Tony Moreno, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges and is due in court on Jan. 10.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Missing 4-Year-Old Student Found Sleeping on School Bus


A 4-year-old reported missing in Stafford Monday was found sleeping on the bus an hour later, according to police.

Stafford Police are investigating the report that the child was left on the school bus after all the other students were dropped off at West Stafford Elementary School that morning.

After the child was reported absent to the school’s main office, police checked in with the child's parents and the bus company and the 4-year-old was found sleeping on the school bus an hour later, polices said.

The child was evaluated and unharmed.

Connecticut State Police, Stafford Superintendent of Schools office, M&J bus company and the Department of Children and Families are investigating and police said charges are pending in the case.

Photo Credit: NBC OTS

Healthcare Enrollment Up As Obamacare Uncertainty Grows


So far in 2016, Open Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act is slightly outpacing sign-ups compared to the same time in 2015.

Overall, there have been about 9,000 new applications for health insurance with private insurers, while more than 5,000 have already purchased plans.

Access Health Connecticut CEO Jim Wadleigh says customers can expect to see fresh marketing in the coming weeks and days to get the word out about enrolling so coverage will begin by Jan. 1, 2017.

"The more we can get into the system before the big pushes of Dec. 15, the easier the transition will be, the calmer the process will be. That’s really what we’re trying to do this year.”

Wadleigh downplayed what may happen to Connecticut's healthcare exchange if Republicans in Congress successfully roll back parts of the Affordable Care Act.

President-Elect Donald Trump, and the Republicans who now control Congress all campaigned on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Connecticut's marketplace and Medicaid expansion have made the state's implementation of the law widely regarded as one of the best in the country.

Wadleigh says he's monitoring what's going in Washington but said ultimately it's out of his control and he still has to keep doing the same job.

“We have to make sure everyone is getting insured.”

One of the biggest concerns in the general healthcare community is the future of the Medicaid expansion population. In Connecticut alone it added what now amounts to 205,000 people on Medicaid out of 750,000.

There are growing fears that removing coverage from those 205,000 could have a negative ripple effect on healthcare and insurance providers in Connecticut.

Photo Credit: NBC OTS

CT Colleges President Can't Rule Out Tuition Hikes


Tuition at the state's two and four year colleges may go up in response to funding cuts that are expected from the General Assembly.

“Tuition may have to be a part of the equation, tuition increases, but I’m going to try my best not to balance the whole financial burden on the backs of the students," said Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System President Mark Ojakian during an interview Thursday.

The most recent budget estimates unveiled shortfalls ranging from $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion and lawmakers will have to come up with a way to fill that gap.

To deal with a similar budget crisis last year, the system responded with modest tuition hikes in the 3 percent to 5 percent range.

Only raising tuition to fill the void, Ojakian said, would cripple students' finances, but he also ruled out closing individual campuses.

“My approach will not be to close campus locations because I think we need to provide the greatest amount of access to all of our students.”

Instead, Ojakian envisions a state college system that is more streamlined, and less duplicitous than in the past. He says administrators at the colleges can expect proposals that will cut costs while working to maintain most programs but deliver them to students better.

“I’m convinced that our system will not look the same one, two, or three years down the road as it looks today.”

The system has received praise recently from major Connecticut employers like Electric Boat, Sikorsky, and Pratt and Whitney, for the system's work with vocational and technical education that's led to a 98% placement rate with advanced manufacturers.

Ojakian says he hopes his budget gets spared not just from the standpoint of protecting higher education, but as a way to keep investing in Connecticut's economy.

“An investment in higher education in Connecticut yields much more dollars in the future in terms of economic development opportunities for the state of Connecticut.”

Vet Discharged in 1948 for 'Homosexuality' Files Lawsuit


A 91-year-old veteran who was discharged from the U.S. Air Force because of his sexual orientation filed a lawsuit in Federal Court on Friday seeking a change to his military record.

Hubert Edward Spires was discharged from the Air Force with an undesirable designation in 1948 because he is gay, according to the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic.

Spires’ husband, who is a U.S. Army veteran, spoke on behalf of his partner of 58 years at a press conference at the Yale Law School because he is still recovering from pneumonia.

"Despite the discrimination I faced, I left the military with an honorable discharge," Spire’s husband David Rosenberg said. "It is an injustice that the military has treated Ed and me so differently, despite our equal honorable service."

In 2011, Spires became eligible to apply for a discharge upgrade a year after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Clinton-era policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. His application was denied twice, once in 2014 and again in 2016, Yale's VLSC said.

The Air Force cited the destruction of his military records in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis as the reason for not changing Spires' discharge status to honorable, according to the legal clinic.

"The treatment of him in denying an upgrade of his discharge simply adds to insult to injury, he has suffered too long," Senator Richard Blumenthal said at Friday’s press conference.

For decades, Spires did not discuss his service as a Chaplain’s Assistant at Texas Air Force base from 1946 to 1948.

"He avoided telling anyone of the inquisition he faced before superior officers when he was told to pack his bags and go home because he was gay," said Erin Baldwin, one of the law student interns representing Spires.

Spires, who is in poor health and nearly died of pneumonia several weeks ago, wishes to have a military burial — a benefit he is not entitled to because of his current undesirable discharge status, the clinic said.

"We hope in doing so the us military may send a message to other gay veterans that the service was appreciated and is recognized with equality under the law," Rosenberg said

A spokesman for the Department of Defense, Maj. Ben Sakrisson, provided general information on discharge updates but said "due to privacy laws, I cannot provide information on a particular individual's status."

Sakrisson provided a link to a letter sent to veterans, encouraging those who served and their families who may have been unjustly discharged to seek a correction.

Photo Credit: Ed Spires
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