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Correction Officer Charged With Bigamy: Report


A Connecticut correction officer has been charged with bigamy after an audit of his benefits turned up two wives.

State police charged Kevin Hornak, 50, of Stratford, on Wednesday after both women presented investigators with valid marriage certificates.

Police said Hornak married his first wife while he was in the Navy and stationed in Philadelphia in 1984.

In 2004, she found out that he was seeing another woman, told him to get out of the house and said she was going to divorce him, according to court records.

She never did.

In May 2005, Hornak married his second wife at a bed and breakfast in Vermont, according to court records.

Police said Hornak told them that his second wife became very possessive and controlling during their relationship and insisted on getting married so that she could be covered by his insurance.

She discouraged him from speaking to his first wife and he’d heard through "reliable sources" that his divorce had gone through.

At work, he took his first wife off his insurance, according to court records, and his employer never challenged that he was divorced.

Then, he added his second wife and presented his new marriage certificate.

In 2010, Hornak’s marriage with his second wife started to “go downhill,” according to court records.

At that point, he moved back in with his first wife.

When he told her he had gotten remarried while they were apart, she told him she had never divorced him, according to court records.

Hornak reached out to an attorney who told him that his second marriage was null and void because he was already married at the time and there was an issue with the second woman’s Social Security number, according to court records.
Police said there were valid marriage licenses for both marriages and Hornak had never divorced.

Detectives from state police major crimes obtained an arrest warrant for Hornak on July 16. He turned himself in to Troop H and was released on a promise to appear.

Hornak could not be reached for comment early Thursday, the Associated Press reports. He has an unlisted phone number.

Hornak was originally scheduled to be in court on Thursday, but did not appear. The judge granted a continuance to Aug. 23  so Hornak can retain an attorney.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Uppercut RF

Monopoly Gets Rid of Jail Time to Cater to Busy Kids


Players on the latest version of the Monopoly board game will no longer have to risk jail time.

In Hasbro's latest version of the game, Monopoly Empire, the jail feature has been eliminated to cater to busy kids who don't have time to waste in the slammer, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Toy makers like Hasbro are looking for ways to create games for busy children who have limited playtime in a trend that the industry is calling "snack toys," The Journal says.

"Parents and children tell us they want a quick in-and-out, frictionless gaming experience," Vice President of Marketing Jonathan Berkowitz told The Journal. "That's the snackable component"

Monopoly Empire, which costs $19.99, allows players to amass big brand names like Coca-Cola and McDonald's and can be finished in as little as 30 minutes.

Hasbro has also reconfigured other classic board games, including Scrabble and Boggle to make them faster to play. Scrabble Flash, the latest version of the popular word game, takes two minutes and 30 seconds to complete.

For those who prefer Monopoly the old fashioned way, the classic version of the game is still available for purchase on Amazon.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Southwest Jet's Nose Gear Landed First: NTSB


The National Transportation Safety Board says a Southwest Airlines plane's nose gear made contact with the ground before the main landing gear did when it touched down at LaGuardia Airport Monday, causing the plane to skid and spark down the runway. 

A spokeswoman for Southwest said the landing described by the NTSB was "not in accordance'' with operating procedures.

The latest updates from the NTSB's investigation into Flight 345's hard landing were consistent with their earlier findings that the landing gear "collapsed rearward and upward into the fuselage, damaging the electronics bay that houses avionics."

The NTSB added Thursday that the flaps were set from 30 to 40 degrees about 56 seconds prior to touchdown. About four seconds prior to touchdown, the plane was at an altitude of about 32 feet, with an airspeed of about 134 knots and a pitch attitude of 2 degrees nose-up.

"As the plane comes down toward the runway, it's supposed to have the nose up about 2 degrees above the horizon and continue descending at that angle so that when it touches the runway, it touches on the main gear," said Tom Bunn, a retired airline pilot. 

At touchdown, the airspeed of the Southwest plane was approximately 133 knots and the aircraft was pitched down about 3 degrees. 

Bunn believes NTSB should be investigating whether a pilot's error is to blame. 

Investigators are continuing to study the more than 27 hours of recorded data from the entire flight from Nashville, Tenn. to New York. A two-hour cockpit voice recording "of excellent quality" illustrating the entire accident landing sequence was also recovered, and investigators said relevant portions will be transcribed in a meeting in Washington, D.C. Friday. 

Sixteen people suffered minor injuries during Flight 345's landing, and passengers had to escape on emergency chutes.

-- Ida Siegal contributed to this report. 

82-Year-Old Hit By Delivery Truck Dies


An 82 year old woman who was struck by a Hartford man on July 11th has died.  The woman was hit by 21-year-old Victor Morales while he was backing up a van at the C-Town Supermarket on Park Street in Hartford.

According to police, Morales was backing up the van when he went over the curb and hit Maria Santos pinning her down.  Lt. Brian Foley, of the Hartford Police Department, said emergency responders had to use a forklift to remove the van and free Santos.

“It was a difficult situation for everybody,” Foley said after the crash.

Police say that Morales did not see Santos and ran inside the store to alert a manager that an accident had occurred.  She was transported to the ICU at St. Francis Hospital where she was listed in critical condition.  She was updated to stable condition a week later but succumbed to her injuries today. 

The incident was reported around 12:30 p.m. on July 11 and Morales was arrested around 1 p.m., when he returned to the scene a witness identified him, according to the police report.

Morales was released by police on a promise to appear in court but was then taken into custody on another warrant, believed to be related to his immigration status.

Authorities have also said that Morales did not appear to have a driver’s license and was carrying a Mexican passport.  Morales’ manager also said that he did not know why Morales was in the truck and should not have been making deliveries. 

“Our prayers and thoughts are with the victim, Mrs. Santos.  This is nothing more than a tragic accident.  My client did call 911, did go to his employer to render assistance.  At no time did he try to flee from the scene of the accident,” said Corey Brinson, Morales’ attorney.

Morales has been charged with reckless driving, evading responsibility, unsafe backing, operating without a license and driving on a sidewalk.

Police said he could face additional charges.

Mountain Fire Sparked by Electrical Failure


The massive Mountain Fire that has destroyed homes and is still burning in the San Jacinto Mountains was sparked on private property by failed electrical equipment, authorities revealed Thursday, 10 days after the wildfire erupted.

"The electrical equipment failure occurred on the customer side of the meter," Cal Fire said in a news release. "No further details will be released as this remains an on-going investigation.”

The Mountain Fire was reported in the early afternoon July 15 near the junction of Highway 324 and Highway 74.

In 10 days, the wildfire had scorched 42 square miles in the scenic San Jacinto mountain range. It was 92 percent contained Thursday evening, according to an online incident report from Cal Fire.

Full Coverage: SoCal Wildfires | Mountain Fire Photos

Flames from the Mountain Fire have destroyed 23 structures, including seven homes the first day of the fire.

While it's not known yet whether excess brush, neglected equipment or another factor lead to the fire, officials say there is a clear lesson.

“The biggest lesson for everybody is, a wildfire can strike at any time and that people need to be prepared,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson said.

At one point, flames reached over the crest of the mountains and within two miles of the western border of Palm Springs – draping the resort destination in a blanket of ash and smoke.

Thousands of residents were evacuated from several mountain communities, including Mountain Center, Idyllwild, Fern Valley, and Pine Cove.

All evacuation orders and warnings remained lifted Thursday evening as 146 fire personnel continued their days-long battle.

Crews worked in dry, warm conditions Thursday. Moisture is expected to roll into the region Friday and into the weekend.


4 More Filner Accusers Go Public


Four more prominent San Diego women came forward Thursday evening accusing embattled Mayor Bob Filner of sexual harassment.

The latest accusers – who include a retired Navy rear-admiral, a San Diego State University dean, the head of the Port Tenants Association and a businesswoman – told KPBS they have all been on the opposite end of unwanted sexual advances made by Filner over the years.

Special Section: Mayor Under Fire

The alleged harassment, the women said, included sexual advances, inappropriate touching and comments made towards them by the mayor.

Sharon Bernie-Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, said Filner approached her at an event in National City in 2010 when he was still a congressman. There, Filner allegedly told her she was beautiful and said he wanted to date her after his re-election.

Bernie-Cloward said she had a second unpleasant run-in with Filner at another event in San Diego in 2012. She told KPBS that Filner approached her after the event and gave her a hug.

“And then he touched me, actually groped me on my backside inappropriately,” Bernie-Cloward told KPBS.

She said the incident left her “startled and fearful.”

A second accuser, San Diego businesswoman Patti Roscoe, claimed Filner has put her in the now-infamous “Filner Headlock” several times. After putting his arm around her neck, Roscoe said Filner would try to kiss her.

Roscoe’s most recent run-in with the mayor happened just a few months ago.

“I turned and he just slobbered down my chin,” Roscoe told KPBS. "And I was so violated and so offended. It’s just such a terrible invasion.”

Meanwhile, retired Navy rear-admiral Veronica Froman recalled an encounter at Filner’s congressional office a couple of years ago in which he allegedly blocked the doorway after everyone except for her had left the room.

According to Froman, he got very close to her, ran his finger up her cheek and asked if she was in a relationship with anyone. He then made some jokes, and she left his office completely rattled.

“I got in the car with the two guys I was working with and I told them never to leave me alone in a room with Bob Filner again,” she told KPBS.

Finally, Joyce Gattas, dean of SDSU's College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, said she’s had various interactions with Filner in which he held her too tight, kissed her cheek or touched her knee.

Gattas also claimed she’s seen Filner make sexual comments to others.

Bernie-Cloward, Roscoe, Froman and Gattas are the latest women to come forward with sexual allegations against Mayor Filner this week.

On Monday, Filner’s former communications chief, Irene McCormack Jackson, went public with accusations against the mayor, followed by Laura Fink on Tuesday and Morgan Rose on Wednesday.

The running tally of victims accusing Filner of sexual harassment is now at seven, and is expected to continue rising. The sheriff's department has established a special hotline where victims can report sexual harassment allegations concerning the mayor.

Filner, for his part, has not addressed the specific allegations brought to light this week.

After he was first accused by former allies, including Donna Frye, of sexually harassing employees earlier this month, Filner released a pre-recorded statement admitting he “needs help.”

However, he has maintained his innocence and demanded due process.

San Diego Democratic leaders held a meeting Thursday night to discuss these most recent allegations against Filner and whether or not the mayor should resign.

After a 34 to 6 vote, the Democratic Party decided they will ask Filner to step down.

At a similar meeting last week, local Democrats were split on the issue and ultimately decided they wouldn't ask Filner to resign. On Thursday night, that all changed.

Meanwhile, Filner’s accusers and numerous former allies believe the mayor should resign, arguing that, at this point, he is simply unfit to run the City of San Diego.

Mexican Cartel "Queen" Gets 70-Month Sentence in Miami


An accused Mexican drug trafficker known as the "Queen of the Pacific" has been sentenced to 70 months in prison in federal court in Miami. 

Attorney Stephen Ralls says Sandra Avila Beltran could be released and returned to Mexico in a month because of time already served. She was sentenced Thursday.

Trip to McDonald's Leaves Hialeah Mother Behind Bars

Avila Beltran was detained in Mexico City on Sept. 28, 2007, and extradited to the U.S. last year. She pleaded guilty in April to being an accessory after the fact in an organization that included Juan Diego Espinosa Ramirez, her boyfriend at the time. Espinosa pleaded guilty in the U.S. in 2009 to cocaine trafficking charges.

Avila Beltran, who could have faced up to 15 years' imprisonment, pleaded guilty under a plea bargain that credited her with time served since 2007.

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Photo Credit: AP

Monopoly Not Doing Away With Jail Feature


Fans of the old Monopoly can rejoice – the game is not getting rid of the classic jail feature, but rather revamping a different part of the game.

The new game, Monopoly Empire, has a different game play where players buy and sell brands instead of real estate, Hasbro senior brand manager Nicole Agnello told the Huffington Post late Thursday.

The game still has jail spaces on the board and the same rules apply for jail as the classic Monopoly game, Agnello said.

"We know there is conflicting information out there, but the jail spaces are not being removed from Monopoly Empire game," Agnello told the Huffington Post.

It was previously reported that the game was doing away with the jail feature because kids were too busy to sit down and enjoy a time consuming board game.

Photo Credit: AP

Va. Woman Killed in Spain Train Derailment


A woman from the D.C. metro area was among the more than 80 people killed when a passenger train derailed in Spain Wednesday.

Ana-Maria Cordoba, 47, worked as a benefits specialist for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.

Cordoba was traveling with her husband and daughter, who were also in the crash and are now listed in stable condition at a local hospital. The three were on their way to visit Cordoba's youngest son, who had just finished the Camino, a pilgrimage across northern Spain.

Mike Donohue with the Arlington Diocese said the staff found out Thursday afternoon Cordoba had passed away.

"Initially we had just heard she was missing, [and] a noon mass was held [Thursday]," Donohue said. "She was very well-liked... [and] very helpful. She had a deep faith and was so very sweet."

At least five other Americans were also injured in the crash.

Excessive speed has been identified as the likely cause of the accident, which occurred near the city of Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region. Security video that surfaced Thursday shows the train speeding around a right curve.

The driver of the train was detained and put under formal investigation Thursday, NBC News reported.

The Spanish government has declared a national mourning period of three days in the wake of the crash, which was Europe’s worst mainline rail accident for more than 25 years.

President Obama issued a statement that said he and the first lady were "shocked and saddened" by the news of the crash.

"We offer our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families and loved ones of the more than 80 people who lost their lives," the statement read.

Chicago Gay Bars Boycott Russian Vodka


Some Chicago gay bars are saying “nyet” to Russian vodka.

In response to Russia’s recent implementation of laws limiting the rights of the LGBT community, some city gay bars are protesting by boycotting Russian vodka and other Russian products.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed laws forbidding same-sex couples from adopting Russian children and banned gay propaganda.

In a Facebook post, Sidetrack, at 3349 N. Halsted, announced Wednesday the bar has removed Stolichnaya Vodka from its shelves.

“Sidetrack cannot support a brand so associated with Russia at a time when Russia is implementing (against strong world criticism) its anti-gay law that bans gay ‘propaganda,’” the post read. “Starting immediately we will not sell Stoli or any other Russian products at Sidetrack.

Inside, the space once occupied by Stoli now sits empty, and that's just how owner Art Johnston wants it to appear.

"We certainly want it to be visible," he said. "When I realized they were actually enforcing these laws... I said we must do something."

Supporters of the movement say their proud Johnston has spoken out.

"I stand by him 100 percent," said Boystown resident Jake Castillo.

And Sidetrack isn’t the only bar to protest Russian goods.

Andersonville’s The Call bar, at 1547 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., announced on Twitter Wednesday they are “proudly serving non-Russian vodkas.”

“Let’s stand together on this,” the tweet read. “No one deserves treatment #GLBT is receiving in #Russia #NyetRussianVodka.”

The CEO of Stolichnaya Vodka released a letter Thursday addressed to the LGBT community.

“Stolichnaya Vodka has always been, and continues to be a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community,” Val Mendeleev said in the letter. “We also thank the community for having adopted Stoli as their vodka of preference.”

Mendeleev said despite alleged links between the brand and the Russian government, the “government has no ownership interest or control over the Stoli brand that is privately owned by SPI Group, headquartered in Luxembourg in the heart of Western Europe.”

Mendeleev said Stoli is made from Russian ingredients which are blended and bottled at a facility in Latvia.

“We fully support and endorse your objectives to fight against prejudice in Russia. In the past decade, SPI has been actively advocating in favor of freedom, tolerance and openness in society, standing very passionately on the side of the LGBT community and will continue to support any effective initiative in that direction,” the letter read.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

San Diego Dems Will Ask Filner to Resign


In light of the most recent allegations of sexual harassment involving embattled Mayor Bob Filner, the San Diego County Democratic Party has decided that they will ask Filner to resign.

For the second time in one week, the San Diego County Democratic Central committee met Thursday evening to discuss the controversy surrounding Filner and take a vote on whether or not to ask the mayor to leave office.

Special Section: Mayor Under Fire

Democrats voted 34 to 6, meaning that the party will now ask Filner to resign.

In the past four days, a total of seven different victims have gone public with accusations of sexual harassment involving Filner. On Thursday alone, four prominent San Diego women came forward with their own accounts, which included sexual advances and comments allegedly made towards them by the mayor.

Last Thursday, the San Diego County Democratic Party held a similar meeting to discuss Filner.
In that first meeting party votes were split right down the middle, 24 to 24, and at that point, the party decided they would not be asking Filner to resign.

However, that all changed Thursday night.

Party representatives said they will now ask Filner to step down and “get the help he needs.”

“Now charges have been filed and the legal process has started. We think it is in the best interest for Mayor Filner to step down,” Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby said.

Following the vote, the San Diego GOP and its executive director Francis Barraza released this statement:

“While we commend San Diego Democrats for finally asking Mayor Filner to resign, had they not looked the other way for decades, for crass political reasons, this entire tragic episode could have been avoided."

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego

Wesleyan Public Safety Officer Accused in Videotaping Incident Due in Court


One of two Wesleyan public safety officers accused of videotaping a student inside her dorm room is due in court today.

Police said Richard Hodge, 35, of Hartford, told the detective that he videotaped a student and Michael Anderson, 34, of Middletown, told investigators that he received video of the student from Hodge.

Anderson was charged with disseminating voyeuristic material. He is due in court today.

Hodge was charged with two counts of voyeuristic recording of another person and disseminating voyeuristic material.  He is due in court next month.

Photo Credit: Middletown Police

Meriden Murder Suspect Due in Court


The man accused of shooting and killing a Meriden convenience store owner is due in court today for a pre-trial hearing.

Frankie Resto is accused of killing Ibrahim Ghazal at the EZ Mart at 271 East Main St. in Meriden around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.

Police said Resto demanded money from Ghazal, who handed over money. Then he shot the father of six in the chest, officials said. Ghazal later died at the hospital.

Resto is charged with felony murder, first-degree robbery, criminal possession of a firearm and second-degree larceny.

After a court appearance, Resto was ordered to be held on $3 million for the murder charge and was placed on medical watch.

Resto has prior convictions for robbery and possession of controlled substances, according to court records.

The case brought renewed criticism of the state's early release program and led to more surveillance cameras being installed in Meriden.



Lincoln Memorial Reopens After Vandalism


The Lincoln Memorial has reopened after green paint was found splattered across the statue early Friday morning, but the area around the statue remains closed to visitors.

A visitor saw the paint on the statue and on the floor around it just before 1:30 a.m. Friday. No words or symbols were written on the statue, News4's Megan McGrath reported.

The memorial was closed for nearly 12 hours while U.S. Park Police investigated the act of vandalism and National Park Service maintenance crews cleaned up the mess. Park Police say visitors cannot get close enough to touch the statue.

Morning joggers, who frequently run up and down the memorial's stairs as part of their workouts, found their path blocked off with yellow tape Friday morning.

"I have no idea who would want to do something like that," said Scott Arndt, who was out on his morning run shortly before 6 a.m. "To me, it's defacing America. It's not just defacing the Lincoln Memorial, but it's something against all of America."

"People come from all over the world, and to show that they can't get into one of our national landmarks because somebody vandalized it is kind of a black mark on our country," said jogger Keith Gillespie.

Visitors flocked to the memorial, hoping to get a close look at one of Washington's most famous attractions.

"Everyone got up so early, and we were trying to take photos and go inside and take a look, but we were told we cannot go in. It was quite disappointing," one tourist told McGrath.

Another tourist said, "They just desecrated one of our most memorable monuments, our president, you know...I'm just so surprised. I'm surprised. Why would they want to do that?"

Investigators spent the morning snapping photos while a police dog sniffed around, looking for the suspect's trail.

A special historic preservation team got to work cleaning up the mess. Fortunately, there is no permanent damage.

Surveillance cameras are located on each corner of the monument. There's no word on whether the cameras captured the vandal.

"I can tell you it is on the base of the statue. It is also on the lap of the statue. It is not solid, let's put it that way. It is a splatter," said NPS spokeswoman Carol Johnson. 

This is not the first time vandalism has been reported at the site of one of the National Mall's memorials.

Back in 2007, an oily substance was found on the memorial wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Police determined the case to be an act of vandalism and not an accident, The Washington Post reported. The removal process took weeks to complete.

Two additional incidents of vandalism have been reported at  Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the past. In 1993, the directory stands at the entrance of the memorial were burned, and a swastika and scratches were found etched in two of the memorials panels in 1988. Both panels were replaced.

Other than those incidents, Johnson said she cannot recall any other cases of vandalism at the National Mall.

The Lincoln Memorial, which was dedicated in 1922, is open to the public 24 hours a day. 

U.S. Park Police Union President Ian Glick released the following statement:

"This type of reprehensible act is unfortunate but it did not permanently damage the memorial and this incident further underscores the need for the National Park Service to provide more funding and more personnel so as to provide a higher level of deterrence through officer presence. We are fortunate that this deplorable act can be remedied but caution that we are lucky that this wasn't an act of terrorism."

UPDATE: This story has been corrected from a previous version. 


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Photo Credit: AP

640,000 LA Students Will Get Free iPads by 2014


All students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will receive free iPads by 2014, CITEworld.com reported Friday.

As part of a June agreement with Apple, 31,000 iPads will be distributed this school year and will be paid for with $30 million in tax money. All 640,000 K-12 students in the country's largest school district will have the device for use in the classroom by 2014.

“Education is in Apple’s DNA and we’re thrilled to work with Los Angeles Unified public schools on this major initiative as they plan to roll out iPads to every student across 47 campuses this fall,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing said in a press release.

Apple's signature tablet won't be used for "Angry Birds" or "Temple Run" however. The iPads will come pre-loaded with educational apps, textbooks and other software to aid students the LAUSD says wouldn't normally be able to afford the technology.

"The most important thing is to try to prepare the kids for the technology they are going to face when they are going to graduate," Mark Hovatter, the chief facilities executive for the LAUSD, told CITEworld.

"This is phase one, a mix of high school, middle school, and elementary students. We're targeting kids who most likely don't have their own computers or laptops or iPads. Their only exposure to computers now is going to be in their schools."

New Haven Democrats Miss Key Deadline


New Haven Democratic officials have missed a key deadline to turn in the results of their recent convention, forcing the party's candidates for local offices, including mayor, to collect signatures to petition their way on to the Sept. 10 primary ballot.

Av Harris, a spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said his office was notified Thursday by the New Haven town clerk's office that it had not yet received results from Tuesday's convention.

The names were due to the clerk's office by 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Harris said the state law is strict and "the deadlines are hard deadlines."

Harris said the results had been mailed to the clerk, despite state officials recommending hand delivery.

State Sen. Toni Harp, the party's mayoral candidate, must now collect 2,206 signatures.

Associated Press/NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Construction to Cause Q-Bridge Troubles for Drivers


Parts of the Quinnipiac River Bridge will be closed this weekend as the Department of Transportation continues a long-term construction project.

While the highway itself won't be completely closed, there will be exit ramps and lanes shut down.

“One lane (will be) open at night over the course of the weekend. Two lanes will be open during the day. Exit 50 on ramp southbound will be closed, and there will be restrictions for Exit 46 from I-95 Southbound,” said Brian Mercure, Assistant District Engineer for the DOT.

All of it will start on Friday, July 26 at 8 p.m. and continue until 6 a.m. Monday, July 29.

“What we really need to do is take all the traffic on I-95 Southbound that's on the old Q-Bridge and put it on the new Q-Bridge so we can continue to work,” said Mercure.

The DOT is putting out the word about the Q-Bridge, which is actually named the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, so that drivers can make alternate arrangements.

“It's a mad house now. It's going to be worse when they shut it down,” Gene Frat said last week. “When you have all the traffic going around, especially during the summer, it's going to be a mad house. I'm staying away from the highway,”

That is actually something the DOT suggests.

DOT officials are asking drivers to reduce their speed when going through the area, so that they can make sure to read all the signs detailing the construction and detours. Plan for delays and arrange that alternate route ahead of time to bypass the traffic nightmare that will be I-95 in New Haven, according to DOT officials.

“What good weekend is a good weekend to do it? I've said this in the past, in New Haven, there isn't really one, so this is part of our schedule and when all is said and done, the region will be better off for it,” said Mercure.

The construction is weather-permitting. If it rains, it will be pushed back a week.

For more on the project, check the Q Bridge Web site.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Gathering of the Vibes Returns to Bridgeport


The much-anticipated Gathering of the Vibes music festival will draw 20,000 to Bridgeport for its 18th year of music and entertainment.

The four-day festival will started yesterday and runs to July 28 at Bridgeport's 370-acre Seaside Park, which has hosted more Vibes festivals than any other venue, according to Vibes founder Ken Hays.

The "perfectly manicured absolute jewel" of a park spans over two miles and includes a mile-long stretch of beach on the Long Island Sound, Hays said.

This year’s musical highlights include performances by jazz guitarist John Scofield, Phil Lesh & Friends, The Black Crowes, Gov’t Mule, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, the Roots, the Revivalists and Dark Star Orchestra, among others.

The lineup also includes a number of up-and-coming artists who “cover the musical spectrum.” Hays said the festival provides good exposure for emerging artists because many guests will be hearing their music for the first time. The full lineup is listed on the Vibes website, along with audio and video recordings of each artist. 

“In terms of musicianship and diversity, [the performers] are well represented,” said Hays.

But the festival is about more than just music.

“What separates or distinguishes Vibes from all other music festivals is… how family friendly it is,” Hays explained. “Last year we had over 2,000 kids under the age of 15 that came with their parents.”

The festival has “really, truly turned into an annual reunion for friends and families,” said Hays. “It gives everybody an opportunity to take a step back from the 24-hour news cycle and enjoy time in a beautiful park right on the water with family and friends and great live music.”

Hays said he remembers spending time with his dad watching the New York Mets at Shea Stadium and hopes to foster a similar family environment at Vibes.

About 2,500 kids will attend this year’s festival. Younger guests can take advantage of the School of Rock Teen Vibes Stage, where “kids who are musically inclined can jam together,” said Hays.

Other attractions include juggling classes, yoga, face painting, puppet workshops, a World Peace Flag Ceremony, a giant Ferris wheel and an array of food and craft vendors.

Special pricing is available for Connecticut residents and active military members on Sunday. A further discount can be applied if tickets are purchased in advance online using the code CTSUN.

Bridgeport city employees and residents can purchase a three-day pass at the gate for $75 beginning on Friday morning.

Sunday admission is free for kids 15 and under when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Park campgrounds attract some 12,000 overnight guests every year. Festival-goers can purchase single-day and weekend passes, as well as RV passes for campers.

Vibes originated in 1996 as a tribute to the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. The “Gathering of the Tribes,” as it was first called, attracted 3,500 people to the SUNY Purchase campus, where it was held over Memorial Day weekend. While Vibes has expanded over the years, its mission and purpose remain unchanged.

“What we’ve found is that so many families are coming up with their kids and their friends of friends that this is a really meaningful time to focus on what’s really important,” Hays said.

Eighteen years after the first gathering, Vibes has grown to become "the Northeast's preeminent music festival," according to the website.

“Looking at 25,000 people smiling… it’s an amazing scene,” Hays said.

This is Seaside Park’s ninth year hosting the festival.

Hays, a Weston resident originally from Greenwich, says it’s a pleasure to bring Vibes back to his home state.

“It’s just a beautiful, beautiful spot,” he said, “and it’s home. Connecticut is home.”

Photo Credit: govibes.com

Bride With Terminal Cancer to Have Dream Wedding


At first, when 35-year-old Jen Bulik developed a cough that she couldn't shake, doctors diagnosed it as pneumonia. But when it still didn't go away with treatment, further tests showed the fateful diagnosis: Stage IV lung cancer.

Last month, after five months of treatment, Bulik received the dreaded news from her doctors: Even with continued treatment, she had less than six months to live.

"So when I heard that, I said, 'Let's get married,'" said Bulik, who had been dating longtime boyfriend Jeff Lang for six years. "Because I wanted to focus on life."

With time running out, Bulik and Lang chose to plan a simple, small wedding with close friends and family -- barbecue food served on paper plates in Jen's parents back yard.

Instead, thanks to the help of strangers, the couple will get married on Saturday, and Bulik will get the wedding of her dreams. Thirty Bay Area wedding vendors are donating $50,000 worth of goods and services to make Bulik's wedding dreams come true.

The dream wedding is being organized by Erica Ota, a wedding planner who saw a message about Bulik and Lang on a Facebook group for wedding planners.

Their story touched her.

"I just feel that in life there are opportunities every day to do extraordinary things for other people,” Erica says. “This was an opportunity I saw to do something for somebody else. So why not?”

At first, Ota planned on helping out the day of the wedding. But as she got to know the couple, she decided she needed to do more.

“I got the impression from reading excerpts from her [Jen’s] blog that she’s the most positive, optimistic person," Ota said. "And despite this grave prognosis, she seemed like she wasn’t going to give up, it still seems that way.”

Over the last few weeks, she used Bulik's Pinterest wedding board as a guide to plan the dream wedding. She enlisted the help of more than 30 Bay Area wedding vendors to provide everything on the Pinterest board -- and the couple didn't have to pay anything.

“It was my goal for them not to pay a dime,” Erica says. “I thought to myself these people have already suffered enough, why not be able to give them a gift? A wonderful gift that they, and their families will never be able to forget.”

The couple will say their vows in a park down the street from Jen's childhood home. The dream reception will be follow in the back yard of her parents' house.

“I think it’s amazing the generosity in their heart,” Bulik said, “and they’re so touched by our story and that’s I guess it’s like people have feelings.”

If you would like to contribute to a fund set up to help the couple during this difficult time, you can donate at giveforward.com.

Bond Commission Approves $537 Million for Transportation Projects


The State Bond Commission has approved more than $537 million in state funds to finance transportation projects, including 250 miles of state highway resurfacing and more than 40 bridge restoration projects around the state.

The state funding, combined with federal transportation aid, will be used to to update, strengthen and improve the safety of the state’s highways, bridges, rail and transit systems, according to Gov. Dannel  Malloy’s office.

“With this funding, we are investing in jobs for Connecticut residents, strengthening and updating our aging roadways and bridges, making travel safer and, in the long-run, improving our transportation infrastructure to encourage economic development and attract new business to the state,” Malloy said in a statement.

Malloy said $113 million will be for the Interstate Highway Program to construct, resurface or restore several areas of highway, including Pavement Preservation Projects on Interstate 95 in Groton and Interstate 84 in Vernon, widening Interstate 84 in Waterbury between exits 22 and 25A, reconstruction at exits 5 & 6 and Route 37 in Danbury, and funds for the Q Bridge Interstate 95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Corridor Improvement Program.

Around $33 million will be used to rehabilitate or replace more than 30 existing bridges across the state. 

The Bond Commission also allocated more than $115 million for the Fix-it-First State Bridges and Roads program to rehabilitate and reconstruct several roadways and bridges on the state highway system.

“Our transportation infrastructure must be constantly maintained and, whenever possible, upgraded,” DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker said. “This funding directly supports our mission and commitment to the people of Connecticut to manage our roads, bridges, rails, buses and waterways and keep them as safe as possible.”

The Bond Commission also allocated $14.2 million for DOT’s Capital Resurfacing and Related Construction Program to go toward capital resurfacing and expressway upgrades along various state routes, including Pavement Preservation projects on I-84 in Southington/Cheshire and Route 15 in Stratford/Milford.

Photo Credit: Connecticut Department of Transportation
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