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West Nile Virus Detected in Mosquitoes in Stamford


Mosquitoes trapped in Stamford on July 22 have tested positive for West Nile virus, according to the Stamford health department.

These are the first mosquitoes the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has found with the virus in Stamford this season.

“The State has identified mosquitoes with West Nile Virus throughout Connecticut and individuals should take precautions,” Anne Fountain, director of Health and Social Services for the City of Stamford, said in a statement.

Most people who are infected with West Nile virus and become ill will have a mild illness that might include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, or a skin rash. Less frequently, people develop severe illness of the nervous system that can also include neck stiffness, disorientation, loss of consciousness, tremors, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

Persons older than 50 years old are more likely than younger persons to suffer the more severe health consequences if they become infected.

Precautions to avoid mosquito bites include:

  • Minimize time outdoors at dusk and dawn.
  • Be sure door and window screens are tight fitting and in good repair.
  • Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts. Clothing material should be
  • tightly woven.
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors.
  • Consider using mosquito repellent when it is necessary to be outdoors. Always use
  • according to label instructions. The most effective repellents contain DEET or
  • Picaridin.
  • When using DEET, use the lowest concentration effective for the time spent outdoors
  • (for example, 6 percent lasts approximately two hours and 20% for four hours) and wash
  • treated skin when returning indoors. Do not apply under clothing, to wounds or irritated
  • skin, the hands of children, or to infants less than two months old.

Measures to reduce mosquitoes around the home include:

  • Dispose of water-holding containers, such as ceramic pots, used tires, and tire swings.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of containers such as those used for recycling.
  • Clean clogged roof gutters.
  • Turn over objects that may trap water when not in use such as wading pools and
  • wheelbarrows.
  • Change water in birdbaths on a weekly basis.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, and when not in use, use pool covers and drain
  • when necessary.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate areas where water can collect on your property.

Additional resources for information on West Nile virus and mosquito management:

Photo Credit: NBC10.com

Big Y Recalls Ground Sirloin


Big Y supermarkets have voluntarily recalled two types of ground sirloin processed in the same plant as beef contaminated with E. coli.

None of the meat at Big Y has tested positive, but the supermarket is taking precautions and asking customers to return ground sirloin bought between July 18 and Aug. 1 for a full refund.

The recalled sirloin came from the Kansas-based National Beef Packing Company, which recalled over 50,000 pounds of ground beef yesterday after a sample tested positive for E. coli.

The recalled meats at Big Y include those labeled “fresh ground sirloin 87 percent lean” and “sirloin steak patties 87 percent lean.”

According to a statement from Big Y, the recall does not affect any other ground beef sold in its supermarkets.

Photo Credit: VIPDesignUSA, Shutterstock

Pakistani Talk Show Gives Away Abandoned Babies


A Pakistani television show host gave away two abandoned babies on live television during this year's Ramadan, Reuters reported.

The show, "Amaan Ramazan," hosted by popular Pakistani talk-show host Aamir Liaquat Hussain, usually gives away mobile phones and land deeds. But for Ramadan, when the show is in a ratings war with other talk shows, the host presented two families with abandoned babies.

"If we didn't find this baby, a cat or a dog would have eaten it," Hussain proclaimed during a broadcast, Reuters reported.

The newborns were rescued by the Chhipa Welfare Association, a Pakistani aid organization, which searches garbage dumps and other areas for discarded children, according to Reuters. The organization's head said potential parents had been vetted.

Hussain has also made a call on his website for families to turn over their children directly to him.

"If any family cannot afford to bring up their new born baby due to poverty or illness then instead of killing them, they should hand over the baby to Dr Aamir," a notice on his website reads.

Hussain reportedly plans to give away a baby boy next.

Many Pakistanis have been left disgusted with Hussain's antics on the show, Reuters said.

Police: Bloomfield Man Found Dead, Car Abandoned


Police are investigating after a 65-year-old man was discovered dead in his house Wednesday and his car was found stripped and towed.

According to police, Joseph Costa, of 39 Norman Drive, was last seen July 20. Family members decided to check on him and found Costa lying across his bed.

Officers discovered that Costa’s car had been stripped and towed from South Marshall Street in Hartford, where it had been abandoned.

There were no signs of trauma to Costa’s body. An autopsy performed today revealed that Costa died of natural causes, according to police.

Police said they do not believe foul play was a factor, but are investigating the cirumstances surrounding Costa's abandoned car.

Costa lived alone and had a history of heart problems, police said.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

17 Towns to Receive Government Grants


Governor Malloy has announced a second round of Small Town Economic Assistance Program grants to make infrastructure improvements in 17 towns around the state.

Bethel, Canaan, Canterbury, Clinton, Colebrook, Darien, Deep River, Ellington, Glastonbury, Litchfield, Montville, North Canaan, Salisbury, Seymour, Sherman, Wallingford and Westbrook will all receive grant money.

  • Bethel will receive $250,000 for sidewalk construction at the town Municipal Center; the intersection of Main Street, Maple Avenue and Chestnut Street; and the police department; as well as a stair replacement project at entrances to the CJ Hurgin Municipal Center.
  • Canaan will receive $200,000 to repair and preserve the South Canaan Meeting House, constructed in 1804 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Canterbury will receive $270,000 to build a safer and more energy-efficient public works garage.
  • Clinton will receive $500,000 for sidewalk, signage, lighting and landscaping improvements in the downtown business district.
  • Colebrook will receive $77,500 to renovate and paint the exterior of the Colebrook Historical Society Museum.
  • Darien will receive $400,000 to build an aquatic habitat and clean up the Goodwives River watershed at Upper Pond.
  • Deep River will receive $400,000 for improvements to Plattwood Park, including a pavilion, bathrooms and recreation facilities compliant with the American Disabilities Act, sports field and a walking trail.
  • Ellington will receive $250,000 to build a 1,000-square-foot addition to the Ellington Human Services building for new offices, a storage area, conference room and a bathroom.
  • Glastonbury will receive $250,000 to develop and improve hiking, walking and cross-country skiing areas at the former Arbor Acres, Grayledge, Longo Farm and Slocumb properties; fishing access to the Roaring Brook; and additional parking and public access to the Shenipsit Trail.
  • Litchfield will receive $160,000 for improvements to the Bantam Fire Company facility, including washroom renovations and upgrades to make the building ADA-compliant. These projects will also allow the building to be used as an emergency shelter.
  • Montville will receive $250,000 to build sidewalks on Chesterfield Road between Montville High School and Leonard J. Tyl Middle School. The grant will also fund crosswalks and trails to the Fair Oaks Community Center and Montville Conservation Center.
  • North Canaan will receive $400,000 to restore the historic Canaan Union Station, damaged by arson in 2001. The new station will include offices, a restaurant and a museum.
  • Salisbury will receive $500,000 to tear down a blighted former dry-cleaning facility and build affordable housing on the property.
  • Seymour will receive $168,000 to replace sidewalks and improve pedestrian safety.
  • Sherman will receive $69,000 to renovate the century-old Sherman Playhouse, a town landmark and tourist attraction.
  • Wallingford will receive $181,000 for roadway, parking and landscaping improvements to Veterans Memorial Park.
  • Westbrook will receive $500,000 toward a second phase of the Town Center Enhancement Project, which will expand parking, improve transit and create a more pedestrian-friendly area.

The first round of grants was announced last month and awarded money to Bolton, Branford, Burlington, Chaplin, Columbia, Durham, East Lyme, Granby, Kent, Marlborough, North Haven, Old Lyme, Trumbull and Union.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Balcony Rail Breaks, Woman Plunges 17 Floors to Death


A Manhattan ad executive who went out to smoke on the balcony of her 17th-floor apartment while on a first date plunged to her death early Thursday morning when she sat on the railing and it gave way, according to police sources.

Sources told NBC 4 New York that Jennifer Rosoff, 35, and her date were on the balcony at about 12:30 a.m. and when she sat on the railing's corner, it broke and she plunged to the ground, hitting scaffolding on the way down.

Her date told investigators he heard two pops before the railing gave way.

Witnesses reported seeing a screaming man, believed to be Rosoff's date, running from the building at 400 E. 57th St in Sutton Place. Police spoke to him and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

A source on the scene provided a description of the railing, which appeared to be metal, and was bent and twisted, with a cigarette lighter still sitting nearby.

The Buildings Department is investigating.

Only the higher-floor corner apartments in the gray brick building have balconies, and the Buildings Department issued a partial vacate order for them Thursday.

A neighbor of Rosoff on the 17th floor, who did not want to give his name, told NBC 4 New York his landlord had sent the superintendent and an inspector to examine his balcony two or three months ago.

"They just asked to peek at it, and I just assumed they were only talking about the surface of it, because that's what they had worked on," he said.

A mother who also lives in the building said she was worried for her daughter's safety after the tragedy. 

"I hope they're checking a lot more than the terraces," she said. "Everything should be checked." 

The landlord, Stonehenge Management, LLC, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Brian Sullivan has inspected dozens of New York City terraces and balconies since 2010, and says one of the biggest challenges is weather.

"Once water gets in and starts to freeze, if you have a winter with six or seven freeze-thaw cycles, those cracks can expand quickly and get real deterioration of the steel very quickly," he said. 

He advised concerned tenants with balconies to gently touch the railings to get a sense if anything is loose, and to look for any rust or deterioration where the railings penetrate the concrete of the balcony.

Rosoff, who had worked at The New Yorker and Lucky Magazine, was director of sales at TripleLift, an advertising company on Fifth Avenue. CEO Eric Berry told NBC 4 New York the staff was struggling Thursday after learning of her death.

"She was a well-loved and highly respected member of our team," Berry said in a statement. "The entire company is distraught by the loss of Ms. Rosoff -- she will be deeply missed."

Samantha Massa, an acquaintance of Rosoff, told NBC 4 New York said "she was ambitious, she had a great career." 

Rosoff's family said funeral services were scheduled for this weekend. 

Photo Credit: LinkedIn and NBC 4 New York

Two State Agencies Closed Over Bug Issues


The state Department of Social Services and Department of Rehabilitation Services offices at 3580 Main Street, Hartford, were closed Thursday afternoon because of an issue with bugs.
Several employees have experienced bug bites and the department is closed so pest exterminators can go through the three-story building at 3580 Main Street.

Officials from the Department of Social Services said several employees were sent home at 1 p.m.

“We are working with the landlord to have the building treated so that staff can return to work promptly,” a statement from DSS says. 

The building is expected to open for normal business hours tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.
DSS clients who need immediate service should call the agency’s Benefits Center at 1-855-6-CONNECT or visit www.connect.ct.gov.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

"Daily Show": Filner Scandal Broke the "Eww-o-Meter"


Interim "Daily Show" host John Oliver said San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's sexual harassment scandal is so "disgusting" it breaks the "Eww-o-Meter." 

The comedian Wednesday judged each alleged incident on a scale of "ew" to "ewwww" based on how much the details "make your skin crawl."

After airing clips of victims sharing their stories, which included an unwanted French kiss, a pat on the rear, and inappropriate touching on other body parts, Oliver responded by yelling 'eww' and jumping up and down.

He also compared the accusations against Filner to the mayoral scandal brewing in New York City.

"Say what you want about Anthony Weiner, but at least his texts don't leave a physical residue on your face," Oliver said, in reference to a victim's claim that Filner allegedly "slobbered down" her chin.

But Oliver did call out Weiner for comparing New Yorkers' strength after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the candidate's own refusal to drop out of the race for mayor after his sexting scandal. Weiner "crossed the line" with that comment, Oliver said.

Watch the full clip below.

Photo Credit: Comedy Central

Suspicious Package Result of Delivery Error


A suspicious package found at a Staples store in Glastonbury was the result of a delivery error, according to police.

Officers said they received a call from the Staples at 49 Putnam Boulevard at 12:02 p.m. reporting a suspicious package with no name.

Police and a bomb squad reported to the scene, where they determined that the package was not dangerous, police said.

Mayor Filner Canceled Sex Harassment Training: Report


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's office canceled a scheduled new employee and management sex harassment training session in his first months in office according to a published report.

In a letter addressed to the City Attorney’s office, Filner defense attorney Harvey Berger tries to persuade the city to pay for Filner’s defense against a sexual harassment claim because he said the city failed to offer required sexual harassment training within the mayor’s first six months of office.

Berger claims the instructor canceled the session for Filner and others, but it was never rescheduled. Read letter here

NBC 7 San Diego's media partner Voice of San Diego reports that former city Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone remembers it differently.

Goldstone said he’s sure that it was Filner’s staff who canceled the scheduled training session because of time constraints. Read report here

Either way even when it comes to traffic violations, ignorance of the law does not make you exempt from following the rules of the road.

It appears from the attorney’s letter that Mayor Filner may be using the “I didn't know better” defense to navigate his way around at least one sexual harassment complaint.

“It was your typical attorney scatter gun approach, throw anything against the wall and see what sticks,” San Diego City Councilmember Scott Sherman said.

Sherman read the letter and was not swayed. He joined eight other members of the city council in denying the mayor a taxpayer-funded defense.

“Bob Filner started in Congress 30 years ago, and one of his first votes was regarding establishing sexual harassment laws,” Sherman said.

Several San Diego residents told NBC 7 the lack of an official training session doesn’t mean Filner shouldn’t be held accountable for the alleged actions.

“I think it's a common sense thing. You know the green light, yellow light and red light,” San Diego Ken Nigro said. “He's looking for a way out.”

“Just as a reasonable person you should be responsible for your actions,” San Diego resident Deborah Romo said. “You don't have to know the law and order to not sexual harass people.”

“In the professional world you’ve got to know where to draw the line whether you had any training on it or not,” San Diego resident Patrick Arthur said.

The mayor's former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson claims she was forced to resign after she said the mayor treated women as "sexual objects or stupid idiots."

"I saw him place his hands where they did not belong on numerous women," McCormack Jackson claims.

Since McCormack Jackson announced she would file a lawsuit against the city and the mayor, seven other women have come forward and described alleged unwanted sexual advances including groping and kissing.

San Diego's City Council voted unanimously Tuesday against covering Filner's legal fees.


Cheese Recalled Over Possible Listeria Contamination


Whole Foods Market is recalling a brand of cheese due to a possible risk of listeria contamination.

The Austin-based company is recalling Trois Comtois Morbier cheese in locations throughout the United States due to a recall by Trois Comtois in Poligny, France.

The cheese has the potential to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, "an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems,"the Food and Drug Administration said. "Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women."

The cheese comes in wheels that weigh approximately 11 lbs each, but are cut and wrapped in varying weights and are labeled with a Whole Foods Market scale label.

In Texas, the cheese was labeled as Morbier Raw Milk.

In other Whole Foods locations, the cheese was packaged under the following names:

Ohio, Virginia and Washington D.C.: Morbier AOC Le Trois
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin: Morbier Raw Milk French Cheese
Oklahoma, Louisiana, Hawaii, Arizona and southern California: Morbier Raw Milk
Northern California and the Reno Nevada store: Morbier Les Trois Comtois

To date, no illnesses have been reported to Whole Foods in connection with the cheese.

Whole Foods is not the only U.S. purchaser of the cheese and it may also be found in other grocery stores or restaurants.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Market Owner Used Food Stamps to Stock Store


The state of Connecticut is suing a Bridgeport grocery and convenience store owner accused of using hundreds of food stamp accounts to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of energy drinks, candy bars, beef jerky and other products that he sold at his store.

Saaid Cherkaoui, who runs Slim’s Deli Market, is accused of obtaining EBT cards from authorized recipients and using them at BJ’s Wholesale Club, where he bought products at a discount.

State officials said the scheme began as early as March 1, 2011 and continued until Oct. 6, 2012  He’d swipe card after card at the self-checkout to pay for the products, then resell the items at his store, according to the complaint the state filed against Cherkaoui.

“The alleged misuse of these benefit cards diverts taxpayer nutrition assistance funds from those who need it most – especially children -- and is an abuse of public trust,” Attorney General Jepsen said in a statement. “The state also has an interest in assuring an honest marketplace, in which economic activity is conducted without fraud or deception.”

The program, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is a federally funded food sustenance program that provides assistance to low-income individuals and families at risk of undernourishment.

Benefits are distributed through an Electronic Benefits Transfer, which can be used like a debit card to buy groceries, but not cigarettes or alcohol.

At times, people who receive the federal benefits have sold the cards for cash, drugs or alcohol, according to state officials.

The state is seeking civil penalties of $5,000 for every violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and disgorgement of all revenues, profits and gains Cherkaoui might have realized from the alleged scheme.

More information will be posted once it becomes available.

The Department of Social Services investigated the case and operates a fraud reporting hotline at 1-800-842-2155. If you have a case to report, you can also e-mail providerfraud.dss@ct.gov.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/StockFood

3 Teens Accused of Sexually Assaulting 13-Year-Old Girl


Naugatuck police have arrested three Waterbury teens accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in the woods near her Naugatuck home.

The victim’s mother called police just after 7:30 p.m. on Monday. She told them that her daughter had just come home and said she’d been sexually assaulted by three boys in their early teens, police said.

The victim provided a description of the suspects, who police found a short time later in the area. The victim positively identified the suspects, police said.

The victim was taken to a local hospital for evaluation related to the sexual assault.

All three teen suspects were charged with first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a child.

They were all taken to Bridgeport Juvenile Detention and were scheduled to appear in Waterbury Juvenile Court on Tuesday.

Hartford Shelter Dogs Need Homes Now


Dozens of dogs at the Hartford Animal Shelter are looking for homes, and they're in danger of losing their lives if they aren't adopted soon.

The shelter is at capacity and eight dogs are set to be euthanized Saturday, said Hartford Animal Control Officer Sherri Degenova.

There are currently 25 dogs at the shelter and five more at a local vet.

“Unfortunately, the city of Hartford has a nine-to-ten day time limit with dogs because they rent space from a private facility," said Degenova. "The city can only hold them so long due to financial and space reasons."

According to Degenova, many of the dogs were abandoned in vacant buildings, apartments and parks. One dog was even found tied to a stop sign with a bag of dog food.

Shepherds, lab mixes and chihuahuas are all up for adoption.

If you’re interested in adopting a dog, call the shelter to set up an appointment at 860-757-4395, or email ctshelterdogs@gmail.com or pizon67@yahoo.com.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Not Guilty Verdict in Murder of New Haven Musician


A jury has acquitted Tashaun Fair in the murder of Mitchell Dubey.

In August 2012, police charged Tashaun Fair, of New Haven, with home invasion and the felony murder of Mitchell Dubey.

Dubey was shot and killed during a brutal home invasion at his Bassett Street apartment on March 24, 2011.  He was an avid cyclist and musician.

On the night of the crime, Dubey answered the door at his apartment and a man with a gun forced his way inside, his roommates said, and demanded that Dubey and his roommates sit on the couch and empty their pockets.

Dubey was shot in the chest while trying to reason with the man and was pronounced dead at the Hospital of St. Raphael's.

Police identified Fair as a suspect early on, but his face was covered during the home invasion and witnesses were not able to identify him from lineups or photos, police said.  

But an informant did come forward and identified Fair as the man who shot Dubey, but on Thursday a jury didn't think that was enough to convict.

Fair was found not guilty on all charges.

Damaged Water Main Causes Detours in Milford


Repair work on a damaged water main has shut off water to approximately 24 homes and caused road closures in Milford, according to the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority.

A six-inch water main located at the corner of Grove Street and New Haven Avenue in Milford failed and was repaired Thursday afternoon.

Maintenance work took up to six hours, during which time 24 customers were without water and others in the area might see discolored water, the RWA said.

The intersection was closed for the duration of the repair work. Detours from the Oyster River Bridge west to Anderson Avenue are in effect, even though they were initially scheduled to be discontinued at 3:30, according to the RWA.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Hartford Dispatcher Suspended for Making Racial Slur


A Hartford emergency dispatcher has been suspended without pay after making a racial slur in a police radio dispatch, according to the office of Mayor Pedro Segarra.

An Aug. 1 hearing found that Andrew Nichols, Emergency Telecommunications Dispatcher for the city of Hartford, violated the department’s workplace violence policy for making a racist comment in a radio broadcast.

On July 22, Nichols was caught on tape saying, “That’s going to be 198 Fairfield Avenue, an argument with a n*****, a neighbor over a trash can.”

Ericka Mitchell of Hartford said the dispatch was related to an argument between a landlord and an African American resident.

According to the office of the mayor, Nichols’ unpaid suspension will begin Friday, Aug. 2 and last for five days. He must attend cultural diversity training upon returning to work.

Nichols was put on paid leave Wednesday, July 24 while the incident was being investigated.

State NAACP representatives met with city officials on July 30 to discuss the incident.

Policy changes are taking effect – all Emergency Services and Telecommunications employees are now required to attend diversity training, according to the mayor's office.

"It is my strong desire that we undertake a serious discussion and training of all our employees so as to prevent this conduct," Mayor Pedro Segarra said in a statement. "As a person who has been subjected to hate speech based on my race and sexual orientation on several occasions, I will not tolerate this behavior. Some will argue that the discipline was too harsh or too lenient: our focus should now be on achieving a work force that is respectful of all and eradicating racism and discrimination in all its ugly forms"

A similar situation happened just months ago when a police sergeant broadcast racial slurs while driving through the North End of Hartford. The sergeant was put on permanent desk duty.

Boy Hit by Car Outside St. Francis Hospital


A 13-year-old boy was struck by a car outside an employee driveway entrance at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, according to police.

The boy was riding his bike across a driveway at 114 Woodland Avenue when a hospital employee struck him, pinning him under the car, police said.

Witnesses said the boy was trapped under the car and that six or seven people worked together to free him.

They believe the employee may have been leaving the hospital at the time of the accident.

The boy was taken to the St. Francis emergency room with a leg injury and bruises. Police said the boy was conscious and alert.

He will receive X-rays to check for broken bones, police said.

Neither boy nor driver have been identified.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Gay Teacher Fired After Marrying Longtime Partner


A teacher at a Catholic school in Southern California suddenly was fired after a photo of him marrying his same-sex partner of 10 years appeared in a local newspaper, according to the teacher's attorney.

Ken Bencomo, 45, was head of the English department, yearbook advisor, dance coach and a mentor at St. Lucy's Priory High School in Glendora. He worked at the all-girls school for 17 years.

Bencomo and his partner were among the first same-sex couples to marry in San Bernardino County last month after the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to uphold Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

They’ve been together for 10 years.

The couple had a commitment ceremony in 2006, but that didn’t grant them the same rights as a married couple, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported. For example, Bencomo wasn’t allowed to visit his partner in the hospital after surgery because he wasn’t considered a relative, the news outlet reported.

Bencomo married his longtime partner on July 1. He was fired from St. Lucy's July 12.

His attorney said school administration explicitly told Bencomo they were firing him because he "got married and it was in the paper, and it violated church teachings."

"He goes from one of the happiest days of his life to a nightmare," said Patrick McGarigle, Bencomo's attorney.

Current students and alumnae have emerged in support of the former teacher.

“I think the most important of Catholic values is that they teach to love and this isn't an act of love,” Brittany Lettleton, a former St. Lucy’s student, told NBC4.

“I can say for sure if Jesus Christ were here on Earth today, he wouldn't be firing Ken Bencomo.”

More than 1,500 supporters as of Thursday have joined a Facebook group called “St. Lucy’s community speaks out for Mr. B.”

The group asks members to write letters to school leaders “notifying them of your disappointment in their recent decision to terminate a valuable leader of our community.”

A rally outside the school is set for Aug. 8.

“St. Lucy's taught us to be respectful, ambitious, and classy; it is imperative that we display those standards,” the page reads. “Mr. Ken Bencomo should not lose his livelihood. Be a part of the change.”

News of Bencomo’s firing comes days after Pope Francis' comments on homosexuality made him seem more accepting of gays and lesbians than his predecessors.

“If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” said Pope Francis, who leads the world's estimated 1.2 billion Catholics.

The school released this statement, saying it could not comment on employees, but emphasized it is upholding its educational mission in the “tradition of the Catholic faith”:

“St. Lucy's Priory High School is founded in the Roman Catholic tradition and is dedicated to providing a quality college preparatory education for young women. As a Benedictine school, St. Lucy's is a community for those who wish to express Christian values in education and develop personal and academic excellence.

“We respect and protect privacy interests and, to be respectful of those involved, the School does not comment on confidential employment matters or matters which may involve litigation.

“St. Lucy's Priory High School wishes to reassure all in our community that upholding its mission to educate students in the tradition of the Catholic faith is of paramount importance.”

McGarigle said school staff and students knew of Bencomo’s sexuality, and that his client often brought his partner to school events.

Nearly two months before he was fired, Bencomo renewed his contract with the school, McGarigle said.

The attorney said the school doesn’t have to "acknowledge the mistake, but make a fair and reasonable proposal to resolve this."

“If the school forces (Ken Bencomo) to file legal action, to rectify what occurred, then he will,” McGarigle added.

More Southern California Stories:

Photo Credit: Rachel Luna, The Sun / Los Angeles News Group

Missing in Action No More, Bay Area Soldier Buried


Joseph Steinberg is finally home.

For the first time since he left San Francisco for the Korean War 62 years ago, his remains were back on American soil.

“He’s always been right here, always,” said his niece Marlene Baisa, patting her chest. “Because I’ve always loved him so much.”

On Thursday, Steinberg’s family held his funeral service in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, just days after his newly discovered remains were flown back to the Bay Area from Korea.

An honor guard of Bay Area volunteers lined the route to the cemetery, holding flags that slapped and shuddered in a stiff morning wind. Steinberg's family hadn’t heard from him since 1951 when he was taken prisoner during the war. The military later said he died in the Camp Bean POW camp in North Korea.

But for decades, his family had no idea where his body was. Eventually hope for his return ran out.

“They came to us in 2006 and asked for our DNA,” said Baisa. I even thought then nothing’s going to come of this,” Baisa said.

Steinberg’s brother Charles spent the latter years of his life writing letters to the U.S. government trying to find out what had happened to his brother.

“Every time he wrote a letter, he sent me a copy and he put a number at the top in a circle,” said Baisa. “I don’t know how many of those I have.”

But then came the phone call the family thought would never come. The military had identified Steinberg’s remains, and he was coming home.

In the same cemetery where three of Steinberg’s brothers were buried, the military held a funeral for  Sergeant First Class Steinberg.

Soldiers presented the family with Steinberg’s numerous medals, including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for bravery in World War II.

“The only problem is they’re all posthumous,” said Steinberg’s nephew Ron Smith. “We’d much rather have had him back wearing those awards than being honored with them today.” Other Korean War Veterans turned out for the service, expressing sorrow at the thousands of other veterans still missing in Korea. Still, the return of Steinberg was a small victory in what’s been called “the forgotten war.”

MORE: Body of Soldier Killed Ruing Korean War Returns Home

“This is a good day,” said Army veteran Bill Palmer. “He came home. He’s back on American soil. It’s a good day.” As the 21-gun salute and recorded version of “Taps” faded-out across the thousands of small white headstones, the family filed down to the graveside where cemetery workers buried the small wooden box holding Steinberg’s ashes.

Fifty yards away, American flags marked the graves of two of Steinberg’s brothers. Near his own grave, lay the marker for Steinberg's brother Charles, who died without ever knowing his brother’s fate.

“Now it’s over, said Baisa standing near her uncles' graves. “He’s home, he’s with his brother who loved him so much.”

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.
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