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Schools Prepare for Anniversary of Newtown Tragedy


Almost a year after tragedy unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary, prosecutors are planning to release the long-awaited summary report, and the Newtown school superintendent has sent a letter to parents to make sure they’re prepared.

Dated Nov. 19, the letter from interim superintendent Dr. John Reed encourages parents to keep a close eye on media coverage and monitor what their children are reading and watching. Parents are also urged to reach out to mental health professionals if children need help coping as the one-year anniversary approaches.

"We all understand that for the children who were directly affected by this tragedy the release of the report and the upcoming anniversary can carry a very personal meaning," the letter reads.

School officials from surrounding towns, including Brookfield, are expected to send similar letters in the coming days.

“We’re neighbors of Newtown and our hearts go out to them,” said Brookfield school Superintendent Anthony Bivona.

Bivona said the district has offered counseling and other support services to Newtown. He anticipates that parents, children and teachers in town will also have a tough time around the one-year mark.

“Some of our teachers live in Newtown; they’ve had students actually, in fact, go to school there,” Bivona said. “We have parents, families with relatives in Newtown, so it is very close to home.”

The Newtown letter alerts parents to signs of distress in their children and offers tips on talking to kids about traumatic events.

Jack Ruby's Relatives Talk


Jack Ruby grew up in a crowded house in Chicago.

In fact, lots of them.
Ruby and his eight siblings moved repeatedly, children of an alcoholic father and a mother they remembered as domineering and angry. The parents kept kosher but often had little to put on the table. Fannie Rubenstein would be confined more than once to the state mental hospital in Elgin, leaving her children to fend for themselves, often shuttled to foster homes and families.
Ruby left Chicago for what he hoped would be a better life in Dallas in 1947. And 16 years later, he fired a single shot which deprived the world from learning the absolute truth about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
"He always wore a suit and hat," recalled a Ruby niece, one of two surviving relatives in Chicago. She asked that we not give her identity, because of repeated reprisals over the years. The daughter of Ruby’s sister, Eileen, the 60-year-old woman says she vividly remembers a trip to see her uncle Jack just three months before the assassination. She was just 10 years old.
"He had a wonderful dog who would never come out from under the bed to play with us," she recalled. That dog, Ruby’s beloved dachshund Sheba, would later become a piece of evidence in the investigation.
"You know, he was outgoing and gregarious, and laughed a lot," said a sister, who has also kept her relationship to Ruby so secret that she has not told her own children. As the two sisters told their story for the first time, one said that her efforts over the years to explain her uncle’s actions had proven largely fruitless with listeners who refuse to believe that a larger conspiracy was not afoot.
"They don’t want to hear a simple story like he was a hothead guy, a really emotional guy in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said. "I have tried at various times over the years and it’s gone bad."
Sitting in the living room of a north side high rise, the sisters showed a visiting reporter mementoes of their uncle Jack: his "JR" cufflinks, a locket which Ruby gave their mother, and the checkerboard he used in jail.
"After the assassination, when he was in prison, he would call our house a lot," one recalled. Her older sister added: "He was always sort of apologetic and many times he would sort of start to cry, and ask for forgiveness for what he had done to the family."
But it was a different phone call they remembered the most. It was the evening of the assassination, November 22, 1963. Ruby was upset. And he wanted to come home to Chicago.

"Jack called and he was crying. He was upset, and he wanted to come to Chicago and be with the family for the weekend," one of his nieces recalled. But their mother told Ruby no. He needed to stay in Dallas with their sister who was recovering from surgery.
No one knows for certain if Ruby would have left town if his sister had encouraged the trip. Instead, he stayed in Dallas and shot Lee Harvey Oswald in front of a national television audience two days later.
"I know she felt guilty about that 'til the day she died,” one of the sisters recalled, although she said her mother rarely talked about the assassination. Instead, she would often leave to be at Ruby’s side.
"After he killed Oswald, and during the trial, she’d be gone for three, four, five, even six weeks at a time."
On the morning of his appointment with history, Ruby hardly displayed the planning of a cunning killer. Oswald had been scheduled for transfer from the Dallas Police jail at 10 a.m. But it wasn’t until 11 a.m. that Ruby arrived downtown, planning to wire some money to one of his dancers. He walked to the Western Union office, leaving the dog, Sheba in his car.
"If he had planned to do anything, he never would have left that dog in danger," one of the sisters recalled.
Instead, walking back to his car after the wire transfer, Ruby noticed activity at the entrance ramp to the Dallas Police garage. He walked down the ramp, and as Oswald emerged, he pulled the gun he always carried, and fired.
A receipt from the Western Union office showed that just four minutes had elapsed.
Ruby’s nieces maintained investigators got it right. Ruby was not a mobster. He had no mission. He was just a man who was overcome with grief.
"Just the perfect storm, just the events came together, for that shooting to occur,' the younger sister remembered. "If he did think about it in that snap, he thought he was going to be a hero. Thought he was going to be a big shot. People were going to thank him for killing the man who killed the president."

15-Year-Old Home Invasion Suspect Tried as Adult


The 15-year-old who police say is one of the two people responsible for the home invasion that injured an elderly woman in Watertown late last month appeared in court today and will be tried as an adult.

Divontaye Canady faces eight charges, including assault, larceny and kidnapping with a firearm. Canady's mother was by his side as his public defender entered a not guilty plea. The family declined to comment outside.

“He’s gonna get sent away to jail, you know, for what? For assaulting an old lady," said the victim, 87-year-old Alma York, after seeing the court appearance on an afternoon newscast.

York was assaulted and robbed in late October inside her Watertown home. She told police she answered the door on the right side of her ranch-style home. The suspect asked to rake her leaves, but she declined, saying she didn’t need it. Then he asked to use her cell phone, and that’s when York says she was attacked.

"He pounced on me and pushed me down," she said, illustrating with her hands.

She said now she's going about business as usual, although today that included a trip to the doctor. York recalled the moment during the robbery when she says an earring was ripped out of her ear.

“The plastic surgeon is going to take this lump off my ear," York said excitedly.

Although the situation left her a little on edge, she said after living in England through the Second World War, she's been through worse.

“I’m more careful when I answer the door now than I used to be," York said with a laugh.

She said she hopes the young man accused sees the error of his ways.

“I just feel sorry that he had to go and ruin his life at such a young age. And I just hope that it taught him a lesson, and he’ll think twice before he does anything like that again.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

New Britain Mayor Orders Hiring and Spending Freeze


Only seven days into the term of the youngest mayor ever elected in New Britain, Mayor Erin Stewart says she's so busy most days she forgets to eat.

"It's been a whirlwind of a last week," said the newest Republican incumbent after her first days in office. "We have some serious issues that we need to address here, and if that means that my office needs to correctly monitor everything that we are spending on, then we're going to have to do that."

The first step in monitoring that spending came in a memo Stewart sent Monday afternoon to all the city's department heads, freezing both hiring and spending for the entire city and requiring drafts for 5 percent and 10 percent budget cuts.

"This is the time to make sure that everything's covered," said New Britain resident Thomas Talalaj, who said he's excited to see the mayor moving and shaking this soon into her term. "We need somebody at the top of the realm to be fiscally responsible."

But Stewart said she understands the importance of spending for necessities, so the freeze won't apply to the hiring of essential public safety personnel like police officers. She does, however, want to tighten the reins on other spending.

"In an effort to stop that fiscal bleeding, I want to see everything that comes through," Stewart said. "Maybe a pack of pencils can wait. Perhaps a new binder clip can be on hold for a few months."

And her constituents seem to agree.

"She's on the right path. She's doing the right thing," said Geoffrey Gumbs. "And I think everybody should hold on and wait, see what she does."

Stewart said the next step will come once an audit of all the city's departments is completed by Dec. 20.

Hartford Media Company Under Fire After Posting Offensive Video


A Hartford media company is under fire after a video full of profanity and sexual references was posted on its website.

The Back 9 Network was given $5,000,000 worth of loans to start up in Downtown Hartford last year by the state and is supposed to be geared towards the sport of golf, but the video has nothing to with sports.

The video is for the network’s show called “What She Said.” The host answers viewer questions about their personal issues and her responses are vulgar. 

Most are too explicit to share and taxpayers are sounding off because state money was used to help start the business.

 “It’s inappropriate; there's no way taxpayers should be funding that," said Julia Rivera.
The President of the Back 9 Network, Carlos Silva, wasn’t pleased either.  He pulled the video from the website, and told NBC Connecticut, managers did not approve it and he disciplined the workers involved. 

In a statement he said, "We are evaluating our internal approval process to ensure this does not happen again and apologize to those who viewed it and were offended by it.”

“They need to do something that's racy that will go viral that will get people talking,” said Richard Hanley, a media professor at Quinnipiac University. 

Hanley said the video was not uncommon for startup media companies to post.  The goal was to get viewers.

“This is the way a lot of online companies do it.  If they go viral the state can get a return on the investment,” Hanley explained.
The state agency that helped fund the network said the content of the video was inappropriate and offensive, and was glad the company apologized.



Sylvia Browne Dies


Renowned psychic Sylvia Browne, a mainstay of television, radio and the author of several best-selling books, died early Wednesday in a California hospital, according to her official hospital. She was 77.

The famous psychic made frequent appearance on programs like "Larry King Live" and "The Montel Williams Show" for near 25 years. Gaining a mass following of fans with a fondness for the paranormal, according to NBC News. 

"For many years she shared her gift with friends and family, gaining a reputation for accuracy with her trademark down-to-earth approach and sense of humor," according to a message on her website.

Brown was a native of Kansas City, Mo., and had said her psychic abilities first began when she was just 3-years-old.

A private memorial service will be scheduled, according to her website.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

BOE Member Apologizes for "Insensitive" Post About Newtown


A newly-elected school board member in a town bordering Newtown, Conn., apologized Wednesday after facing calls to step down over a controversial Facebook post he made in reference to last year's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Gregory Beck, a school board member-elect and police dispatcher in Brookfield, pledged to buy his friends ammunition during Newtown's 26 Days of Kindness, an effort taking place ahead of the Dec. 14 anniversary of the massacre.

“I shall buy my friends who are gun enthusiasts a box of ammunition on days 1-26,” the post on Beck’s Facebook page said. Beck acknowledged on Wednesday that the post was insensitive and said didn't mean to cause any harm.

Beck's apology reads as follows:

This Tuesday (11/19/13), I commented on a Facebook post of a friend. At the time of the post, it was not apparent to me that this comment would be seen as an insensitive post. The comments were insensitive and completely indefensible. I acknowledge the damage this has caused and truly had no malicious intentions. Nor were there any attempts on my part to downplay the Sandy Hook Tragedy behind the comment.

It is said that hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, I should never have even conceived of making the comment. For this reason, I unequivocally apologize to the citizens of Brookfield, Newtown and all others whom I have offended or hurt. I am sorry for my mistake and ask for your forgiveness which I hope to earn with time.

I know that learning from mistakes make us better people and I have already learned much from this one. I will try to be much more conscious of my future actions and comments that I will not unintentionally hurt people as I have done. I am truly sorry.

With deepest regret and sincere apology,

Gregory A. Beck

Local officials on both ends of the political spectrum are condemning Beck's comment, and some have been asking him to step down.

“The [event] post wasn't about guns,” Ray DiStephan, current chairman of the Brookfield Board of Education, said. “It was about doing something kind for people in memory of some kids who were killed.”

The Republican Town Committee called on Beck to step down from the Board of Education before he even starts his term. DiStephan, a Democrat, agreed.

"This is about common decency and these are our neighbors in Newtown and people in this town were greatly affected by what happened there," DiStephan said.

Parents in the community are also outraged.

"If we're trying to teach our children to be accountable with what they do on social media and the adults aren't being accountable for it, it's a problem," said Linda Frame, a parent of four children in Brookfield.

Others don't feel what Beck said was a problem, including Robert Gianazza, a former board of education member.

On Tuesday night, he said over the phone that Beck's remark was off-handed and taken out of context.

Brookfield First Selectman Bill Davidson disagreed.

"People are entitled to their opinions but under these circumstances they should not have been made public on something like Facebook," Davidson said.

"I think we need to call for this gentleman not to take his position come the day he's supposed to be sworn in," DiStephan said.

Beck is also a dispatcher for the Brookfield Police Department, which some feel makes his comments all the more egregious.

Photo Credit: The Newstimes/Lisa Weir

Police Make 3rd Arrest in 2004 Killing of Prominent Doctor


Nine years after the violent death of prominent Norwich scientist Dr. Eugene Mallove, the last of three suspects has been arrested and charged in connection with the killing.

Mallove was brutally beaten in 2004 outside a rental home owned by his parents. Chad Schaffer, a former tenant whose family was evicted, has been convicted of murder, robbery and other offenses and is serving prison time. Accused co-conspirator Candace Foster is awaiting trial, and now a third suspect, 40-year-old Mozzelle Brown, is also facing charges.

Schaffer and Brown are accused of confronting Mallove outside the rental home on May 14, 2004 and beating him repeatedly. Police say the two men left the scene and later returned with Foster to cover up the crime. There they continued beating Mallove until he died, according to police.

Brown was arrested while serving time in a federal correctional facility in Ohio on drug and weapons convictions. He was brought back to Connecticut to face the new charges, which include murder, felony murder and first-degree robbery. He’s being held on a $2 million bond and is due in court in Norwich on Nov. 21.

Mallove was a Pulitzer Prize nominee from New Hampshire. Police say his wallet, cellphone, camera and van were stolen from the crime scene.

Two other men were initially charged in the case. Those allegations were dropped due to a lack of evidence. The case was subsequently reopened, leading to new arrests.

Photo Credit: Norwich Police Department

Man Tallies Up $200K Toll Tab


Paying tolls on your daily commute is a drop in the ocean compared to the E-ZPass bill one Virginia man drove up by ignoring them.

Jason Bourcier doesn't deny that he rode the Dulles Toll Road nightly without paying for his commute from Reston to Washington three-and-a-half years ago when he was looking for work.

A friend told him that when the toll booths were unmanned after 11:30 p.m., you could use the road without paying. His friend was wrong.

This week, VDOT took Bourcier to court because his bill had ballooned from $440 to more than $200,000, including late fees and interest. They reached a settlement and agreed on a payment plan.

“They provided me with a stack of summonses that was 12 inches high, and me and my lawyers, the best that we could do was $40,000,” he said. “Another kicker is they put me on a payment plan for $150 a month.”

At that rate and with interest due -- another $55,000 -- Bourcier, who is 33 and now has a good job, figures he will be 87 years old by the time he pays VDOT back.

"The lesson learned is to work with us if you don't have a transponder or the cash to pay a toll,” said a statement from VDOT. “Don't wait and don't ignore the notices."

Bourcier said he has learned two lessons from this.

“One would be for state legislature to take another look at the fines and fees that they are assessing the taxpayers,” he said. “The other would be for me, and that would be don’t mess with E-ZPass."


Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com

Obama's Full Letter to Karzai


President Barack Obama wrote to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai about a draft agreement on a bilateral security pact. The letter, obtained by NBC News, comes as a grand assembly of Afghan tribal elders meets to consider the deal outlining the future of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

His Excellency
Hamid Karzai
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Dear Mr. President:

I am pleased that we have reached agreement on the text of a Bilateral Security Agreement that will enable the United States and Afghanistan to implement the promise of our Strategic Partnership. This is a strong agreement for both our countries, which provides the foundation to continue our cooperation to build a better future for Afghanistan. It provides the basis for cooperating in a new context after 2014, when the International Security Assistance Force mission will have ended, the number of U.S. forces will be much reduced, and a sovereign Afghanistan will be responsible for its security, with the support of the international community. In that new context, America's role in Afghanistan will be one of a supporting partner. Under this Agreement, we will be cooperating in training, advising, and assisting your forces and in a targeted, smaller counterterrorism mission as we continue to help strengthen Afghanistan's own growing counterterrorism capabilities. We look forward to concluding this agreement promptly.

I know that you have been concerned for some time to limit the impact of the conflict in Afghanistan on the Afghan people, with particular attention to the sensitive issue of the safety and privacy of people in their homes. Over time, and especially in the recent past, we have redoubled our efforts to ensure that Afghan homes are respected by our forces and that our operations are conducted consistent with your law. We will continue to make every effort to respect the sanctity and dignity of Afghans in their homes and in their daily lives, just as we do for our own citizens.

Many of my countrymen and women have given their lives or been seriously wounded in the pursuit of protecting Afghans, and we honor the enormous sacrifices they have made, side by side with Afghans. As this new Agreement states, U.S. forces shall not enter Afghan homes for the purposes of military operations, except under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals. The U.S. commitment to Afghanistan's independence, territorial integrity, and national unity, as enshrined in our Strategic Partnership Agreement, is enduring, as is our respect for Afghan sovereignty.


Barack Obama

Photo Credit: FILE-AP

Grandfather Detained in N. Korea


Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old grandfather from Palo Alto, Calif., is reportedly being held by authorities in North Korea.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Newman was visiting the reclusive, totalitarian country. He was scheduled to depart on an Oct. 26 flight, but North Korean authorities removed him from the plane prior to takeoff.

He has been in custody since then, according to reports.

Newman went on a 10-day trip to North Korea with his friend Bob Hamrdla and a tour group out of Beijing. The U.S. State Department, which does not have formal diplomatic relations with North Korea, did not confirm his detention, but did say prior to his trip that North Korea has been "arbitrarily detaining U.S. citizens and not allowing them to depart the country."

A statement from Hamrdla, Newman’s travelling companion, reads, "There has to be a terrible misunderstanding. I hope that the North Koreans will see this is a humanitarian matter and allow him to return to his family as soon as possible."

The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, is working on the situation, the newspaper reported.

It's unclear why the North Korean authorities would want to detain Newman, who taught high school for decades in Berkeley and Livermore. He'd been to Korea as an infantry officer during the Korean War, the newspaper reported.

“There are parts of this that are, even by North Korean standards, out of the ordinary,” said Dan Sneider, associate director for research at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford.

Another U.S. citizen, Kenneth Bae, was arrested a year ago and sentenced to 15 years hard labor by North Korean authorities, the newspaper reported.

That North Korea has yet to formally admit holding Newman is "very unusual," according to Sneider. It may indicate that the North Koreans "don't know what to do with him yet," he said.

Sneider said North Korea might hope to use Newman to get something from the United States, as in 2009, when former president Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang to secure the release of two American journalists.

MORE: Eric Schmidt Sees Google's Role in North Korea Education

“I hope that the North Korean government understands this is not a very smart thing to do under any circumstances,” Sneider said, “and they will see their way to do the compassionate and the intelligent thing and release this American citizen.”

North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, is reported to have had his ex-girlfriend killed by firing squad.

Photo Credit: Channing House

Thieves Steal $700 from Waterbury Elementary School Student Fund: Cops


Someone stole around $700 from a Waterbury elementary school fundraiser and police are investigating.

The money was from Woodrow Wilson Elementary School’s annual school picture fundraiser and was slated for the school’s student activity fund, according to police.

According to police, the burglar alarm went off on Nov. 2, a window was broken and the money was missing from a filing cabinet in the school resource center.

One witness reported seeing a thin 5-foot-8 inch tall man running from the building.

Suspect in Ledyard Home Burglary Arrested


Police arrested a suspect in an August residential burglary in Ledyard during a traffic stop in Montville on Wednesday.

Police started investigating on August 16 after items were stolen from a home on Town Farm Road in Ledyard.

Investigators determined that an item stolen from the residence had been pawned at a local pawn shop and they obtained an arrest warrant for Samuel Moreno, 19, of Old Colchester Road in Salem.
Yesterday, a Montville police officer stopped a car Moreno was driving.

Police said Moreno provided a false name, but police were able to identify him and arrested him on suspicion of criminal impersonation and motor vehicle charges.

Moreno was also charged with sixth-degree larceny for his alleged involvement in the Town Farm Road theft.

He will be arraigned at GA 21 on the motor vehicle charges and at GA 10 on the larceny charge.

Police continue to investigate and said more arrests are possible.

Photo Credit: NBCSanDiego

Internet Cat Colonel Meow is Ill


The Internet-famous feline known as Colonel Meow, who landed a spot in the Guinness World Records for being the cat with the longest fur, is seriously ill, his owner said.

His owners in Los Angeles posted on the cat's Facebook page Monday that the Himalayan-Persian cross-breed was in an animal hospital with a mysterious illness.

"The doctors don't really understand what's wrong with him," the Facebook post read in part. "He needs YOU to send your amazingly good energy, vibes, and prayers."

According to the post, the Colonel survived a 50/50 chance surgery and a blood transfusion that doctors thought would send him into heart failure.

The cat's owners said his heart "isn't doing the best," but he is getting feisty, and that's a good sign.

Supporters from all over the world are posting their support and get-well wishes.

"Darling Colonel, sending our furriest prayers to help you regain your superpowers, we need you more than ever xxx," said one Facebook fan.

The Colonel became an Internet star this year after his owners, Anne Marie Avey and Eric Rosario, began posting photos of him with his now-famous long hair and funny scowl.

The Colonel has fur that reaches 9 inches and he will be featured in the Guinness World Records 2014 book, accord to the Guinness website. 

More Southern California Stories:

Photo Credit: facebook.com/colonelmeowinthecity

Second Suspect in Watertown Attack and Home Invasion Located


The day after a hearing was held for a teenage suspect in a home invasion that injured an elderly woman in Watertown in October, police have located a second suspect.

A 17-year-old boy was taken into custody in New York, where he is being held in connection with burglaries in there. Police have not released his name because he is a juvenile.

The home invasion happened on Oct. 16 at Alma York’s Sunnyside Avenue home in Watertown, according to police. The 87-year-old was assaulted and robbed. An earring was torn from her ear and she will need plastic surgery because of it.

York told police that she answered the door on the right side of her ranch-style home and one person asked to rake her leaves, but she declined, saying she didn’t need it.

Then he asked to use her cell phone, and that’s when she was attacked, York said.

Yesterday, the other teenage suspect in the home invasion was in court. He has been identified as Divontaye Canady, 15, because he will be tried as an adult, according to authorities.

Canady has been charged with second-degree assault, larceny, kidnapping with a firearm and credit card theft, as well as additional charges.

His mother was by his side as his public defender entered a not guilty plea. The family declined to comment outside the courthouse.

Watertown police said the 17-year-old was taken into custody with the help of the U.S. Marshal Service and the New York Police Department Fugitive Task Force.  Local police are awaiting word on extradition.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

State's Attorney: Officer Justified in Using Deadly Force in Willimantic


The state's attorney has determined that a Willimantic police officer was justified in using force when he shot and a hatchet-wielding man in March.

Police responded to an apartment building at Main and Clark streets just before 8 p.m. on March 12 after someone reported that a man was acting in a threatening manner outside the building, according to state police.

When officers arrived, they knocked on Daniel Johnston's apartment door and he said, "no one lives here but the cockroaches," and "if you want me, come and get me, the door is open."

Police entered the unit and did not immediately see Johnston, 58.

Then they saw him, partially concealed, holding what police believed was an axe.

Johnson then began to charge toward police, according to the state's attorney.

"Police. Drop the knife," they ordered, according to the report released today. Johnston did not, according to authorities.

One Willimantic officer used a stun gun and the other, Aaron Braia, shot his service weapon, according to state police.

The first two round hit Johnston in the chest, according to authorities, and Johnston continued to come toward Brais. The officer fired another shot and Johnston dropped to the ground, according to the state's attorney.

Emergency crews brought Johnston to Windham Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:14 p.m. The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds, according to the medical examiner.

Toxicology screenings did not reveal alcohol or drugs in Johnston's system, according to authorities.

"Officer Brais reasonably feared that the man could swing or throw the axe at him or another officer. Because of the limited size of the balcony, Officer Brais had few, if any, options. There was no escape path; the man refused to obey repeated commands to drop the weapon. The man continued advancing upon the officer with the axe poised and ready to strike," the report from State's Attorney Patricia Froehlich says.

The loss of life, particularly in a violent manner, is tragic," Froehlich wrote and extended her condolences to the family and friends of Daniel Johnston.



Brothers Travel to Childhood Vacation Spots to Recreate Photos


Two brothers from Romania surprised their mother with a birthday present that puts your gift card to shame.

Toma and Paul Alexandru traveled around Romania to recreate childhood vacation photos taken nearly 20 years ago as a gift to their mother for her 55th birthday. The recreations are a near-mirror image of the old photos, right down to the facial expressions and poses. Even the clothing looked similar, but Toma Alexandru told the "Today" show that they were not able to match everything perfectly.

The old and new photos were laid side-by-side and presented to their mother in a photo album.

Their Mom was moved to tears, Alexandru said. Knowing she would get emotional, they included a box of tissue along with the gift.

The brothers' photos are part of a popular trend on the Internet, where adults recreate awkward childhood photos and post them next to each other, making for some funny and sometimes cringe-worthy moments. 

Click through the gallery above to see more of their photos.

Photo Credit: Toma Alexandru

Holiday Gifts for Troops Overseas


It is a holiday effort unlike any other.

Since September, the Connecticut “Dream Team Moms” organization has been cutting, sewing and designing holiday pillow cases and stockings for troops serving overseas.

"This year we have 372 stockings and 272 pillow cases,” said Sharon Betz of Connecticut Dream Team Moms.

Each pillow case and stocking has a unique design with a special note that reads:

“To our brave men and women in the armed forces ... a handmade gift to show our appreciation for all that you do. When you put your head down to rest please know you are in our hearts and prayers."

Betz said for her, the effort is personal. Her husband is a veteran of the Navy.

"He said anything that is sent to them, makes them feel like people are thinking about them and it is very special to them,” said Betz.

The Milford Police Department is a collection point for the “Give2TheTroops” organization and has partnered with the Dream Team Moms. The officers at the department said the stockings help encourage the troops.

"They're getting items that they need, but more importantly, they are getting support from people here,” said Officer Jeff Nielsen.

"This is like just a small gift to let them know were thinking of them,” said Betz.

For more information on the Give2TheTroops organization, visit www.Give2TheTroops.org.

US Mum on Grandpa Stuck in N. Korea


The U.S. State Department didn't reveal much of anything on Thursday in the wake of reports that North Korean officials had detained an 85-year-old California veteran of the Korean War last month.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a wide-ranging news conference in Washington, D.C., that she "wouldn't dispute" reports that Merrill Newman was being held in North Korea, but she wouldn't confirm it either.

"I just don't have any more specifics on it," Psaki told reporters.

Earlier Thursday, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell had asked Secretary of State John Kerry about the reports Newman had been detained, but he did not address Newman's reported detention specifically.

"They have other people, too," Kerry said. "These are all very, very disturbing choices by the North Koreans."

Newman's son, Jeffrey Newman of Pasadena, told the Associated Press that on Oct. 26 his father had been set to return to California when a uniformed North Korean officer boarded the plane he was on and asked for his passport. Jeffrey Newman said his father, who lives in a Palo Alto assisted living facility called the Channing House and was traveling as a tourist, was then told by a flight attendant that he had to leave the plane.
"My dad got off, walked out with the stewardess, and that's the last he was seen,'' Jeffrey Newman said.

It wasn't clear what led to the detention, which the Mercury News first reported on Wednesday. 

Newman taught high school in Berkeley and Livermore, and had been to Korea as an infantry officer during the Korean War, the newspaper reported.

“There are parts of this that are, even by North Korean standards, out of the ordinary,” said Dan Sneider, associate director for research at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford, told NBC Bay Area.

That North Korea has yet to formally admit holding Newman is "very unusual," according to Sneider. It may indicate that the North Koreans "don't know what to do with him yet," he said.

Sneider said North Korea might hope to use Newman to get something from the United States, as in 2009, when former president Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang to secure the release of two American journalists.

Newman's son told the Associated Press that he was speaking regularly with the U.S. State Department about his father, but U.S. officials wouldn't confirm the detention to reporters, including NBC Bay Area, citing privacy issues.

The son said that, according to his father's traveling companion, Newman earlier had a "difficult'' discussion with North Korean officials about his experiences during the 1950-53 war between U.S.-led United Nations forces and North Korea and ally China.

That war ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically at war. The war is still an important part of North Korean propaganda, which regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of trying to bring down its political system - statements analysts believe are aimed in part at shoring up domestic support for young leader Kim Jong Un.
The detention comes about a year after North Korea detained another American and as the U.S. State Department warns in a formal notice that Americans should avoid travel to the country, in part because of the risk of arbitrary arrest and detention.
North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009, often for alleged missionary work, but it is unusual for a tourist to be arrested. The North's secretive, authoritarian government is sensitive about foreign travelers, and tourists are closely monitored. Analysts say it has used detained Americans as diplomatic pawns in a long-running standoff with the United States over the North's nuclear bomb production, something it denies.
Speaking Thursday to reporters in Beijing, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies wouldn't confirm Newman's detention but said, generally, that Washington was working with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which acts as America's protecting power because Washington and Pyongyang don't have official diplomatic relations, ``to try to move this issue along and of course calling on North Korea ...  to resolve the issue and to allow our citizens to go free.''
Merrill Newman was traveling with his friend, Bob Hamrdla, who was allowed to return. Hamrdla said in a statement that "there has to be a terrible misunderstanding'' and asked for Newman to be quickly returned to his family.
Jeffrey Newman said his father always wanted to visit North Korea and took lessons in the language before leaving on the nine-day trip. Newman said he believed the inspiration came from the three years his father spent as an infantry officer in the Korean War, but said his father never talked about his service. The son added that the Swedish ambassador had delivered his father's heart medication to the North Korean Foreign Affairs Ministry, but it was unclear whether he had received it.
Despite some recent nuclear diplomacy, tensions remain on the Korean Peninsula after a spring that saw threats from North Korea of nuclear strikes against Washington and Seoul. International disarmament talks are currently deadlocked, with North Korea demanding status as an atomic power and Washington refusing to resume the talks until the North makes progress on past disarmament commitments. The North is estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear devices and has conducted three underground atomic tests.
Davies, the U.S. envoy, told reporters that the holding of American citizens by North Korea is a further indication of its lack of sincerity on restarting a dialogue on nuclear issues.

Jeffrey Newman said he believed North Korea would eventually release his father after realizing that all they have is an "elderly traveler, a grandfather with a heart condition.'' 
"We don't know what this misunderstanding is all about,'' he said. ""All we want as a family is to have my father, my kids' grandfather, returned to California so he can be with his family for Thanksgiving.''


 NBC Bay Area's Kris Sanchez, and the Associated Press' Foster Klug, Robert Jablon, Channing Joseph and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this story.

Photo Credit: Channing House

Employee Injured in Accident at Hamden Town Fair Tire


An employee of the Town Fair Tire in Hamden was injured this afternoon when he got his leg stuck between a wall and forklift. 

According to the fire chief Doug Jackson, the employee was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries that are not life-threatening. 

The scene has since been cleared.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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