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Meredith Vieira Takes New England Roots to New Talk Show


A walk around Meredith Vieira’s studio for her new daytime talk show feels more like a walk around her living room.

The set is filled with drawings from her children, mementos from her past and a chair she brought from home.

It comes with the sort of comfort Vieira wants her audience to feel while watching “The Meredith Vieira Show.”

“We have two cats, Felipe and Sweet Pea, that have gone to town on this chair,” Vieira says while pointing to a rip. “I wanted the audience to see this is the way I live because a lot of people live like that and it's OK.”

It highlights the authenticity featured on her new show, which premieres Sept. 8. NBC Connecticut reporter Abbey Niezgoda sat down with Vieira to talk about what else is in store.

“You can expect a lot of humor because I’m a little bit of a goofball,” Vieira said.

The show features a live band and segments like “Stall Talk,” in which she takes daytime television into the bathroom. She promises it's not bathroom humor.

“The premise is that I will go anywhere to get the story or an interview, so we put a celebrity in one stall and I’m in the other and we see what happens.”

No matter the result, Vieira says the focus will be on telling real stories about real people, using the same interview skills she used while hosting the "Today" show.

Her career has spanned almost 40 years and she says the key is being true to her roots.

For Vieira, those roots are in New England, having started as reporter in Rhode Island. Her husband grew up in Connecticut.

“We used to go back all the time,” Vieira said. “West Hartford is beautiful. I’ve lived in New York for a long time, but I’m a New Englander.”

Vieira admitted she still gets nervous as the daytime premiere draws near, but she says i'ts how she knows the timing is right.

“The few times I’ve done a show and not been nervous, it doesn’t work,” she said. “But it feels good. It feels like home.”

"The Meredith Vieira Show" debuts Monday, Sept. 8 and airs weekdays at 2 p.m. on NBC Connecticut.

Photo Credit: The Meredith Vieira Show

Malloy Aims to Reduce Standardized Testing for 11th Graders


Gov. Dannel Malloy is taking steps to reduce standardized testing for eleventh graders, who he says are overloaded with exams.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, Malloy asked officials to consider cutting back on the number of “high-stakes exams” administered to high school juniors.

“I am eager to explore solutions for the students who may be our most over-tested: our eleventh graders,” Malloy wrote in the letter on Sept. 5, citing college placement exams, Advanced Placement exams, SAT subject matter tests and school-administered final exams.

Juniors, along with students in grades 3 through 8, are also required to take end-of-year federal accountability exams.

“Tests are essential tools that teachers and principals use to inform important decisions around a student learning and instruction. However, tests have the potential to sometimes be duplicative or outdated,” Malloy said in a statement. “We must adapt with the changing times, and this approach will allow us to do that.”

He suggested that college placement exams may be able to satisfy federal requirements, and is assembling a working group to explore options alongside the U.S. Department of Education.

Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor have also announced a new grant to help eliminate outdated tests and improve the quality of other assessments, “including the tailoring and personalization of assessments to student needs,” according to a news release from Malloy’s office.

Applications will be available to school districts within the next month. The governor’s office said the state plans to award up to $500,000.

Last year, eight school systems participated in a pilot to help identify areas where testing can be reduced, a program available to all districts this school year.

“Our goal is to help districts to determine whether they can reduce time devoted to testing and provide more room for instruction in the classroom,” Pryor said in a statement Friday. “We are pleased to support local leaders and teachers in this important work and we are optimistic that by eliminating tests that are outdated or unnecessary, more time can be freed up for teaching and learning in our schools.”

The Connecticut Education Association, which represents 43,000 Connecticut teachers, applauded the governor’s efforts.

“We are extremely pleased, as are the teachers across the state, that this Governor has taken this step to notify the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that Connecticut will not be part of this continuing corporate push for more standardized testing of our students. Governor Malloy has recognized that student learning and instruction should be at the heart of our public school education system and not test results,” CEA officials said in a statement.

Meet Chuck Todd of Meet the Press


Chuck Todd makes his debut as moderator of "Meet the Press" on Sunday, and has landed President Barack Obama as his first guest. On Friday, Todd took to Reddit to introduce himself.

The Miami native, who attended George Washington University, was previously NBC’s chief White House correspondent and political director. Despite his years in Washington, the sports lover remains committed to teams outside D.C.; he has been a fan of the Miami Hurricanes and the Green Bay Packers since birth.

Here, from his Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” are five things we learned about the famed political junkie.

When will he shave his facial hair?

Don’t hold your breath — even if, as suggested, it would improve his ratings. When he looks in the mirror, he sees his late father, he says. Shaving his beard would be like getting rid of that piece of his father that he carries with him

Who is one person, now dead, that he would have loved to have interviewed?

Richard Nixon, because it would have been a challenge

How does he see his role as a reporter and moderator?

His job is to push back against bloviation and talking points by being grounded in facts, and to get to the nut of the debate.

How does he feel about his name?

He hates having two one syllable names, and has given both of his children multiple-syllable first names. “I’ve been ‘ChuckTodd’ with every coach and teacher during my childhood,” he wrote on Reddit.

Does he ever get nervous interviewing high profile guests?

He's always a tad nervous. "Any moment can be a career ender," he wrote.

What did he think about the University of Louisville’s football win over Miami on Monday?

His late father-in-law was a star quarterback at Louisville, so criticism of Louisville is off-limits in his house. He’s not upset about Louisville, he says, but about the University of Miami being unprepared.
“It’s time for the ‘State of Miami’ to return, meaning that the best players in the best high school football factories in the country go to Miami,” he wrote.

Waterbury Murder Suspect Arrested in Seymour


Seymour police have arrested a 29-year-old man wanted for murder in Waterbury, according to Deputy Chief Paul Satkowski.

Keyshon Zimmerman, of Ansonia, was wanted on several charges in Waterbury. Derby police spotted him on Roosevelt Drive and notified Seymour police that he was heading into town, Satkowski said.

Seymour police stopped Zimmerman when he hit traffic on Davis Street and took him into custody around 11 a.m. Friday, according to Satkowski.

The Republican American reports that Zimmerman was charged in a July 27 shooting and may be connected to the shooting death of a 49-year-old man on Monday.

Zimmerman was turned over to Waterbury police.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com

Fairfield University Student Reports Sexual Assault


Police are investigating after an 18-year-old Fairfield University student said she was sexually assaulted and may have been drugged at a party Friday night, according to Fairfield police spokesperson Lt. James Perez.

The alleged victim told police a male student she met at a party forced her to perform oral sex on her. She said she had not been drinking or using drugs but felt lethargic and described a tingling feeling in her arms and legs, according to police.

Police said the female student was treated at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport.

The male student told police the two had met at a party and “hooked up” in his dorm room.

“At Fairfield University the safety of our students and the entire campus community is our highest priority. Because this is an ongoing investigation we cannot comment further,” said university spokesperson Martha Milcarek.

Fairfield police and Fairfield University Public Safety are investigating.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Tanker Crash Causes Delays on I-91 North


Traffic is backed up on Interstate 91 northbound hours after a septic tanker crashed near exit 19 in Meriden, according to police.

Police said the scene has been cleared but traffic is still delayed.

No additional information was immediately available.

Rare White Lobster Snagged off Maine Coast


It was a very rare find off the coast of Maine as two white colored lobsters were caught in traps this week.

Both were caught off the coast of Rockland. If they are true white lobsters it would be the rarest color of all, a one in 100 million chance. The odds of being struck by lightning are one in 700,000.

Many lobstermen go their entire careers without seeing one which is why Joe Bates was so surprised when he pulled one up in his trap.

"When the trap broke the water it stuck right out and I was really surprised and a little bit excited just to see it," Bates said.

Now, a lobster expert at the University of Maine, says he isn't convinced they are in fact true white lobsters because they do show some pigment.

Officials Approve Funding to Minimize Tuition Hikes


The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education has unanimously approved an increase in state funding that they say will minimize tuition hikes at state universities and community colleges.

“Our focus is to keep this at 2 percent and our focus is to continue to improve the student experience in our colleges and universities,” said Michael Kolowski, director of public affairs and marketing for the state Board of Regents.

According to Kolowski, the need stems from a decline in enrollment. The board anticipates about a 2 percent drop in the next fiscal year.

“The other challenge is that last year, when we were doing the education budget, we were using funds that were no longer there,” said Rep. Roberta Willis.

With that in mind, Rep. Willis says the shortfall is not a surprise, but that doesn't make it any less of a challenge.

“The problem to finding more money to fund education, which has been cut several times over several years, is that we are looking at a state budget deficit,” said Rep. Willis.

With the approval from the Board of Regents, the recommendation now moves to the Office of Policy and Management for review.

The following state universities are affected by the tuition hike:


These community colleges are also affected:

Naugatuck Valley
Northwestern CT
Three Rivers

Crews Respond to Westbrook Fire


Police and firefighters are responding to a home at the corner of McVeagh Road and Pond Meadow Road in Westbrook after flames broke out Friday evening.

No additional information was immediately available.

Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: Monica Garske

School Bus Driver Hospitalized, Issued Infraction After Crash


A school bus driver was taken to the hospital Friday afternoon after her bus collided with another vehicle in Orange while driving students home from middle school, according to police.

Police said the bus, which was carrying students from Carrigan Middle School in West Haven, struck a car that was stopped and waiting to turn at the intersection of Boston Post Road and Smith Farms Road in Orange around 2:45 p.m.

The driver, 52-year-old Sandra Carmena, was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries. She was issued an infraction for following too close.

Police said no students were injured. The other driver was not hurt.

Hazing a Factor in Student's Death


Cal State Northridge said Friday an internal investigation determined hazing was involved in the death of a college freshman who passed out in the Angeles National Forest during a hike with other fraternity pledges in July.

CSUN President Dianne Harrison said the fraternity involved has surrendered its CSUN chapter and individual student culpability will be determined at the conclusion of the criminal investigation into the death of Armando Villa.

Villa, 19, a pledge to the Zeta Mu Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi, lost consciousness July 1 in the Angeles National Forest after the group he was with ran out of water. Other pledges were able to track down a ranger for help, but Villa was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

"The report’s findings are deeply disturbing, and I will not turn a blind eye to any reports of hazing. Hazing is stupid, senseless, dangerous and against the law in California. It is a vestige of a toxic way of thinking in which it was somehow okay to degrade, humiliate and potentially harm others. It has no place on this or any university campus, in any student club or organization, and it will not be tolerated," Harrison said in a statement.

Harrison said the 18-mile hike was poorly planned, without enough water. The pledges were blindfolded and their phones and shoes were taken from them.

Family members believe Villa’s death was the result of a hazing ritual. They were asking for students who were there that day to come forward.

“There’s just a lot of things that don’t add up and what they’re telling us, it’s not enough. They know a lot more than they’re telling us,” says Jose Serrato, Villa’s stepfather, told NBC4 last month.

His mother and stepfather said they found a note in Villa's phone after his death talking about hazing and his desire to stop it. Villa's family was present for Harrison's announcement Friday.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is conducting its own investigation.

The results of that investigation have not been released.

New guidelines for fraternities and sororities were also set in place Aug. 19, with university officials saying campus groups would be required to submit recruitment plans to the school in advance.

Photo Credit: Villa Family

Parents, School Bus Driver Fight


There was a police presence at a Worcester, Massachusetts, bus stop Friday afternoon following a fight between parents and a school bus driver caught on cell phone video Wednesday.

"I was on the porch hearing 'Help us, we cant to get off the bus,'" neighbor Gean Pizio said.

The video appears to show the confrontation between parents and a Worcester Public School bus driver.

"Kids were trying to get off the bus, and parents were trying to grab their kids. She shut the door on them. We're trying to talk to our kids. She rolled the windows up on the kids, wouldn't let them off the bus," a woman named Shannon said.

"For the most part, I think the parents were just getting very impatient because the children were yelling, 'We're hot, we can't breathe,'" one woman said.

One parent posted a video on Facebook of parents and children upset. Some parents say children were stuck on the bus for more 20 minutes.

School safety liaison Rob Pazzella says the bus driver was following school safety procedures, which he said may have created some confusion among parents. He said one woman came onto the bus and took her two children off.

"From there, the bus driver became very concerned because it ultimately, it is her responsibility to make sure nobody is grabbing children," Pazzella sid. "She decided to shut the door to regroup and to make sure that it was calm amongst all the parents and students."

Pazzella says the door and windows were shut for safety reasons and to make sure children were not leaving on their own.

"She was doing the right thing to make sure that none of these children were going to be let out to somebody not authorized to pick up the child," he said.

According to Pazzella, parents pried open the doors, one window pane was kicked in, and a 16-year-old sibling of a child allegedly assaulted the bus driver. Worcester Police are investigating.

"Any type of future possible situations going on, we will, along with the police, ask them, after they fully investigate this bus incident, from seeing the video of the bus, that we prosecute more people possibly," Pazzella said.

Police say in a press release the 16 year old will be summoned to court, they say the bus driver told them she punched her in the face.  

Masked Men Rob Store at Gunpoint, Kick Worker: Video


Police are searching for three masked men who robbed a Bridgeport convenience store at gunpoint last month, one of whom was caught on camera kicking an employee in the head.

Surveillance video shows three men wearing dark-colored sweatshirts and white surgical masks burst into the store at 384 Brooks Street around 11:30 p.m. Aug. 18.

Two of the suspects draw guns and survey the front of the store. The men then go around back to where three employees are seen standing and talking.

The suspects point guns at the workers and push two to the ground while the third is brought out of the room. The suspect with that employee later returns with the cash register drawer, surveillance footage shows.

In the meantime, the other two suspects rummage through the employees’ pockets, taking their personal belongings. One suspect kicks a worker’s head while he’s down on the ground, according to the video.

The men take the items and leave.

Police are working to identify the suspects.

Surveillance video shows the first suspect wearing a black sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head, a surgical mask, white-brimmed baseball cap, gray-colored jeans and dark gloves.

The second suspect is seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with white stripes on the shoulders, a white surgical mask, light-gray pants and orange shoes. He was brandishing a gun.

The third suspect was wearing a dark gray zip-up hooded sweatshirt, gray sweatpants, black shoes and white gloves. He was also carrying a gun, according to the video.

Anyone with information about the robbery or the suspects’ identities is urged to call Bridgeport police.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police Department

88-Year-Old Missing From Watertown


Police are searching for 88-year-old Richard O. Clark, who went missing from Watertown on Friday.

Clark is described as a white man with gray hair and blue eyes. Police said he stands 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs 150 pounds and has a prosthetic left leg.

He wears glasses and suspenders and uses a walker or cane, according to police.

Clark was last seen driving a relative's gray 2000 Chevrolet Impala with Connecticut plates 524-YGL.

Police said the car's rear window contains white writing reading, "RIP NADM 6-4-13" surrounded by a cross.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is urged to call Watertown police at 860-945-5200.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

More than 900 Without Power in Hartford


More than 900 homes are without power in Hartford due to an equipment issue, according to Connecticut Light & Power.

Crews are at the scene working to make repairs. CL&P said power should be restored within the next few hours.

A spokesperson for CL&P couldn't provide details on the location of the outage.

No additional information was immediately available.

State Police Cruiser Involved in Crash on I-91 in Hartford


Authorities are investigating after a state police cruiser was involved in a crash on Interstate 91 northbound near exit 33 in Hartford.

State police said no one was injured in the crash.

Police sources familiar with the investigation said a suspect has been taken into custody.

According to the Department of Transportation, two lanes of the highway are blocked off between exit 33 and exit 32a. Traffic is delayed in the area.

Hartford police are assisting state police in the investigation.

No additional information was immediately available.

A state police trooper was struck in the same area last month


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Wife of Tolland DPW Director Accused of Stealing From Town


Police have arrested a woman accused of defrauding the town of Tolland, and The Hartford Courant reports she and her husband, the Tolland director of public works, were the subject of an audit launched in January.

Lori Langlois, 44, of Buffcap Road in Tolland, was arrested Friday and charged with two counts of first-degree larceny, two counts of second-degree larceny and one count of second-degree forgery, according to police.

The charges come after “an extensive investigation” with “numerous witness statements being obtained, evidence seized and financial documents being examined,” police said.

According to The Hartford Courant, the Tolland Department of Public Works launched an investigation into “alleged improper payments” to a local tree-cutting company hired by the town, for which Lori Langlois worked as a bookkeeper.

Her husband, Clement Langlois, is the director of the Department of Public Works, according to Town Manager Steve Werbner.

The business owner accused Lori Langlois of preparing false invoices, The Courant reports. The audit did not find “credible evidence” of wrongdoing on the part of Clement Langlois.

It’s not clear how Lori Langlois had access to town funds or how much money she allegedly stole.

She posted $7,500 bond and is due in court Sept. 15.

Detectives continue to investigate "to see if additional arrests are warranted," according to police.

Anyone with information is urged to call Tolland police at 860-896-3233.

Information on an attorney for Lori Langlois was not immediately available.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Suspect in Cab Driver Murder Stole From Stop & Shop: Police


The man charged with the murder of a cab driver in Stamford last week is also accused of stealing from a local grocery store, according to police.

Shota Mekoshvili, 29, has been charged with the murder of Mohammed Kamal, who was found stabbed to death outside a taxi in Stamford last week.

Kamal, a 47-year-old husband and father, was stabbed at least 15 times, according to police.

Mekoshvili, who is a Georgian Republic National Citizen who is staying in the United States on a visa, was arrested that night.

Police charged Mekoshvili with robbery on Friday after releasing surveillance photos from Stop & Shop in March that detectives say clearly show him as the suspect.

"It was when we arrested him for our murder case that an officer working this realized it was the same party," Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin told News 12 Connecticut.

Court records show Mekoshvili was also arrested in Stamford on Aug. 5 and charged with sixth-degree larceny. He was released from custody in that case.

Police notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials of Mekoshvili's murder arrest, and ICE is looking into his immigration status.

Authorities said there seems to be some prior relationship between Kamal and Mekoshvili, but police do not know to what extent.

Mekoshvili is due back in court Sept. 16, according to News 12 Connecticut.

Mass. Man Supporting ISIS?


A man on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list has a Massachusetts connection, and may be supporting ISIS.

According to The Boston Globe, Ahmad Abousamra of Stoughton is believed to be living in Syria, and using social media to support the terrorist group.

He attended schools in the Boston area, and faces terrorism charges in federal court in Boston.

A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Abousamra's capture.

President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the United States will not be intimidated by Islamic State militants after the beheading of a second American.

The president's comments came after the United States verified the authenticity of a video released showing the beheading of freelance reporter Steven Sotloff, two weeks after James Foley was similarly killed. 

Photo Credit: NECN

Community Gathers to Remember West Haven Teen


Hundreds turned out to remember a West Haven teenager who drowned on Labor Day.

That huge group gathered Friday night at Bradley Point in West Haven. It's the same spot where 16 year old Alejandro Zitlalpopoca died on Monday.

Close friends found comfort in each other's arms as they remembered Alejandro or, Alex Z.

"He felt that his reason for living was for his daughter," said Noel Jimenez, a close friend.

He says Alejandro wanted to be a good son, someone who was respectful of his faith and an even better runner. Alex Z's goal for senior year was to beat the West Haven High School mile record.

"And I know he could've done it because whenever he wants to accomplish his goals he does it," Jimenez added.

Through song and prayer, students and family members tried to make sense of the tragic passing of Zitlalpopoca

"I've watched him grow up to be this great kid. He came in scared. Timid, shy. He didn't speak a word of English," said Dr. Wendy Charbonneau, the world language department chair at West Haven High School.

She taught him English after he came here from Mexico. She saw him last Friday when she spoke with him about his expectations for senior year including graduation.

"It was great to see that face and it's just really hard for us right now with his friends to know that that was the last time that I will have seen that smile," Dr. Charbonneau added.

It's a smile, toughness and dedication his track coaches admired.

"He's just someone you love. Great personality. Just someone you cared about," said Modestine Vaughn, the indoor track coach at West Haven High School

Another track coach, Ryan Knight, said "He's a little person but you couldn't beat him down in practice. He would always look up to you and say, do you have anything else for me."

Alejandro's death was ruled accidental. Investigators said he took on too much water when he was out for a day of swimming with his family on Labor Day.

"He really gave 100% to everything including fatherhood and so we're very sad to lose a member of our senior class," said Pamela Gardner, principal at West Haven High School.

It's a class that turned out Friday by the hundreds to honor Alex Z's legacy who had a smile you'd never forget

"It just had such hope and dreams for him and I'll carry that with me forever," Dr. Charbonneau said.

The school is raising money to cover his funeral costs as well as to help with expenses as it relates to his 7 month old daughter. A funeral service will be locally in West Haven at the St. Louis Church to honor him.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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