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Rev. Jesse Jackson Proud of Son For Coming Clean


Rev. Jesse Jackson is standing by his son.

A day after former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. admitted in federal court to spending $750,000 of campaign funds for personal use, Rev. Jackson told MSNBC he's proud of the ex-congressman for accepting responsibility.

"I was so proud of him being forthright and truthful," Jackson said, "accepting responsibility for his actions and willing to accept the consequences of those actions. That is the dignity he embraces, and I support him in those efforts."

He described his son's struggle with bipolar disorder as a "long ordeal" and said hearing guilty pleas from his son and daughter-in-law made for "a very sad day."

Jesse Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements. His wife, Sandi Jackson, pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to claim about $600,000 on her income tax returns between 2005 and 2011.

Prosecutors said the couple's expenditures ran the gamut from a $4,000 cruise and $16,058.91 in gym expenses to a $4,000 Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar and $14,513.42 in dry cleaning expenses.

Rev. Jackson said his son is still dealing with the effects of bipolar disorder and admitted his supporters and family missed the signs.

"We missed that. He kept serving his constituency well in Congress and kept relating to his family  very well," he said.

Jesse Jackson Jr. and Sandi Jackson are scheduled to be sentenced this summer. They could receive up to five years and three years, respectively, for the admitted misconduct.

Flower Show Makes It Feel Like Spring


With all the snow left on the ground from the Blizzard of 2013, and more in the forecast, spring might seem like a lifetime away.

Until then, the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show is coming to Hartford’s Connecticut Convention Center from Thursday, Feb. 21 to Sunday, Feb. 24 and you can get a glimpse of the upcoming season.

The theme is “Love in Bloom,” and you can view more than 20 gardens, hundreds of displays and activities, and aisles of fresh flowers, plants, garden ornaments, herbs, bulbs, seeds, fertilizers, soils, gardening books, patio furniture and other lawn equipment.

The event will also include floral and garden arts and crafts, hours of seminars by horticulturists and experts and the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s 2013 Advanced Standard Flower Show.

If you attend, you can bring half a cup of soil to the UConn Coop booth for free soil testing.

Tickets are $16 for adults. Admission if $4 for children, ages 5 through 12; and free for children under the age of 5.

The event is cash only.

Tickets are $14 for seniors on Thursday and Friday only.

For more information, visit the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show website.

The Connecticut Convention Center is located at 100 Columbus Blvd.

Texas Megachurch: Tebow Canceled to "Avoid Controversy"


New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has canceled a scheduled appearance at a Dallas megachurch whose pastor has drawn fire for his comments about homosexuality and other religious faiths.

Tebow was to speak twice on April 28 at First Baptist Dallas, the 11,000-strong congregation in Downtown Dallas led by the controversial Rev. Dr. Robert Jeffress.

Jeffress has ignited controversy in the past for calling Mormonism a "cult," Catholicism "the genius of Satan," Islam "heresy from the pit of hell" and homosexuality "a degradation of a person’s mind."

Tebow was one of a number of guest speakers scheuled in April to help First Dallas Baptist celebrate the grand opening of its new downtown campus.

Tebow tweeted his regret Thursday morning.

"While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ's unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!"

The quarterback didn't elaborate on what the "new information" was that caused him to change his mind. 

First Dallas released the following statement on Tebow's cancellation Thursday morning:

The leaders and congregation of First Baptist Church Dallas are disappointed that New York Jets’ Quarterback Tim Tebow has announced he will no longer speak at First Baptist Church Dallas on April 28, 2013, as part of the month-long celebration events surrounding the grand opening of our new $130 million, state-of-the-art campus on Easter Sunday.

Mr. Tebow called Dr. Jeffress Wednesday evening saying that for personal and professional reasons he needed to avoid controversy at this time but would like to come to First Baptist Dallas to speak at a future date. We are saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment from numerous New York and national sports and news media who grossly misrepresented past comments made by our pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, specifically related to issues of homosexuality and AIDS, as well as Judaism.

As a Christian pastor, Dr. Jeffress takes a biblical approach to moral and social issues, closely following his duty to preach ‘the whole counsel of God,’ and not just address issues that are politically correct. First Baptist is a church built on the truth of Scripture, even though at times that approach can be perceived as controversial or counter to the prevailing winds of culture.

The reason for the recent media firestorm is not because the Word of God has changed, but because society has changed. More important, contrary to editorializing in the media, Dr. Jeffress shares a message of hope, not hate; salvation, not judgment; and a Gospel of God’s love, grace and new beginnings available to all.

Whatever Tebow's motivation for the schedule change, it's likely not stagefright. Tebow, who is well known for his strong religous beliefts, is no stranger to speaking at churches and just last Easter spoke to approximately 20,000 people at Celebration Church near Austin.

Photo Credit: AP

Biden Speaks at Gun Violence Conference


Vice President Joe Biden made a trip to Danbury today to speak at a conference on gun violence that Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty hosted at Western Connecticut State University.

“There is a moral price to be paid for inaction,” Vice President Biden said during an impassioned keynote speech.

Biden said assault weapons are not needed.

"No law-abiding citizen in the United States of America has any fear that their Constitutional rights will be infringed in any way," Biden said.

Assault weapons are dangerous and put law enforcement at risk and there are plenty of ways for Americans to protect themselves and recreate.

"We can't remain silent. We have to speak for all those voices. We have to speak for those 20 beautiful children who died 69 days ago 12 miles from here," the vice president said. "They can't speak for themselves. We have to speak for the voice of those six adults who died trying to save the children in their care that day who can't speak for themselves."

One thousand nine hundred people have died from gun violence since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, a tragic event that prompted a recent debate over gun control, Biden said.

Biden said that America has changed on this issue. There will be a lot of voices in the debate, but the loudest voices will be for the people who lost their voice. 

"We have an obligation to act,"  Biden said.

The forum began at 9 a.m. and discussions have focused on expanding criminal background checks and requiring them for ammunition sales and getting high-capacity magazines or as one speaker described them, “war weapons” off the streets.

There’s also discussion of changes in mental health services and initiatives.

The parents of Grace McDonnell, a 7-year-old girl killed in the school shooting, are attending and received a standing ovation.

“We ask that our representatives remember 26 beautiful lives we lost and pass meaningful laws. I owe it to my daughter Grace,” Lynn McDonnell said.

Biden said during his address that universal background checks are a necessity. He also called on limited high-capacity magazines

"It makes a difference," Biden said.

The vice president also said a federal gun trafficking law is needed, as well as more police on the streets.

Gov. Dannel Malloy also made a big announce about his own proposals at the forum.

Biden said he and Malloy have been meeting frequently since the shooting praised the governor during the event for his response to the tragedy.

"Would it be that every governor in the country acted as swiftly, decisively and as courageously as you have," Biden said.

However, there are opponents to the plan.

"Governor Malloy is undermining the Bipartisan efforts that have been exhaustive thus far in its efforts to obtain a complete look at the bigger picture of what happened in Sandy Hook. The findings of the task force and it's recommendations are being shoved aside. This points to the Governor's overzealous attempts to impose gun control without thought to the groundwork that has already been laid by the Task Force," the Connecticut Citizens Defense League said in a statement. 


Photo Credit: AP

Ex-Cop Drew Peterson Gets 38 Years For Wife's Death


Former Illinois police sergeant Drew Peterson was sentenced Thursday to 38 years in prison for the 2004 drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

The ruling came just a couple hours after Judge Edward Burmila denied a motion by defense attorneys to give the former cop a new trial and essentially means Peterson, 59, will spend the rest of his life in custody.

"I pray that during the last minutes of his life, he is able to clearly see her and she is watching his descension into hell," Savio's brother, Henry, told the judge.

Peterson was found guilty in September of murdering Savio. He is also a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but has not been charged in that case.

His attorneys vowed to wage an appeal.

"We all have some very viable issues. We're putting our big boy pants on, we're going to go with these issues, and we're going to be back here. We're confident of that,' said attorney John Heiderscheidt.

In reading his statement prior to being sentenced, Peterson told the court he was forced to sit silent during his entire trial. He then screamed into a courtroom microphone: "I did not kill Kathleen."

He took issue with a law passed by the Illinois General Assembly in in July 2009 that allowed hearsay to be admitted as evidence in cases where prosecutors believe the victim was killed specifically to prevent them from testifying. The law was dubbed the "Drew Peterson Law."

"Hearsay is a scary thing," Peterson told the court. "It requires no proof of truth. Anything can be said and no one is accountable."

He said the statements made against him were from "women trying to better position themselves in a divorce. ... Everybody lies in a divorce."

In two days of testimony, Peterson's current legal team argued for a new trial alleging the former lead attorney, Joel Brodsky, botched the first trial by calling divorce attorney Harry Smith to the stand.

Smith testified that Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, told him her husband killed Savio and that he warned Stacy she had to tell someone. Several jurors said that bombshell testimony led them to convict Peterson.

During the sentencing hearing Savio's sister, Anna Marie Savio-Doman, asked the judge to give her sister "justice, once and for all." 

"One of the hardest things for me is knowing the pain and fear that Kathleen must have suffered at the time of her murder," Doman said. "The horror and betrayal she must have felt when she realized that someone she had trusted and loved more than anything was actually killing her. "

Henry Savio said Peterson terrorized his sister, brutalized her and drowned her.

"I will be mending my family, including my family's relationship with Kitty's children, while he is rotting in jail for the rest of his life," he said. "While he is in jail, I hope that Kitty is what he sees every night before he sleeps and I hope that she is haunting him in his dreams."

"He took Kathleen's future and now she has taken his."

Full Coverage: Drew Peterson

NBC Chicago's Kim Vatis, Lauren Jiggetts, Lauren Petty, Courtney Copenhagen, Lisa Balde and BJ Lutz contributed to this reported. Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Photo Credit: Tom Gianni

Police Cancel Alert for Hartford Teen


Hartford Police have canceled a Silver Alert for a 15-year-old girl reported missing.

Until the alert was canceled on Thursday morning, Lizandra Badrillo’s friends last saw her at the RJ Kinsella Magnet School for Performing Arts, at 65 Van Block Ave. in Hartford, on Wednesday.

Police said she was found safely in Hartford.

Police said Lizandra's father went to pick her up after school and could not find her. 

Her closest friends said she has been distraught as of late, according to police. 

Lizandra does not take medication and police do not have reports of her being a habitual runaway. 

She was wearing khaki pants, a baby blue T-shirt, a bright orange jacket with a fur hood, white shoes and glasses.

Lizandra is 5-feet-2, weighs and 145 pounds, according to police.

Her hair and eyes are brown.

No additional information has been released.

Bill Would Allow Advocate to Speak for Animals in Court


A Connecticut legislator has proposed a bill that would allow the appointment of an advocate to act on behalf of an animal during court proceedings.

Rep. Diana Urban proposed the bill, known as HB 6310 "An Act Concerning Animal Advocates in Court Proceedings." It would permit a veterinarian with the Department of Agriculture to be appointed as an advocate for an animal whose welfare or custody is the subject of a civil or criminal court proceeding.

"HB 6310 would give the option for an advocate in court for an egregiously injured animal," said Urban, a Democrat from North Stonington. "This would enable the animal's injury to be identified as a red flag for future violent behavior. We are putting together a public/private partnership with the state Department of Agriculture and non-profit rescue groups including Connecticut Votes for Animals to be available to speak for the animals in court."

Urban was joined at a news conference Thursday by Asa Palmer, a North Stonington high school student who discovered two of the cows on his family farm shot in the face in January. One of the cows had to be euthanized.

"If this was in place today, Asa Palmer could request an advocate for his young cow, 'Angel,' who was shot in the face and left with her jaw hanging off," Urban said.

Two men have been charged with shooting Palmer's cows.

The bill, which is awaiting action in the legislature's Judiciary Committee, has the support of other lawmakers.

"Much like our children who cannot advocate on behalf of themselves, innocent animals that are abused or worse, killed, deserve that same right," said Rep. Brenda Kupchick, a Republican from Fairfield. "Violence of any type is unacceptable and we must do whatever we can to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves."

It was not clear if or when the Judiciary Committee would take action on Urban's bill.

Photo Credit: Richard Ross

Woman Charged With Kidnapping, Robbing Elderly Victim


Police have charged a Derby woman in connection with a kidnapping and robbery in Orange.

Holli Tapley, 34, is accused of confronting an elderly woman in front of a store on the Boston Post Road on Feb. 14. Tapley told the woman to drive her to a second location where she ordered the victim to get out and stole the woman's car, according to police.

After stealing the car, Tapley went through the victim's belongings and stole cash and credit cards, which Tapley used to make several purchases in Orange and nearby towns, police said.

Detectives zeroed in on Tapley as a suspect, and when they interviewed her, she admitted to the incident, according to police. Tapley also led police to the victim's car and some of the woman's belongings.

Tapley is charged with second-degree kidnapping, second-degree robbery, second-degree larceny, credit card theft and illegal use of a credit card.

She is being held on $75,000 bond and is scheduled to be in court March 4.

Tapley is also facing unrelated charges in Derby and North Haven.

Photo Credit: Orange Police

Shooting in Hartford Linked to Jasper Howard Stabbing: Cops


A suspect arrested for a shooting in Hartford told investigators he did it to get back at one of the men who sent his brother to prison for the stabbing death of UConn football player Jasper Howard, according to police.

Rasheem Grimes, 24, of East Hartford, has been charged with shooting Hakim Muhammad on Nov. 4. Muhammad spent 2 and-a-half years in prison for his role in the fight that led to the death of Howard on the UConn campus in Oct. 2009.

Police say Grimes is the brother of John Lomax III, who is serving an 18-year-sentence for stabbing Howard at a school-sponsored dance.

According to police, Grimes told investigators he shot Muhammad because Muhammad cooperated with police during the Jasper Howard case and was given a more lenient sentence than Lomax.

Grimes is charged with first-degree assault and carrying a pistol without a permit.

He was taken into custody by State Police Feb. 17 after a traffic stop.  Troopers found a gun in Grimes' car and matched it to the shooting of Muhammad in November, according to police.  State Police notified Hartford police, who obtained an arrest warrant for Grimes.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

New Haven Superintendent Announces Retirement


New Haven School Superintendent Dr. Reginald Mayo announced Thursday he will retire at the end of the school year. Mayo has been a part of the New Haven School district for 46 years, the last 21 as superintendent.

“I started substituting and found that I loved what I was doing, felt great about myself for some reason, just loved to see the twinkle in kids' eyes when they really got it,” said Dr. Mayo.

He loved making a difference in those kids' lives.  In his two decades as superintendent, Dr. Mayo has changed the New Haven school system.  He extended kindergarten programs to full-day and expanded early childhood education programs.

“That to me begins the foundation for some of the things that are happening now,” said Dr. Mayo.

Now, the graduation rate has increased, the dropout rate has decreased and test scores have improved thanks to the implementation of magnet schools in the city and programs like New Haven Promise.

“That's the goal, have kids prepared to go to college.  It doesn't mean every kid has to go to college, but at least have that young person academically ready to go to college or the world of work,” said Dr.  Mayo.

But Dr. Mayo knows there are still challenges facing New Haven's schools.

“We got to get every parent, every parent involved so we can be on the same page when dealing with kids,” he said.

He says he'll continue to help kids, even in his next endeavor.

“You will find me somewhere around kids, mentoring or starting some little group to do some positive things.  That's something I would never get away from,” said Dr. Mayo.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Police Arrest Man Wanted for Assault on Infant


Police have found the man accused of hurting a 7-month-old baby in Old Saybrook. 

Keith Loftus, 31, was arrested in Middletown Thursday evening after officers were dispatched to the YMCA on Union Street for a suspicious male looking into cars.

Loftus had an active arrest warrant with the Old Saybrook Police Department for charges of assault on an infant, police said.

According to investigators,  he was watching his girlfriend's baby in September when the child was brought to the Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital with injuries consistent with abuse.

Hospital staff alerted Old Saybrook police, because the baby's mother, Crystal Dorothy, lives in Old Saybrook.

Authorities said Loftus was child's Dorothy's boyfriend, and cared for the infant while Dorothy was at work. The alleged abuse happened over several days in September while the child was in the care of Loftus, according to police.

Loftus and Dorothy made up a story about how the child was injured, police said.

After a lengthy investigation, police arrested Crystal Dorothy, 26, Tuesday. She is charged with risk of injury to a minor, providing a false statement and interfering with an officer.

Loftus was transported from Middletown to the police department in Old Saybrook for processing. Police said he is being held on $150.00 bail. He was charged with first-degree assault, risk of injury to a minor, two counts of conspiracy, and interfering with an officer.

Authorities said Loftus has also been charged with violation of probation, first-degree larceny, and theft of a firearm.

He will face a judge in Middletown Superior Court Friday. 



New Backlash Over State Budget


Governor Malloy is facing backlash over his budget plan.  New Haven Mayor John DeStefano was at the State Capitol Thursday night to tell lawmakers how it could hurt his city.

Some New Haven charter school testified as well, pleading for so called equal funding.   “We make goals for ourselves because we don’t have the resources that most New Haven schools get,” said Aminah Muhammad, a junior at Amistad High School in New Haven.

She testified along with countless other students--she believes her school is not given the funding others are. She was happy to see Mayor DeStefano.  "It did show he was in support of us and doing his job as mayor,” Muhammad said.

Mayor John DeStefano made a rare appearance at the legislative office building. He says the budget on the table right now is not good enough.   "We’ve been doing tough budgets in New Haven for five years; raising property taxes, laid off police officers in New Haven. It’s been hard,” DeStefano added.

He acknowledges that the legislature and Governor Malloy have hard decisions ahead of them but he feels it’s especially unfair to New Haven.  “I don’t think that is right to the people who live in our communities,” DeStefano noted. “A lot of residents and employees of New Haven are making a lot of sacrifices.”

While there have been some sacrifices DeStefano says New haven has added jobs and has a school reform initiative under way that he’d hate to see stall out.

The mayor didn’t make any specific recommendations to the state. But he says he’s had to make difficult cuts in his city and wants Connecticut lawmakers to do the same.

Oakland Rapper among 3 Killed in Las Vegas Shooting


At least three people were killed in a car-to-car shooting, crash and explosion early Thursday on the Las Vegas Strip that has resulted in a manhunt for one of the drivers.

The apparent target of the fatal shooting that led to a fiery crash was a rapper from Oakland known as Kenny Clutch, 27.

Five vehicles were involved in the crash, including a taxi that burned after the collision at Flamingo and Las Vegas boulevards, Las Vegas police told KSNV-TV.

The incident occurred at about 4:30 a.m. local time and followed an exchange of gunfire between two vehicles, Sgt. John Sheahan told the station.

Police said a black SUV pulled up next to a silver Maserati and opened fire on the luxury sports car at a red light.

The driver of the Maserati sped up -- ostensibly to escape the gunfire -- traveling through the still-red light. After a series of posts about his identity on social media, the driver's aunt confirmed to KSNV that he was Ken Cherry, a rapper from Oakland who goes by Kenny Clutch, pictured below.

Cherry's Maserati crashed into the taxi, causing an explosion that turned into a large fireball, according to witnesses.

Six other vehcicles were involved in the collision, which occurred at the heart of the Strip, police said.

The sport utility vehicle -- described as a black Range Rover Sport with tinted windows, black rims and dealership plates -- left the scene, traveling northbound. It was not known how many occupants were in the SUV.

Authorities said the gunfire was sparked by a conflict at a nearby valet parking area.

"Finding those involved is a top priority for my agency and law enforcement here in southern Nevada," said Sheriff Douglas Gillespie of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. "We believe the occupants of the range rover are armed and dangerous."

The California Highway Patrol confirmed it was looking for the Range Rover.

The Maserati's driver, the taxi driver and taxi passenger were killed, the station reported. A passenger in the Maserati was also injured and was cooperating with police, KSNV reported.

Several other victims who were nearby were also injured. At least three were hospitalized, police said.

It was not immediately clear whether the deceased victims were struck by gunfire or killed in the crash.

Las Vegas Boulevard north of Tropicana and south of Harmon was closed for the investigation. 

Alerts Issued for 5 Missing Children


State Police have issued two separate silver alerts for missing siblings from two families.

Police issued a silver alert for Ariana Sturz, 5, and Savannah Sturz, 3, two sisters from Torrington who have been missing since 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Detectives said they were last seen with their aunt, Jennifer Wheeler, and might be traveling in the mother's 1996 black Chevy pickup with Connecticut license plate 35-14-CJ.

Wheeler dropped the mother off somewhere and had the girls with permission, so this is not an abduction case, but officials are worried for their safety.

The girls' mother said her sister has a cocaine and heroin addiction and local police are working with Waterbury police because officials tracked her cellphone to the city.

Ariana Sturz has brown hair and brown eyes. She is 3-feet-tall and weighs 60 pounds.

Savannah Sturz red hair and blue eyes. She is 3-feet-tall and weighs 54 pounds.

Anyone who spots the children or the car should call 911 or Torrrington Police at 860-489-2000.

State Police have also issued a silver alert for Karen Dubrosky, a 36 year-old Watertown mother and her three children.

Owen Brown, 6, Andrew Brown, 5, and Noelle Brown, 3, have been missing sometime after 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Owen Brown has blonde hair and hazel eyes. He is 4-feet-tall and weighs 55 pounds. Police did not have a description of the clothing he was wearing when he was last seen.

Andrew Brown has blonde hair and blue eyes. He is 4-feet-tall and weighs 50 pounds.

He was last seen wearing LSW jeans, black neon shoes, a blue jacket and a blue winter hat.

Noelle Brown has blonde hair and blue eyes. She is 3-feet tall and weighs 30 pounds.

Police said she was last seen wearing pink pajamas and a Disney shirt.

Anyone who spots this family or has any information in this case is asked to call Watertown Police at 860-945-5200

Two Injured in Old Saybrook Fire


Two people have been transported from a fire on Beaver Dam Trail in Old Saybrook on Friday morning and police said there is a criminal investigation into the blaze.

Lifestar medical helicopter transported one person from 19 Beaver Dam Trail and an ambulance transported another.

No additional information is immediately available.

Photo Credit: Steve Miller, NBC Connecticut

The Sequester: What Does It Mean?


Every day that passes without a deficit-cutting deal makes it more likely that the federal government will be forced into its first "sequester" in nearly 30 years, a problem of politicians' own making that could suck billions of dollars out of the economy.

The sequester is Washington jargon for using the threat of automatic spending cuts to force action on reducing the debt. The term doesn't mean much to most people outside the capital, and you could be forgiven for assuming that the president and lawmakers will scramble at the last minute to dodge their deadline and set up a new one. That is, after all, how the current predicament came to be.

But politicians are cutting it awfully close, making the risk very real, scholars and analysts say.

And the stakes have arguably never been higher: the sequester is just one of three looming fiscal deadlines, each with its own potentially calamitous impact on the tenuous economic recovery.

"This is unprecedented," said Steve Bell, senior director of economic policy at the Washington D.C.-based Bipartisan Policy Center, who served as staff director of the Senate Budget Committee in the early 1980s, when the last sequester showdown occurred. "I'm a historian of this stuff, and this has never happened together, these things. I don't know what the technical term is down here, but where I'm from, New Mexico and Colorado, we call it 'a goat rope'…chaos and confusion, where nobody knows what's going on."

For full politics coverage, visit NBCNews.com.

The sequester is scheduled to go into effect March 1, triggering the opening phase of cuts that will total more than $1 trillion between now and 2021. Most of the reductions would be divided evenly between the defense budget and non-defense spending that isn't already mandated by law (those mandates include Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps). It is up to the president to decide how to apply cuts to those so-called discretionary spending items.

Then, on March 27, comes a temporary appropriations measure that is keeping the federal government running. Without a renewal there will be a shutdown of all non-essential functions.

Finally, in mid-May, a statutory limit on the federal debt, which has been temporarily lifted, will go back into effect and make it difficult for the country to pay its bills.

The chances of all three of those threats becoming reality remain distant. But given the state of partisan discord, it appears "extremely likely" that the sequester will happen, Bell said.

The last time Congress imposed a sequester was 1986 when Ronald Reagan was president -- with limited results.

The current sequester threat has been driven by a darkening crisis surrounding the federal deficit, which is projected to skyrocket in coming decades, primarily because of the rising cost of health care. A couple years ago, Congress settled a fight over raising the country's debt limit by passing the Budget Control Act, which set a Jan. 2, 2013 deadline to find ways to cut $1.5 trillion from the deficit. A bipartisan committee was assigned to come up with a plan, but it failed. Faced with the combination of the sequester, the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and a scheduled reduction in payroll taxes—a confluence of events known as the "fiscal cliff"—President Barack Obama struck a deal with Congress. It included letting the payroll tax lapse, raising tax rates for households making more than $450,000 and delaying the sequester to the beginning of March. The fiscal cliff deal also allowed taxes on capital gains and dividends to go up and extended jobless benefits.

The new sequester deadline has prompted another showdown between Obama, who has called for a more "balanced" reduction plan that includes eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy, and Congressional Republicans, who say the president already got tax increases out of the fiscal cliff negotiations and should take full responsibility for the sequester. A GOP alternative plan would spare defense cuts and focus on domestic spending.

For 2013, the sequester means more than $85 billion in cuts, including $42 billion from defense, $28 billion from domestic discretionary spending, and nearly $10 billion from Medicare.

With no deal in sight, the White House has prepared a list of deep, wide cuts that it says could costs thousands of jobs, hurt small businesses, damage the government's ability to ensure food safety, diminish the ranks of law enforcement, and reduce school aid and housing assistance—not to mention the massive impact on the military and defense contractors.

Most of the cuts likely won't effect ordinary Americans for weeks, or months, Bell said, because government agencies will first look for ways to cut costs internally, like canceling training and conferences and repairs and slowing down payments on contracts. Furloughing federal workers is always the last resort.

But eventually, the impact will spread across the country, as payments to government contractors and subcontractors and social service agencies dry up. Those employers will have to contemplate cutting their payrolls. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that a million or so jobs will be lost under a full-scale sequester in 2013 and 2014. The economy could lose billions of dollars.

"Instead of the lights going out, think about it as a bulb that gets dimmer, bit by bit, as the light gets less and less," Bell said.

The lights-out scenario could come on March 27, the deadline for a government shutdown. If Congress can't avert that crisis, the country could be in for a huge economic blow, Bell said.

But he doesn't see that happening. A more realistic outcome, he said, is after a few weeks of the sequester, the economic turmoil will cause enough blowback in Washington to spur lawmakers to pass another stopgap spending bill and find another temporary fix to the sequester.

"The pain felt by private employers and workers will be made loud and clear to members of the House and Senate, and it's interesting how quickly they react when that happens," Bell said.

Photo Credit: AP

Storm Moves Our Way


While the Midwest gets buried in snow this morning, a different storm has us in it cross-hairs for the upcoming weekend.

Another area of storminess will form in the south on Friday and Saturday and roll toward us, coming up the eastern seaboard. 

The biggest difference with this storm is a lack of super cold air to tap from the north. This means that this storm should act more like a classic nor’easter than a once in 50 year blizzard like the one we had two weeks ago.

A heavy mix is likely later in the afternoon and at night.

The most likely scenario would be a snow, sleet, rain mix in the southern part of the state and some sleet/rain mixing in the north to Interstate 84.

We'll mainly get heavy snow and sleet in the northern part of the state, especially in the northwest and northeast hills.

Where the storm is primarily snow, significant accumulations of 8 inches or more are possible.


Caregiver Charged After Woman is Found on Snow Bank


West Hartford police have arrested a West Hartford caregiver after an 88-year-old woman she was responsible for disappeared for hours and was found suffering from hypothermia.

Police said Salomat Nishonova, 59, of Brooklyn, New York, lied to officers about when she last saw Raisa Shnitman, an 88-year-old woman suffering from dementia.

According to investigators, Nishonova waited at least two hours before calling the woman’s family to report her missing.

Police responded to the Alfred E. Plant senior housing complex, a West Hartford Housing Authority property at 759 Farmington Ave., just before 6:30 a.m., according to a report from police. 

As they reviewed surveillance footage, they determined that Nishonova had lied to police when cameras showed Shnitman walking away from the Plant Senior Housing Complex, at 759 Farmington Ave., around 3 a.m., according to West Hartford police.

Police canvassed the area and Officer Steven Morehouse found Shnitman behind 784 Farmington Ave. around 9:30 a.m., six and a half hours after cameras showed she disappeared.

Shnitman, who police said only speaks Russian, was lying on a snow bank and hurt.

She was suffering from hypothermia and her hand and foot were cut, according to police.

Nishonova was arrested and charged with one count each of reckless endangerment in the second degree and interfering with an officer.

Shnitman was transported to St. Francis Hospital for treatment.

Giant Goldfish Invade Lake Tahoe

Biologists are worried that Lake Tahoe's clear, blue water may be affected by a "giant" visitor. Goldfish, including a 14.2 inch, 3.4 pounder, were recently found in the lake. Scientists say the goldfish likely got into the lake courtesy of aquarium dumpers.

Mom Lets 15-Year-Old Drive Sibling to School Alone: Cops


A Milford mom has been arrested after allowing her 15-year-old child to drive a sibling to elementary school because she was not feeling well, according to police.

On Thursday, police received a complaint about a juvenile driving a vehicle at Live Oaks School, a school for kindergartners and students in first and second grade.

The school principal tried to talk to speak with the boy after he dropped the sibling off, but he fled in a reckless manner, according to police.

Investigators said they learned that the child’s mother, Nicole Perrelli, 39, claimed she was not feeling well and allowed the teen to drive her car to the school, police said. Durin a court appearance on Friday, she said she was recently in the hospital for pneumonia.

In the state of Connecticut, licenses are not issued to youth under the age of 16. Learner’s permits are required before a license is issued.

Perrelli was charged with risk of injury. She was released on a promise to appear and her case was continued for three weeks while she hires a lawyer.

The 15-year-old was charged with risk of injury, reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle without a license and was released on juvenile summons

Police notified the state Department of Children and Families.

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