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The Push to Make Gun Trafficking a Federal Crime

A bipartisan group of Connecticut senators and congressmen are hoping to make gun trafficking a federal crime. NBC Connecticut's Ryan Hanrahan has the story.

Homeowners Must Decide Whether to Sell, Rebuild or Demolish


Houses along the shoreline in Milford and Fairfield Beach look nearly the same as they did four months ago, when they were damaged by Superstorm Sandy, but residents are now considering whether to sell, demolish or elevate their property.

"We're stuck here for probably another two years," said Skip Ziebell, who has been living in the house he normally rents out since February 1.

His main house around the corner on Silver Street is still in bad shape.

"We had planned to sell both of these houses this year,” he said.

Ziebel, one of nearly 500 homeowners whose property sustained major damage, said he's bounced around from North Haven to New Haven since then.

"Believe it or not, I think a lot of them are still in shock. It's such a hard thing to deal with," he said while showing NBC Connecticut around his Silver Street home.

He paid out of his own pocket to put a new heating and electrical system in so there wouldn't be further damage.

He's also talking to the city about elevating his property.

Ziebell is one of the lucky ones who can front the bill before receiving checks from his insurance company, like the one he got today for $60,000.

The decision to rebuild is something on the minds of many people along the shoreline. If not rebuild, some are still considering whether to sell, demolish or elevate their home.

"A lot of people don't have that kind of money. If you don't raise the house, you're not going to get anything; you're better off walking away from it."

Bruce Reshen of Fairfield Beach said he always loses his driveways in major storms like Sandy and Irene.

During Sandy, he had 16 fences around his property to make the beach more private. Now there are just two left. Though he's fully recovered from Sandy he insists building on the shore is very different.

"Living on the water is essentially a self-destructive activity once you accept that it's beautiful," Reshen added.

The biggest issue with elevating homes is the cost. It's incredibly expensive, so some must take on huge debt and live somewhere else until the job is done.

Malloy to Hold Public Forum Wednesday Night


Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is going back out on the road to meet face-to-face with Connecticut residents.

The Democrat announced Monday he plans to kick off a series of community forums to discuss "the state's pressing issues" with the public.

The first one will be held at the Middletown City Hall on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.

Additional dates and locations will be announced as they're scheduled.

Malloy has attended more than 30 such events over the past two years, focusing on the state budget and education reform.

A potential Republican gubernatorial rival, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, announced he is holding an eight-town "Fiscal Responsibility Tour" to discuss Malloy's proposed budget. McKinney has been critical of Malloy's plan. 

The first stop is March 11 in Enfield.


Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Brennan Nomination to Head CIA Clears Committee


The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday to approve President Barack Obama's pick to lead the CIA after winning a behind-the-scenes battle with the White House over access to a series of top-secret legal opinions that justify the use of lethal drone strikes against terror suspects, including American citizens.

John Brennan's installation at the spy agency has been delayed as Senate Democrats and Republicans have pressed the Obama administration to allow a review of the classified documents prepared by the Justice Department. The senators have argued they can't perform adequate oversight without reviewing the contents of the opinions, but the White House had resisted requests for full disclosure.

The intelligence committee's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement Tuesday that the committee voted 12-3 to send Brennan's nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. The panel's deliberations were held behind closed doors. Feinstein did not identify the senators who voted against Brennan.

For more politics coverage, click on NBCNews.com

Although Brennan has made it out of the committee, Republicans have threatened to hold up his nomination unless the White House supplies them with classified information, including emails among top U.S. national security officials, detailing the Obama administration's actions immediately following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed during the raid.

Feinstein said the full Senate should act quickly confirm Brennan, who spent 25 years at the CIA before becoming Obama's top counterterrorism and homeland security adviser in the White House.

"He draws on a deep well of experience — 25 years as a CIA analyst, chief of station, manager, head of counterterrorism efforts and White House homeland security adviser," Feinstein said of Brennan.

Brennan so far has escaped the harsh treatment that former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the president's choice to lead the Defense Department, received from Senate Republicans even though Brennan is one of Obama's most important national security aides and the White House official who oversees the drone program.

Brennan also served as a senior CIA official during President George W. Bush's administration when waterboarding and other forms of "enhanced interrogation" and detention practices were adopted. Brennan has publicly denounced the use of these tactics, but the cloud hasn't gone completely away.

Brennan's stance on waterboarding and torture is inconsistent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has said. Although Brennan has decried these methods, he also has said they saved lives, according to McCain, who said he is awaiting an explanation from Brennan. McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are also leading the charge for the Benghazi records.

"All we want is the answers," McCain said Monday. "I'm not threatening anything. I just think we deserve the answers."

Senate Republicans put Hagel through a bruising confirmation process. They labeled their former Republican colleague as a political turncoat for attacking the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq, and cast him as hostile toward Israel, soft on Iran and unqualified for the job.

In attacking Hagel, who served two terms from Nebraska, the GOP settled old political scores and won points with its conservative base by challenging Obama's nominee so aggressively. The Senate confirmed Hagel last week to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary on a 58-41 vote, with four Republicans joining the Democrats in backing the contentious choice.

Criticism of Brennan, by contrast, has been less intense. He was grilled for more than three hours during his Feb. 7 confirmation hearing before the Intelligence Committee, but also won praise from several lawmakers as the best qualified candidate to lead the CIA. Brennan, 57, is a veteran of more than three decades of intelligence work.

Former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who spent eight years on the House Intelligence Committee, said she expects Brennan to be confirmed by a comfortable margin. Senate Republicans took Hagel's nomination personally, she said, and they're unlikely to take a similar approach with Brennan.

"I don't think they're going to try the same play twice and really seriously wound Obama's national security team at a time when it's very important that we project strength," said Harman, president of the Wilson Center in Washington.

Brennan vigorously defended the use of drone strikes during his confirmation hearing. He declined to say whether he believes waterboarding, which simulates drowning, amounted to torture. But he called the practice "reprehensible" and said it should never be done again. Obama ordered waterboarding banned shortly after taking office.

Drone strikes are employed only as a "last resort," Brennan told the committee. But he also said he had no qualms about going after U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011. A drone strike in Yemen killed al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both U.S. citizens. A drone strike two weeks later killed al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, a Denver native.

Graham, one of Hagel's most acerbic critics, said last month that the Obama administration deserved an "A-plus" for its drone program and he rejected an idea floated by Feinstein and other senators to establish a special court system to regulate drone strikes.

"I'm 100 percent behind the administration," Graham said. "I think their program has been legal, ethical and wise."

But Graham, along with McCain, said the failure to turn over the Benghazi records is a dealbreaker. Graham said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he and McCain "are hell-bent on making sure the American people understand this debacle called Benghazi."

Brennan spent 25 years at the CIA before moving in 2003 from his job as deputy executive director of the agency to run the Terrorist Threat Integration Center. He later worked as interim director of the center's successor organization, the National Counterterrorism Center.

When Bush's second term began in 2005, Brennan left government to work for a company that provides counterterror analysis to federal agencies. After Obama took office in 2009, he returned to the federal payroll as the president's top counterterrorism adviser in the White House.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Brennan would replace Michael Morell, the CIA's deputy director who has been acting director since David Petraeus resigned in November after acknowledging an affair with his biographer.

Photo Credit: AP

Boy Suspended for Pointing Gun-Shaped Breakfast Pastry


A 7-year-old Maryland boy is expected back in class Tuesday after being suspended over a breakfast pastry.

The student at Park Elementary School in Glen Burnie, Md., called his dad to pick him up because school officials said he chewed a strawberry breakfast pastry into a gun shape and then pointed it at another child and said, "Bang, bang."

The boy's dad, B.J. Welch, told the Washington Post that it was harmless and just a boy doing what kids do. He said his son meant to chew the pastry into a mountain shape but it turned out to look more like a gun.

The boy was punished Friday with one day of suspension and one day of in-school suspension.

The school sent home a letter to parents saying, "During breakfast this morning, one of our students used food to make inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class. While no physical threats were made and no one was harmed, the student had to be removed from the classroom."

Parents should talk to their children if they're troubled by the incident, the school said, and the school counselor will be available for any student who needs to talk.

3 Arrested After Stolen Boat Runs Aground


Authorities were at first dispatched on Monday morning to save a wayward sailboat off the northern California coastal city of Pacifica. But hours into the odd rescue, the three aboard a sailboat named the Darling were arrested after the 82-foot boat was reported stolen from Sausalito, an affluent city about 20 miles away.

Two men and a woman were arrested about noon, following about five hours of drama and mystery that spanned 20 miles from Marin County to the shores off the San Mateo County coast.

The suspects eventually surrendered and were brought to shore by foot or jet ski. Police later identified them as: Leslie Gardner, 63 of Gillette, Wy.; along with Dario Mira, 54 and Lisa Modawell, 55, both of Aptos. They were booked into San Mateo County jail on suspicion of grand theft and conspiracy.

State park water rescue lifeguards said when they went aboard, they found a couple cases of Pale Ale beer and cardboard boxes of pizza. One of the suspects had a prosthetic leg.

The owner of the stolen sailboat arrived on scene Monday afternoon, but declined all media requests, saying that he didn't want the notoriety.

Their arrests capped a harrowing morning for the Coast Guard, Department of Fish and Game, San Mateo County sheriff's deputies, as well as Pacifica and Sausalito police.

The sail boat was first reported being in distress at about 5:30 a.m. at the Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica with two men and a woman on board. The boat was about 20 yards from the beach.

But surprisingly, the trio did not want to be brought to shore; instead they were hoping to sail back out to sea at high tides, authorities said during the early morning hours.

That's most likely because Sausalito police said that a sailboat had been reported missing about 1:30 a.m. The owner of a boat spotted what looked like his craft on television news. Police  said that the boat may have been stolen out of Sausalito.

Sausalito Sgt. Bill Fraass said that the sailboat is registered out of the Cayman Islands but docks at the Sausalito Yacht Harbor.

The Coast Guard, the San Mateo County Sheriff and Pacifica police were all on hand trying to get the passengers to come to shore. By 11 a.m., authorities had surrounded the edge of the beach near the sailboat. One of the passengers was heard saying, "Not gonna happen."

For full U.S. news coverage, visit NBCNews.com.

The scene began though as a simple rescue of a stranded sailboat on a sandbar at Linda Mar Beach.  About 5:30 a.m., cameras caught the trio on board trying to rock the sailboat loose from the sand bar. The Department of Fish and Game was keeping an eye on the boat, which was carrying fuel, and the agency wanted to make sure that none of it seeped into the water. None did.

The U.S. Coast Guard had arrived by 7 a.m. in order to help. The Coast Guard sent in a 47-foot life boat crew to reach the passengers, but couldn't because of the surf. And the boaters apparently did not want to be pulled ashore, but were considering trying to float back out to sea.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter lowered down radios about 8 a.m. But the people on the boat chose not to communicate with authorities.


Basketball Helps 400-Pound Teen Slim Down


A North Texas teenager who weighed nearly 400 pounds as a high school junior dropped 180 pounds with the help of his love for basketball.

Kevin Madison's journey first started with another sport. He went to Parkland's Oak West Health Clinic in Dallas to get clearance to try out for his high school football team after coaches expressed interest in him.

But pediatrician Dr. Jules Greif took one look at Madison and said absolutely not.

"Kevin was morbidly obese and having breathing problems and, at that time, there was no way that I was going to offer him that clearance to play football," Greif said.

The experience was a wake-up call for Madison, who had been putting on weight since middle school.

"It felt bad, it really felt bad, knowing that you have friends always ask you to join a game and they get tired of the same answer -- 'no,'" he said.

A nutritionist helped Madison learn portion control and healthy eating. But the exercise plan really changed things for him.

"We were just making, you know, small changes as far as walking -- maybe every other day for 30 minutes and then in a few months, add other activities that he liked to do," registered dietitian Sharon Cox said.

After a few months of dieting and exercise, Madison hit the basketball court. And his family noticed a difference.

"We used to go to the court every time, and they noticed a change," he said. "I was more active and more running, and I was able to handle a whole entire game without stopping or quitting, and it made me feel really good."

After a year and countless games, he had dropped 180 pounds. Madison, who was at his goal weight, visited Greif.

"I couldn't believe it," Greif said. "I was in total amazement."

Madison is still playing basketball two and a half years later. He is starting his adult life at a healthy weight and hopes his love of basketball will help him keep it off for good.

"It's incredible," he said. "You know, I actually found something that I enjoy doing without me even knowing that I'm losing weight."

NBC 5's Lindsay Wilcox contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC 5

Support for Drivers' Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants


Drivers' licenses for undocumented immigrants could become reality if a proposed bill becomes law.

More than 2,000 people showed up to a Transportation Committee hearing at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven on Monday night and almost all are in support of the legislation.

Immigrants and their advocates filled the auditorium to capacity and hundreds of people were forced to wait outside or in overflow rooms. Many argued that this is as much about public safety as it is about dignity for all.

“It makes sense to issue drivers licenses for these individuals to obtain insurance,” said New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

DeStefano, an outspoken advocate for immigration reform, first took on the issue seven years ago by offering undocumented immigrants resident identification cards.

He said more than 10,000 cards have been issued since the program's inception and the ID cards have gone a long way in strengthening relationships between residents and the city’s police department.

“I think it's made great sense in promoting safe, civil behavior in our city and I think it’s time the State of Connecticut steps up for that opportunity too,” he said.

State Rep. Juan Candelaria, who represents New Haven, said this is mostly an issue of public safety. “We have people traveling on our roads and we need to train them to do so.”

That is what brought Armando Morales and his wife Jeimy Zepeda to the hearing.

They own a cleaning business in East Haven and it took a serious hit when their van was destroyed in a crash with an undocumented, uninsured driver because t hey were responsible for the medical bills and the cost of a new car.

“For our business, it was a step back because we couldn’t deliver to our customers as they were requesting us,” said Morales.

The couple was not surprised by the large turnout at the hearing.

“I think this turn-out shows that they need this and they are sure they want to make the right decision,” he said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Baylor Student Dies Rehearsing Backflip


An 18-year-old Baylor University freshman died Sunday in a bizarre accident while doing a backflip, the private Texas school said in a statement.

Kevin Signo, a pre-biology student, was rehearsing traditional dances with the Filipino Students Association when he practiced a backflip and landed on his head, according to NBC station KCEN-TV in Waco.

The Waco Tribune-Herald quoted a justice of the peace as saying Signo hit his forehead and suffered a fatal spinal injury.

His parents, Henry and Jackie Signo, said their son was an introvert in high school but thrived at Baylor.

"Kevin was a very bright, well-liked and involved student on our campus," Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman told Tribune-Herald. "He had so many friends here who will miss him terribly."

Signo's parents said their son wanted to be a doctor. He was an organ donor who had a legal document drawn up, donating his eyes, skin, bones and organs.

"He knew exactly what could be used for and what was important," Jackie Signo said.

Henry Signo said he thinks his son "knew that he would be helping others if something tragic had happened."

"We're very happy to have had him for a short time," he said.

Funeral services will be Saturday at the Turrentine, Jackson & Morrow Funeral Home in Allen, the university said in a news release.

At least two busloads of students from Baylor are expected to make the trip to Allen for the services.

Kevin Signo attended Frisco High School and was originally from Carol Stream, Ill., according to his Facebook page.

His parents said they plan to endow a scholarship in his name at Baylor.

NBC 5's Randy McIlwain contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Metal Thieves Strike at CL&P: Cops


Plainfield Police arrested two men early Tuesday morning accused of trying to steal wire from the fenced-in storage yard of the Connecticut Light and Power building on Cemetery Road.

When police responded to the facility at 2:18 a.m., two people ran off, but it would not take long before they took two people into custody. 

The State Police K-9 was called in because Plainfield Police Department’s K-9 was not available and police said they found Randy Lachapelle, 45, of Water Street in Canterbury, on the railroad tracks of Railroad Avenue in Plainfield and took him into custody. 

Lachapelle’s suspected accomplice, Peter Denning, 50, of Poquonnock Road in Groton, tried to get police to leave the scene by calling 911, police said, but investigators discovered that the call was false.

They pinged the GPS of his cell phone, found Denning on Academy Hill Road in Plainfield and arrested him, police said. 

Lachapelle was charged with third-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools, criminal attempt to commit and sixth-degree larceny. 

Denning was charged for third-degree burglary, criminal attempt to commit and sixth-degree larceny degree. 

Connecticut State Police charged Denning with making the false Emergency 911 call. 

Lachapelle and Denning were held on $5,000 bonds and are scheduled to appear at the Danielson Superior Court on Tuesday.

Several copper thefts have been reported around the state in recent years as thieves cash in on high copper prices.


Two Charged With Trying to Steal Copper in Bristol


Bristol police arrested two men accused of trying to steal copper piping from a local residence on Monday night.

Police, including a K-9 officer, responded to a report of a burglary in progress at 142 Park St. just after 8:01 p.m. and said they found McKinnel Morton, 56 and Daniel West, 43, inside the house.

Morton and West are accused of entering the house illegally and trying to steal copper piping, according to police.

Morton and West were charged with third-degree burglary, fourth-degree criminal attempt at larceny, possession of burglary tools, first-degree criminal mischief and criminal trespass in the second degree.

Both Morton and West were held on $25,000 bonds pending arraignment in court in Bristol on March 5.

Home Health Aide Left Feces in Client’s Appliances: Reports


A home health aide from Fairfield was arrested, accused of leaving feces in her former employer’s appliances after she was laid off, according to several reports.

Fiona Clarke, 40 of Fairfield, was fired after reportedly being unfriendly to a new employee, then placed feces wrapped in paper towels in the oven and refrigerator of an elderly woman that she cared for, The Hour reports.

A family member first noticed a foul smell when she turned on the oven earlier in February.

Police told the Connecticut Post that Clarke denied everything during the investigation until last week when she turned herself in.

Clarke was charged with third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace.

She $5,000 bond and will appear in court this Thursday, March 7, according to court records.

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Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

Darrelle Revis Isn't Talking Jets For Life Anymore


All through his tenure with the Jets, no matter how rancorous things might have been with the team, Darrelle Revis has always maintained that he wanted to be a Jet from his first cigarette to his last dying day. 

Wait, it's not those Jets? He meant the football Jets? Are you sure?

Indeed he did, and Revis has maintained that position all the way through his post-draft holdout, his 2010 holdout, his threatened holdout last year and this year's trade rumors until Monday. That's when he reached his breaking point in an interview with Seahawks running back Michael Robinson for Robinson's YouTube channel when Robinson asked him about the possibility of playing for the 49ers.

"I would just be an addition to help them win that trophy," Revis said. "Would it be awesome? Yeah. My main goal as a player and I think of all of us as players in the NFL is to hold that Lombardi Trophy up in the air and to wear that ring."

Revis also said that it didn't really matter to him if he was with the Jets or not, which doesn't rate that high on the big list of heartwarming messages. The point, basically, was that Revis is prepared to move on from a team that many others would have abandoned ages ago. 

Perhaps Revis decided it was time to take a different approach to discussions about his future after hearing word of the conference call for season ticket holders held by general manager John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan. There were plenty of questions about Revis, but the answers left much to be desired. 

Idzik stuck to saying that the team's only focus was getting Revis back to full health, a bland and inoffensive retort that leaves out the fact that they may only want him healthy to guarantee a bigger return on a trade. Ryan, meanwhile, decided to deny that the Jets had engaged in any trade talks regarding Revis whatsoever. 

After four years, it isn't surprising to hear Ryan say something that rings as false as someone claiming that Earth is flat but it is a bit disappointing. The Jets almost certainly have discussed internally the prospect of trading Revis because they'd be insane not to consider it and it stands to reason that they have gotten at least one phone call from others inquiring about Revis, so why bother trying to sell people on the idea that all is rosy when the ship's taking on water? 

You don't have to scream from the rooftops that you're willing to make a trade, but you also don't need to insult the intelligence of those who follow the team by saying that blue is actually red. False words and false hope helped get the Jets into this mess, so they have no place in the process of getting out of it. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Burned Dog Needs Help


Waterbury Police are investigating a disturbing case of animal abuse after finding a dog severely burned in a parking lot.

Animal control officers found Precious, a 1-year-old pit bull mix, around 9 p.m. on Monday after receiving a call saying the dog was there and needed treatment.

The dog was laying underneath a bush in a little bit of snow in an empty lot on Hopkins Street.

"When we picked it up, we found the entire underside of the dog -- it looked like it may have been burned. Maybe a chemical burn," Sgt. Renee Harvey, of the Waterbury Police Department, said.

Officials think the dog suffered a severe case of mange and someone tried to treat it, but it made the situation worse. 

"Possibly somebody tried to treat it and it was kind of a treatment gone wrong,” Harvey said.

Precious didn't have any tags on.

“We checked it for a microchip and there's nothing there and unfortunately we get a lot of these cases,” Harvey said. “It's really difficult to try to track down an owner or somebody responsible."

Veterinarians are confident Precious will make a full recovery, but treatments take a lot of time and require a lot of money.

If you're interested in helping out, you can make a donation to the Waterbury Municipal Dog Pound at 200 Municipal Road, Waterbury, CT 06708, Attention: Sgt Harvey for Precious.

Note that your donation is for Precious.

Pilot Spots Possible Unmanned Aircraft Near JFK: FAA


The FAA says it's investigating a report of a small, possibly unmanned aircraft near New York's Kennedy Airport.

A pilot of an international airline was on the final approach to Runway 31 at about 1:15 p.m. when he spotted the unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft hovering at about 1,500 feet, according to the FAA.

The pilot reported seeing the aircraft about four to five miles southeast of the airport, which would put it roughly in the area of Atlantic Beach in Nassau County. 

In an air traffic control recording provided by LiveATC.net, the pilot is heard telling the controller, "We saw a drone, a drone aircraft."

The pilot continued on his path and landed safely. No other pilots reported seeing the aircraft. 

Passengers at Kennedy Airport were startled to hear of an unknown object possibly flying so close to planes landing and taking off at one of the world's busiest airports. 

"It makes me very nervous. Very nervous," said Manuel Infante of Rockville Centre. "A lot of cause for concern."

It's still not clear if the object was a drone, though a drone could pose a threat despite its small size. 

"Even the smallest drone is a substantial weight, and it could easily do damage like ripping off a part of a wing or impacting a cockpit area," said Dan Rose, an aviation expert and attorney specializing in aviation litigation. 

Drones are growing in popularity with government agencies and the public. The FAA is preparing a plan to regulate their widespread commercial use by 2015, though Rose wants to see more safety measures along with the increased use.

"All the indications so far is that we're seeing a lot more close calls and near-misses, and not more on the technology of how to avoid these near-misses," said Rose. 

The FAA is investigating. 

Photo Credit: conskeptical/Flickr

Enfield Teen Reported Missing


Police have issued a Silver Alert for Brandon Rosa, a 17-year-old Enfield teen, who was last seen on Monday.

Police said Brandon is an endangered runaway and was last seen in the Thompsonville area.

He was wearing a purple sweatshirt, black and blue sneakers and blue jeans at the time.

He is 5-feet 10, weighs 155 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone who comes into contact with Brandon should notify Enfield police at 860-763-6400.

Forbes' Billionaire Club Boasts 210 New Super Rich Members


It was a record-setting year for the billionaire club.

Forbes' 2013 list of billionaires was published on Monday and it includes a record 1,426 billionaires with an aggregate net worth of $5.4 trillion, up from $4.6 trillion. There are 210 new people who made the list with fortunes that reached 10 figures in the last 12 months.

The United States once again led with 442 billionaires, followed by Asia's 386. Europe (366), the Americas (129) and the Middle East & Africa (103), round out the regions with the most numbers of the super rich.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates came in second to Mexico's telecom mogul Carlos Slim who has held the lead since 2010. And while Spain faces crippling unemployment and a shrinking economy, their richest billionaire Amancio Ortego of retailer Zara made the list at No. 3 for the first time.

Warren Buffett came in at No. 4, which marks the first year since 2000 that the investment tycoon did not make the top three. He is, however, the year's biggest gainer, adding $19.5 billion to his fortune. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway made headlines last month when it announced that it will buy Heinz Ketchup for $23.3 billion.

For full U.S. news coverage, visit NBCNews.com

New York City's mayor Michael Bloomberg made the list at lucky No. 13. The businessman-turned-politician's fortune increased by $5 billion in 2012 to $27 billion.

Miami Heat owner and CEO of cruise operator Carnival Corp. Micky Arison made a surprise appearance on the list at No. 211. Arison made Forbes Magazine's five biggest money-losers in 2011 as he lost $1.3 billion due to the declining stock price of Carnival Corp. and losses from the NBA lockout.

Carnival also made headlines when the Costa Concordia ran aground in 2012 and more recently when their Triumph cruise ship caught fire and left passengers stranded at sea for five days.

The list also has its share of critics. Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, No. 26, wanted to be removed from the list citing a flawed and biased valuation against Middle Eastern businesses, according to Reuters.

Mayor Bloomberg is also not a big fan.

“Look, the numbers in these things are always suspect,” Bloomberg told a New York Post reporter. “And I never liked any of these lists.”

This is the 27th year that Forbes has published the billionaires list. They compile net worths by evaluating individual assets including "stakes in public and private companies, real estate, yachts, art and cash–and account for debt," according to their website.

Photo Credit: AP

Adam Carolla, Podcasters Enlist Congress to Fight "Patent Trolls"


A lawsuit launched from a small Texas town is taking aim at Adam Corolla and the future of podcasting, inspiring Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and others to call on Congress for help.

In January, a company called Personal Audio, of Beaumont, Texas, filed suit against Ace Broadcasting, the people behind "The Adam Carolla Show" podcast, alleging an infringement of its "Podcasting Patent."

If Personal Audio wins, some fear that it could mean the end of podcasting for anyone who can't afford to pay licensing fees.

Founded in 1996, Personal Audio has never produced a single product. But the company owns a patent that it says includes a vital contribution to podcasting technology and claims that Adam Carolla, HowStuffWorks.com and Togi Entertainment have infringed it.

Critics say Personal Audio is the perfect example of a patent troll, a company that does nothing but make money off patent litigation, which in turn, say critics, stifles innovation. Congress is now considering the SHIELD Act, legislation designed to curb patent trolls.

James Logan, one of Personal Audio's founders, has been an inventor and entrepreneur for four decades. He says he and his partners originally set out to develop what is now known as an MP3 player.

"We filed the original description in 1996, this 60-page description of this product we were working on," Logan said during a recent phone interview. "Out of that we spun off six patent applications."

Of the original six filings, Personal Audio was eventually granted three patents. In 2011, the company won an $8 million judgment against Apple for infringement of patents for downloadable playlists. A second suit against Apple was filed the following month but was dismissed by a judge.

Last year, Personal Audio was granted a patent for a "system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence." The new patent was built upon patents originally applied for in 1996 and 2001. The company believes the patent essentially patents podcasting technology, and is now using it to go after prominent podcasters.

Like the earlier suit against Apple, the case against Carolla doesn't really fit the classic profile of a patent troll — patent trolls usually target smaller players who can't afford to litigate the case and settle quickly. Logan says he and his partners targeted Carolla in part because the comedian "takes great pains to point out that he's the biggest podcaster."

Podcasters across cyberspace have been rallying their fans and linking to an open letter to Congress signed by Cuban and others, urging them to pass The Saving High-tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act, legislation designed to curb patent trolls.

"It is targeting a very real problem, patent trolls, but in particular what I think of as bottom-feeder trolls, or as somebody else referred to them, 'smash-n-grab trolls,'" said Mark Lemley, a Stanford law professor and expert in intellectual property and patent law. "People that are not actually interested in winning their case, but know it costs a lot of money to defend a case and are interested in a small value nuisance settlement."

Cuban, the founder of Broadcast.com, has taken a personal stake in the fight against patent trolls. He donated $500,000 in December to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to endow the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. The EFF named staff attorney Julie Samuels to the position.

Samuels said that the SHIELD Act, which was originally introduced last August and was referred to committee on Feb. 27, is not just about Personal Audio.

"What the bill does is it attacks the ecosystem in which the trolls have really thrived," she said. "It's about this much broader, scary trend, that's frankly bad for our country and bad for our economy and bad for innovation in general."

Though Personal Audio's suit against Carolla has been a boon to the SHIELD Act's profile, it's not clear the law would even define Personal Audio as a troll.

Under SHIELD, three factors would protect you from being classified as a patent troll: If you're a university; you can prove that you invented or were somehow involved with the invention that is part of the patent; or you somehow exploit the patent in some way other than just licensing, by making something or selling something.

Personal Audio could argue that it falls in the second category. It would have to convince a judge that podcasting would not be possible without the technology outlined in its patent.

If a court determines a plaintiff such as Personal Audio is a troll, the judge can require them to post a bond to cover the legal fees for the other side if they should lose. This "loser pays" system is designed to dissuade trolls from bringing frivolous suits.

Personal Audio's Logan says SHIELD doesn't sound like "a very clever way to solve the problem."

"Why should a patent have different rights or privileges because one person owns it versus somebody else?" Logan asks. "First we're going to define you as a certain type of person, then we're going to put lawsuits into different categories, and this type is going to have to pay legal fees?"

For Samuels, there's a key difference: Unlike a product like a pencil, a single idea can be used simultaneously by more than one person.

"What we've seen is that some of these individuals who are getting their hands on patents are using them simply to make a bunch of money, and it's not incentivizing more innovation or new invention," she said.

Some consider Personal Audio a patent troll simply because of its location. The company and suit are based in the Eastern District of Texas, which is long renowned for being fast-moving in intellectual property cases and often characterized as being pro-plaintiff in them, making it a natural venue for patent trolls.

"There are certain venues that are better to file in if you’re the plaintiff than others," Logan said when asked why his company filed suit in the Eastern District.

Logan said that his case against Apple made it to court in just two years, whereas in most districts it could take at least twice as long. And given the number of lawyers and technical experts needed to try an intellectual property case, time really is money.

"Every time the judge took a bathroom break, it's costing like $12,000 worth of legal fees," Logan joked.

Logan and Samuels agree that the patent system is a mess, and while Stanford's Lemley appreciates SHIELD's goals, he has concerns about unintended consequences.

"What we don’t know is how it will affect the market," he said. "There are companies that are actually in the business of financing patent enforcement litigation. You might even imagine anti-infringement insurance developing... I think at this point we don’t really know what's going to happen."

Photo Credit: AP

Virgil’s Barbecue to Open at Mohegan


This spring, Mohegan Sun will add to its restaurant selection with the opening of Virgil’s Real Barbecue.

Virgil’s, established in New York City in 1994, has become famous for its barbecue ribs, chicken, brisket and pork.

They also sell brisket, chicken fried steak, and “trainwreck fries,” including hand-cut fries covered with melted cheddar and jack cheese, smoked bacon, scallions, and pickled jalapenos with ranch dressing.

This will be the third location for the barbecue restaurant and the only one in Connecticut.

Photo Credit: flikr/BBQ Junkie

Route 97, Norwich Reopens After Fatal Crash


Baltic Road, also known as Route 97, in Norwich was closed because of a fatal crash on Tuesday.

The driver of the car died, according to police.  Only one car was involved in the crash near Canterbury Road around 3 p.m.

The road reopened around 7 p.m. 

Police did not release the identity of the driver.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut/David DeJesus
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