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Celebrating New Pope Francis

White smoke rose above the Sistine Chapel Wednesday and bells rang out across Rome, signaling to world that the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church have chosen a new pope.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lawrence Tynes Has Hit His Last Game-Winner for the Giants


Both times the Giants won the Super Bowl under Tom Coughlin, they've reached the big game in the same way.

They were in overtime on the road and close enough to let Lawrence Tynes knock a field goal through the uprights to make them the champions of the NFC. If they make it to a third Super Bowl next season, it will have to come via a different script. 

The Giants announced Wednesday afternoon that they have signed veteran kicker Josh Brown as a free agent, with the widely reported reason being that they couldn't get Tynes to agree to their interpretation of his value to the team. Brown, who was in Jets camp last year, has kicked for several different teams and will battle the previously signed David Buehler for the job this offseason. 

Tynes joins Chris Canty, Michael Boley and Ahmad Bradshaw as key parts of the team's Super Bowl teams who have been shuffled aside as the Giants try to construct a roster that can get them back to the playoffs. Canty has landed with the Ravens and Tynes will surely wind up kicking somewhere, even if he did have some wobbly moments for the team last season. 

Kicker isn't the only place where the Giants will look different next season. Tight end Martellus Bennett signed a four-year deal with the Bears that will pay him $21 million, a price that was likely several million dollars and perhaps years more than the Giants would have been willing to offer to keep Bennett. 

That will leave Jerry Reese to go shopping for a tight end again, something that shouldn't worry the Giants all that much. From Kevin Boss to Jake Ballard to Bennett, Reese has found production at tight end. Just to be on the safe side, let's make sure the new arrival's surname starts with a B. 

The Giants are also sniffing around some linebackers, but they'll probably wait for the second wave of free agency to start signing players. Prices drop along with the name value, but those players have done well for the Giants over the years. 

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Search is Over for Man Accused of Stabbing Teen in Chest and Back


Naugatuck police have arrested a 33-year-old Norwalk man accused of stabbing a 16-year-old in the chest and back in July.

Police said Joseph Gay and the victim knew each other and the assault happened on July 30 in Gay’s former home on Church Street in Naugatuck, but the teen was found on Rubber Avenue.

The teen was taken to Waterbury Hospital, and then transferred to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.

Police reached out to the public in the fall,
asking for help to find Gay and a reward was offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Gay was arrested on a warrant on Tuesday, charging him with first-degree assault and a violation for purchasing liquor or making false statement to procure liquor by a person forbidden to purchase prohibited.

Gay was held on a $500,000.00 court set surety bond.


Fallen Soldier Remembered as Strong Leader


Flags at the Avon Old Farms School, and across Connecticut, now fly at half staff in honor of Army Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel who was killed in Afghanistan Monday.

Pedersen-Keel, 28, graduated from the elite boarding school in 2002. Those who knew him there are now mourning his loss, and are remembering him for his strong academic, athletic, and leadership skills.

Known on campus as PK, Pedersen-Keel was an honors student, the editor of the student paper, and a varsity athlete in football, lacrosse, and wrestling, according to school officials.

"He loved serving his country. He was a hero," said Kevin Driscoll, the school's football coach.

Driscoll recalled Pedersen-Keel for his ability to lead the football team, despite being the smallest member of a towering offensive line.

"In the middle of that group of guys, I had this 5' 10", 185 pound center who really was the catalyst of that group of guys. They looked up to him, all these monsters looked up to him, and he was the leader of that group," said Driscoll.

Pedersen-Keel was one of two American special forces members killed in Afghanistan on Monday when a man dressed in an Afghan police uniform opened fire on them at a police station, according to the military. Five others also died in the attack.

"We're a family. He was an important part of the family. He lived here at school for four years so it's almost like losing one of your own," said Kenneth LaRocque, the school's headmaster. "I just remember a young man with a smile on his face who always wanted to do the right thing. He was a great man."

After graduating from the Avon Old Farms School, Pedersen-Keel went on to attend the West Point Military Academy. He graduated there in 2006.

"He was just overjoyed when he received his appointment to West Point and he really was so proud of that and eager to serve his country," said LaRocque.

Flowers now sit outside his family's Madison home.

"He always said he wanted to go to West Point," said Mark Freeman, who attended Avon Old Farms with Pedersen-Keel. "He was always a level headed guy, just very honest and forthcoming. Always a friend. Just a really great person and he deserves all of the accolades because it's tragic. It really is."

Next to his picture in his senior yearbook, Pedersen-Keel chose a quote from T'ao Chien that reads, "Just surrender to the cycle of things, give yourself to the waves of the Great Change, and when it is time to go, then simply go, without any unnecessary fuss."

The school plans to honor Pedersen-Keel during a memorial service on its Alumni Weekend in May.

"He was just too young and too special to die in the line of fire like that," said Freeman.

"We lost a great man, we lost a great Avonian, and Connecticut lost a great son," said Driscoll.

Photo Credit: Department of Defense

Nissan Recalls Five 2013 Models for Airbag Concerns


Nissan is recalling five of its 2013 model year vehicles because the front passenger airbag may not deploy in a crash.

The recall includes certain model year 2013 Altima, LEAF, Pathfinder, Sentra and Infiniti JX35 vehicles, Nissan told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In documents filed with U.S. regulators, the automaker said sensors in the passenger Occupant Detection System may not have been manufactured to specification. This may cause the detection system to not work properly and prevent the front passenger airbag from deploying in a crash.

If the vehicle were to be involved in a crash, and the airbag doesn't deploy properly, there’s an increased risk of injury.

"Nissan and Infiniti are committed to a high level of customer safety, service and satisfaction and is working to promptly address this issue," Steve Parrett, Manager of Corporate Communications for Nissan North America said in a statement to NBC 5 DFW.

Nissan advised safety regulators of the voluntary recall two months after the automaker first noticed an increase in warranty claims from customers regarding the passenger airbag light, according to the documents. Nissan has not determined the number of vehicles affected.

The recall is expected to begin in early April, and Nissan said it will notify owners.

Dealers will inspect the sensors and replace them free of charge if necessary.

In the meantime, owners can contact Nissan or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or go to safercar.gov.

Pope Francis: What's Behind the Name


Upon his election as the head of the Catholic Church, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose to be known as Pope Francis I. What's unclear at this point is which of the many men called St. Francis is the pope's inspiration.

The obvious assumption is that Francis chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who emulated the life of Christ like perhaps no other figure in the church's history and who is Italy's patron saint. But a good second guess would be St. Francis Xavier, who, like the new pope, was a Jesuit.

Francis Xavier was born on April 7, 1506, in Spain. After finishing his preliminary studies in his native country, he traveled to Paris, where he met St. Ignatius Loyola, who would go on the found the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits. Francis Xavier was one of the original members to take the vow of poverty and chastity in 1534. Six years later, the order would be approved by Rome.

"Then, within a month or so of the time that the society was approved in 1540, there was a call for a Jesuit to go to India to bring the faith to the East," explained Father Charles Federico, Vocation Director at the Society of Jesus. "The original guy that was supposed to go got sick, and Ignatius asked Francis Xavier if he would go. And so he would give his blessing at the port of Rome, and they would never see one another again."

When he left for India, Francis Xavier became one of the first missionaries, helping establish a tradition of going out into the world in the service of God that Jesuits still see themselves, Federico said.

"We're men serving the church on mission, with a commitment to Jesus Christ and a commitment to the pope, the Holy Father and the service of the church," Federico said. "Every guy that takes vows as a Jesuit commits himself really to that understanding of being a missionary, whether he's teaching in a high school or whether he's serving in the foreign missions."

The Jesuits are also renowned for their commitment to formal education, which Federico says is an expression of their devotion.

"For the Jesuit, learning is an act of faith, of praising God," Federico says. "It really goes from beginning a relationship with God and recognizing that all things have been created by God and they're tools for getting closer to God. So when we read a book, the understanding is that you're reading it to understand, where is God in that text? And how is it that God is calling me to respond?"

Francis Xavier spent three years in India preaching the word of God before heading off to Japan, China and other faraway lands. He died in 1552 off the coast of China, but he was ultimately laid to rest in Goa, in a church formerly owned by the Jesuits. In 1614, on the order of the Society, his right arm was cut off below the elbow and sent to Rome, where it still rests in the Church of Gesu.

And if Francis Xavier is in fact the man Pope Francis is honoring with his name, the timing couldn’t be much better. The day before Pope Francis' election was the final day of the Novena of Grace, a nine-day prayer that leads up to the anniversary of the canonization of Francis Xavier in 1622.

"He finished the Novena of Grace yesterday, and he chose St. Francis because of it," joked Father Federico.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Catholics Throughout the Americas Celebrate New Pope


Tears and cheers erupted across the Americas on Wednesday as an Argentine cardinal became the first pope from the hemisphere, and many expressed hope that he help bring the church closer to the poverty-wracked region that is home to more Catholics than any other.

Lucila Mejias, a student at the Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires, said she expected Francis' papacy to help renew the church worldwide and in her home country in particular.

"Bergoglio has great charisma with young people. He is very profound and realistic at the same time," she said. "I hopefully wait for him to lead the Church with the enthusiasm that he has transmitted so many times in his lectures."

Cars honked their horns on the streets of Argentina's capital, and television announcers screamed with elation at the news that the cardinal they knew as Jorge Mario Bergoglio had become Pope Francis.

"It's incredible!" said Martha Ruiz, 60, as she wept.

She said she had been in many meetings with the cardinal and described him as "a man who transmits great serenity."

And a Florida man who grew up in Argentina and knew Pope Francis there praised the priest who, decades earlier, had given Mass at his Catholic school, NBC 6 South Florida reported.

"He was just like any other person, and you could truly instill your trust in him," Guillermo Russian told NBC 6.

A California priest, Fr. Arthur Leibscher of Santa Clara University, who also knew Francis personally described him as a man of "tremendous simplicity" who "stands by his conviction and his teaching.

"He's not pandering to anything except the need to be faithful to God," Fr. Leibscher told NBC Bay Area.

The excitement reverberated throughout the United States, particularly in Latino communities.

Yadira Mejia, a senior at a Catholic high school outside Philadelphia whose parents are Ecuadorean, told NBC 10 Philadelphia that she was overjoyed by the news of the new pope, and his Latin American origins.

"It's like injecting life back into the church," she told NBC 10. "I feel like there's a lot of emotion in the Spanish communities. Maybe some of those ways of celebrating Masses, with a lot more festivities — maybe that will be implemented into the church."

The news had taken Carlos Encinas, an Argentine living in New York City, by surprise — but welcome surprise.

"I didn't expect that. I'm very happy," Encinas told NBC 4 New York. "I hope that he's going to be a good pope. He's very humble."

Gerardo Sportella, another Argentine in New York, said Bergoglio is "a very good man."

"For Latino Catholics, we see it as a triumph. The first reaction is triumph, but ... with the triumph comes the cross," Gustavo Calderon, a parishioner at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco, told NBC Bay Area.

And in Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose Gomez said at a Mass on Wednesday that the selection of Francis as pope "shows the importance of all of us in this continent as part of the church," NBC 4 Los Angeles reported.

Juan Martinez, a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., agreed — and said Francis' Jesuit background would set him apart as a pope, too.

"The reality of living amongst the poor and those who suffered in the majority world gives him a very different perspective from the previous pope," Martinez told NBC 4 Los Angeles. "It is an experience that is more common among the majority of Catholics."

"It's a huge gift for all of Latin America. We waited 20 centuries. It was worth the wait," said Jose Antonio Cruz, a Franciscan friar at the church of St. Francis of Assisi in the colonial Old San Juan district in Puerto Rico.

"Everyone from Canada down to Patagonia is going to feel blessed," he said after exchanging high-fives with church secretary Antonia Veloz.

Bergoglio's former spokesman, Guillermo Marco, told Argentina's TN television station that the new 76-year-old pope — who is also the first from the Jesuit order — "has enormous pastoral experience" with a humble bearing.

"You can count the occasions when he used a car with a chauffeur," Marco said. "His choices of life as cardinal have been to have a normal, common life."

The new pope was known for taking the subway and mingling with the poor of Buenos Aires while archbishop.

That common touch was evident in the new pope's first words to the crowd.

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing, when he started saying, 'Good afternoon,' just like someone saying hello to a friend," said Bishop Eugenio Lira, secretary-general of the Mexican Conference of Bishops. "He will certainly be the pope who is closest to the people of Latin America. He knows the problems of Latin America very well."

Soledad Loaeza, a political science professor at the Colegio de Mexico who studies the church, said he was a logical choice. "First, Latin America is the most important region in the world for the church," but one where evangelical churches have been making inroads. "So it may also be an attempt to stop the decline in the number of Catholics."

For church leaders seeking growth, instead of the aging, declining congregations in Europe or the United States, "there are only two regions," Loaeza said: Africa and Latin America.

Nearly half of the world's Roman Catholics live in the Americas, north and south, or the Caribbean.

In Cuba, parish priest Gregorio Alvarez said he believes Pope Francis' background could lead the church to focus more on the ills afflicting humanity, and less on internal issues.

"One hopes that the church will be closer to the problems of humankind and not only the problems of the church," Alvarez said at the Jesus of Miramar Church in a leafy western suburb of Havana, where bells pealed following the announcement.

"Being Latin American gives him an advantage. He understands the problems of poverty, of violence, of manipulation of the masses," Alvarez said. "All that gives him experience for the job. ... He's one of the family."

Even Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, a sometimes antagonist who once compared Bergoglio's stands on abortion and gay rights to "medieval times and the Inquisition," offered congratulations.

"It's our desire that you have ... a fruitful pastoral work, developing such great responsibilities in terms of justice, equality, fraternity and peace for humankind," she wrote in an open letter.

Latin America has some of the world's sharpest divides between rich and poor and Marvin Cruz, a Catholic at the Parish of the Miraculous in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, said the pope's "main challenge will be the fight against economic inequality."

"His training as a Jesuit will allow him to take it head on," Cruz said.

He also noted the erosion of church membership in the face of Protestant denominations and secularism. "I hope he calls those who have left and those without faith to the bosom of the church," he said.

Monsignor Jose Cummings at the Cathedral of San Juan noted that the new pope "has presented himself as a simple and humble man," and specifically mentioned the word charity in his first remarks.

"He's going to pay particular attention to the people and the people are the church," Cummings said.

The bishop at the head of Venezuela's church, the Rev. Diego Padron, remarked, "All of Latin America is dropping to its knees to pray, to thank God for this extraordinary gift that he has given us."

"I am convinced this pope will make extraordinary changes, beginning with his gestures today," Padron said, referring to Francis' bowing to the crowd at St. Peter's Square, "asking for a prayer, showing great humility and at the same time displaying a great change."

For some of the poor, the choice has already brought benefits. Juan Carlos Alarcon, a 58-year-old street vendor, came to the Buenos Aires cathedral with a load of Argentine flags to sell.

"I have to take advantage of this historic moment to feed my family," he said.

But there was a tinge of regret for some who had been hoping for a Brazilian pope.

Bruno Scherer, the brother of Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer, sat by himself in a square behind the main Catholic church in the Scherer family's hometown of Toledo in southern Brazil.

"I think Odilo must be happy. He must have the feeling that he was left off the hook," Bruno Scherer told The Associated Press.

"I think that because of his age — he's still quite young — he wouldn't want to lose his liberty. He wants to keep traveling, taking photos, and doing his thing. ... Well, let's at least think that."

Photo Credit: AP

Residents Can't Return Home After February Blizzard


Just days after the blizzard walloped the state with feet of snow, Krista Hanniford noticed something unusual at her Branford Hills condo.

“I woke up one morning and I noticed some real large cracks by the window,” said Hanniford.

When the Branford Fire and Building Departments were called in, they found out it was a lot more than few cracks.

“They had discovered that the walls were cracking, and the windows don't open properly.  So we went up there to see if there was any more damage and to see if we could mitigate it, which unfortunately, we really weren't able to do,” said Branford Fire Chief Jack Ahern.

Chief Ahern says the roof of the building just couldn't hold such a large amount of snow, and it started to collapse.  That made it no longer safe for any of the people living in the six units in building 133.

“They said you need to leave.  Grab your important stuff and leave,” said Hanniford.

Hanniford says it's tough not being able to go back home.  She's been out of her place for more than a month now.

“It's been you know, a struggle,” she said.

She says she's fortunate, though, because her parents and people at the Branford Compassion Club where she volunteers have all stepped up to help. 

The company that handles Branford Hills, Prime Property Management of Hamden, didn't return our call for comment, but has been in touch with the Branford Building Department and condo owners about repairs.

“The property management sent a letter out saying they're doing a walk about sometime tomorrow and taking bids,” said Hanniford.

She says she hopes the process moves along, so that she can get back into her home soon. 

The inside of My Sister's Place in Ansonia doesn't look like it normally does.  Instead of clothing hanging on the racks, it's being taken off the racks and bagged up to be shipped out.

“Everything that's on our selling floor will be taken and either bulk dry cleaned or bulk cleaned,” said Nancy Cahoon, manager of My Sister’s Place.

It needs to be cleaned because of a fire in the neighboring Asylum Nightclub early Monday morning.  The flames didn't extend to the thrift shop, but the fire did do enough damage to close the store.

“We had a very bad smoke smell.  Thank goodness there was no water damage, no soot on the walls, but everything had a very heavy smell of smoke,” said Cahoon.

So now the entire store needs to be cleaned from top to bottom.  While that happens, My Sister's Place will remain closed. 

However, it still wants people to drop off any gently-used merchandise, because without donations and then merchandise sales, the non-profit store won't be raising money for the Center for Domestic Violence Services.

“This is our busiest time going into spring time.  Everybody's spring cleaning and they're ready to drop of donations,” said Cahoon.

Starting Thursday, the store will be taking donations again.  What will happen is the managers are asking people to drop off the donations here, and they'll move them to another location until the store is ready to reopen.

So far, a soft reopening is set for Friday, March 29th and a grand reopening is set for Saturday, April 6th.

Catholics Across the State Welcome the New Pope


In more than a millennium, Pope Francis is the first pontiff from outside Europe. Catholics at churches across the state are welcoming the new Pope, especially the Latino community.

"So once they said he was from Argentina, I was like oh my god our prayers were answered," said Juanita Otero of West Haven, who says she couldn't have imagined a Hispanic Pope.

"Having a pope that speaks our language that knows the culture. It's very unprecedented for us."

She's Puerto Rican and says it's an important moment for Latinos around the world. Otero has been worshiping at Saint Rose of Lima in Fair Haven for more than 20 years adding that she was glued to her television all day awaiting the news.

"That it would be a good one. One that is really going to make a change," Otero says.

Wednesdays are their usual nights for singing and praying and dozens came to honor the new pontiff.

"If you would've asked this to an Argentinian he'll give you a hug. He'll say it's wonderful," said Domingo Vega of New Haven.

"God took the perfect man to serve the whole world and to serve Jesus," said Claudio Gonzalez of Hamden. He likes that he chose the name Francis--in honor of the Italian preacher who lived a life of poverty."For me this comes from God."

"Francis stands for something. He stands for the relationship with the natural world," said Father Jeffrey von Arx, the president of Fairfield University, the only Jesuit college in the state. "You feel that you know the kind of person he is given the background that we would share together and given the experience he's had within the society of Jesus."

Forty percent of all the world's Catholics live in Latin America and many parishioners said they are excited about having someone they can relate to leading the church.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis: "A Working Man's Pope"


Pope Francis I, the first-ever Jesuit and Latin American to lead the Roman Catholic Church, was not a widely known figure on the international stage before emerging Wednesday evening on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. But for many, his humble demeanor and speech made a powerful impression.

In his first address as Supreme Pontiff, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a native of Buenos Aires, joked that the cardinals had gone “almost to the end of the world” to find their new Bishop of Rome. And before stepping back inside, he asked for a favor of his “brothers and sisters.” Pray for me, he asked.

For full coverage of Pope Francis' papacy, visit NBCNews.com.

Brother Charles Hilken, an expert in papal history at St. Mary’s College of California, said he knew no other modern pope to make such a “beautiful, authentic gesture.”

“He had the presence of mind to know that he’s more than the choice of 115 elderly men from all parts of the world. He had to be the choice of Rome and the rest of the world,” Hilken said.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis developed a positive reputation for his work with the poor. He eschewed the perks of high office, living in a small apartment instead of a palace and taking the bus instead of chauffeured car.

He is an arch conservative when it comes to social issues but also has preached compassion for the poor, AIDS sufferers and the otherwise downtrodden.

"We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least," Bergoglio told a gathering of Latin American bishops in 2007, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Father David Cooper, who heads the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, believes the Cardinals opted for a change of direction by selecting Bergoglio.

"He's what you might call a working man's pope. He is not aristocratic," said Father David Cooper, who heads the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. "I would see that as a departure.”

In that sense, the choice reminded Cooper of Pope John XXIII, a son of sharecroppers who defied expectations that he would be a caretaker pontiff and instead became a major reformer, calling for the Second Vatican Council that modernized the church.

"I think he'll have a way of working with people," Cooper said of Francis. "From the first words he said, about bringing people together into one brotherhood, to me that sounds like he's really talking about unifying and not dividing."

Bergoglio will be the first Jesuit pope and the first pope to choose the name Francis, presumably for either St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his devotion to the poor, or St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit known for his missionary work.

As a member of one of the largest Catholic religious orders, Francis will be able to draw from a vast international network of missionaries, said Helen Osman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"He's going to bring great depth for theological purposes, but also a great depth from the heart, which is where the church is supposed to be," Osman said.

Like many Catholics, Osman is still learning who Francis is. But she was struck by the image of him standing on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, looking out at the crowd. "I was struck by his humbleness," she said. “I can’t presume to know what he was thinking, but it almost looked like a bit of panic on his face.”

His address, however, struck Osman for its message of egalitarianism.

"He talked about starting this journey together, bishop with the people and people with the bishop. It's like going back to the gospel stories about Jesus walking along with the road with his disciples. He sees himself as making a journey with fellow Catholics and the rest of the world."

Raymond Schroth, literary editor of America Magazine, a Jesuit publication, said he was nearly brought to tears upon seeing Bergoglio emerge as pope. To him, the choice means a break from the status quo in many ways.

"The most delicious detail is, well, we all have a lot of fantasies about what we'd do if we were pope or bishop and one of mine has always been that I'd just live in a couple rooms and live simply," Schroth said. "I'd try to identify as much as possible with the poor. And this seems to be a man who has done that."

Francis is also expected to be a defender of traditional Catholicism. His views on gender, sexuality and abortion are closely aligned with the traditional views of the church.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who was among the two dozen prelates named as possible successors to Benedict XVI, said in a statement that Pope Francis continues the mission of St. Peter “in an increasingly secular culture, where many people have not come to know or have forgotten that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer.”

“We pledge our faithful support for the Holy Father as he leads the Church in proclaiming the new Evangelization, inviting all people to develop a closer relationship with Christ.”

Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Francis studied philosophy and theology and was ordained in 1969. Four years later he was later elevated to lead the Jesuits in Argentina and in 1992 was appointed auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires. When Cardinal Quarracino died in 1998, he was installed as the city's new archbishop.

Critics have accused Bergoglio and other church leaders of not taking a strong enough stand against the military dictatorship's 1976-83 crackdown on leftists and political opponents, but Bergoglio later sought public forgiveness for the church's inaction.

Francis, who was selected on the second day of the conclave, will be officially installed as the 266th pope on Tuesday, March 19 in St. Peter’s Square, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Report of Man With Gun Prompts School Lockdowns


A report of a man with a rifle prompted school lockdowns and an alert at Southern Connecticut State University Wednesday afternoon.

An employee at the Hamden Transfer Station at 231 Wintergreen Avenue called police around 1:30 p.m. after seeing a man wearing a black jacket and carrying a rifle, according to police.  The employee told officers the rifle had a scope attached to it.

Police from Hamden, New Haven Southern Connecticut State University and Yale University set up a perimeter along the Hamden-New Haven line and searched the woods nearby.  Officers also canvassed neighborhoods, but were not able to find the man reported to have a gun, according to police.

During the search, several New Haven schools were placed into lockdown and alert was sent out to SCSU students and staff to notify them of the situation.  The alert urged people to stay away from Wintergreen Avenue, but the campus was never placed into lockdown, according to a school spokesperson.

An investigation into the incident will continue.  Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Hamden Police at 203-230-4000.


Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia

Connecticut's Catholic Leaders React to Election of New Pope


Archbishop of Hartford Henry Mansell called Wednesday "an historic day" as Pope Francis I was introduced to the world.

"We share this momentous day with over 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide and people of every faith," Mansell said.  "It is a joyous day, one filled with hope and promise.  The announcement of Pope Francis is one that will affect people everywhere, because of the Catholic Church's longstanding tradition of providing services to people of every background."

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected by his fellow cardinals Wednesday.  He replaces Benedict XVI, who retired last month.

Word that a new pope had been elected came with the sign of white smoke pouring from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at The Vatican, at 2:06 p.m. EST. The identity of Pope Francis was revealed about an hour later.

"We are grateful.  We are excited.  We are overflowing with hope and a deep sense of renewal," said Most Rev. Michael Cote, Bishop of Norwich.  "As the first Pope ever chosen from South America, the Holy Father will have a special appreciation for the prosperity of faith in Latin America." 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Dad Battles School Over Patriotic Songs


A Southern California man claims his daughter was forced to sing songs in class that violate her religious beliefs.

Paul Salcedo’s daughter is in the third grade at Rosebank Elementary School in Chula Vista, Calif.

Salcedo objects to his daughter, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, singing the songs "My Country 'Tis of Thee," "This Land is Your Land" and "You're a Grand Ol' Flag."

"That's a part of the religion too. They don't salute the flag. They don't sing those types of songs. That's their right," Salcedo said.

Salcedo, whose wife is a Jehovah's Witness, got emotional when he discussed how his daughter said she was forced to sing the songs.

"It's my kids. I gotta protect them," Salcedo said. "I mean, they're not going to. I'm the only one who's going to be their voice."

Other points of conflict between the family and the school included a Halloween-based curriculum and valentines distributed in class.

Salcedo they had an agreement between the principal and the teacher that his daughter would be excused during those songs. Now, he said the trust between parent and educators has been broken.

"It’s a violation of the law. We have those civil rights and it’s already been brought to their attention of our beliefs and our practices," Salcedo said.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District disputes Salcedo's account.

"We don't see these songs as being anything other than folk songs," said Anthony Millican, the spokesperson for the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

"The child has not been required to sing these songs at any point," Millican said adding that the schools will not stop teaching the folks songs.

The district has offered options to parents who want to their children not to participate he said.

"We are sensitive to the needs of every student, so we're looking to find a reasonable solution," Millican said.

The district says they're also excusing the child from social studies class during certain topics.

A meeting scheduled Tuesday between all the parties was canceled because Salcedo wanted to record the discussion.

He said his wife planned to sit in on the music lesson on Wednesday to observe.

The family has considered private education and homeschooling, but Salcedo said those options were not financially possible.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego

Police Warn of Daytime Burglaries in New Canaan


Police are investigating two daytime burglaries in New Canaan over a two-day span and they are asking residents to lock their houses and set alarms, if possible, even when leaving home for a brief time. 

Jewelry, electronics and other valuables were taken during a burglary on Tuesday at a house on North Wilton Road and another on Wednesday on Long Lots Road.

Both burglaries happened between noon and 3:00 p.m., according to police.

A blue Toyota minivan, with Florida registration plates, and no rear hubcaps, was seen in the area of the burglary on Tuesday, according to police. The people might have been posing as newspaper delivery people, according to police.

One person in the van was around 40 years old, with a muscular build.

Police ask residents to report all suspicious people or vehicles to the New Canaan Police Department at 203-594-3500.

If it is an emergency, call 911.


Photo Credit: NBCSanDiego

Police Investigate Purse Thefts at West Hartford Restaurants


Police are looking for two women who stole credit cards from customers at Restaurant Bricco and Bartaco in West Hartford Center.

Police said two heavy-set women stole purses or credit cards out of purses that were left unattended in the bar area of the restaurants on March 1 and used the victims’ credit cards at Walmart, Staples and T.J. Maxx in Bristol, Marshalls in West Hartford and T.G.I. Fridays in Waterbury to buy gift cards, food and clothing.

One of the women was also captured on video at a T.J. Maxx Store in Maryland on March 8.

The women might have been in a silver four-door, mid-size sedan.

If you recognize the women, e-mail mperruccio@westhartford.org or call 860-523-2135.

It's Lights Out for Google Reader RSS Service


RIP Google Reader.

Google announced on Wednesday that it is shutting down its RSS service Google Reader on July 1.

The reader, which has a loyal fan base but waning popularity, was developed in 2005 as a way for people to easily curate and discover online content. But Google said it needs to free up resources for a "new kind of computing environment."

"To make the most of these opportunities, we need to focus—otherwise we spread ourselves too thin and lack impact," the tech giant said in a blog post.

The news comes on the heels of another announcement on Wednesday that Andy Rubin, the mastermind behind the Android phone operating system, will be stepping down as head of Google's digital content as the search engine giant combines mobile and desktop divisions.

The demise of Google reader touched a nerve. Fans have started an online petition on keepgooglereader.com, which as of Thursday morning, boasted over 18,000 people who begged to keep the service alive.

"Google Reader is my sole source of news and blogs. Please don't shut it down," wrote James Kwang Huang on the petition.

Another website, bringgooglereaderback.com, took a more humorous approach with an animated GIF of actress Alison Brie addressed to Google that pleaded with the company to "bring back Google Reader."

Google Reader is the latest product to land in Google's graveyard. The firm has shuttered a total of 70 features and services since their "spring cleaning" effort started in 2011. Other recent closures include Google Desktop and Google Maps API for Flash. Remember Google Buzz and Wave?

The latest round of closures also includes Google Cloud Connect, a plug-in that helps people save files from Windows PCs in Google Drive. It was ousted by a more streamlined version of Google Drive and Connect will go away on April 30.

Three-dimensional building tool Google Building Maker will retire on June 1 and Google will end its support for a voice app for Blackberry users.

For those who aren't relying on the online effort to spare Google Reader, there are a host of possible reader replacements.

USA Today provided a round-up of four alternatives that includes slick mobile phone apps like Feedly, Pulse, Flipboard and Twitter.

NewsBlur and The Old Reader are apps that have the ability to import Google Reader's feeds, according to Mashable.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Former EMT to Be Arraigned on Child Porn Charges


A former Vernon E.M.T. is facing child pornography charges in an investigation that took nearly four years to complete due to delays at the state crime lab, according to court records.

Corey MacDonald, 28, of Windsor, who is accused of having 13 images of child pornography on his home computer, will be arraigned on Thursday at Hartford Superior Court.

West Hartford police arrested MacDonald on March 6, but the arrest could have come years ago.

West Hartford police originally arrested MacDonald in April 2009 on voyeurism charges. In that case, his roommate found a hidden camera in her bedroom at the apartment they shared on Maplewood Avenue, police said.

MacDonald worked at AMR Ambulance at West Hartford at the time.

He admitted hiding the camera and also admitted having child porn on his home computer, according to police.

"A computer was seized and a search warrant executed on that computer," Lt. Frank Fallon, of the West Hartford Police Department, said.

Police sent two computers to the state crime lab to be searched for images of the voyeurism victim and images of child pornography, but that didn't happen.

MacDonald pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless endangerment in Hartford Superior Court in August 2009, records show. The deal allowed him to continue working as an Emergency Medical Technician.

In July 2012, the state crime lab sent the computers back to West Hartford police without examining them for child porn, according to police.

One week later, police obtained a new search warrant and sent the computers back to the lab.

"In this particular case, we still wanted information off that computer," said Lt. Fallon.

A lab report detailing the child porn finally came back to police on March 1, according to court records.

MacDonald was arrested for possessing child pornography days later.

At the time of his latest arrest, he worked as an EMT in Vernon. The city now says he's no longer employed there.

A spokesman for the state crime lab said the computers were sent back after the original case was closed because they were unaware police were still investigating.

The victim from the original case disagrees.

By phone, she said, "I hope justice is done. It's been a long time and it's upsetting that the crime lab dropped the ball on something so serious. I've been waiting for justice and I'm sickened that he can still be around patients. It's very upsetting to be going through it all again. I just want there to be justice."

MacDonald did not return a call for comment.

He is due in court on the child pornography charge on Thursday.

Photo Credit: West Hartford Police

Crash Damages Several Cars at Walllingford Auto Shop


Several cars at an auto body shop and convenience store in Wallingford were damaged on Thursday morning when a car went off the road and crashed into them.

The car that police said caused the damage went off the road at 1103 Old Colony Road in Wallingford around 2:30 a.m. and caught fire.

The driver was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital with minor injuries. Police are investigating.

Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia

The Sad Jets Offseason Rolls Along


In a press conference earlier this offseason, Jets coach Rex Ryan reached into his trusty bag of hyperbole to try to alleviate concerns about how the Jets would attract and retain talent on a team that spent 2012 doing its best impression of the Hindenburg.

Players all over the league want to play for the Jets, Ryan boasted, and we'd see that soon enough. Two days into free agency and it's looking like that's headed for a spot next to his plans to visit the White House in the big book of things Rex Ryan probably should have kept to himself. 

Members of the Jets have been signing all over the league since free agency started on Tuesday and we're beginning to wonder if they're going to have enough players to actually hold practices later this year. Mike DeVito, LaRon Landry, Shonn Greene and Yeremiah Bell have all found new places of employment and tight end Dustin Keller probably isn't going to remain unsigned too much longer as players can't make themselves former Jets soon enough. 

None of this was unexpected, of course. Woody Johnson gave Mike Tannenbaum the keys to the kingdom and Tannenbaum used them to put together the kind of long-term fiscal operation that makes Congress feel good about itself. 

But when you add that to the previous departures of Bart Scott, Eric Smith and Calvin Pace, you've got an untalented team that has said goodbye to pretty much all of its talent. And we haven't even gotten to Darrelle Revis yet. 

The Jets leaked that they were still contemplating keeping Revis on Thursday, but that's more about public posturing than the truth. There's absolutely no reason to keep Revis and sign him to a huge, long-term deal now that the team is looking at 2015 or so as a point where their roster can be put in position to contend. 

Keeping Revis at this point would be keeping your nose despite the total degradation of your face, a move of vanity instead of sanity. It looks like the Buccaneers are in the driving seat for a deal and the picks the Jets get will help them start on the road back to competence, but the road looks like a long and unhappy one.

At least they were able to hold onto Lex Hilliard. Every championship journey has to start somewhere and if a backup fullback who plays special teams doesn't scream better days ahead, then there might not be anything that does. 

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Fun Ways to Get Into the Pi Day Holiday Spirit


Thursday is Pi Day, and it is a celebration of the number Pi (or π) — the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, which is equal to approximately 3.14159. It's also a day to gorge on pie.

And if that isn't enough, it's also Albert Einstein's birthday.

So why celebrate on Thursday, March 14? Because 3.14 is the shorthand version of this number, which PiDay.org describes as an "irrational and transcendental number" whose decimals "continue infinitely without repetition or pattern."

For those who are short on ideas to honor this geeky day, here are some for the nerdy and hungry masses:

  • From Pi ice cube trays to Pi artwork, there is plenty of Pi swag on Etsy.com and Amazon to get would-be fans into the holiday spirit.
  • Those with romantic aspirations can buy a .0314-carat diamond ring from Japanese jewelry retailer Brilliance, which is also celebrating Japan's White Day, where men reciprocate gifts received on Valentine's Day.
  • And finally, a DVD of "Life of Pi," which was released on March 12, can cap off a day of Pi and pie celebrations.

Or, as an alternative, here is a cool video about Pi. 


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