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Rescue Group Endures Icy Crash to Save 28 Pups


The Connecticut animal rescue group Wings of Freedom almost needed some rescuing of its own over the weekend when a company became part of a massive slip-and-slide crash on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Lora Rainier, chairman and founder of the Jewett City agency, was driving with her daughter and a fellow member when the car hit a patch of ice and spun out of control.

“We crashed to the side of the road and then we continued to get hit by other cars,” Rainier explained.

Rainier and five others were on their way to pick up 28 dogs coming from kill shelters in Georgia. Their car was totaled and Rainier and her passengers were hospitalized.

“It ended up involving 38 cars,” Rainier said of the crash. “I think we are very lucky to have walked away alive.”

The women were down, but certainly not out. With no major injuries, they resorted to rental cars and continued the journey.

“The dogs can’t speak for themselves,” said Wings of Freedom Secretary Kathy Williamson. “We are their voices are that’s why we do it.”

They made it safely home later that night. Within a matter of hours, the trip had been validated with the adoption of the first pup, Jane.

“She is in her forever home,” said Williamson.

Wings of Freedom Animal Rescue is hoping for the same happy ending for the other 27 rescues. Visit the rescue group's website or Facebook page to find out how you can make a difference.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Hartford City Council to Address School Air Quality Problems


The Hartford City Council will meet on Wednesday evening to address air quality concerns that prompted the closure of the Clark School last month after testing revealed the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

Students and staff were relocated at the end of December so officials could conduct further testing and determine the source of the PCBs, which have been classified as human carcinogens.

Concerns came to light when the school took air samples while getting ready to install a new sprinkler system, according to Supt. Beth Shiavino-Narvaez.

Although a spokesperson for the Hartford school system said the PCB levels were not harmful, school officials opted to take "extreme caution" and move students to other city schools.

“Given that the testing process involves contractors working at various locations around the school, we believe that this would have been disruptive to the educational setting,” school officials said in a statement at the end of December. “As such, we made the determination that it was in the best interest of students and staff, with an abundance of caution, to temporarily relocate to alternate school sites. We made this determination as soon as we received the air quality results.”

School officials met with concerned parents on Saturday, Jan. 10 to answer questions and address next steps. It's not clear how long the Clark School will remain closed.

Parents, students and community members are invited to attend Wednesday's city council meeting, which will be held at 5:40 p.m. at the Council Chambers in City Hall.

There will also be an open house for parents at the Museum Academy at Wish in Hartford at 5 p.m., where school officials will be available to answer questions.The school is located at 350 Barbour Street.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Newtown to Build Memorial for Sandy Hook Shooting Victims


The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission is setting out to honor the lives of 26 students and staffers who died during the December 2012 school shooting.

The victims' families were first to hear the plans to erect a memorial, and they'll also play a large role in shaping the monument.

"I think we have to really run it by the people who were most impacted and see what they feel comfortable with," Newtown resident and Lions Club member Bob Schmidt said during a public forum on Tuesday night.

Although only a dozen residents attended the forum at Newtown High School, commissioners said they were not discouraged or disappointed by the low attendance, but rather inspired by the questions and ideas that were brought to the table.

"We've had multiple different forums with different groups in town, and this is an opportunity for those who want to participate to chat with us and understand and ask questions," commission chairman Kyle Lyddy said.

The commission shared some of that feedback on Tuesday night, explaining that the majority of residents want to see the memorial function as a community gathering place.

"Most of the organizations in town want to participate," Schmidt said. "They want to do something."

Although the commission has yet to hammer out the details, Schmidt said the Newtown Lions Club is one of several organizations that already plan to donate to the cause.

Newtown resident Richmond Jones suggested a memorial park where the community could gather. A peace symbol would mark the center, surrounded by a cluster of 26 trees.

The commission, which has been working on the project for 18 months now, said it has not adopted any sort of timeline.

Along with reaching out to victims' families and residents, commissioners said they are also looking to other communities that have been affected by tragedy, including Virginia Tech.

Commissioners emphasized the importance of getting it right and asked for patience.

The next public forum is set for Jan. 29.

Photo Credit: AP

Dr. Shot, Killed at Boston Hospital Was Yale Grad


The surgeon shot and killed Tuesday morning at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston graduated from the Yale School of Medicine, according to the hospital website.

According to the Boston Police Department, Dr. Michael Davidson, 44, was shot twice by a man who asked for him by name and apparently committed suicide in a hospital room.

Davidson's biography on the Brigham and Women's website lists him as a Yale School of Medicine graduate who earned his degree in 1996. He also served as director of endovascular cardiac surgery at the hospital and was an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

The shooter, Stephen Pasceri, 55, of Millbury, Massachusetts, died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police. Pasceri was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pasceri entered the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center around 11 a.m. Tuesday and asked to speak with Davidson, who came out to meet him, according to police. Pasceri then fired three rounds, two of which struck the doctor, police said.

The cardiovascular unit was placed briefly on lockdown while police were called to the scene. Davidson was rushed into the emergency room and underwent surgery but could not be saved.

"He was targeted, and the reason right now is not clear," Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. "There's something in the past that upset this guy to come in looking for this particular doctor ... Our prayers go out to his wife, and we all pull for his speedy recovery."

Hospital officials said there are no metal detectors at the facility or at any other hospitals in the city, but they expect to take a look at possible security upgrades.

"We've had a very tragic situation here this morning," said hospital president Betsy Nabel. "I want to thank the Boston Police Department for doing an extraordinary job of responding rapidly. I want everyone to know that all of us here at Brigham and Women's Hospital are alert, have responded, we are available now for all who have been affected by this situation, and we will continue to make all the resources of the hospital available to those who have been affected in any way."

Late Tuesday evening, the family of Stephen Pasceri released a statement reading, "First and foremost, our hearts go out to Dr. Davidson, his family, and friends. We are praying for them and his recovery. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are by this tragedy. We are saddened and struggling to make sense of what has transpired and ask that you respect our privacy during this time."

Authorities said they don't believe Pasceri was a patient at the hospital but have not released any details of the relationship between the shooter and surgeon.

Brigham and Women's Hospital is the largest in Boston's Longwood Medical area. It is Harvard Medical School's second largest teaching affiliate.

Photo Credit: NECN/Brigham and Women's Hospital
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Disney Employees Contract Measles


Five Disneyland workers contracted measles at the Anaheim park, including two employees who had vaccinations, health officials said Tuesday, as the number of confirmed cases in the on-going outbreak rose to 53.

A statement from the Orange County Healthcare Agency said there is still “ongoing measles transmission at Disneyland."

At least one family visiting the amusement park Tuesday said they were going to try to get a refund.

“Who knows if we are going to get our money back or not, but we are going to try,” said Matthew Smith, who said it just wasn’t worth risking his daughter’s fragile immune system.

The Smiths traveled all the way from El Paso, Texas, to show their special-needs daughter the attractions featuring the movie “Frozen.”

Smith said his family called to check in with representatives from the park before making the trip, and were told the outbreak had dissipated and that it was safe to visit the park.

Others visiting the park said they weren’t too worried about the highly contagious virus.

“I feel pretty safe walking around,” said one Australian visitor.

Disney said it is taking each request for a measles-based refund on a case-by-case basis.

The health department said while there is a risk of contracting the disease at the park, with the continuing outbreak, the risk exists across the county.

Photo Credit: KNBC

Suspect Reports Car Theft to Cover Up Robbery: Police


A man who attacked a Vernon Dunkin Donuts employee at the drive-thru window during an armed robbery tried to cover up the crime by reporting his car was stolen, police said.

David Lanier, 23, was arrested on multiple charges including robbery.

Police received a 911 call at 7:33 p.m. on Sunday reporting that a man's face was bleeding after a disturbance at the Dunkin Donuts at 520 Talcottville Road (Route 83) near the Regan Road intersection.

The victim, a store employee, told police that a male customer in a light hooded sweatshirt walked up to the drive-thru window and demanded money at knifepoint. When the clerk rushed to close the window, the robber, whose face was concealed with an ace bandage, pulled him outside through the window and a fight ensued.

The robber ran off without any money. Vernon police dog Thor and his handler tried to track the man down, but weren't able to find him. However, officers found some evidence in the area of the crime as they were processing the scene.

The victim declined medical treatment for his minor injuries.

A big break in the case came early the next morning when Lanier called at 5:05 a.m. Monday to report that his car was stolen from the parking lot at his nearby apartment complex at 201 Regan Road. Police soon figured out in their investigation that the call at Weathervane Condominiums was likely related to the Dunkin Donuts robbery.

Vernon police interviewed Lanier and identified him as the robber who assaulted the Dunkin donuts employee and determined that he only reported his car was stolen as a cover-up, police said.

Police charged Lanier with first-degree robbery, first-degree unlawful restraint, third-degree assault, carrying a dangerous weapon, attempted sixth-degree larceny, making a false complaint and making a second-degree false statement.

Police held Lanier in custody on a $250,000 bond. He was scheduled to appear in Rockville Superior Court on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

CT's "American Sniper" Helps Vets With Film's Success


A Connecticut resident who starred alongside Bradley Cooper as himself in box office smash "American Sniper" is using the success of the film to help veteran causes.

Middlefield resident Kevin Lacz, a former Navy Seal sniper, befriended Chris Kyle, the sniper Bradley Cooper portrays in the film, while he was serving in Iraq. Clint Eastwood's film took in $105 million and is based on the true story of Kyle, now well known as the most lethal sniper in United States history.

"Him (Lacz) having all this success and doing what he's done with Navy Seals and so far with the movie's success, it's just been incredible," said Joe Branciforte, who has been close friends with Lacz since high school. "Nothing really surprises me when it comes to Kevin."

Kyle died in 2013 at the hands of a veteran he was trying to help. Branciforte said Lacz is continuing Kyle's work by supporting veteran causes.

"He wants to give of himself. He's not looking to benefit from this. He wants to take that success he has from his career in the Seals and the movie's success and put it towards veteran causes and help veterans," Branciforte said. "That was Chris Kyle's dream and now it's become Kevin's dream."

Lacz will be back in Connecticut in February, holding a charity reception and auction on Feb. 8. Connecticut Trees of Honor and the Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit and Auction are two charities that the event will benefit. 

Branciforte said it doesn't surprise him that Lacz is giving back.

"Anything he can do to help vet causes...he's all about it," Branciforte said. "That's what his goal is now and what he wants to accomplish most."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Evacuation Over at Montowese Elementary School in North Haven


Montowese Elementary School in North Haven was evacuated because of a possible gas leak, according to police, but students are being allowed back into the school.

The school is located at 145 Fitch St.

Police said daily activities at the school have resumed after the fire department and gas company responded and addressed the issue.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Flurries Tonight, Coastal Storm Possible Saturday


Some flurries tonight will bring nothing more than a coating of snow, but the NBC Connecticut First Alert Weather team is keeping an eye on the potential for a coastal storm that could produce a plow-able amount of snow on Saturday.

That storm could also pass out to sea, according to NBC Connecticut meteorologist Bob Maxon, so stay tuned for additional updates.

There is also the potential for snow next week.

Download the NBC Connecticut weather app to get the latest hour-by-hour forecast on the go, interactive radar, weather alerts and more.

Suspect in Burglaries at Newington Apartment Complexes Connected to Windsor Case: Police


Police have obtained an arrest warrant for a suspect in a string of burglaries from storage units at apartment complexes in Newington and said he is the same man arrested on similar allegations in Windsor.

Newington police said they went to investigate at the Stonegate and Colonial Manor apartment complexes on Willard Avenue on Sunday after receiving reports of thefts from 16 basement storage unit.

One resident happened to interrupt a burglary and was able to provide police with a description of the burglar, saying he had a shaved head and was wearing blue jeans and a dark colored sweater.

The man ran from the basement and witnesses told police they saw a dark maroon sedan, possibly a Chrysler Sebring, leave the parking lot.

On the same night, Windsor police received a report of a burglary at a storage unit there, apprehended a suspect and the description of the man in that case matched the description of the Newington burglaries, according to Newington police.

Newington police officers then interviewed the Windsor suspect and he confessed to his involvement in the Newington burglaries, police said.

Officers will be applying for an arrest warrant, police said. Newington police have not released the suspect’s name.

Anyone with information that can help in the investigation should call Officer Shannon Gonzalez at (860) 666-8445.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

New Md. Gov: What to Expect


When Larry Hogan is sworn in as Maryland governor Wednesday, becoming the just second Republican to hold the post in more than 45 years, he'll face a $750 million budget deficit, a legislature controlled by Democrats and an electorate awaiting the tax cuts he promised on the campaign trail.

But what he will try to do when he takes office remains something of a mystery, political observers say.

"He was not at all specific about policies during the campaign," said Donald F. Norris, director of the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "He basically ran against the outgoing governor for being a tax-and-spend liberal and claimed that we were not only overtaxed but over-regulated."

Hogan, 58, takes office after defeating Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown in what was described as an astonishing upset and a rebuke to two-term Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and the tax increases he implemented. Hogan, a commercial real estate broker, is the son of a former congressman and county executive for Prince George's County in Maryland. He becomes the second Republican governor since former Vice President Spiro Agnew.

Hogan promised better fiscal management but now must contend with spending formulas that control some of the budget's largest expenses.

"I can't see him imposing new taxes so really he's left with cuts and that's where he begins to engage real battle with the legislature," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for The Cook Political Report.

Mandated appropriations account for 81 percent of the state's portion of spending proposed for the 2015 fiscal year beginning in July, according to a November report from the Department of Legislative Services' Office of Policy Analysis. The two-year budget shortfall has grown to nearly $1.2 billion.

"Beyond what's in his initial budget, I think you'll see him trying to change some of those mandatory spending patterns to give the state a little bit more flexibility and an ability to avoid ongoing structural deficits," said Todd Eberly, associate professor of political science and chairman of Political Science Department at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Hogan vowed during the campaign that he would work with the state legislature, and observers will be watching carefully to see how long bipartisanship will last in a state with a 2-to-1 Democratic registration.

"I would say the two presiding officers in the state legislature are moderate to conservative Democrats but their rank and file, particularly in the House, are very liberal so that's going to be a pressure point for all of these four years," said Josh Kurtz, a political blogger for Center Maryland.

Kurtz and others noted that the previous Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, similarly pledged compromise but instead fought with the legislature through much of his single four-year term.

"So if Hogan chooses to fight with the Democrats, it's going to be an ugly four years," Norris said. "He won't get anything accomplished. If he can find ground for compromise and cooperation, then I think things will work out pretty well for both sides. We just have to wait and see."

Hogan, who won 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Brown, has said he wants to appeal two environmental measures: a storm water remediation fee, otherwise known as the rain tax, and regulations governing how much nitrogen can be released into the Chesapeake Bay, particularly from chicken farmers on the Eastern Shore, Norris said.

Hogan also has questioned the expense of two large public transit projects on the boards: the Baltimore Red Line, a 14-mile light rail transit line linking the city's east and west sides to the downtown that would cost $2.9 billion, and the Greater Washington Purple Line, a 16-mile east-west transit line connecting Bethesda to New Carrollton that would cost $2.45 billion. Both would gotten $100 million in federal funding, and could get up to $900 million each if Maryland signs funding agreements.

In recent days, Hogan has refused to discuss the projects until after he takes office, but during the campaign, he said he would spend money on roads rather than on expanding public transportation.
Observers noted that he was elected by predominantly suburban and rural voters.

Others programs that could prompt objections from voters if Hogan tries to cut them: school construction and prekindergarten.

"Nobody really knows what Hogan is going to be like when things don't go his way because he's never held elective office before," Kurtz said. "So in that respect, he's a big mystery."

Linkin Park Cancels Mohegan Sun Show


Linkin Park has canceled its national "Hunting Party" tour, including its Connecticut stop, after lead singer Chester Bennington injured himself.

The band had an upcoming show scheduled for Friday, Jan. 30 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, but the performance has been canceled.

“Linkin Park regret (sic) to inform their fans they must cancel the remaining dates of The Hunting Party tour through February 14th, due to a leg injury of lead vocalist Chester Bennington," the band said in a written statement. "The injury requires immediate medical attention making it physically impossible for Bennington to perform."

Bennington also issued a personal statement.

"I'm really disappointed this injury has made it impossible to continue with this tour," Bennington said in a statement. "The first couple of shows were just magical. We will truly miss not being with our fans for the next few weeks. Hope to see you again soon."

Ticket holders will be reimbursed.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Person Falls at Nathan Hale House


Coventry firefighters responded to the Nathan Hale Homestead in town after a person fell, police said.

It's unknown at this time how far the person fell. The person sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

A helicopter was dispatched to pick up the fall victim.

The scene at 2299 South Street in Coventry has cleared, but fire units are returning soon, police said. 

More information will be provided when it becomes available.

Photo Credit: Nick Lacy

Official Embezzled, Built Doll Collection: Records


The former finance director for Plymouth, Connecticut is accused of embezzling more than $800,000 from the town and using much of the money to build something akin to a museum in his home, filled with Hummel figurines, Annalee dolls, coins, stamps, Coach purses and more.

David J. Bertnagel, 41, of Thomaston, was arrested at his home this morning, appeared in court and was released on a $250,000 bond.

He worked as the town finance director from July 2014 until Oct. 31, 2014, when he was suspended after town officials discovered "improprieties" in the finance department.

Further investigation revealed that $808,029.94 in town funds might be missing, according to the criminal complaint.

Prior to becoming the finance director, Bertnagel, worked in the department for around six years as a part-time employee. According to the court paperwork, he is accused of exploiting a weakness in the payroll software program that allowed him to manually create batches of checks, print them and delete any record of them from the system.

When questioned about the funds on Nov. 10, he admitted to issuing “non-salary payments” from the town to himself, the complaint says.

He claimed he’d reached an agreement with town officials, allowing him to withdrawing money early from his pension account, but the former mayor denied any agreement ever existed, the complaint says.

At first, Bertnagel said he could not find a copy of the contract and said he spent around half the money on stamp and coin collections, as well as normal household expenses. The other half was in cash or marketable securities, he said, but a review of Bertnagel’s assets showed that much less – around $100,000 – was available.

In all, Bertnagel is accused of issuing 207 checks to himself from October 2011 through October 2014, and spending $101,890 to pay down a mortgage and two lines of credit secured to his home; $136,700 for home repairs, improvements and renovations; $149,188 on credit card expenses; $124,279 to retailers specializing in collectible items, including coins, stamps Hummel figurines and Annalee dolls; $8,850 to four brokerage firms for stocks and more.

When investigators questioned one of Bertnagel’s friends, she described the house Bertnagel shares with his mother as a “museum” full of collections.

Inside the house, she said, there were more than 200 Coach purses, several Hummel figurines and dolls in a large room on the first floor of the house.

The friend also said one room of the house is dedicated to stamp and coin collections and Bertnagel also has a collection of antique clocks and original artwork depicting the town of Thomaston.

Bertnagel eventually did present a copy of what he claimed was a contract to make early withdrawals from a pension account, but federal investigators determined that it was fake and Bertnagel had likely used an electronic signing machine to add one of the signatures, the complaint says.

Neither Bertnagel nor his attorney was available for comment after court proceedings Tuesday.

Photo Credit: New Britain Herald/Bristol Press and NBCConnecticut.com

No Restrooms at Some Future Train Stations


Hoping to use the bathroom before or after you get on the train? You won't be able to at some new commuter rail stations being built in the state.

A Wallingford train station under construction as part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program and set to open in 2016 will have the latest technology, including a snow melting system, passenger information system and charging stations for electric vehicles, but it won't have a public restroom.

And it's not the only one. Many other commuter rail stations coming to the state between New Haven and Springfield, Massachusetts won't have bathrooms either, and that has raised some concerns.

One issue raised is the unavailability of restrooms for commuters with disabilities. Some argue that train cars that have seating for the disabled don't have bathrooms.

Officials from the state Department of Transportation denied that.

"All the bathrooms are ADA accessible and they're on every other car... Readily accessible," James Redeker, the state's transportation commissioner, said.

Wallingford residents also said that there won't likely be any other developments near the new station with public bathrooms because the area near Parker and North Cherry streets is mostly residential.

Redeker said the decision mostly comes down to duplication. He said officials also believe bathrooms on the train cars are enough and that adding restrooms to the stations would put more of a burden on taxpayers.

"Every train has bathroom facilities on them, so the duplication of resources, I didn't feel, was necessary to spend ... providing a great service for the commuters," Redeker said.

The new service is set to begin in 2016, increasing the number of trains on the corridor from six to 17 daily round-trips between New Haven and Hartford and 13 trains continuing to Springfield, Massachusetts.

What do you think? Should the stations have restrooms or do you think the ones on the trains are sufficient? Tell us in the comments and on Facebook andTwitter

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Newington High Student Had With Pot Brownies: Cops


Newington police have arrested an 18-year-old Newington High School student accused of having several marijuana brownies on school property.

The assistant principal of Newington High School reached out to the school resource officer on Tuesday to report suspicion that a student was in possession of Marijuana brownies.

Police got involved around 8:49 a.m. on Tuesday and determined that Dallas Kaufman, 18, had the drug-infused brownies on school property, police said.

He was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a school and possession of less than four ounces of marijuana.

He was released on a $5,000 non-surety bond and is expected to appear in New Britain Superior Court on Feb. 3.

Photo Credit: Newington Police

Teens Rob Man in New Haven, Knock Him Unconscious


Police are searching for the teens who jumped a man in New Haven over the weekend and beat him unconscious before stealing his iPhone and money.

According to police, the victim was walking on the 600 block of Orange Street around 6 a.m. Sunday when three teens wearing dark clothing came up and attacked him.

The victim was knocked unconscious and was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for a medical evaluation. Police said he was not visibly injured.

The teens made off with $200 cash and the victim's iPhone.

Anyone with information on the robbery is urged to call New Haven police.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Coat Drive Keeps Residents Out of the Cold


Connecticut residents who can’t afford coats don’t have to be cold this winter, thanks to an annual giveaway held at the Burgdorf Health Center in Hartford.

More than 500 donated coats were up for grabs Wednesday morning at 131 Coventry Street in Hartford.

Lisa Davis, who has been trying to get by with just a sweatshirt so far this winter, took two.

“I don’t have a coat this year,” she explained. “So I need a coat.”

Volunteers said that often, recipients become donors, and the cycle continues.

"Many times they actually will bring back the coats that their children outgrew that they got last year," said volunteer Tobye Karl, "and give those to somebody else. And they take new coats."

One man tried on a tan coat for size, saying he'd been asked to dress nicely for church.

"Praise God! Hallelujah!" said Donovan Rhule. "This fits very nicely, just right."

The next coat giveaway – a joint effort put on by Saint Francis Hospital, Siracusa Moving & Storage, the Hartford Federal Credit Union, CREC Public Safety Academy, Betances STEM Magnet School and the North Campus of the Breakthrough Magnet II School – will be held in December.

"We're really happy that we can provide this service to our patients," said Karl.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

"Pivotal": LGBT Groups Praise Obama's "Historic" SOTU


LGBT rights activists and organizations across the country are applauding President Barack Obama for becoming the first U.S. president to use the words "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" in a State of the Union Address.

In the nearly hour-long address in front of Congress Tuesday, Obama condemned persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, while declaring that same-sex marriage is a “civil right.” His remarks come on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court agreement last week to rule on whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

"As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we're threatened, which is why I've prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained," Obama in his sixth State of the Union address. "That's why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they're right, but because they make us safer."

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in California, said the mention made the speech “especially historic for transgender and bisexual people.” The first-of-its-kind nature of the reference was widely reported following the Tuesday night address and confirmed by NBC Owned Television Stations.

“We’ve never heard a president address their needs during a State of the Union Address,” Davis said. “That was just historic. By simply saying the word 'transgender' in a speech, it represents the progress for transgender people and the United State’s broader movement for equality for all.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the Washington D.C-based National Center for Transgender Equality said that the “mention of us” is a way that “empower trans people to stand taller and work harder.”

“The president of the United States condemning persecution against transgender people is pivotal,” the transgender rights activist said in a statement.

Former NFL player Wade Davis II, executive director for You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization that is working to eradicate homophobia in sports, said the inclusion shows that society is starting to recognize that "gay" is not a universal term for those in the LGBT community.

“It’s not an inclusive term for someone who is bisexual or transgender, and we hope people would realize that,” said Davis, who came out as gay in 2012. “The struggle of someone being gay is not a representative of the struggles of someone who is bisexual or transgender. Gay is not this universal term that stands for lesbians, bisexual and transgender. And transgender has zero to do with sexual orientation.”

While the wait may have been long for a U.S president to make such move at the annual joint session of Congress, Obama’s calls for LGBT rights and protections are not entirely new. He was the country's first sitting leader to support same-sex marriage, an announcement he made in 2012.

Obama made a more robust move in 2013, when he reportedly became the first president to use the word “gay” during an inaugural address ─ at his second inauguration in 2013. Last year, the president signed an executive order extending protection against discrimination in the workplace for gay and transgender workers in the federal government.

Masen Davis said more work need to be done, and he urged Congress to pass laws to help LGBT individuals get more access to the services they need, including protections against housing discrimination.

Wade Davis, the NFL player, echoed those remarks, saying he hopes Obama’s message Tuesday night “will start some serious conversations about the discrimination” people in the LGBT community faces, particularly transgender individuals.

“It’s unfortunate for this to be the first time a president talks about it, but it speaks to some come change that is happening,” Wade Davis said. “I hope that the outcome of those conversations will be a policy. Talking without having a policy to back it up is just empty.”

Photo Credit: ap

2 Charged in Armed Robbery of Windsor Bank


Authorities have arrested two men accused of robbing a Windsor bank at gunpoint earlier this month, one of whom is also accused of ripping off a bank in East Windsor.

According to the U.S. attorney's office, David Johnson, 27, and Odain Johnson, 21, held up the First Niagara Bank at 2133 Poquonock Avenue on Jan. 10.

Federal prosecutors said the men, who wore masks to hide their faces, jumped the counter, ordered employees to get down and stole $81,530 from the bank vault. The suspects also took an undisclosed amount of cash from teller drawers.

According to a federal criminal complaint charging David and Odain Johnson, one of the men pointed a gun at a customer who interrupted the robbery and told him to get on the ground.

The men then confronted a second customer as they were leaving and said, "If you say anything, we'll shoot you," according to the U.S. attorney's office.

David Johnson is also facing charges in connection with the July 21 robbery of the Nutmeg State Federal Credit Union in East Windsor.

Odain Johnson was arrested in Maine on Jan. 17, according to federal prosecutors. Both suspects are in custody and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Police in Glastonbury are investigating a similar robbery, but no charges have been filed.

Photo Credit: Windsor Police Department
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