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Girls Can't Wear Tuxedos to Prom, High School Says


Students at a high school in California are being told they must wear gender-specific attire to prom and for yearbook photos, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to demand district officials step in to end discrimination against students by teachers and administrators at the school.

The ACLU said girls are being told they must wear dresses to the prom and boys must don tuxedos.

"Some female members of (the Gay Straight Alliance) would like to wear tuxedos to prom. Me, myself personally would like to wear tuxedo and heels to prom," said student Levi Smithson-Johnston.

In an 11-page letter to Hesperia Unified School District Interim Superintendent David McLaughlin, the ACLU and law firm Nixon Peabody charged that administrators at  Sultana High School in San Bernardino County foster a hostile and harassing climate for gay and gender non-conforming students.

Teachers and administrators have made discriminatory comments about gay people, and have not stepped in to stop bullying by students, the ACLU said.

Students were also instructed to wear gender-specific attire for their yearbook photos, in violation of state and federal laws, according to the ACLU.

"California law makes it crystal clear schools cannot discriminate against LGBTQ students based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression," said Melissa Goodman, ACLU attorney.

Kyle Bodda, president of the Sultana Gay Straight Alliance, said the atmosphere has proven distracting to learning.

"All students should feel safe and free to be themselves at school," Bodda said. "I'm hopeful the administration does the right thing and creates a safe environment where we can be ourselves without fear of being harassed."

Smithson-Johnston, a senior at Sultana High School, said the alleged discrimination began last year when students formed a Gay Straight Alliance club on campus.

"It’s saddening that they would even want to discriminate or even try to hide anybody of their sexual orientation or gender," he said.

In a statement, interim superintendent McLaughlin said he was returning to the district from spring break to "personally oversee a thorough examination of this situation.

"These allegations are deeply concerning and they have my full and focused attention," he said. "While the ACLU letter focuses specifically on the rights of gay and lesbian students, I see it as a moral imperative to reinforce the current efforts in place regarding anti-bullying and tolerance throughout the district."

In one incident, a teacher told a student who commented that he did not have a valentine on Valentine's Day, that that's "because you're gay and nobody wants to be with you." In another, an administrator referred to a gay student's campaign for homecoming queen as a "joke." Another teacher told a student to "take the gay headband off."

The ACLU's letter noted that a gay teacher, who was advisor to the alliance, was told she was "a bad fit" after she helped a student file a complaint against a teacher and her contract was not renewed.

Students and lawyers alleged that administrators have censored the Gay Straight Alliance's public announcements, flyers and activities, such as movie screenings.

Amber Stanford, a junior, said she’d like to see the school’s treatment of LGBTQ and gender non-conforming students "change drastically."

Stanford said she plans on wearing a dress and heels to prom, but has close friends who would be affected by the dress code.

"Any student should be able to wear whatever they want no matter if they are boy or girl because it’s what they feel comfortable in," she said.

The lawyers want written assurances from the district by March 25 that discrimination will end at the school.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flickr RF

White House Warns of Possible Easter Egg Roll Cancellation


The Easter Egg Roll could become another victim of the sequester, the White House warned Monday.

A memo to members of Congress inviting them to attend the April 1 event at the White House included the disclaimer that the event is "subject to cancellation due to funding uncertainty."

The Easter Egg Roll, which hasn’t been canceled yet, is held on the south lawn of the White House.

Invitations were sent to Congress members Friday. Each member is allowed to bring up to four family members, and since it is geared toward children, at least one guest must be younger than 13.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Wallingford Man Accused of Bomb Making


Police arrested a Wallingford man on Monday after finding several bomb-making materials in his bedroom, according to a news release from police.

Nicholas Disanti, 23, of Field Drive in Wallingford, was in court on Tuesday and his mother said in court that Nicholas has autism and might not know what he did.

The investigation into Disanti started around 1 p.m. on Monday when police received a 911 call reporting that someone in the woods behind Cardinal Drive was lighting off fireworks or bombs.

When police responded, Disanti admitted that he had had just ignited a homemade incendiary device in the woods, police said, and investigators seized the burnt remnants of the device.  

Police then escorted Disanti to his residence, searched for additional explosive materials and found black powder, fuses and nine galvanized pipes of several sizes that were altered to accept fuses in his bedroom, police said. 

Three bomb technicians from the State Police Emergency Services Unit and agents from the New Haven Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations responded and cleared all explosive and bomb-making material, police said.

Police said on Tuesday that  they found 400 knives, 59 brass knuckles and pellet guns.

Police took Disanti into custody and he was charged with manufacturing of bombs, possession of explosives, risk of Injury to a minor, second-degree reckless endangerment, possession of fireworks and breach of peace.

He is being held on a $150,000 bond and is due back in court on April 5. 

Highlights From Pope Francis' Installation


Pope Francis issued an appeal for the protection of the weak, the poor and the world environment Tuesday at a special Mass marking his installation as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. Take a look at highlights of the day's events.

Photo Credit: AP

DeLauro Attends Pope’s Installation


Among the thousands of people who were at the Vatican on Tuesday morning for the installation of Pope Francis is U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

“I was honored to be a part of today’s historic ceremony, which was a beautiful and moving occasion. I was personally inspired as Pope Francis, like his namesake Saint Francis of Assissi, expressed his commitment to renewing the Church’s emphasis on helping the least fortunate in society. This is particularly important as people everywhere continue to struggle against worldwide hunger and poverty,” DeLauro said.   

As former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bargoglio was installed as the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, DeLauro was at the Vatican as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation representing the United States, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX),  Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA).

Pope Francis urged people in attendance, to protect the environment, the weakest and the poorest, mapping out a clear focus of his priorities as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

"Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment," Francis said in a homily.

Pope Francis is taking over as the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics during the Lenten season for the church.

“This is a time of celebration and I join Catholics worldwide in welcoming His Holiness Pope Francis I to his new role as the leader of our Church,” DeLauro said in a statement.

Photo Credit: AP

Truck Careens Off Highway, Narrowly Missing House


A FedEx truck landed just inches from a Wallingford house on Tuesday after the tractor-trailer went down an embankment off Interstate 91 North in Wallingford. 

State police said slick and icy conditions from the overnight storm contributed to the truck driver losing control and going off the road near at the Route 40 connector.

Karen Carofano, who lives in the house the truck narrowly missed, said her husband woke her up and told her he had to call 911.

"I'm glad my husband heard it so someone could get here quick for the driver," she said.
The driver is in good condition, police said.

Karen said she's just happy everyone is OK and that the truck didn't come crashing through her house.

"I've never seen this before; we've lived here a long time," Carofano said.

Photo Credit: Audrey Washington, NBC Connecticut

Philadelphia Mayor Slams "White in Philly" Magazine Story


The issue of race in the City of Bortherly Love has come to the forefront after a recent Philadelphia Magazine cover story called “Being White in Philly.”

The article, written by Bob Huber, a white man, describes the experiences of white people who live in racially mixed neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The story garnered plenty of attention since it appeared at the beginning of March especially since Mayor Michael Nutter got a hold of it.

On Friday, Nutter sent a letter to the city’s Commission on Human Relations in response to the article. In his letter, Nutter claimed the article had a “disgusting tone” and criticized its “collection of disparaging beliefs and negative stereotypes.” He also claimed the story “used isolated negative experiences” and made “generalizations” to portray African Americans as lazy, irresponsible and criminal. Nutter requested that the city’s Commission on Human Relations conduct an “inquiry” into the state of racial issues in Philadelphia.

Rue Landau, the Executive Director on Human Relations, agreed, claiming that the article perpetuated “harmful stereotypes.” He also stated the Commission is currently looking at “relations in the city.”

Huber defended his article in an email, claiming his goal when writing the piece was to simply address the city’s problems in race relations and to “push for a better dialogue.” While he agreed with the Mayor’s decision to ask for an inquiry on the city’s racial issues, he also called Nutter’s description of the article “off the mark to the point of absurdity.”

Tom McGrath, the editor of Philadelphia Magazine, also called Nutter’s statements “sophomoric,” according to Philly.com. McGrath accused Nutter of being “more interested in scoring political points than having a serious conversation about race.”

On Monday, McGrath hosted a panel discussion on the article and the issues it has raised at the National Constitution Center. More than 250 people showed up for the event titled "Can We Talk About Race?"

"We have never been able to resolve the issue of race in our society," said Walter Palmer, one of the panelists.

After the panel, McGrath admitted that the article had flaws.

"I think the flaws in this piece were exacerbated by mistakes in terms of the topic," he said. "The one thing I think we might have done a bit differently is how we framed it."

The Human Resources Commission also voted to have a public meeting on the article on April 18 in Fairmount-Brewerytown.

The reaction to the article from Philadelphia residents has been mixed.

“I thought the magazine was inappropriate to put outside,” said Yvette Rocco who works at a local newsstand. “I didn’t like what the cover said.”

"I thought it was an older white male who visited a particular neighborhood and wrote about his experience," said Christopher Norris, a journalist. "I think he has the right to do so."

“The more dialogue we have on race and race issues, the more understanding we have of where other people are coming from,” said James Brunson.

Chad Lassiter, a sociologist who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University believes the article has provided a valuable opportunity for the city to openly discuss the issue of race.

“We need not engage in reactionary politics,” he said. “We need to call for a race dialogue in the city of Philadelphia. We need to look at ourselves and how we’re not being tolerant. We need to become more tolerant and embrace difference.”

Photo Credit: NBC10 Philadelphia

Plainville Parents Arrested After Teens Are Found Drunk


A mom and dad from Plainville have been arrested, accused of allowing dozens of teens to drink, some to the point of throwing up, during their daughter’s birthday party over the weekend.

Police said 50 to 80 teens, between 16 and 18, were at the Bruce Avenue home of Kassi Diorio, 50, and Anthony Diorio, 54, on Friday night and some of the teens were throwing up in the front lawn.

The Diorios were there for at least part of the time when teens were drinking at their house, according to police.

The teens played beer pong and other drinking games in the garage and there were black lights, according to police.

Kassi and Anthony Diorio were charged with risk of injury and allowing minors to possess alcohol, according to police. They were released on $10,000 non-surety bond.

Police did not issue tickets to the teens, police said, and parents were called to come get them.

Connecticut Catholics Gather For Installation Mass


Dozens of people gathered at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford to watch the installation of Pope Francis in Rome.

They gathered inside the cathedral's chapel just before 4 a.m. EDT to watch the installation mass live on television as it unfolded.

"It was exciting," said Rosa Jara, of Wethersfield.

"It's emotional just knowing that throughout the country, and all the cathedrals, everyone was getting together for this moment," said Marilyn Viera, of East Hartford.

It's the first time the Archdiocese of Hartford has held such an event at the cathedral.

"He's just charmed and endeared himself so much already in a few short days that a celebration like this just made perfect sense," said Father Christopher Tiano, who organized the viewing party.

During the mass, parishioners sat in pews, prayed, and watched the ceremony on a big screen. Archbishop Henry Mansell served communion to the group at the same time it was offered by hundreds of priests in St. Peter's Square.

"It shows the connection between the mother church of the Archdiocese of Hartford, The Cathedral of Saint Joseph, and the mother church in Rome," said Archbishop Mansell.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, (D- CT 3rd District), attended the installation mass as part of a U.S. congressional delegation.

"I was honored to be a part of today's historic ceremony, which was a beautiful and moving occasion," said DeLauro in a statement. "I was personally inspired as Pope Francis, like his namesake Saint Francis of Assisi, expressed his commitment to renewing the Church's emphasis on helping the least fortunate in society."

Photo Credit: AP

Waterbury Man Charged With Sex Assault


A 29-year-old Waterbury man was arrested in Farmington on Monday and charged with sexual assault after a patrol officer found him in a van with a 13-year-old girl he’d met online, police said.

An officer patrolling the residential area of Litchfield Road and Birch Street around 5 a.m. on Monday spotted a van parked with no lights on and went to investigate.

Inside the van, police found Christopher Cantley, 29, of Highland Avenue in Waterbury and a 13-year-old girl, police said.

The two had met online and arranged to meet in Farmington, police said.

Cantley was charged with risk of injury to a minor and fourth-degree sexual assault.

He was held on $75,000 bond and is due in court on Tuesday.

LeBron James' Monster Dunk Kills Jason Terry on Wikipedia


King James rules over not just the basketball court, but also life and death -- on Wikipedia at least.

During Monday's game between the Celtics and Heat, LeBron James hammered a monstrous dunk over Jason Terry, following which the Miami Heat extended its winning streak to 23 games in a row. James' slam soon became a social media sensation and also the cause of death on Terry's Wikipedia page.

"On March 18, 2013, Terry was killed by NBA forward LeBron James," the page read. "The cause of death is being viciously dunked on."

A few minutes prior to the dunk went like this: Dwyane Wade stole the ball from Terry, passed it to Mario Chalmers. Then Norris Cole lobbed up to LeBron from underneath the basket, who caught the ball in air, and made the dunk over Terry's head. The Celtics shooting guard tried to block the shot, but landed on his back.

There was no time lost in comparing LeBron with the LA Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, who nailed a massive dunk over the Detroit Pistons' Brandon Knight last week. That dunk also trended on Twitter and led to a premature death report on Wikipedia.

"Somewhere Brandon Knight is like...thank you LeBron," one person wrote in a caption on a photo posted on YardBarker.

"Most brutal to the little man? LeBron James over Jason Terry or DeAndre Jordan over Brandon Knight?" tweeted another fan.



Photo Credit: Getty Images

Cute, Rare Chicks Hatch at Bronx Zoo


Three rare maleo chicks have hatched at the Bronx Zoo in New York, making the zoo one of just two places in the world where the endangered birds can be found. The other is their native home on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Check them out.

Chicago Mourns Slain 6-Month-Old Girl


Friends and family gathered Tuesday to remember a 6-month-old Chicago girl who was fatally shot last week while sitting on her father's lap.

As Jonylah Watkins' family wept outside the chuch, her small coffin was placed among stuffed rows of animals and toys. The 11 a.m. funeral at New Beginnings Church was standing room only, and crowds gathered outside waiting to get in.

"Jonylah, affectionately known as 'Smooch,' was loved and adored by many," her funeral program reads. "Jonylah was the apple of her parents' eyes. Jonylah had an infectious smile that continually warmed her mother's heart."

During the service, Jonylah's grandmother, Mary Young, read a poem dedicated to stopping violence. "Killing one another will no longer be tolerated by anyone," Young said.

"Our young is in danger on the streets of this town," she said. "Take back your homes."

New Beginnings Pastor Corey Brooks said Jonylah is the youngest victim of gun violence he's ever buried. "It's the youngest child I've ever had to be shot and killed, murdered," he said. "That is totally different than anything I've ever experienced before and something I never, ever want to experience again."

Jonylah was in the family van with her father, Jonathon Watkins, when someone approached and opened fire in the city's Woodlawn neighborhood, police said. That's contrary to initial reports given right after the shooting occurred.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Monday he wanted to set the record straight about what happened. Last week police said Jonylah was shot five times while her father changed her diaper in the passenger seat.

McCarthy said the little girl actually was on her dad's lap in the driver's seat when the gunman approached from the passenger side. McCarthy also said Jonylah was shot once, not the five times the family originally said.

McCarthy said Jonathon Watkins, who has gang ties and 39 arrests, was clearly the intended target. He is cooperating with police, McCarthy said, but needs to offer more.

"At this point, we think there's a lot more that he can help us with, but he is, in fact, cooperating with the investigation," he said. "We think that there's more that he can tell us."

Still McCarthy said he has no doubt an arrest will be made in the tragic case. 

An $11,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the shooter.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com

California Experiment Could Open Market for Online Courses


A California proposal to use online courses to soften a higher-education funding crisis has the rest of the country watching for lessons in how to deal with the rapid expansion of high-tech learning.

The experiment, floated by a Sacramento lawmaker last week, would allow the nearly half-million students on waiting lists at the state's public universities and colleges to take online courses instead.

The bill has been touted as a way to release pressure on a system overwhelmed by a surge in enrollment and crippling budget cuts. But it could also open the door to free "massive open online courses" (known as MOOCs) developed by private, third-party vendors — a development that could spark massive changes in the the country's education system.

Many other states are grappling with issues of limited money and higher enrollments — both of which are functions of the country's economic downturn — and are toying with ways to offer online courses, but none so much as California. They view the California proposal as an experiment that could help guide them, warily, into an uncertain future.

"They're all a little spooked at what's going to happen," said Eric Hanushek, a fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University who studies the economics of education. "We have these MOOCs, and no one understands the business model behind them, how to charge for them, who pays for them, who gets credit for them and in what way."

The results, he said, could lead to a revolution in the higher education industry, with Silicon Valley startups rushing to meet demand.

Like many innovations, the California experiment was born of calamity. The state's three-tiered system of universities and colleges was created to give students of all talents and means a way to earn a degree. It was a huge success, but relied on massive amounts of state funding to keep tuition low. Starting in the late 1970s, taxpayers and lawmakers began to reduce that flow of cash. Tuition and fees went up. So did student debt. Faculty were laid off, and course offerings reduced. Officials estimate that 470,000 students at California's community colleges cannot get into classes required for graduation.

The crisis coincided with the rapid growth in the number of online courses developed by private for-profit startups, many of them free.

Advocates of the California proposal say that if it succeeds, it could lead more states to try MOOCs, especially as pensions and health benefits eat up a growing amount of state money, and the Obama administration pushes for ways to make higher education more affordable.

California "is probably a bellwether for what's going to happen across the country, because the business models for these public institutions are broken," said Michael Horn, director of the Innosight Institute, a Bay Area think tank that pushes innovation to solve education problems. "These startups are going to see an opportunity and want to meet it."

"I think what you're going to see in terms of a trend is the state tinkering with online courses," said Matthew Smith, policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States. "They'll watch the failure and dropout rate, and then if they find success there will be a large scaling."

Officials in many of those other states are watching with a mix of interest and skepticism.

"California is in a much different situation than we are," said Karen Hunter Anderson, vice president of the Illinois Community College Board, which has seen a surge in enrollment over the last five years and has its own internal system of online courses. "I think that the community colleges and university administration and faculty in Illinois are very wary of using MOOCs as a solution to the current higher education issues."

Steven Johnson, the vice president of public affairs for the Texas Association of Community Colleges, which has lobbied against state funding cuts at a time of higher enrollments, said the system's existing online offerings suited students fine.

But Hanushek, of the Hoover Institution, said that any states that fail to take MOOCs seriously are in danger of getting "run over."

"Some of these online courses are really well done," with higher production values and better teaching than some traditional core courses at public universities, he said. And they could be cheaper than what the brick-and-mortar school is charging.

"Of course, there's still the question of what is the business model," Hanushek continued. "How do you pay for the development of these courses, and get the returns you need?"

That, he said, is why "California could be the experiment that everyone watches."

To see a "Class Action" video on a Silicon Valley startup, Coursera, which is one of the largest platforms in the booming industry of online classes, and its founder, Andrew Ng, click here.

View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.

Photo Credit: AP

Statue of Liberty to Reopen July 4


The Statue of Liberty will reopen to the public on July 4, more than nine months after Hurricane Sandy destroyed its docks, security screening system and energy infrastructure.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer told NBC 4 New York Tuesday that the patriotic landmark will reopen on the holiday. The U.S. Department of the Interior confirmed the date is set.

“It’s good news, it’s a little overdue, but at least it’s there and now we’ll watch like a hawk to make sure that this promise is kept,” Schumer said.

In January, Congress approved $59 million for repairing the national parks, but until Tuesday, there had been no timetable for completion, the I-Team reported last week.

A portion of that money will fund the repairs to the electric system as well as the landscaping wrecked by the infamous October storm. A permanent deck will also be installed to make the statue better prepared for future storms.

See photos of the damage to the statue here.

“One thing we wanted to make sure of was that not only would you be able to visit the island but you would be able to climb up to the statue itself, and that will be open on July 4,” Schumer said.  

The repairs will also bring back 400 people who work for the Statue of Liberty and about 1,000 who work in the tourist industry.

“It’s coming back bigger and better than before, just like New York was after Sandy,” Schumer said. 

RELATED: I-Team Talks to Statue of Liberty Workers Frustrated by Delays

Photo Credit: AP

Husband-Wife Shooting at Hospice


An elderly couple is dead in an apparent murder-suicide at a Lehigh Valley hospice.

Elwood Osman shot his 83-year-old wife Mildred and then himself inside the Hospice Center of the Lehigh Valley Hospital's 17th Street Campus in Allentown, Pa. around 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin.

Martin says three hospital staff went to the Osman's inpatient room on the facility's fourth floor located at 17th and Chew Streets after hearing gunshots. Once inside, staffers found the Mildred dead in her bed and Elwood dead elsewhere in the room.

Martin described the shooting as a "discrete incident."

"This is a very tragic event and our hearts go out to the family of the deceased and our Lehigh Valley Health Network colleagues who were involved," Lehigh Valley Health Network senior vice president Chuck Lewis said in a statement.

Lewis says no other patients or staff were threatened or hurt.

Martin says officials are investigating the shooting as a murder-suicide. The Lehigh County Corner's Office is expected to conduct autopsies on the couple.

Photo Credit: AP

Man Taped Sex Abuse of Kids: Cops


A federal judge sentenced a Newtown man to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing a toddler and two other young girls and videotaping the abuse.

Between 2006 and 2009, David Csanadi, 36, sexually abused the three female children of friends and kept the tapes at his home in Newtown, according to court.

Csanadi was charged with three counts of production of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.  He plead guilty in November to one count of production of child pornography. 

One victim was approximately 18 months old, another was 4-and-a-half years old at the time of the abuse and the third was identified as being under the age of 12, according to the U.S. Attorney, District of Connecticut.

"The sexual abuse of children and production of child pornography are detestable crimes, and the harsh reality of it all is that those who commit these unspeakable crimes live and work among us,"  said Kimberly Mertz, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division.  "The Connecticut Child Exploitation Task Force's devotion to identifying those who commit these monstrous crimes and to bringing them to justice remains, and always will remain, resolute."

According to prosecutors, the abuse happened in his home in Newtown and in Rhode Island.

Csanadi has been detained in state custody since April 15, 2011 when he was arrested on three counts of first-degree sexual assault, three counts of risk of injury or impairing the morals of children, three counts of illegal sexual contact with a child, and one count of third-degree possession of child pornography.

Upon his release, Csanadi will be subject to 15 years of supervised release.  He will be sentenced on state sexual abuse charges in April.

Photo Credit: Newtown Police

One Dead in Berlin Crash


One person was killed in a crash on Route 9 Northbound in Berlin Tuesday.

Three cars were involved and at least one person was ejected, according to state police.

Traffic was diverted off the highway at exit 21.

Photo Credit: Chris Hall, NBC Connecticut

Was Connecticut First in Flight?


The Wright brothers have long held an esteemed position in history as the inventors of the airplane, but there is a growing debate that a Connecticut man might have beat them to it — and he is getting widespread attention.

Research into claims that Gustav Whitehead, a German man who lived and worked in Bridgeport, Conn., was the first to fly has been done for decades, but it is making headlines because a respected aviation publication is giving it credence. 

In the forward of its latest edition, Paul Jackson, editor of ”Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft,” writes of extensive research that aviation historian John Brown did into Whitehead and his flight of a plane called the Condor in 1901, two years before the Wright Brothers took to the skies over North Carolina. 

“In the early hours of 14 August 1901, the Condor propelled itself along the darkened streets of Bridgeport, Connecticut, with Whitehead, his staff and an invited guest in attendance. In the still air of dawn, the Condor's wings were unfolded and it took off from open land at Fairfield, 15 miles from the city, and performed two demonstration sorties. The second was estimated as having covered 1½ miles at a height of 50 feet, during which slight turns in both directions were demonstrated,” Jackson writes in a an article posted on the publication Web site.

The further addressed why it took so long for Whitehead to be mentioned, citing international incidents and loss of records over the years.

“If this were to be the 110th Foreword, instead of the 100th, Fred Jane would have recorded Whitehead's flying machines and their achievements in his early editions, probably securing for this underrated pioneer a full paragraph in the annals of aviation history, rather than his present, dismissive footnote. Having occurred before Jane's first edition, the matter cannot be regarded as unfinished business for Fred Jane or his successors but, most certainly, we are convinced he would have approved of any efforts made to get the facts right, whatever the delay. Thanks to the meticulous researches of John Brown - to whose website www.gustave-whitehead.com we earnestly recommend readers seeking greater detail - an injustice is rectified with only slight bruising to Wilbur and Orville's reputation. The Wrights were right; but Whitehead was ahead,” Jackson wrote.

Whitehead’s story is nothing new in the city of Bridgeport, where a memorial fountain to Whitehead is engraved “First in Flight.”

“Jane’s has solidified what we’ve known all along – Gustave Whitehead was the first to fly a powered, manned aircraft before the Wright Brothers, and he did it right here in Bridgeport,” Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said in a statement. “Perhaps now, Whitehead will receive the recognition from in this country that he so richly deserves.”While Bridgeport is thrilled with the attention of a local man, it is not without controversy that stems back to the origins of flight.

Orville Wright, so many decades ago, dismissed that Whitehead was first, according to Jane’s. The Smithsonian has also discounted the claims, citing a lack of evidence.

“Perhaps the strongest argument against the Whitehead claims is to be found in the fact that not one of the powered machines that he built after 1902 ever left the ground. Nor did any of those machines resemble the aircraft that he claimed to have flown in 1901-1902. Why did he not follow up his early success? Why did he depart from a basic design that he claimed had been successful? Are we to assume that he forgot the secret of flight?” Tom Couch, of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, wrote on March 15.

Jane’s put the spotlight on the matter of a legally-binding agreement between the Wrights and the Smithsonian, questioning whether that is a reason that Whitehead was kept out of the history books.  

According to Jane’s, then-Senator Lowell Weicker Jr. learned through a Freedom of Information Request   that the Smithsonian Institute obtained the Wright Flyer No. 1, but “only after agreeing in a legally-binding document that "the Smithsonian shall [not state] any aircraft...earlier than the Wright aeroplane of 1903...was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight."
Couch addresses this in documents posted on the Smithsonian Web site

“Invariably referred to as “the contract,” this agreement was the result of a long feud between Mr. Orville Wright and Smithsonian leaders,” Couch wrote.

That feud was over a plane that S.P. Langley, third Secretary of the Smithsonian, developed in 1903.
It crashed when tested that year , but flew in 1914 after modifications and Smithsonian officials made false claims that the 1903 original plane had been “capable of flight,” according to Couch.
Fast-forward to 1942, and there was an agreement to bring the plane to the Smithsonian, but executors of Orville Wright’s estate insisted on a some conditions to make sure that the feud would not be reopened in the future, according to Couch.

"Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor its successors, nor any museum or other agency, bureau or facilities administered for the United States of America by the Smithsonian Institution or its successors shall publish or permit to be displayed a statement or label in connection with or in respect of any aircraft model or design of earlier date than the Wright Aeroplane of 1903, claiming in effect that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight. Failure to observe this condition. Failure to observe this condition by the Smithsonian will result in a return of the “Flyer” to the vendors, according to paragraph four of the contract,” the contract states, according to Couch.

“Over the years individuals who argue for other claimants to the honor of having made the first flight have claimed that the contract is secret. It is not. I have sent many copies upon request. Critics have also charged that no Smithsonian staff member would ever be willing to entertain such a possibility and risk losing a national treasure. I can only hope that, should persuasive evidence for a prior flight be presented, my colleagues and I would have the courage and the honesty to admit the new evidence and risk the loss of the Wright Flyer,” Couch writes.

You be the judge: http://www.gustave-whitehead.com/history/detailed-photo-analysis/

Photo Credit: City of Bridgeport Facebook page

Healthy Lunches Costing Milford Schools Big Money


The Milford School District is losing money now that it's serving healthier food to students.

The district changed its lunchtime options this year to abide by the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, but kids are buying fewer of the school-offered healthy options. Milford schools have already lost more than $100,000 since the change.

“That's interesting.  I would think that it would increase rather than decrease, but what do you know, people have different tastes,” said Chris Pavelko, a Milford parent.

Under the new guidelines, students get more fruits and vegetables and less fat and salt in their diets.  They are healthier food options that not all students care for.   

“We always throw some apple or fruit of some kind, nuts, snacks, that are healthy, but of course they always want the sweet stuff,” said Pavelko.

Parents say healthy eating also starts at home, so students who already eat healthy probably don't mind the change.

“We eat pretty healthy at home.  We eat lots of veggies and the fruits, so probably there's no problem for my kids,” said Shufang Chang.

The school district hopes as more students get used to the healthier meals, revenue will return to normal.

Photo Credit: NBCPhiladelphia
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