<![CDATA[NBC New York - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:47:07 -0400 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:47:07 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Health Aide Caught on Camera Abusing Stroke Victim]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:22:12 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/health+care+aide+abuse.jpg

Disturbing video captured by surveillance cameras shows a home health care aide abusing a 78-year-old Queens stroke victim, slapping his trembling arm and jerking his head by his nose while trying to force-feed him.

The family of Bentsion Murakhovsky, a 115-pound man paralyzed on his left side who has trouble speaking and swallowing food, installed the surveillance cameras after Murakhovsky told them a home health aide provided by Personal-Touch Home Care treated him improperly.

That home health aide was replaced by a second one sent by Personal-Touch Home Care after Murakhovsky's wife and granddaughter complained about the alleged abuse; the surveillance system was installed prior to the start of the new home health aide's employment in the home to ensure no future lapses in care would occur.

Video captured on surveillance cameras April 8 show the new home health aide abusing Murakhovsky. In one clip, the aide grabs his wrist, slams it into his side and grabs Murakhovsky's nose while pushing a napkin into his face in an effort to force-feed him.

A second clip provided by Murakhovsky's attorney shows the aide twice grab his nose while feeding him and using it to jerk his head back and forth as the patient nervously taps his fingers on his leg.

In another clip captured the same day, Murakhovsky lifts a blanket from his lap to wipe his face and the attendant grabs it, flings it away from the man and slaps his right arm. The 78-year-old is seen trembling as the aide gestures as if yelling at him. The videos have no audio.

The family only checked the surveillance archive after Murakhovsky's wife returned home one day in April to find her husband's face bruised, the family's attorney, Philip Monier III, said. Monier said Murakhovsky's wife said he was unusually withdrawn that day and appeared depressed and frightened. She called her granddaughter; the two of them checked the surveillance cameras and discovered the abuse.

The Murakhovskys called the NYPD. Charges against the home health aide are pending, and the family is suing the New York City branch of Personal-Touch Home Care, which has more than 50 locations in 11 states.

"Mr. Murakhovsky was a prisoner of his own body, defenseless to stop the healthcare worker looming in front of him," Monier said. "You see a fearful, elderly man being terrorized by a home healthcare aide."

"No one should be treated like that," Monier added. "This company is supposed to be sending trained and qualified workers to help elderly disabled people like Mr. Murakhovsky, and they are getting paid a lot of money for sending unqualified workers."

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in Kings County Supreme Court, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Personal-Touch Home Care, which draws staff from a pool of about 12,000 paraprofessionals and 3,000 nurses, according to his website, did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment. No one in the media relations department picked up the phone.  

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[3 Dead in Violent Head-On Crash in New Jersey]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 06:47:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/freehold+accident+aug+19.jpg

Three people were killed and a fourth person was critically injured in a three-vehicle crash on a busy New Jersey road Tuesday afternoon, authorities say.

Prosecutors say a Volkswagen Jetta was going south on the Kosloski Road overpass at Route 33 Business in Freehold when it suddenly veered into the north lane and collided head-on into a Honda Pilot.

The Pilot went airborne and landed on top of a Toyota Camry, according to Monmouth County first assistant prosecutor Marc LeMieux. 

The 50-year-old man driving the Pilot, the 19-year-old man driving the Jetta and the 20-year-old woman riding in the Jetta all died in the crash, said LeMieux. 

The 25-year-old driver of the Camry is in "extremely critical condition" with a head injury, according to LeMieux. 

It's not clear why the Jetta traveled into the opposite lane on Kosloski Road, and investigators are trying to determine how fast the cars were going. 

Locals say drivers fly down that stretch of Kosloski Road too fast.

"They need to put dividers up, or somehow slow it down. But it's tough to slow it down without red lights," said one woman who lives in the area.

"You have to pay attention every second you're behind that vehicle, because that vehicle can become a weapon at any point in time if you do not pay attention," LeMieux said in a news briefing Tuesday.

The Monmouth County prosecutor's office is asking any witnesses to contact them at 732-522-8885. 

<![CDATA["Affluenza" Teen's Father Arrested for Impersonating an Officer]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:50:03 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/frederick-couch-inset.jpg

The father of a North Texas teen whose defense blamed “affluenza” for his deadly DUI wreck has been arrested and accused of identifying himself as a police officer.

Frederick Anthony Couch was arrested Tuesday for falsely identifying himself as a police officer and for misrepresentation of property, North Richland Hills police said.

Officers were called to a disturbance on the 4400 block of Mackey Drive just after 1 a.m. July 28, police said Tuesday. 

There, resident Keith Capo said Couch had a gun and had shown up with Capo's neighbor, who he said threatened him following a disagreement days before.

Capo's wife then called police.

"The officer I was speaking to was all gung-ho. He said, 'What do you want to happen?' I said, 'I want to press charges,'" Capo said.

Investigating officers spoke with Couch, who they said presented a badge and an identification card and identified himself as a reserve officer for the small Lake Worth community of Lakeside.

According to police, as officers were wrapping up their investigation at the scene, Couch reiterated that he was a reserve police officer and said he had his "police stuff" in his car.

"Couch reached into his vehicle and took out his wallet, displaying what appeared to be a police badge and identification card, suggesting he was a police officer," police said in a news release Tuesday.

The officers at the scene looked into Couch's status as a reserve officer and learned that he was not an officer with the City of Lakeside and has never been licensed as a police officer in the state of Texas.

Capo said if Couch broke the law this time, he should pay the consequences, like anyone else.

"I just hope he understands that you can't sit there and say and do whatever you want, just because you got more money than anybody else. I mean, that's not right," Capo said.

Following his arrest Tuesday, Couch was taken to the city's detention facility for processing with bond set at $2,500.

Couch's son, Ethan, was intoxicated and behind the wheel of a pickup truck when he crashed and killed four people while injuring several others in June 2013.

The "affluenza" defense, which garnered national attention, maintained that the teen suffered from a condition where he had no sense of responsibility due to a lack of parenting.

Couch was subsequently sentenced to 10 years probation on four counts of intoxication manslaughter and ordered to be admitted to a rehabilitation facility at his parents' expense.

Since the verdict, the Couch family has settled several lawsuits worth millions of dollars with the families of the victims.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Calif. Patient May Have Ebola Virus]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:29:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tlmd_ebola.jpg

A patient admitted to a South Sacramento hospital may have been exposed to the Ebola virus, health officials said Tuesday.

The Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center is working with the Sacramento County Division of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test blood samples from the patient.

"In order to protect our patients, staff and physicians, even though infection with the virus is unconfirmed, we are taking the actions recommended by the CDC as a precaution, just as we do for other patients with a suspected infectious disease," Dr. Stephen Parodi, director of hospital operations for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, said in a statement. "This includes isolation of the patient in a specially equipped negative pressure room and the use of personal protective equipment by trained staff, coordinated with infectious disease specialists. This enables the medical center to provide care in a setting that safeguards other patients and medical teams."

The Ebola virus got worldwide attention earlier this month when two United States aid workers were infected in Liberia. The aid workers were move to an Atlanta hospital for treatment in a specially equipped plane. Both patients are recovering, officials said.

The Ebola outbreak started in December of last year in West Africa. Since the outbreak, some 2,200 people have been diagnosed with the virus and nearly half o those people died.

Even though the Ebola virus can be deadly, doctors said, survival rates are improving because people are getting checked if they feel they have come in contact with the virus.

NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Swastikas Spray-Painted Outside Catholic School]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:25:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/anti+semitic+graffiti+suspect+staten+island.JPG

Police are looking for a vandal who was captured on security video spraying anti-Semitic graffiti outside a Catholic school on Staten Island last Friday.

Police say the suspect spray-painted swastikas and profanities on the steps outside Blessed Sacrament School on Delafield Avenue in Port Richmond at about 11 p.m. 

He's wanted for criminal mischief. 

Neighbors were appalled to see the hateful images outside the school.

Judy Ringel, who lives across the street, said she was walking her dogs on Sunday night when she passed by the graffiti, which has been washed away. 

"I've never seen anything like it in this neighborhood before," she said. 

Margaret Kirchoff said the neighborhood has always been quiet in the 80 years she's lived there, and that "people have gotten along well." 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

-- Gus Rosendale contributed to this report. 

<![CDATA[Armed Robber Sneaks Up on Stroller-Pushing Mom: Cops]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 08:22:35 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Stroller-Robbery-NYC.jpg

An armed robber is being sought in a string of robberies that occurred in a two-hour span in the Bronx, including one targeting a mother pushing her baby in a stroller, police say. 

The suspect robbed the women near Brown Place and East 136th Street in Mott Haven on Friday, according to police.

At about 5:20 a.m., the suspect approached a 26-year-old woman, grabbed her from behind and pointed an object to her side as he threatened her. He got away with her cellphone and ATM card, police say.

Then at about 7:30 a.m., he approached a 28-year-old woman from behind as she was pushing her baby in a stroller, grabbed her by the waist and again stuck a black object to her side, according to police. 

The victim handed over her watch, but when the suspect noticed her purse underneath the stroller and tried to take it, she resisted by holding on to the purse and screaming for help, police say.

The robber let go of the purse, and then, noticing a passerby, grabbed her cellphone from her hand and ran away.

Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

Get More at NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Couple Reunited With Wedding Photos Lost in Sandy]]> Sat, 16 Aug 2014 06:45:54 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sandy+photo+reunion.jpg

A New Jersey couple about to celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary has been reunited with their lost wedding photos, just one day after NBC 4 New York aired a report about a Staten Island couple who found the pictures while cleaning up after Sandy.

Dominic and Patricia Guinta found the 53 black and white wedding photos while starting the process of remodeling their garage after Sandy flooded their Seaford Street home. They reached out to NBC 4 New York in the hopes of locating the owners.

On Tuesday, Patricia Kearns' daughter called her to say she was watching NBC 4 New York's morning news show "Today in New York" and saw her parents' wedding pictures flash across the screen.

Kearns was speechless.

"I saw the pictures, and it was just amazing," she said. "I broke down crying, because we don't have most of our pictures."

NBC 4 New York delivered the photos to Kearns and her husband Paul in their Teaneck, New Jersey, home Tuesday.

"I can't believe this," she said. "I'm just overwhelmed."

The couple, who are celebrating their anniversary next month, were overwhelmed with emotion as they shared memories of their wedding with their granddaughters.

Patricia Guinta had guessed the photos were taken in Brooklyn, where she grew up. Sure enough, the wedding had taken place in the borough where Patricia Kearns also grew up.

"That's in Brooklyn, honey," she said to her granddaughter as she pointed to a photo. "That's where Nonni lived, that's where she was brought up."

As for how the photos wound up on Staten Island, the ringbearer in the photos is a nephew of Kearns -- and a neighbor of the Guintas. Derrick lives on Neptune Street, just a few blocks away from the Guintas' Seafoam Street home.

"I think they probably floated out of his house," said Patricia Kearns.

Now the pictures are back where they belong.

"I'm gonna be sitting here for the rest of the day and probably tomorrow, looking at my pictures," said Patricia Kearns.

As for the strangers who worked so hard to get the precious wedding photos back to her, Patricia Kearns said, "I just want to give them a hug and tell them how much I appreciate what they did."

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Man Accused of Pouring Gas on Cars at NY Club: Police]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 07:18:12 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/handcuff+generic.JPG

Police say they’ve accused a 35-year-old man of trying to torch three cars parked outside a gentlemen’s club on Long Island earlier this year.

The Central Islip man was charged with two counts of attempted arson after he was allegedly spotted pouring gasoline on several cars parked at The Scene Restaurant and Lounge on Vanderbilt Motor Parkway in Commack on March 16.

The man left the lot before the cars could be set on fire.

The suspect was expected to be arraigned Wednesday in Central Islip.

Photo Credit: San Diego County Sheriff's Dept.]]>
<![CDATA[Cops Hear Gunshot, Arrest Slaying Suspect at Scene: NYPD]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 04:34:16 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/South-Jamaica-Shooting.jpg

A group of police officers patrolling a Queens neighborhood arrested a man on murder charges moments after hearing the gunshot they say killed a 55-year-old man late on Tuesday.

Plainclothes officers patrolling South Jamaica found 37-year-old Anthony Guyton at 143rd Street and 119th Avenue at about 10:30 p.m. after hearing a single gunshot from the intersection, according to the NYPD.

Police allege that the man had a gun in his hand when they arrived on scene. Officers ordered him to put the weapon on the ground, and he was put under arrest.

After cuffing Guyton, police say they found 55-year-old Langley Bruce in the driver's seat of a car parked nearby with a single gunshot wound to his chest. Bruce was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival.

Guyton is charged with second-degree murder in Bruce’s death. He also faces weapons charges.
It’s not clear if the suspect has an attorney.

<![CDATA[Eric Garner Death Case Will Go to Grand Jury, DA Says]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:51:42 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/donovan+garner.jpg

The chokehold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner will head to a grand jury, Staten Island's chief prosecutor said Tuesday.

District Attorney Daniel Donovan said in a statement that his office has reviewed the recent findings of the medical examiner, which determined Garner died of neck compression from a chokehold and labeled his death a homicide, and decided that "it is appropriate to present evidence regarding circumstances of his death to a Richmond County Grand Jury."

Donovan said the court granted his application to impanel a grand jury on Monday, and he plans to begin presenting evidence in the Garner case in September. He declined to say what criminal charges the grand jury might consider, or against whom any charges might be filed.

The case has garnered national attention and led to cries for the arrests of the officers who were trying to cuff Garner in Tompkinsville July 17 for selling untaxed cigarettes.

"I assure the public that I am committed to conducting a fair, thorough, and responsible investigation into Mr. Garner's death, and that I will go wherever the evidence takes me, without fear or favor," Donovan said in a statement.

Shortly after Garner died, one officer was stripped of his gun and badge pending an internal NYPD investigation and another was placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two EMTs were suspended without pay after allegedly failing to provide CPR in a timely manner.

An attorney for Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who lost his badge after he was seen in amateur cellphone video allegedly putting Garner in a chokehold, said the Staten Island district attorney's office notified him of the grand jury. Lawyer Stuart London said he hadn't decided if his client would testify if called to the stand.

"I haven't made any decision," London said. "It is premature to say. It is something I weigh heavily and carefully." 

The NYPD said in a statement it would "continue to cooperate" with the district attorney's office, and the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association said the union was encouraged the process was moving forward.

"We are confident that a fair and impartial grand jury that is allowed to conduct its deliberations based on facts and not emotion or political considerations will see that justice is served," Pat Lynch said in a statement.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been a vocal critic of police in the case, said he and the Garner family would continue to push for a federal investigation into Garner's death. Sharpton said he, Garner's family and their attorneys would meet with a U.S. attorney Thursday to discuss the matter.

In addition to running the National Action Network, Sharpton is a talk show host on MSNBC, which is owned by WNBC's parent company, NBCUniversal.

In an exclusive interview with NBC 4 New York last week, Donovan said he had no intention of handing the case over. He said he assigned eight assistant district attorneys and 10 non-NYPD detectives to investigate the case -- the greatest amount of resources allocated to one case in his tenure. 

“In my 11 years in office, this is the biggest allocation of resources I’ve ever used in any matter,” Donovan said.

The medical examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, saying neck compression from a chokehold killed him. Asthma, heart disease and obesity all contributed to the 43-year-old’s death, the medical examiner determined.

Donovan also said that members of the NYPD, who’ve been accused of condoning the apparent chokehold, are entitled to the truth, not opinion.

“The police department deserves to be treated fairly as well,” he said. “They deserve answers, too.” 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York

<![CDATA[Compton OKs AR-15s for School Cops]]> Thu, 24 Oct 2013 07:47:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AR-15_Rifle.jpg

Some Compton residents are concerned about a policy passed by the school board last month that allows some campus police officers to purchase semi-automatic AR-15 rifles and carry them in the trunk of their patrol cars while on duty.

According to the policy proposal presented to the board, allowing officers to have the rifles could be a "more effective means to protect the students, staff, community, and police personnel in high risk and/or dangerous situations."

"These kids don’t deserve reactive measures, but protective measures," said Francisco Orozco, a recent graduate of Dominguez High School and founder of the Compton Democratic Club.

Orozco said the ability of the police to carry the high-powered weapons represents a needless escalation of force.

Supporters of the proposal say the standard police handgun is not capable of piercing soft body armor and are only accurate up to 25 feet. They say in an active shooter scenario, the standard issue weapon might not be enough to stop the threat to students and staff.

"This is our objective -- save lives, bottom line," Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu told NBC4's Media Partner KPCC.

Orozco said the examples of school shootings used by the Compton school police chief to convince the board to approve the measure were inapplicable to the district’s schools.

"The school board just ate everything up," Orozco said. "We think that the decision was made too quickly and completely without discussion."

Officers that apply to have the weapon must meet a number of criteria, including being with the department for at least three years and participating in at least 16 hours of training courses.

While individual officers are responsible for the purchase and maintenance of the rifle, which costs about $1,000, the Compton Unified School District is required to shoulder the cost of ammunition and training courses.

The Compton School Police Officers Association on Facebook defended the policy, citing the training and proficiency requirements for officers who have the rifles.

The association also pointed to other school district police forces who have passed similar measures including the Baldwin Park Unified School District Police Department, the Los Angeles Unified School Police Department and Fontana Unified School District police.

"We need to make sure we have the proper firepower as some of the suspects who may be carrying assault rifles," said Chief Jill Poe of the Baldwin Park School Police Department.

In October 2013, a child at an elementary school in Chino fired an AR-15 rifle mounted on a police motorbike, wounding three students.

NBC4's Kathy Vara contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fire Official Pleads Guilty in Accident That Hurt 3 Kids]]> Sat, 24 May 2014 11:16:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/robert+rawls+new+brunswick.jpg

The New Jersey fire official accused of hitting and seriously hurting three children in a crosswalk in May has pleaded guilty to careless driving.

Robert Rawls, the New Brunswick fire director, will have to pay a $200 fine as a penalty.

No criminal charges were filed against Rawls, who was on duty at the time. Instead, he faced traffic summonses for hitting the two 14-year-old girls and 6-year-old boy. 

His lawyers argued the intersection, Livingston Avenue and Delevan Street, is dangerous and that the kids ran out in front of the cars. 

One of the victims, Joselyn Palaez, said outside court she was still dealing with pain and that "everything changed" since the accident. 

It was the 19th accident Rawls has been involved in since he first got his license roughly 40 years ago. He was in a city vehicle when he hit the children, officials said.

New Brunswick city spokeswoman Jennifer Bradshaw previously told NBC 4 New York that Rawls is currently banned from driving a city vehicle, and while he is at work, he is prohibited from any driving personal vehicle whatsoever, meaning he must be driven by a fire department employee to meetings and events.

A judge said Tuesday that the careless driving guilty plea could not be used against Rawls in a civil suit. 

<![CDATA[NJT Train Derailment in Montclair Causing Delays]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 07:00:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/montclair+backup+train.jpg

Repair crews worked overnight to get trains running normally again after a New Jersey Transit train derailed Tuesday afternoon in Montclair.

Officials say there was a "slow-speed" derailment on a train running on the Montclair-Boonton line between Claremont Avenue and Pine Street at about 6:20 p.m. 

Around 100 passengers were transferred from the train. No one was hurt, officials said. 

Crews worked for several hours to clear the tracks and make repairs, officials say. In the meantime, all trains on the line are running on one track between the Bay Street and Walnut Street stations.

Delays are currently only 15 to 20 minutes. They're expected to last through the morning rush, but it's not yet clear if trains will normally in the afternoon. 

It's not clear what caused the derailment. 

Stay up to date on the delays at njtransit.com.

Photo Credit: Patrick Del Negro]]>
<![CDATA[Brazen Thieves Steal $315K in Rolexes at NY Mall]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 17:52:41 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/westchester+mall+smash+grab.jpg

Police are searching for three men who walked into a luxury watch store inside Westchester Mall in broad daylight, smashed the display case and made off with at least $315,000 worth of big-ticket watches. 

The men, believed to be in their mid- to late 20s, entered the Toureau store in the ritzy mall just before noon Sunday, smashed through the glass with a hammer and stole seven Rolexes worth about $45,000 each, police say. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact White Plains Police. 

<![CDATA[Autistic Boy Missing for 11 Days Found in East Harlem: Cops]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 23:02:41 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/missing+autistic+teen1.jpg

A 15-year-old autistic boy from Westchester County who was missing for nearly two weeks has been found in East Harlem, police said.

Jonathan Bryant, who has Asperger's and is fully functional, was allegedly caught shoplifting in a Target in the Manhattan neighborhood Monday evening.

Police had been looking for him since his mother reported him missing from his Mount Vernon home early Aug. 8 when she returned home from work and he was gone; he was last seen around 2:30 p.m. the day before.

Bryant was taken to a youth facility. Over the 11 days he was missing, police said he slept outside in parks and panhandled to survive. 

His condition wasn't immediately known.

Police had said Bryant was fascinated by trains and had been known to board them and travel to New York City. He had been reported missing six or seven times before. Police previously found him in Co-Op City, hanging out at a shopping complex and on trains; other times he had called his mother and she went to pick him up.

The boy's cellphone was left at home in this case.

Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[15-Year-Old Girl ID'd as Victim in Huge Apartment Building Blaze]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:48:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/hamilton+heights+fire+aug+18.jpg

A 15-year-old girl died in a large apartment building fire in Hamilton Heights Monday evening that was apparently sparked by an overloaded extension cord, authorities said.

Authorities identified the victim as Melisa Mendez Tuesday, a day after the FDNY says she was found badly burned on a sixth-floor landing, apparently trying to escape the blaze. 

"I would imagine she exited into the stairwell at a time when the fire was at its greatest, and it didn't take long for her to succumb to the fire," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. 

Friends say the teen sang in her church choir, loved music and dreamed of being a doctor. 

Ten firefighters and two neighbors sustained minor injuries in the fire on West 136th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway, which reached four alarms at its height and drew 175 firefighters. 

Chopper 4 footage from the scene showed firefighters on the roof of the building and fire escapes as flames and thick black smoke billowed out from the windows of the six-story building. 

At one point, flames were shooting out of a window with such force that they appeared to overwhelm a firefighter before he was able to jump onto the fire escape one story below. 

Neighbors also scrambled down fire escapes as flames flew up the stairwell. 

"We ran, and knocked on my uncle's door -- he's on the third floor," said Sandra Delacruz, who grabbed her dog Lucky before bolting from her fourth-floor apartment. "I told him fire was coming from the building." 

Fire officials say an overloaded extension cord sparked the blaze. It spread because the occupant of the unit where the fire started left the unit and didn't close the door, authorities said. 

"It's scary," said neighbor Gillian Ward Scott. "Thank God it was 5:30, and not a lot of people were home." 

Red Cross has set up a relief center for the roughly two dozen displaced families at PS 192. 

<![CDATA[Murder Charges in Marine Wife Death]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:43:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/N5P_PKG_MISSING_MARINE_WIFE_web_SHIN_1200x675_319343683627.jpg

Murder charges were filed Tuesday morning against the man prosecutors believe killed the 19-year-old wife of a fellow Marine and disposed of her body in a 14-story abandoned mine in a remote Southern California desert.

Christopher Brandon Lee, 23, is charged in the murder of Erin Corwin. Investigators have said they were having an affair and that Corwin may have been pregnant with Lee's baby.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos also filed a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait against Lee, an allegation that could set the stage for prosecutors to seek the death penalty. They have not yet decided whether to do so.

"The decision regarding which penalty will be sought will be made after a full review of the facts and evidence in the case," Ramos said in a statement.

Lee was arrested Sunday in Alaska, a day after police located Corwin's remains in mine shaft.

Corwin's cause of death has not been disclosed, but an arrest warrant released Tuesday said .22-caliber "fired cartridge casings and pieces of rebar" were found at the scene.

"The head stamp on the fired cartridge was consistent with head stamps on .22-caliber casings recovered from Lee's vehicle and Lee's residence," the warrant stated.

The warrant also said Lee admitted to conducting Internet searching about how to dispose of a human body.

Corwin was last seen leaving her Twentynine Palms home on June 28. She told her husband she was headed to Joshua Tree National Park to look for hiking trails, authorities said.

Her husband, Marine Cpl. Jonathan Corwin, reported her missing the next day. Erin Corwin’s car was found in Twentynine Palms two days after she disappeared.

Corwin, 19, had a possible secret relationship with 24-year-old then-Marine Cpl. Christopher Lee, both Lee's neighbor and Corwin's friend told investigators, according to a court documents.

Lee lived next door to Corwin and her husband, with his wife and family. Investigators said in a search warrant that Lee and Corwin had begun having an affair in February, and that she may have been three months pregnant with his baby. Investigators believe that may have been a motive for her murder.

Volunteers spent nearly eight weeks combing 300 acres of remote desert nearby before a special team with the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner's Department found Corwin’s body in a 140-foot deep abandoned mine shaft just outside of Joshua Tree National Park, officials said Monday.

Lee appeared in court in Alaska Tuesday afternoon for an initial hearing. He did not waive his right to an extradition hearing, officials said.

It could be four to six weeks before Lee arrives in SoCal, Ramos said.

"Once again, we are faced with a terrible crime that shows absolutely no regard for the value of human life,” Ramos said. "Make no mistake that this office will fight to see that justice is carried out for our victim and her family."

<![CDATA[Almond, Peanut Butter Recalled]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 15:40:43 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/160*120/100308-peanut-butter-attack.jpg

Peanut and almond butters sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and other grocers are being voluntarily recalled because of possible salmonella contamination.

There have been reports of four illnesses that may be related to the nut butters, a unit of Hain Celestial Group Inc. said.

They were sold under the brand names Arrowhead Mills Peanut Butters, MaraNatha Almond Butters and Peanut Butters, and private label brands for Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Kroger and Safeway.

They were sold in Canada, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates as well as the U.S.

The company said it learned of the contamination risk after routine FDA testing.

The Food and Drug Administration said it does not know how many jars of nut butters were recalled. The company would not comment.

"Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems," the FDA has said.

"Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses," it added.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Baby Dies Inside Bronx Apartment: NYPD]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 17:48:50 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ambulance-shutterstock_12161325.jpg

Police are investigating the death of an infant inside a Bronx apartment. 

The five-month old girl was found unconscious and unresponsive inside an apartment at the Morrisania Houses at 450 East 169th St. last Friday, police said. 

She was taken to Bronx Lebanon Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Police say they're waiting for the medical examiner to determine a cause of death to determine if criminality may be suspected.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Hiker Falls Just After Proposing]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 08:50:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/bradandjainee.jpg

An experienced hiker a friend called a "bad ass rock climber" fell to his death in Yosemite National Park, just hours after proposing to his girlfriend during an earlier climb.

Brad Parker's girlfriend, Jainee Dial, had accepted his marriage proposal Saturday after the couple reached the top of Cathedral Peak.

His father, Bill Parker, said his son told him that it was "the happiest day of his life,'' the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported Tuesday.

Later in the day, the couple separated as Parker went on a solo climb of nearby Matthes Crest, a ridge of upturned rock about three miles from Cathedral Peak.

But Parker never returned to his new fiancee.

Other climbers witnessed Parker fall about 5:45 p.m., Yosemite Park Ranger Kari Cobb said. Parker, 36, had gone climbing alone and without ropes and fell on an established route, Cobb said.

Park rangers hiked in and located Parker's body. Parker's death was the second climbing death in Yosemite this year, which Cobb noted was the  typical annual average.

A resident of Sebastopol, California, Parker appeared on a cover of California Climber magazine in 2012. He also worked as a yoga instructor and was an avid surfer and mountain biker. He also enjoyed backpacking and fly fishing trips in the Sierra Nevada with his father and good friend that he considered a brother, Mat.

"He was the nucleus of a community of adventurous people out here," Parker's longtime friend Jerry Dodrill, 41, a photographer, told NBC Bay Area on Tuesday. He and Parker have climbed Matthes Crest – the spot where Parker asked Dial to be his wife –  on several occasions. The two also scaled a wall near the Moab desert in Utah last May. Dodrill snapped the camera from above, capturing Parker climbing in jeans and gloves. A huge smile was plastered on Parker's face.

"He was a bad ass rock climber and surfer," Dodrill added. "And he did it all with grace and dignity."

Dodrill said he and Parker were scheduled to climb on the High Sierra this weekend. Instead, Dodrill will attend one of several memorials for his friend Saturday.

He told NBC Bay Area that Parker had been dating Dial, a yoga instructor and digital media producer, for a little more than a year.

Dodrill took several pictures of Parker rock climbing, as well as a portrait of Parker and Dial on Dial's phone that she posted on her Facebook page late Monday. In the photo, a bare-chested Parker dangles his arm over Dial's shoulders, huge white smiles on both of their faces. Dodrill captured the two again last August walking arm in arm on Driftwood Beach in Jenner, California.

Friends were posting messages to Dial after her fiance's death, remembering Parker as one of the "best people" they had ever known.

Parker's father told the Press Democrat he thinks fatigue from the climb up Cathedral Peak and the run his son made to Matthes Crest may have been a factor in the fall.

"We're all so stunned," Bill Parker told the newspaper. "What happened is so unbelievable."

About 150 people attended an impromptu vigil for Parker Monday night in Sebastapol, Dodrill said. The climber's father said some family and friends planned to hike to the Cathedral Peak area Tuesday.

"It's the only closure we're able to get,'' Bill Parker told the newspaper.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Jerry Dodrill]]>
<![CDATA[Michael Brown Protests: What To Know About Ferguson's Unrest]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 09:31:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP126518669725.jpg

Unrest has continued to roil the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, despite various tactics by authorities to diffuse a crisis sparked by the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

Calls among for the arrest of the officer who shot Brown have grown as protests continued for a tenth night.

Here's what else you need to know:

How did the chaos begin?
A candlelight vigil for Michael Brown ballooned to a riot on Sunday, Aug. 10, as looters were seen making off with food and alcohol from nearby stores. Some protestors stood on police cars and taunted officers in the first of several nights of unrest and violence in Ferguson, Missouri.

Protestors were enraged by the shooting of the unarmed man who, according to some witnesses, had his hands up in the air — a universal sign of surrender. Demonstrators around the country and on social media have turned the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture into a rallying cry amid the protests.

Police fought back with tear gas and rubber bullets, prompting questions over the intimidating presence of security forces armed with military-grade gear and equipment. The conflict has also brought attention to allegations of racial profiling in a community where 92.7 percent of those arrested in 2013 were black, when they make up 63 percent of the city's population, according to a report by the Missouri Attorney General's Office

The Ferguson Police Department has 53 officers, three of whom are black.

Who was Michael Brown?
The teenager was on his way home from a convenience store on Aug. 9 with a friend when police officer Darren Wilson shot Brown multiple times. Brown had no criminal record, but it was later revealed that he was a suspect in a robbery allegedly committed before the shooting.

Brown graduated from Normandy High School in the spring and was two days away from starting college before he was gunned down. Teachers described him as a "gentle giant," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and friends said he was a quiet, funny guy who loved music and struggled to graduate.

He was in ROTC, he played football, and upon graduation on May 22, he told a friend that he was determined to build for himself a successful life. "He said he wasn't going to end up like some people on the streets," Hershel Johnson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He was going to get an education. He was going to make his life a whole lot better."

His funeral is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 25.

Who is Darren Wilson?
On Aug. 15, after a night of relative calm, police identified the shooter as Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old man who had patrolled the suburbs of St. Louis for six years, according to The Associated Press. On the same day Wilson's identity was made public, authorities released a surveillance video that implicated Brown in a convenience store robbery of nearly $50 worth of cigars moments before he was killed. The video's release fueled more protests, with police clashing with crowds as nighttime descended on Ferguson. Wilson's supporters have rallied in St. Louis, created Facebook pages and raised money for his family on GoFundMe.com.

Who are the major players?
The shooting has pit those who are calling for Wilson's arrest against Ferguson's security forces, which now include the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the National Guard. The FBI opened an investigation into Brown's death and President Barack Obama pleaded for peace after several nights of clashes between crowds and police. Some local protesters have blocked businesses to defend the community from looters. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to visit Ferguson Wednesday to meet with prosecutors and community leaders.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson and Rev. Al Sharpton are also leading  voices on the ground. Brown's parents Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr. are being represented by Benjamin Crump, the civil rights attorney in the Trayvon Martin case.

What happened on the day of the shooting?
Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking home in the middle of the road on the 2900 block of Canfield Drive around noon on Aug. 9 when a police car with two officers approached the pair. The officers and the boys exchanged words, but after this the narratives split.

Johnson said Officer Wilson ordered the two to the sidewalk but the boys told the officers they were near their destination. The officer slammed on his brakes and stopped so that he was face-to-face with the teens. Wilson tried to open his door, but it hit Brown's body and ricocheted closed.

From his vehicle, Wilson grabbed Brown by the neck and shirt, verbally threatened to shoot the teen and fired his gun, according to Johnson. The two boys ran for cover, but the officer got out of his car, fired several more rounds and the lumbering, 6-foot-4 Brown slumped to the ground, according to Johnson.

Police say Brown and Wilson were involved in an altercation, where Brown pushed the officer back into his car and physically assaulted him. The two struggled over the officer's weapon and a shot was fired inside the police car. After the pair took off running, Wilson fired more shots. Brown was fatally shot when he lowered his arms and moved toward Wilson, law enforcement officials said. Wilson was taken to nearby hospital where was treated for a "swollen face," according to Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson.

What do the autopsies say?
An autopsy commissioned by Michael Brown’s family and one performed by the St. Louis County medical examiner found Brown was shot in the head and the chest. The expert who performed the family's autopsy said he was shot at least six times, and the final bullet that hit him -- in the head -- proved fatal. The reports prompted more calls for justice, with Brown's mother asking, what else is needed "to arrest the killer of my child." Attorney General Eric Holder commissioned a third, federal autopsy due to the "extraordinary circumstances involved in this case."

Who is in charge?
The Missouri Highway Patrol took over security in Ferguson on Aug. 14, with Capt. Ron Johnson, who grew up in the area, at the helm. After four nights of unrest with local police in charge, the mood among protestors became lighter and more festive within hours of the transition.

That soon changed after police paired the announcement of Wilson's identity with the release of the robbery video, which Brown's supporters called a "character assassination." Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew, which some protestors ignored.

On Monday, Aug. 18, Gov. Nixon lifted the curfew and enlisted the help of the National Guard to restore order. Authorities arrested at least 78 people overnight after police said they were fired on by "criminals." Of the 78, all but three people were arrested for refusing to disperse, according to records obtained by NBC News. At least 47 people were arrested the following night, though Johnson credited community elders and clergy with bringing a "different dynamic" to Tuesday's protests.

Could Wilson be charged with a crime?
It’s too soon to say. Prosecutors were expected to begin presenting preliminary evidence to a St. Louis County grand jury on Wednesday, Aug. 20, NBC News reported. The secret proceedings could take weeks. Nine of 12 members of the grand jury would have to agree on whether to indict Wilson. Brown's family has called for a special prosecutor to take over the case from County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch over his purported ties to police.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Little League Star Mo'ne Davis on Sports Illustrated]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:18:43 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/monedavisap.jpg

Mo'ne Davis, the 13-year-old girl who's become baseball's breakout star, has become the first Little League player ever to make the national cover of Sports Illustrated.

Not that the Philadelphia eighth-grader needs any more firsts under her belt — not with her blinding 70 mph fastball, and certainly not with the Series shutout she threw last week, making her the first girl ever to throw a shutout in Little League World Series history.

Mo'ne, an honor roll student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, has helped make her team the Taney Dragons the first Little League team from Philadelphia ever to advance to the Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. 

But Mo'ne's sports goals extend far beyond baseball.

"To be honest, I never thought I'd be famous for baseball," she told Sports Illustrated. "I want to play basketball, and I could also do both basketball and baseball — but I really want to play basketball."

She one day hopes to play basketball for the University of Connecticut on a full scholarship, preferably as the point guard for the Huskies. Her mother Lakeisha McLean says she's confident her daughter can do it.

"When Mo’ne says she's gonna do it, she's gonna do it," McLean said.

Mo'ne will take the mound Wednesday in Las Vegas when the Taney Dragons take on the only other undefeated team in the Series, the Mountain Ridge team from Las Vegas.

--David Chang contributed additional reporting.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Man Shot in Head, Killed in East Harlem: Police]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:37:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/police-tape-shutterstock_81281835.jpg

Police are investigating the shooting death of a man in East Harlem on the heels of one of the most violent weekends of the year in New York City. 

The 29-year-old man was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head at 433 East 102nd St. at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, police said.

No arrest has been made.

The killing comes just after a weekend of gun violence in which two people were killed and more than 20 were hurt in 13 separate shootings. 

Mayor de Blasio said Monday that crime is down overall in the city and urged New Yorkers to put the bloody weekend in context. 

"While shootings are up, we were down 26 murders from last year," he said. 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Car Jumps Curb Injuring 6 in the Bronx: FDNY]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 20:44:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/police-tape-shutterstock_5628043311.jpg

Six people were injured when a car drove onto a sidewalk in the Bronx Tuesday afternoon, possibly striking a building, authorities said.

According to the FDNY, the car jumped a curb near Broadway and West 259th Street at around 12:40 p.m., seriously injuring one person and causing five others to suffer minor injuries.

Officials said the car may have struck a building. 

All of the injured were transported to a nearby hospital. The cause of the accident remains unknown and it was unclear if any of the injured were pedestrians.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[One Person Seriously Injured in Bronx Blaze]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 04:26:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Fire_Generic_Firefighter.jpg

A two-alarm fire in the Bronx left one person seriously injured Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

According to the FDNY, the fire was contained to the top floor of a six-story building on East 171st Street.

One person was transported to a nearby hospital with serious but non life-threatening injuries, officials said.

The fire was quickly brought under control. No word yet on what caused the blaze.

Photo Credit: NBC Local Media]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Adorable Snow Leopard Cubs at the Zoo]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:33:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/snow+leopard+cubs+thumb.jpg

Two sinfully adorable snow leopard cubs have debuted at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo.

The male cubs were born May 6 to first-time parents. They're on exhibit with their mother in the Himalayan Highlands.

Snow leopards are among the world’s most endangered big cats with only an estimated 3,500 to 7,500 remaining in the wild. Their range is limited to remote mountains of Central Asia and parts of China, Mongolia, Russia, India and Bhutan, zoo officials say.

The Bronx Zoo has had more snow leopard births – over 70 – than any other zoo in North America and was the first zoo in the United States to exhibit the big cats in 1903.

To learn more about the cubs or other zoo exhibits, click here. 

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher]]>
<![CDATA[SoCal Teens Were Making "Huge Plan of School Massacre": Police]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:17:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/160*120/rsz_1southpashighschools.jpg

Two teenage boys accused of planning a mass shooting at South Pasadena High School were determined to kill people on the campus, officials said Tuesday.

School and police officials began investigating the threats last week, South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller said at a press conference filled with parents, students and community members stunned by the allegations.

"It was very viable, what they were plotting," Miller said. "They were making a huge plan of a school massacre."

Miller said the two incoming seniors, aged 16 and 17, were very specific about their targets.

“As they put it, they just wanted to kill as many people as possible,” Miller said.

Investigators said the boys had not obtained weapons, but researched guns and explosives on the Internet. The pair were arrested after search warrants were served at their homes Monday.

Miller said the pair were researching automatic weapons, bulletproof vests, bomb making materials and other weapons.

He declined to discuss a possible motive for the planned attack. He said the two students did not have a specific date planned for an attack, but investigators believed they intended to carry it out.

“There was no target date, but had a very, very specific plan of how they were going to carry out their sick mission," Miller said.

The police chief said the parents of both boys were cooperating with the investigation.

But officials reassured parents, students and staff at the school Tuesday that there is no current threat. Classes are not yet in session for the fall semester, but some students have returned to activities on campus, and security will be increased when classes resume Thursday.

South Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz issued a statement on social media.

"The South Pasadena High School administration was informed of a credible threat of potential school violence at the high school and immediately contacted the South Pasadena Police Department who investigated the matter," he said.

Counselors and psychologists were available at the school Monday.

But news of the arrests shocked the small community, which has just 21,000 residents.

"Parents are expressing a lot of sadness, fear, Mayor Marina Khubesrian said Monday. “Wondering will there be increased police presence in the schools. In general, a lot of concern."

Students said they were alarmed by the possibility classmates would even consider such a plan.

"I would think about (the plan) and I was, like, I could have lost all my friends that day and I would have been in such sorrow," said student Max Garcia.

Student Hanna Crowley said she was trying not to think too much about what could have happened.

"I'm trying not to actually think about what would have happened because that scares me quite a bit," she said.

Both boys were booked on suspicion of conspiracy and making criminal threats. Detectives said they will present their case to the LA County District Attorney's office late Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Sean Browning/NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Rescued From Creek After Fiery Truck Crash ]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:29:59 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/truck+crash+rescue+newer.jpg

A tractor-trailer careened off the side of Interstate 95 in New Jersey and smashed into a guardrail Tuesday morning, sending the 66-year-old driver into a creek below and igniting part of the cab.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the accident on the interstate’s northbound lanes in Ridgefield Park. Driver Lawrence Scherf, of Vails Gate, escaped the burning cab of the tractor trailer and wound up in the Overpeck Creek, which runs under that part of the highway.

Three state troopers waded through water up to their necks to pull Scherf out of the creek. Chopper 4 captured the daring rescue, following the troopers as they climbed up a ledge with Scherf on a stretcher and hoisted him back onto the highway.

"The whole time we just kept telling him, myself and the other two troopers, that he was going to be alright, we were going to make sure nothing happened to him, we were going to get him out of there OK, in one piece, and that's exactly what we did, " said Trooper Luis Cardenas, one of the three troopers who participated in the rescue.

Scherf was airlifted to the hospital with burns on 65 percent of his body and lacerations, authorities said. His rescuers were taken to a hospital as a precaution.

Chopper 4 footage from the scene showed the charred front of the tractor-trailer dangling off the roadway, part of it partially submerged in the creek. Heavy smoke was wafting from the vehicle and the northbound inner roadway to Route 80 West was closed while crews worked.

Other lanes of traffic were open, but the accident caused heavy delays.  

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Dogs in Urgent Need of Adoption After Guardian's Death]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 14:23:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/death+row+dog+split.jpg

Four large breed dogs that recently arrived at the New York Animal Care and Control facility in Brooklyn are in urgent need of new homes.

According to a report on the Examiner.com, the dogs were brought to the facility on Aug. 13, after their guardian passed away.

If they are not adopted, all four of the newly homeless dogs are due to be euthanized on Aug. 22.

The dogs include 10-year-old Mike, a Neapolitan Mastiff mix, Mick, also a 10-year-old Neapolitan Mastiff mix, Maury, an 8-year-old Dogue De Bordeaux, and Marlon, another 8-year-old Dogue De Bordeax.

Both Mike and Mick are described as "very friendly," while Marlon is said to be "quiet, alert and responsive." Maury is said to be frightened in the shelter environment.
Click here for more information on adopting these dogs or any others pets from New York Animal Care and Control. You can also call (212) 788-4000 for automated instructions or email urgentassistancenyc@gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Attacks Aside, Common Core Survives Across U.S.]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:56:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/indiana+common+core.JPG

Is the Common Core on its way in — or out?

Proponents and opponents are so sharply divided that an assessment of the standards’ prospects depends on whom you ask.

The national academic standards have sparked such vehement disputes that it might seem many states have already pulled out. Republican politicians even if they once supported the standards now often insist that they are an unwelcome intrusion in local matters.

In fact, only a handful of states have actually moved away from the Common Core. Indiana withdrew and replaced it with its own standards, North and South Carolina and Missouri are reviewing it but using it in the meantime and only Oklahoma has returned to its previous standards while developing alternatives.

As the new school year begins, most teachers across the country are implementing the Common Core, says Michael Brickman, the national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

A think tank focusing on education policy, the institute supports the standards, meant to ensure that students meet minimum benchmarks regardless of where they go to school. By its score, 42 states still have the Common Core in effect (It counts Indiana as still on a board). So despite efforts by tea party groups and other conservatives, it argues, the pro-Common Core side is still leading.

Not for long, predicts Emmett McGroarty at the American Principles Project, a group that created the initiative, "Fight Common Core." The standards are on their way out, he said.

They increasingly are being exposed as a way to push an inferior curriculum and parents are rebelling, he said. Opponents are at the end of the first stage of their battle, to make politicians aware of just how bad they believe the standards are. Next up is a new discussion about what children should be learning and who should be responsible, he said.

“Unfortunately, now the Common Core has become a political football, and the focus really has shifted, I think, from the substance of what’s contained in the Common Core and the rationale for the strategy of having common, high standards across the country to a question of who can garner the most political points from victory in this battle,” said Paul Reville, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.


The standards were developed with little controversy beginning in 2009 by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association’s Center of Best Practices, as goals for what students should learn in mathematics and English language literacy in the kindergarten through 12th grade. The aim was to ensure that students already lagging behind international counterparts graduate from high school ready for college and careers.

At first the standards had bipartisan support -- and still have the backing of such disparate politicians as former Florida governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and President Barack Obama. Only four states rejected them — Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia — while Minnesota accepted only the English language portion of the standards, not the math.

Since then, the standards have become a flashpoint both on the right and the left. Conservatives argue that they represent federal overreach into education, liberals object to more high-stake testing, integral to the Common Core, and both question the corporate profits from the tests.

Jane Maisel, a former New York City teacher who is part of a movement against such testing, said standards alone are not a problem.

But, said Maisel, a member of a group called Change the Stakes, “The Common Core is a creature, it is an invention of people who are interested in this quantification of everything in the school system. There is no such thing as a Common Core separate from the high stakes tests that are geared to it. It has no independent existence.”

A mother who belongs to the group, Janine Sopp of Brooklyn, said she was worried about the over-use of tests and their inappropriate application to punish teachers and schools.

"We've spent a huge amount of money that has actually come out of schools in order to pay for this," she said. "What we see in our schools is incredible budget cuts and a tremendous amount of inequality among schools."

Parents and teachers are in favor of high standards, she said, but do not want to see another failure like No Child Left Behind, the initiative under President George W. Bush.

"So who's to say this is not setting us up for another decade of failure," she said.

Groups opposing the Common Core have sprung up across the country from Arkansas to Utah, and both of the country’s national teachers unions have qualified their initial support. The unions object to how the standards are being put into practice and how teachers are being evaluated against a change in the classroom before they have had time to prepare. Seventy bills have been introduced that would slow or halt the standards’ implementation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But will the very vocal opposition make much difference in the end?

“If you think about the flurry of activity out there and what folks who have been opposing the standards would argue, that they’ve been making a lot of inroads, I would actually argue not much has changed,” said Jennifer Vranek, a founding partner of the Education First consulting firm and a supporter of the standards. “Forty some states still want their students to graduate from high school ready for college and careers."


In March, Indiana became the first state to formally withdraw from the Common Core and to substitute local standards in its place.

“I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level,” Republican Gov. Mike Pence said at the time.

Critics say that many of the new standards were taken directly from the Common Core and contend that the state did little more than tweak the results as other states have done.

North and South Carolina and Missouri are reviewing their standards with the aim of writing new local ones, but will continue to follow the Common Core in the meantime.

Only Oklahoma will revert to its earlier standards while it replaces the Common Core, which Republican Gov. Mary Fallon said had been tainted by federal overreach.

"What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president's plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies," she said in June.

Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said that as a result Oklahoma had lowered its standards.

“But they are in the process of rewriting their standards, so that’s a positive, and we’re hopeful that Oklahoma will get to a higher set of standards," he said.


In other states, the battle continues.

Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal is in the middle of a very public dispute with the state’s education officials over whether to keep the standards. Jindal, another Republican who might run for president in 2016, had supported the Common Core when his state adopted it in 2010 but now says he is alarmed by the loss of local control.

In Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker has urged the state legislature to overturn the standards when it returns in January.

Elsewhere a front has opened on the tests being designed to measure students progress in the Common Core. Two testing consortiums, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, formed, but some states have since pulled out or put their participation on hold. Florida for example has selected its own test.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that the standards looked good on paper but were not working well in early childhood and special education. The debate should be focused not on whether the federal government was overstepping its bounds but on the Common Core's imperfect implementation. Testing should be not be linked to its implementation

Vranek said she thought the Common Core standards would remain a blueprint for many states even as they get caught up in the 2016 presidential elections.

“Most of the opposition both from the left and the right is highly politically motivated,” she said.

Legislatures in many states will not be in session again until January, and that is when the next round of opposition will bubble up, McGroarty said.

"It really gets back to that dynamic of a governor or a speaker being confronted by a mom, who just takes them to school on the Common Core and why it's bad," he said. "When that happens, I think legislators and governors who are Common Core proponents, when they realize how bad this is, they tend to flip to the other side."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Makes U-Turn After Fight, Hits Woman: Cops]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 07:44:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Bruckner-Boulevard-2+copy.jpg

Police are looking for a driver who allegedly plowed into a group of pedestrians in the Bronx, critically injuring one of them, after his passenger got into an argument with them Monday afternoon, authorities say. 

Three women and a man were walking underneath Bruckner Expressway at East 138th Street in Port Morris at about 1 p.m., when the man exchanged words with a passenger in a passing vehicle, according to police. 

The vehicle stopped a few feet away, made a U-turn and accelerated into the group, injuring one of the female pedestrians, police said. 

The driver, in a white sedan with a black passenger's-side door, took off after making impact.  

"He hit her and ran away. He didn't even stop, he didn't even check her out or nothing," said one witness. 

The victim was taken to Lincoln Hospital in critical condition. 

It's not clear whether the group of pedestrians knew the people in the car. The driver is being sought for aggravated assault, police say. 

Anyone with information on the driver is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

<![CDATA[Tornado Survivors From NJ Recall Black Skies, Bodies on Ground]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 20:44:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tornado+survivor+ortega+fallarme.jpg

Relatives who were with the New Jersey family killed in a tornado in Virginia while camping last month recalled the terrifying few seconds of destruction that ended with their beloved aunt and uncle dead, their cousin unconscious and their own bodies punctured and battered by felled trees. 

Jelyn Ortega-Fallarme arrived at Jersey City Medical Center Monday after spending 25 days at a hospital in Virginia being treated for a broken pelvic bone and injuries to the shoulder.

Ortega-Fallarme and her husband Niccolo Fallarme had accompanied Ortega-Fallarme's uncle and aunt, Lord Balatbat and Lolibeth Ortega, and their cousins to Cherrystone Campground along Chesapeake Bay for an annual camping trip when disaster struck. 

"I still feel lucky that I'm alive," said Ortega-Fallarme, who only arrived in the U.S. from the Philippines recently. 

Ortega-Fallarme said the family had no warning before the tornado swept through July 23, blackening the skies, whipping and breaking trees, and dumping heavy hail on the campsite. 

By the time it was over, "I was next to my uncle and my cousin, I saw them, and they're bleeding a lot," she said in tears. "And they're not awake, you know." 

Tree branches had pierced her leg and chest. Her husband, after regaining consciousness, helped free her from under a tree, and she was able to crawl under a table to protect herself from the still-falling branches and hail. Her husband went on to try to rescue their other family members. 

Niccolo Fallarme said he'd passed out and when he came to, he tended to his wife and then saw Lord Balatbat laying on a rice cooker. He believes Balatbat had been trying to save him.

"When I looked in there, I was like, 'Best friend, don't leave me,'" Fallarme said. He then heard Balatbat's two daughters crying for help, and he rushed to rescue them.

One of the girls saw her mother get killed, Fallarme said as he choked up. 

The tornado itself was over in a matter of seconds, in a "snap," according to Ortega-Fallarme. 

"When I woke up, I lost my family," she said.

Balatbat, a manager at a Walgreens drugstore in Jersey City, and Ortega, a lab technician, both died after a tree fell on their tent. Their 13-year-old son, Lheandrew Balatbat, had been in the hospital in a coma since the tornado, and died last week. 

The couple's 11-year-old and 6-year-old daughters were injured, but not critically. 

Ortega-Fallarme said she's trying to be strong for the two girls. 

"I love them so much," she said. "And my aunt and uncle really trusted me for their kids. Wherever I go, they always go with me." 

The girls are being watched closely by relatives in New Jersey and are getting ready for school to start, according to another cousin.

"They're good knowing that their parents and their brother is in a better place and they have angels watching over them," said Lori Zaragoza. 

Ortega-Fallarme held onto a rosary as she spoke from Jersey City Medical Center. She said it had been given to her by her aunt.

"I was holding it all the days in the hospital, trying to be strong because I know they're still with me," she said. "I keep on praying and praying and I know there are lots of people praying in support for me."

She hopes to start walking in the next months.

"There are lot of people who are helping us," she said. "That's why I'm so grateful." 

-- Danielle Elias contributed to this report. 

<![CDATA[Missing Runway Model Found at NYC Hospital: NYPD]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:29:16 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ataui+deng+instagram.jpg

A New York City runway model who was missing for nearly two weeks has been found alive, police say.

Ataui-Deng Hopkins was found Monday at an area hospital, 12 days after she was last seen leaving the rooftop XVI Lounge on West 48th Street near Eighth Avenue on Aug. 6, according to the NYPD.

Police said no criminality was suspected.

The 22-year-old models professionally under the name Ataui Deng. 

She has walked the runways for designers like Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen, Malandrino and Lanvin, according to New York Magazine. Hopkins has also appeared in Harper's Bazaar and Teen Vogue.

The Sudanese-born model has been modeling since she was 14 and lived in Texas before coming to New York City.

A spokeswoman at Trump Models, Hopkins' agency since 2008, said before the 22-year-old was found that everyone was worried about the "much loved" woman and had been making calls and trying to find her. Celebrities including Rihanna also tweeted her photo during the search.

Hopkins' friend, celebrity chef Roble Ali, said she had disappeared before for a day or two when she felt like she needed space. But he said he got worried about this most recent case because she'd never been gone so long.

In an Instagram post after she was found, Ali thanked police and friends for their efforts.

"She is safe and sound," he said. "I want to thank all of our friends and followers and especially the NYPD for their swift and dedicated response."

Photo Credit: Instagram/@AtauiD]]>