THURSDAY EVENING UPDATE

CALLS FOR TOUGHER GUN LAWS ON SANDY HOOK ANNIVERSARY

Connecticut’s Congressional delegation is among those noting today’s fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings in Newtown. Senator Richard Blumenthal says Washington’s inaction on tighter background checks for firearms purchases despite an increasing number of deadly shootings in the U-S is inexcusable. He says the rest of the world is waiting to see what America will do. Blumenthal says gun violence in the U.S. kills 90 people each day, with an estimated 150-thousand deaths since Sandy Hook. He says prayers and thoughts to shooting victims and their loved ones are not enough to help them heal. Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook by shooter Adam Lanza, who then killed himself.

COLLEGE CONSOLIDATION PRESSES ON

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut is moving ahead with a plan to combine its 12 community colleges into one school with 12 campuses. The state’s Board of Regents for Higher Education approved a plan on Thursday that will merge the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system into a single institution. Officials say the plan will save $28 million by consolidating administration of the system. It’s expected to cut 190 jobs and take two years to implement. Some faculty members have opposed the move, saying it could put certain campuses at risk of losing accreditation. The merger has yet to be reviewed by the system’s accrediting agency, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Board members approved the plan 12-0, with one member abstaining. The state’s community colleges enrolled about 50,000 students in 2016.

SNAP RECIPIENTS GET FREE AQUARIUM ADMISSION

A new partnership between the state of Connecticut and Mystic Aquarium seeks to make one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions more accessible to needy families. Governor Dannel Malloy says residents who qualify for the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will receive free admission to the Aquarium now through next year. Malloy says the initiative is designed to allow children from all socio-economic backgrounds to enjoy the educational opportunities at Mystic Aquarium. In addition to his own complimentary admission, a SNAP recipient can bring up to four guests for free. More than 750-thousand people visit Mystic Aquarium each year.

TUNNEL FUNDING AGREEMENT

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – New York and New Jersey have agreed on how to pay their share of an estimated $13 billion project to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. New Jersey plans to raise $1.9 billion by hiking rail fares by about 90 cents per trip starting in 2020, with bigger increases planned for 2028 and 2038. New York plans to commit $1.75 billion to be financed over 35 years through a federal rail loan program. President Barack Obama committed to pay half of the project’s cost, but his successor, President Donald Trump, hasn’t said whether that commitment stands. The project is seen as essential to alleviating delays on the Boston-to-Washington corridor. Amtrak says the existing tunnel could fail in 10 to 15 years due to damage from Superstorm Sandy.

ICEBERG DEAD AHEAD!!

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) – The U.S. Coast Guard says about 1,000 icebergs drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes this year, marking the fourth consecutive “extreme” ice season. The Coast Guard International Ice Patrol monitors iceberg danger in the North Atlantic and warns ships. It held its annual meeting Thursday to discuss 2017 and look ahead to 2018. The Ice Patrol says storms broke up significant amounts of sea ice in 2017, freeing many icebergs, and that Greenland glaciers are retreating. The Canadian Ice Service predicts a normal population of icebergs, about 500, in shipping lanes in 2018, based on sea ice projections, surface air temperature and sea surface temperature. Coast Guard units and agencies they work with attended the meeting, including the U.S. National Ice Center, Canadian Ice Service and Danish Meteorological Institute.

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