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Racial Slurs on Chicago PD Radio


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked the offices of the U.S. Attorney and Cook County State’s Attorney to launch a hate crime investigation Sunday after racial slurs, including the n-word, were heard on police radio channels last month.

The Chicago Police Department began an internal investigation March 14 after learning of an "inappropriate transmission on a police frequency," authorities said. According to Emanuel and the police department's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the transmission was made not by a police officer but by an "unauthorized private citizen."

Audio from calls made on March 13 reveal a man saying "typical f---ing n-----s" on the radio channel as a dispatcher and officer communicate. Someone says in another transmission, "All black lives matter man, f---ing n-----s."

An officer on the channel asks the dispatcher to find out whose radio the comments came from but the dispatcher says she can't track it down.

"You know we don't do radio numbers, but I'm already hollering for my supervisor," she said.

In a formal request made Sunday to State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon, Emanuel said similar incidents have occurred since those calls were made public.

"In subsequent days, there have been at least three additional instances of one or more unauthorized users broadcasting racial slurs over CPD radio frequencies," Emanuel wrote.

Emanuel also said the broadcasts were not made from a police officer or on city equipment, a position the OEMC has maintained since shortly after the calls were made public.

"Subsequent investigation has indicated that the transmission was made by an unauthorized private citizen using non-City issue equipment," Emanuel said in the letter to Alvarez and Fardon.

"The audio in question lacks identifying characteristics of an official police radio," OEMC said in a statement following the March 13 calls. The department also said that any officer involved in making such statements would be disciplined.

"The language used does not represent the values of our police department or our city," Emanuel's letter reads. "These actions merit serious investigation as a hate crime or other applicable offense under Illinois or federal law."

The request for a hate crime investigation comes amid continuing tensions and fallout after the release of footage showing the fatal October 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hundreds Flee Fiery NJ Airport


Hundreds of people were cleared out of a terminal at Newark Liberty Airport after a fire that erupted there earlier Monday morning reignited, officials said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey confirmed Monday that a fire broke out just after 1 a.m. in a boiler room ceiling in Terminal B.

There were about 200 people in Terminal B when it was evacuated, authorities said. The blaze caused smoke to pour from the top of the building.

The fire was put out and the terminal reopened, but a short time later the fire rekindled and forced a second evacuation, officials said.

It was unclear if any flights were delayed because of the fire. 

Although the second blaze was brought under control sometime before 4:30 a.m., heavy smoke remained in the building and travelers could not return until it was cleared out, officials said.

The terminal was being ventilated Monday morning as smoke continued to dissipate overhead. 

People began re-entering the terminal around 5:15 a.m. 

No injuries were reported in the fires.

Photo Credit: @peacheez35/Instagram
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Spring Snow Expected to Blanket Northeast, Winds to Subside


Winter storm warnings and advisories were issued Monday from Michigan to southern New England, according to the The Weather Channel, as crews worked to dig out from the weekend's deadly storm, NBC News reported. 

The National Weather Service warned that an early spring "Arctic airmass" had settled over the Northeast, with winds expected to calm down but cold temperatures to persist. 

Snow was expected to accumulate from the Great Lakes east to New England. Weather Channel meteorologist Kevin Roth said upstate New York is expected to see the most snow — up to 5 inches — with central and southern New England not far behind. He said other areas will see between 1 and 4 inches.

More than 9 inches of snow fell in Michigan while parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island saw up to 6 inches of snow on Sunday. Heavy winds battered swaths of the country.

Photo Credit: AP

3 Tractor-Trailers Collide on I-84 in Union


Connecticut State Police responded to several crashes this morning, including a triple tractor-trailer crash on Interstate 84 West in Union and a rollover on I-84 West in Tolland.

Three tractor-trailers crashed on I-84 westbound in Union around 3:45 a.m. and at least one tipped over, closing the right and center lanes.

The scene is now clear.

State police said there was a fuel leak and crews from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responded.  Possible minor injuries are reported in the Union crash.

The rollover in Tolland was between exits 69 and 68.

Follow Heidi Voight on Twitter for updates.

Bus Driver Hospitalized After School Bus Crash in West Hartford


A school bus driver was taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries after another driver crashed into the bus at North Main Street and Sheep Hill Drive in West Hartford on Monday morning, according to police, and students are on board.

The bus was going north on Main Street and heading to Norfeldt Elementary School just before 8:30 a.m. when a 47-year-old Bloomfield woman heading south on North Main Street lost control of her 2003 Ford Explorer, went over the double yellow line and hit the bus, police said.

Police noted that it was snowing and the roads were very slippery at the time.

The bus driver suffered minor injuries and was brought to Hartford Hospital.

Five students and two adults, including the driver, were on the bus, according to police.

One student and the other adult sustained minor injuries and neither went to the hospital.

The driver who hit the bus was cited for driving too fast for the conditions.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

'Donald Trump' Heroin Bust


A New Hampshire woman was arrested Thursday on charges of selling heroin — and the bags' labels are sure to turn some heads.

Darcie Ray Hall, 36, of Troy, is accused of selling dosage-sized packages of heroin marked "Donald Trump." Police said her arrest last week on Route 12 was the result of a month-long investigation.

According to the Union Leader, Hall sold the heroin in the bathroom of a Keene McDonald's on March 24 and at a Troy convenience store March 28.

She was charged with the sale of a controlled drug and was held on bond ahead of a court appearance April 1, police said. Hall has pleaded not guilty, the Union Leader reports.

It's not Hall's first drug violation. She was convicted of cocaine possession in 2014 and is currently on probation, according to police, who said they expect Hall to also be charged with violation of probation.

Authorities continue to investigate. Information on an attorney for Hall was not immediately available.

Photo Credit: Keene Police Department/AP

Police Investigating Head-On Crash in Middlebury


Police are responding to a head-on crash in the area of 2191Straits Turnpike in Middlebury. Expect delays and a possible road closure.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: necn

Police Investigating Robbery at Waterford Convenience Store


Police are investigating a robbery at the Henny Penny convenience store on Route 32 in Waterford.

Police said the robbery was reported after midnight and no injuries are reported.

The scene is clear.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Second Crash on Gold Star Bridge Clears


Police responded to two crashes that caused heavy delays on the Gold Star Bridge on Interstate 95 between Groton and New London on Monday.

Both sides of the bridge were closed on Monday morning after crashes. Hours later, a tractor-trailer jackknifed on the southbound side of the bridge, closing the three left lanes.

State police said the bridge is now open. Drivers are urged to use caution in the area and reduce speed.


Photo Credit: Connecticut Department of Transportation

Calls for Change in Battling Cigarette Butt Litter


Cigarette butts are not normally given top billing in discussions about tobacco-related problems. But they should be, according to environmental experts.

The USDA estimates that about 360 billion cigarettes are consumed in the U.S. each year. Close to two-thirds of those butts — 234 billion — are tossed as litter, according to a study by the environmental group Keep America Beautiful.

The prevailing strategy — organizing local clean ups, putting out ash receptacles in public areas and having city governments pay for storing cigarette butts in landfills — is not effective, according to Dr. Clifton Curtis, president and CEO of the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project. Tobacco companies are trying to help alleviate the problem, Curtis said, but they need to do more.

Those littered butts make their way from streets and sidewalks to storm drains, where they head to sewers, then hit waterways. Many eventually end up in the ocean and on beaches, leaching more than 7,000 chemicals, including heavy metals and over 60 known carcinogens.

According to Curtis, "incinerating them or burying them in landfills is not an appropriate solution." They’re like a concentrated toxic pill: the filter absorbs chemicals that are released when a cigarette is being smoked.

How cigarettes are made poses another problem, according to environmentalists. A study estimates roughly 141 million pounds of cellulose acetate, the primary component of a cigarette butt, is strewn across the U.S. each year. Cellulose acetate is somewhat photo-chemically degraded by sunlight, but is not biodegradable. So the butts build up in landfills, continuing to leach their chemicals into soil.

"Tobacco needs to be responsible through the lifecycle chain," Curtis said.

Programs should be designed to pay for butts’ storage and disposal, and funding should be allocated for municipal efforts too, he said. 

Tobacco companies are chipping in with what they consider appropriate solutions. Initiatives like Keep America Beautiful's Cigarette Litter Prevention Program stress enforcement of litter laws, proliferation of cigarette disposal receptacles and dispersement of portable ashtrays. The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is sponsored in part by Santa Fe Natural Tobacco through its parent company Reynolds, and Altria, two of the largest tobacco companies in the nation.

Seth Moskowitz, spokesperson for Santa Fe Natural Tobacco, the makers of American Spirit cigarettes, said the company is partnering with New Jersey recycling company Terracycle and has built a network of over 7,000 recycling receptacles. The program has recycled 52 million cigarette butts since 2012, according to Moskowitz and Terracycle. The butts have been turned into plastic products like artificial lumber, flying discs and even ashtrays.

Altria spokesman Steve Callahan said his company believes the best way to curb cigarette butt litter is through education.

"We are taking a comprehensive approach: we educate adult smokers with labels on our packaging and partner with programs like Keep America Beautiful," he said.

But Curtis, the environmental advocate, believes the tobacco industry can do more by following the methods of the paint industry, which also has to deal with potentially hazardous waste from their products.

Curtis cites Paint Care Inc. as an example of how tobacco companies and municipalities can work together to solve the litter and storage problem. The non-profit, which was established in 2002, operates on the premise that "paint can be collected for reuse, recycling, energy recovery, or safe disposal."

Paint Care’s program is funded through fees on each container sold in states that have paint stewardship programs.

Activists advocate a similar concept for butts funded by new taxes on cigarette sales.

The city of San Francisco added a tax on cigarettes in 2009, attaching a 20-cent "Cigarette Litter Abatement Fee" to each pack. They city was promptly sued by tobacco company Phillip Morris USA, but a judge upheld San Francisco’s new law.

The local strategy has yet to become a national one.

Callahan, with Altria, said the company opposed additional taxes because, he said, cigarettes were "already heavily taxed."

But Curtis counters that most efforts to reduce cigarette butt waste are a "downstream" solution and the approach needs to change for concrete results.

"It’s good to see people cleaning up, but we need to do much more than that," he said. "We need to go upstream."

Photo Credit: AP

Virgin America Tops List of Best-Performing US Airlines


For the fourth year in a row, Virgin America topped the list of the country's best airlines, according to an annual report that found the industry performed better in 2015, but customer complaints still increased.

The Airline Quality Rating report — released Monday by Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona — is the longest-running airline quality evaluation in the country.

It ranks the nation's 13 domestic airlines as follows:

  1. Virgin America (soon to merge with Alaska Airlines)
  2. JetBlue
  3. Delta Airlines
  4. Hawaiian Airlines
  5. Alaska Airlines
  6. Southwest Airlines
  7. SkyWest Airlines
  8. United Airlines
  9. ExpressJet
  10. American Airlines
  11. Frontier Airlines
  12. Envoy Air
  13. Spirit Airlines

The rankings are based on four key categories: on-time performance, involuntary denied boardings, baggage handling and consumer complaints. On the whole, the air travel industry improved in each of the four from 2014 to 2015, the report found.

On-Time Performance

Hawaiian Airlines takes the cake for best on-time performance, while Spirit had the fewest on-time flights in 2015, according to the report.

"We struggled with our on-time performance because we are very aggressive with our schedules," said Paul Berry, a spokesperson for Spirit. "We put very little, to no pad in our schedules, to save our customers money on airfare."

Berry said the flight schedule is so full, airport delays create a chain reaction. He added that the airline is working to improve its timeliness.

Collectively, more flights were on time in 2015 than in 2014 — 79.9 percent compared to 76.2 percent, respectively.

Involuntary Denied Boardings

JetBlue and Hawaiian "are the clear industry leaders" in terms of involuntary denied boardings, which means they had the fewest number of passengers who were denied seats on oversold flights. Nine of the airlines evaluated had fewer denied boardings in 2015 than in 2014, with SkyWest showing the most improvement, according to the report.

Baggage Handling

Fewer bags were "lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered" in 2015 than the year before, with eight airlines showing improvement, according to the report. Virgin America was found to have the best baggage handling, with 0.84 "mishandled" bags per 1,000 passengers, while Envoy had the worst, at 8.52 bags per 1,000 people.

"Envoy has been adding a lot of additional resources with regard to baggage, especially transferring bags. That continues to be a priority in 2016 for American," said a spokesperson for American Airlines, which owns and operates Envoy. "But we are already seeing improvement, now that American/US Airways are on one system."

The industry rate of mishandled bags dropped from 3.62 in 2014 to 3.24 in 2015.

Customer Complaints

Despite better performance overall, customer complaints reached their highest level in 15 years, with a 37 percent increase in complaints from 2014 to 2015. Of the 15,260 complaints registered with the Department of Transportation, most were over problems with flights, baggage, tickets and customer service, according to the report.

"These results clearly show that the air traveling public is not happy. Passengers are reaching out and letting us know exactly that, based on the number of complaints filed with the Department of Transportation. The human element of air travel is obviously deteriorating, and passengers are fed up," said co-researcher Brent Bowen, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Alaska Airlines had the lowest rate of complaints, while Spirit had the highest. Berry said most of the airline's complaints come from first-time customers who book through third-party sites and "do not receive the same level of information about Spirit’s a la carte model" as those who book directly through the airline.

"We are constantly working to educate these first time customers," Berry said in a statement. "While we’re seeing some improvement, we still have some work to do in the area of customers who book on third party travel sites."

American Airlines said in a statement Monday the company "strives to improve the travel experience for all of [its] customers" and takes direction from customer complaints.

"We have several programs in different phases of development that we believe will greatly improve our customer service," the company said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/File

Panama Papers: Leak Reveals World Leaders' Offshore Assets


A cache of 11.5 million leaked documents details a shadowy network of banks and law firms that helps many of the world's most powerful people — politicians, criminals, athletes, magnates, celebrities — hide money in offshore accounts, according to an international coalition of media outlets. 

Among the dozen current and former world leaders named in the documents were the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia, and the children of the president of Azerbaijan, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism. 

The media group published the papers through more than 100 news organizations around the world on Sunday. The data came from a Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, whose cofounder Ramon Fonseca confirmed the authenticity of the leaked information.

The group said they had tied the movement of $2 billion by associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who countered that he was the victim of a smear campaign. The documents also link shell companies to Xi Jinping, head of China's ruling party, and to the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, both self-styled anti-corruption crusaders, the group said.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Brief Reprieve from Unsettled Weather


Sunshine returns tomorrow and while it will last into Wednesday, the weather pattern remains very active heading into the second weekend of April.

Even though it will be sunny tomorrow, high temperatures will only manage to climb into the 30s.

Wednesday should be a tad warmer with highs in the 40s as skies remain mostly sunny.

An area of low pressure rides west of the region on Thursday.

Showers will begin Thursday morning and turn into a steady rain by afternoon. Temperatures will rise well into the 50s.

A lingering shower is possible Friday, but more importantly, Friday serves as a transition day.

The weekend will be exceptionally cold for the time of year.

High temperatures will struggle to 40 degrees both days.

With a cold pool of air aloft, it will be hard to achieve anything brighter than a mix of sunshine and clouds.

First Alert forecasters are also watching for the potential for some snow.

Man Injured Police Officers, Police Dog: Police


A man who lives in a Branford motel was arrested after injuring police officers and a police dog while they were responding to a domestic incident on Saturday night, according to police.

Police said they responded to the Branford Motel, at 470 East Main St., just before 9 p.m. on Saturday to investigate a violent domestic dispute between Louis Ortiz, 38, and his girlfriend.

When Officers Jay Kaufman, Mathew Clerkin, Luigi Amasino, and his police dog, Joker, arrived, they found Ortiz on the second-floor balcony.

As Officer Kaufman tried to take him into custody, Ortiz fought back and lunged at Joker, police said.

Joker subdued him, but Ortiz tried to choke the dog and continued to fight with officers, police said.

Officers Amasino, Clerkin and Joker were all injured. Amasino and Clerkin were treated at an area hospital for minor injuries and have been released.

Joker didn’t require medical attention.

Paramedics also brought Ortiz to a medical facility.

After he was treated, he was released to police and charged with breach of peace, third-degree assault, two counts of threatening, interfering with an officer, cruelty to animals and assault on an officer.

He was held on a $10,000 bond and was arraigned in New Haven court.

Photo Credit: Branford Police

Easter Bombing: Terror Group Vows to Kill Christians


The Taliban faction that claimed responsibility for the deadly attack at an amusement park in Lahore, Pakistan, on Easter Sunday has identified the suicide bomber to NBC News, provided exclusive details of his training and vowed to keep killing more Christians and other religious minorities. 

A spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar said a photograph posted on the group's Facebook page is that of the bomber in the March 27 blast, which killed at least 73 people, most of them Muslims, and injured scores. 

The group identified the bomber as Salahuddin Khorasani. His name is likely an alias, as Khorasani — someone from Khorasan, an ancient name for Afghanistan — is a common nom de guerre for Taliban fighters, according to NBC News. 

The spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said the group's operatives trained in Afghanistan and brought the suicide bomber to blow himself up. He also said the group plans more "devastating" attacks.

Photo Credit: AP

Minor Injuries Reported on Multi-Car Crash on I-691

50 Pups Saved From Freezing Van


New Jersey police officers saved 67 puppies from a near-freezing van early Monday morning, authorities said.

Paramus police officers spotted the Freightliner Sprinter van parked in the back of the Just Pups store on state Route 17 in Paramus about 3 a.m., according to police. Cops later determined the van belonged to the owner of the Just Pups store. 

When officers approached the van, they heard dogs whining and smelled an odor of urine and feces coming from the vehicle.

They opened an unlocked door, saw the dogs covered in feces and called animal control, authorities said. It was later determined the temperature inside the van was about 38 degrees.

Fifteen dogs needed medical attention and were taken to Oradell Animal Hospital, police said.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Animal Cruelty Task Force is investigating.

The owner of the Paramus Just Pups store, Vincent LoSacco, was charged with 267 counts of animal cruelty in late February for alleged poor conditions at the East Brunswick outpost of the store. The location later had its business license revoked by the town.

Reached after those charges were filed, LoSacco said they were baseless and that an officer who issued him the summons has a personal vendetta against him. He later posted a video to Facebook saying he had been unfairly targeted.

The Paramus location had also been the target of investigations and complaints before Monday, authorities said.

LoSacco, who owns multiple Just Pups locations throughout the Garden State, couldn't be reached for comment Monday. An employee who claimed to be LoSacco's son declined to comment on the case to NBC 4 New York. 

It's not clear if charges will be filed in the case.

Red Sox Season Opener Postponed


The Boston Red Sox season opener against the Cleveland Indians on Monday has been postponed due to weather conditions.

"Bad news: Today's #TribeOpener has been postponed," the Indians announced on Twitter on Monday afternoon. The game will now be played on Tuesday at 1:10 p.m.

Monday was to be the Boston debut of ace David Price, who agreed to a $217 million, seven-year contract with the club in December. 

It would also have marked the return to the dugout for Boston manager John Farrell after he stepped away last August to receive medical treatment for non-Hodgkin's Burkitt lymphoma.

This year is also noteworthy because it will be the last for World Series hero David Ortiz, who will retire at the end of his 20th season in the major leagues.

Photo Credit: Boston Red Sox
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Sex Offender Accused of Sexually Assaulting Child for 8 Years


A registered sex offender from Milford is accused of sexually assaulting a child for eight years and has been arrested.

Police said the obtained a warrant on Thursday for Loren I. Manes, 45, after investigating a report of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Police said they received a report on Dec. 15 of a juvenile making a statement about inappropriate sexual behavior with an adult male. The department’s Special Investigations Unit started investigating and they identified Manes as the suspect.

He is accused of sexually assaulting a juvenile in Milford from 2006 through the summer of 2014.
Manes was charged with four counts of risk of injury, two counts of sexual assault and two counts of first-degree sexual assault.

Police said he is a registered sex offender.

He was held on a $75,000 bond and was arraigned in Milford Superior Court on March 30. He remains in custody, according to the online court docket and no attorney is listed for him.

Manes has not issued a plea and is due back in court on March 13.

Photo Credit: Milford Police

Rescued Bald Eagle Recovering from Toxin


A seven-year-old Bald Eagle that was rescued on Friday had some sort of poison in his system and he is recovering after receiving medical help.

Environmental Conservation Police responded to Thomaston on Friday morning after receiving reports of a sick or injured Bald Eagle and found the majestic creature in need of help, so officers captured the male bird and rushed him to the Audubon Center in Sharon for medical care.

The first 24 hours were touch and go, according to officers, but he was stabilized on Saturday night with help from Audubon staff.

On Sunday morning, the eagle was more alert, more aggressive and standing on his own, so he was brought to a veterinarian who drew blood for testing.

The tests revealed what appeared to be some form of toxin in the eagle’s system that affected his liver, so he has been going through fluid therapy to flush his system.

The eagle is finally making progress and was able to eat, according to Environmental Conservation Police who have sent the blood sample out for analysis to determine the type of toxin.

Other than the effects of the toxin, the eagle has no physical injuries.

This eagle was tagged seven years ago, before he could fly, so EnCon police know he’s a Connecticut native and they are crediting Audubon Sharon for help to save the majestic bird.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Environmental Conservation Police
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