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Ford Trucks Celebrate 100th Anniversary


The new Ford 2017 F-Series Super Duty isn’t just a truck, it’s luxury hauling on wheels. The motor company’s latest version of the pickup boasts massaging leather seats, a panoramic moonroof and state of the art infotainment system.

Ford Motor Co. has come a long way since debuting it’s first truck, the 1917 Model TT, 100 years ago today. Henry Ford made the truck after customers requested a utility vehicle that could haul heavier loads for work.

On July 27, 1917, Henry Ford rolled out the first Model TT with a price tag of $600. The vehicle was essentially the cab of a Model T with a hefty frame and bed bolted on that back, enabling the vehicle to carry heavy loads and giving birth to the pickup truck. Ford sold 209 Model TT trucks in 1917.

A century later, Ford trucks remains America’s best selling pickups, holding on the number one spot for 40 consecutive years, according to the company.

By 1928, Ford had sold 1.3 million TTs before replacing it with the Model AA and its 1.5-ton chassis.

"Model AA trucks in particular had a certain class to them," said Ford historian Bob Kreipke in a statement. "Customers could use them on the farm, yet still take them to church on Sunday."

In 1933, Ford replaced the Model AA with the even more capable Model BB. Many were outfitted as mail and freight vehicles, ambulances and stake trucks. Two years later, Ford introduced the 1935 Model 50 pickup, powered exclusively by its pioneering Flathead V-8 engine.

During the Great Depression, when thousands of families left their farms carrying everything their pickups could from the Dust Bowl to cities around the country, the truck transitioned from workhorse to everyday vehicle.

"A lot of rural Americans moved to urban and suburban centers looking for work, and many took their Ford pickups with them," said Kreipke. "Ford saw this as an opportunity, and began work on the next generation of trucks for 1948, what came to be known as F-Series Bonus Built trucks."

The first of the F-Series trucks arrived for 1948. And while the F designation has remained, the first models had a more basic numbering system. The trucks started with the F-1, a contemporary F-150 equivalent, and went up to the ultra-heavy duty commercial trucks like the F-7. Tack a "50" onto the end of those names and you'll have modern day F-Series trucks.

The Falcon Ranchero joined the line-up in 1957. Marketed as "More Than a Car! More Than a Truck!," this light-duty truck brought car-like amenities to consumers. Ford notes that it was at this time that trucks started getting basic amenities such as automatic transmissions, arm rest, and sun visors.

The first F-150 was introduced in 1975. Just two years later, the Ford F-Series became the best selling truck in America, and it took best selling passenger vehicle in 1982.

In the '70s and '80s, Ford also began offering more luxurious accommodations such as leather, air conditioning, and power windows and locks.

Ford is credited with putting the world on wheels, and its trucks, according to Ford, "helped build America."

"Ford trucks carried the loads, the people and the products necessary to get the job done," Kreipke said.

Keep on truckin' Ford.

Photo Credit: Ford Motor Co.

Calls to End Youth Violence Come After Teens Crash Into Victims on Hartford Sidewalk


More than a week after a stolen SUV packed with juveniles plowed into two people at a bus stop on Ashley and Sigourney Streets in Hartford, 56-year-old Rosella Shuler, a mother of four who lost both her legs when the vehicle jumped the curb, remains in critical condition. 

“I wish I could take her place because she can’t even sit. She can’t even walk,” Shuler’s daughter, Jessica Vazquez, said. 

On Wednesday, Vazquez was with Shovaka Ceasar, the man who was also injured in the crash, and they were joined by clergy members and Hartford residents who are calling for an end to youth violence. 

“Those children had no business being in that car, a stolen car at that,” one member of Mothers United Against Violence said. 

Community leaders want the change they have repeatedly asked for. 

Vazquez said that witnesses stepping up would be a start instead of people doing nothing when they see something happen. 

Ceasar recalled the moment of impact and the shock he felt after. 

“The car sped up, it hit the curb, it hit me and pushed me up against the fence,” he said. 

The two are now united in their quest for justice. 

The Hartford Police Department told NBC Connecticut at least one arrest in this case is expected soon.

Rally Today for New Fairfield Man Fighting Deportation


A rally will be held today in support of a New Fairfield man from Guatemala who is fighting a deportation order.

Joel Colindres, the father of a 6-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, came to the U.S. from Guatemala 13 years ago and married Samantha, a Connecticut native, seven years ago.

In the years since, the two said they have been fighting for the necessary documents for Joel to stay in the United States.

"Let's do it the right way. You've been paying into money for Social Security, you're not going to be having retirement," Samantha Colindres said.

Joel Colindres said problem is that he missed an immigration court date in 2004, when he was 20 years old and living in Texas.

"They had his address completely wrong. His first name was spelled with a K, his last name was wrong. He never even received the order to go the court," Samantha said.

Because of the order, Joel Colindres said he cannot apply for citizenship. Instead, he has been granted several stays of deportation, which is an Immigration and Customs Enforcement-approved order allowing him to remain in the country for one year.

Last week, the most recent "stay" application was denied and Joel Colindres was told he has 30 days to leave the country.

“I broke down in tears. How can you do this!?" Samantha asked.

ICE said they are not going to take Colindres into custody at this time. Instead, they placed him on a GPS monitoring program.

ICE also said "he was instructed to report back to ICE with an itinerary as proof he intends to comply with his removal order."

Until the time comes, the couple is working with attorney's to clear up the court date issue and keep her family together in the country.

"We have to prepare for the worst, but no matter what, I am always going to love this country," said Colindres.

The couple is holding a rally today in the 300 block of Main Street in Hartford.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut,com

Man Held Woman Against Her Will in New Hartford: Police


A man accused of holding a female victim against her will in a wooded area of New Hartford overnight has been arrested.

State police said one female victim contacted them and reported that 55-year-old Robert Murphy, of New Hartford, was holding another female victim against her will in a wooded area off Southeast Road.

When police arrived, they found Murphy holding the victim, who was covered in blood, at knifepoint, according to a report from state police.

After a brief standoff, Murphy was arrested, police said.

The victim was brought to Saint Francis Hospital and she is listed in stable condition, according to state police.

Murphy has been charged with first-degree assault, first-degree unlawful restraint, threatening, violation of a protective order and additional charges.

He was held on $500,000 bond and he’s due in court today.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

2 Arrested After K2 Bust in New London


New London police said they have arrested two people after seizing synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, Wednesday, and they are looking into whether this case is linked to more than a dozen recent possible K2 overdoses.

Narcotics officers from the New London Police Department raided an apartment on Home Street at 4:14 p.m. Wednesday and seized K2, which is an illegal substance, according to police.

Tony Hicks, 48, and 31-year-old Jessica Gomer, who both live in the home, were arrested and charged with possession of a hallucinogenic. Gomer was also charged with criminal attempt to tamper with evidence, according to police.

At least 14 possible K2 overdoses have been reported in New London over a week and Acting Chief Peter Reichard says officers are looking into whether this case is linked to them. 

Anyone with information concerning "K2" or any drug or narcotics activity is asked to call the New London Police Department's Narcotics hot-line at 860-447-9107 or submit anonymous information through the New London Tips 411 system by texting NLPDTip plus the information to Tip411 (847411).

Photo Credit: New London Police

Jeff Bezos Is the World’s Richest Man


Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, with a fortune of over $90 billion, CNBC reported.

According to Forbes and Bloomberg, the Amazon CEO had a net worth of over $89 billion as of the close of markets Wednesday, while Bill Gates had a net worth of just over $90 billion.

Amazon's share price jumped by more than $15 a share overnight, and was recently trading near that level, while Microsoft is down slightly. If the stocks hold up today, Bezos will add more than $800 million to his fortune. That would put him past Gates, assuming the valuations of their non-stock holdings haven't changed.

Of course, Amazon stock could fall or Microsoft could rally. But even if Bezos doesn't end the day as the richest man, he will likely take the crown from Gates more permanently in the coming days and weeks.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Feds Warn of 'Tainted Alcohol' Reports at Mexican Resorts


As a Wisconsin family questions what happened to their daughter the day she died from an injury at an all-inclusive Mexico resort this year, the State Department is warning travelers of "tainted alcohol."

Families told the Milwuakee Journal Sentinel they experienced sickness, blackouts and injuries after drinking at resorts in the Cancun and Playa del Carmen area in recent months. 

The reports follow the death of 20-year-old Abbey Conner, who was found face down in a pool at the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar resort. 

On the State Department's website, updated Wednesday after the newspaper's report, in the "Safety and Security" section, the agency warns:

"There have been allegations that consumption of tainted or substandard alcohol has resulted in illness or blacking out. If you choose to drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill."

Conner's family said they were on winter break together in Playa del Carmen when she mysteriously suffered a "traumatic brain injury."

John and Ginny McGowan, Conner’s mother and stepdad, told the Journal Sentinel they had spent their afternoon relaxing by the pool while their children swam. The parents went up to their room to get ready for dinner, but an hour later, both Abbey and her brother Austin, who had spent part of their afternoon at a poolside bar, were found unconscious, face down in chest-deep water.

Austin survived, but Abbey Conner was declared brain-dead by doctors. On Jan. 12, the family decided to withdraw life support and donate Conner’s organs.

But months later, they still don’t know what actually happened to their daughter.

The Journal Sentinel reports the official cause of death was "accidental drowning," but family said they have doubts about that ruling.

Conner’s brother reportedly told the publication the duo had done a few shots together before a group invited them to do a shot together. They all drank one, and that was the last thing he remembers before waking up in an ambulance.

According to the report, Austin Conner's blood-alcohol level was 0.26 and Abbey's was 0.25. 

"My kids were at this hotel for less than two hours. The last thing my son remembers is having a drink in the pool," the children's father, Bill Conner, who was not in Mexico at the time, told NBC affiliate WMTV in April. "The next thing my son remembers is they woke up in the hospital. Somebody got to them… This was at 5:30 in the afternoon, daylight, exclusive hotel and you just don't think it'll happen to you."

"It's all too convenient," the McGowans’ attorney, Florentino Ramirez, told the Journal Sentinel. "If it was an accident, where was everybody? It just doesn't make sense. There are too many open ends."

It appears the Conner family isn't alone with such questions. 

The attorney representing the family told the Journal Sentinel he went to the resort and watched the bar where Conner's injury happened. 

“They serve alcoholic drinks with alcohol of bad quality and in great amounts, mixing different types of drinks,” he wrote in a four-page report summarizing how Conner may have died. 

Other families have reported similar incidents after drinking at resort bars across the area, though none of the experiences were deadly. 

Two teenage brothers from Minnesota on vacation with their parents told the Journal Sentinel they woke up covered in mud, with no shirts or shoes and their wallets and cell phones missing. Another Wisconsin woman said she was assaulted while she and her husband were unconscious, a claim the Journal Sentinel reports was supported by an exam she had done after returning to the U.S. 

Kathy and Jeff Daley, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said they were vacationing in Cancun with their daughter and had visited a pool swim-up bar to do a round of tequila shots with their group. Kathy Daley said she took one shot and drank water for the remainder of her time there before she was offered a mixed drink from the bartender. Daley took a couple of sips before she said she lost consciousness and woke up vomiting and disoriented in a hospital. She was diagnosed with intoxication and severe dehydration, the Journal Sentinel reports.

In many cases, guests reported drinking tequila, but in some cases it was beer or another alcohol. 

Numerous travelers, including the Daleys, reported that local hospitals demanded large sums of cash after such incidents, in some cases seeking the money before treatment. 

Iberostar Paraiso Resort reiterated in a statement that they are taking the situation following Conner's death "very seriously." 

"We would also like to emphasize that for us at IBEROSTAR the safety and satisfaction of our guests is of utmost importance," the statement read. "IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts welcomes more than half a million guests per year in Mexico and has a very strict policy for hygiene and safety. A high standard of quality for food and beverages is crucial for the daily operation of our resorts. We work with food and beverage providers whose products comply with the highest quality standards to guarantee the satisfaction and safety of all of our guests. We work with a host of providers not unique to IBEROSTAR who service other hotel chains and renowned brands. Similarly, we only purchase sealed bottles that satisfy all standards required by the designated regulatory authorities.”

A State Department official confirmed to NBC 5 the department is “aware of [Conner's] case.”

“We extend our sincere condolences to family and friends,” the official said in a statement. “In cases of U.S. citizens injured overseas, the Department of State works to provide all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect for the family, we have no further comment.” 

According to data from the department, nearly 40 U.S. citizens died from drowning in Mexico last year.

A travel warning from the state department on Mexico, however, does not mention drowning or alcohol-related incidents from the area. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy Bill Conner

Army Wife Fears Transgender Ban Will Cut Daughter's Coverage


After President Donald Trump sent three tweets Wednesday morning saying transgender individuals will be barred from serving in the military, a military spouse in Virginia had a visceral reaction: she burst into tears.

Amanda Brewer is the wife of a soldier and mother of six, including a 14-year-old girl who is transgender.

She and her kids were in the car when her son saw the news.

"He read me the tweets and I instantly started crying," Brewer said.

"He's like, 'What does that mean?'" she recalled her son saying.

"That means that these people are not allowed," she replied. "We're one tweet away from your sister not getting to see the doctor."

Brewer, whose husband serves at Fort Belvoir, said she's worried that Trump's decision will mean that Tricare, the military's health care system, will cut coverage of her daughter's treatment.

When her daughter came out at age 11 and the family tried to get treatment at Children's National Medical Center, Tricare wouldn't cover it, Brewer said. After the Defense Department announced in June 2016 that transgender people could serve in the armed forces openly, Jennifer's care was covered.

Now, her mom is scared that Jennifer's health care coverage will be eliminated.

Jennifer was born male, and she's been through a lot. At school, classmates beat her up so badly that she suffered a concussion and missed weeks of class. Then, medical treatment helped improved her life.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was peppered with questions about how Trump's announcement will affect service members and their families. She responded by repeatedly calling the president's announcement a "military decision," and then threatened to end the press conference if reporters kept asking about the ban.

A recent study shows that about 2,500 active-duty members of the U.S. military are known to be transgender.

Trump said in his tweets that the military "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [sic] in the military would entail."

The cost of health care for transgender people costs the military an estimated $2 million to $8 million annually. That's a fraction of a fraction of the military's annual health care budget of nearly $48 billion.

Brewer said military families she knows are eager to know how Trump's three tweets affect their lives. 

“A lot of them are scared and angry. They don't know -- what does this mean to them specifically?" she said.

Jennifer's reaction to the president's tweets was sadness, Brewer said.

"As my kiddo read it to me, I just lost it. She just looked and she was like, 'How long is it going to be before I don't have to go march or stand or talk, I'm just allowed to be?'"

Photo Credit: NBC Washington

Route 8 North in Shelton Closed After Serious Crash


Route 8 North in Shelton is closed after a two-car crash that caused serious injuries, according to state police.

Police said the crash happened between exits 11 and 12 in Shelton at 10:03 a.m. when a vehicle on the southbound side of the highway crossed over to the northbound side. 

At least one serious injury is reported and police said extrication is required.

Southbound lanes might be closed at times as police investigate. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Motorcyclist in Critical Condition After Crash in Orange


 A 67-year-old man is in critical condition after a motorcycle crash in Orange on Wednesday morning. 

Police responded to Derby Avenue, near Orange Center Road, at 7:23 a.m. after a sport utility vehicle and a motorcycle collided. 

Police said the motorcyclist, a 67-year-old man, was not wearing a helmet and suffered significant injuries, including a life-threatening head injury. 

From the preliminary information, police said it appears the driver of the SUV changed lanes and the motorcycle made contact with the rear of the SUV. 

The driver of the SUV remained at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation. 

The motorcyclist was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital and was listed as critical condition as of Wednesday evening. Police have not released the man’s name. 

Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call Orange Police at 203-891-2130 and ask for Sergeant LaPlante or email rlaplante@orange-ct.gov.

New York Assault Suspect in Custody in New Britain


An investigation into a New York city assault case shut down roads in New Britain on Thursday morning.

A SWAT vehicle was in the middle of Walnut Street as police captured an armed suspect, according to authorities.

Jessie Quinones, 21, was wanted by the New York City Police Department, according to New Britain police, and he was taken into custody at an apartment on Walnut Street in New Britain, police said.

New Britain police did not release much information about the case since the charges are out of New York. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com and New York City Police

Fire in Hamden House Started in Fireplace Insert: Officials


One person was burned and suffered smoke inhalation when a Hamden home caught fire Thursday morning and officials think the blaze started in a newly supplied fireplace insert that is powered by propane.

Officials said the fire at 4400 Whitney Ave. was reported at 11:48 a.m. and the resident was outside when crews arrived. He was treated at the scene, then transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The fire was contained to the living room, but there was smoke damage throughout the first floor, according to the Hamden Fire Department. 

The exact cause of the fire within the fireplace insert is under investigation.

Photo Credit: Hamden Fire Department

Ford Issues Recall For Seat Belt Attaching Bolts


Ford issued a recall for about 117,000 vehicles Wednesday to replace "improperly tempered" seat, seat back, seat belt and seat belt buckle attaching bolts that could increase injury risks in the event of a crash.

Ford dealers will replace the bolts for free.

The recall affected Ford F-150, E-Series and Escape vehicles as well as Lincoln MKC cars. There have not been any reported injuries because of the issues to date, the company said in a news release.

"In affected vehicles, if a seat, seat back or seat belt anchor attaching bolt fractures, the structural integrity of the seat or the seat belt system’s performance may be compromised in a sudden stop or crash, increasing the risk of injury," Ford said in the release.

The vehicles that the recall affects are:

  • 2014 Ford F-150 built at Dearborn Assembly Plant, May 9, 2014 to June 15, 2014 and at Kansas City Assembly Plant, May 10, 2014 to June 10, 2014
  • 2014 Ford E-Series built at Ohio Assembly Plant, May 15, 2014 to June 24, 2014
  • 2014-15 Ford Escape built at Louisville Assembly Plant, May 11, 2014 to June 18, 2014
  • 2015 Lincoln MKC built at Louisville Assembly Plant, May 11, 2014 to June 18, 2014

Photo Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/TASS

School Fundraisers Reach New Heights, But Inequality Remains


Four tickets to a Yankee game. Golf for a dozen in the oceanside resort of Westhampton, New York, cocktails included. Even Lasik eye surgery.

All were prizes for Public School 116’s Spring Benefit Auction in May. Fundraising for the New York City elementary school has come a long way from bake sales and car washes.

The school’s PTA, through all of its efforts, contributed $243,000 to school supplies, programs and activities for the 2016 school year, and has an additional $88,000 to spend. But even that is pocket money compared to the $1 million or more routinely taken in by a cluster of public schools in Manhattan’s pricier neighborhoods.

Schools across the country use donations to pay for everything from musical instruments to computers, money officials say is needed given cuts in state and local funding. Rich and not-so-rich parents eager to ensure their children lack for nothing fill in the gaps.

“A lot of parents are very happy to help,” said Falu Shah, the vice president of external fundraising for P.S. 116’s PTA. “Everybody — at least for the final fundraiser, the auction -- a lot of parents who are not regularly in PTA — get involved. We want to encourage parents to do that because you don’t have to come regularly but at least for this one thing where our school depends on your funding.”

But what about schools in poorer neighborhoods where parents cannot afford such luxuries? What kind of divide is created when they cannot match their counterparts’ fundraising abilities?

“Schools can’t depend on handouts, whether it’s handouts from private foundations or from parents, to make up the shortfalls in what public funding is required to provide them,” said Jessica Wolff, the policy director at the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City. It is unfair, inequitable and, in New York, unconstitutional, she said.

Wolff said that as much as she applauded parents who wanted to support their children’s schools, they were put in a terrible position when public funding falls short of what is needed even for such basics as paper and cleaning supplies.

A study from Indiana University in 2014 found that the number of nonprofits founded to benefit schools more than tripled between 1995 and 2010, from 3,475 to 11,453. The amount they raised quadrupled, from $197 million to $880 million, according to the study by Beth Gazley, a professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, an associate professor at the school. 

Rob Reich, a political science and education professor at Stanford University, said that private fundraising by parents, while well meaning, only exacerbates inequalities. Wealthy districts already spend more per pupil in public dollars, and the problem worsens when philanthropic dollars are added, he said.

He looked at dollars raised by schools in the San Francisco Bay area in 2013, comparing such wealthy communities as Menlo Park and Palo Alto with Oakland and San Jose, and found enormous differences in the amount contributed per pupil. Data showed parents in Oakland and San Francisco districts were able to raise less than $100 per child. By contrast, Menlo Park asked parents for $1,500 per child; Palo Alto, $800 per child; and the school foundation in tony Hillsborough, California, $2,300.

“So even though you’re supporting the public schools and in that respect your own kid in the public schools, you’re magnifying the existing funding inequalities between Palo Alto and Oakland,” said Reich, who wrote about the private fund raising in a New York Times op-ed in 2013.

Tax incentives for charitable donations ought to put weight on assistance to the disadvantaged, he said. Instead, charitable giving by wealthy parents not only lowers the taxes the donor has to pay but also cuts into tax revenues that would have been distributed equally to rich and poor schools.

He gave these possible solutions: Don’t treat donations to wealthy schools as a charitable contribution under the tax code or double the incentive to give to a school that primarily serves children who receive free- or reduced-priced lunches.

But the support has limits and others question how much impact donations can really have compared to public education funding on the whole. All charitable giving, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to a local PTA, contributed only about $2 billion to public schools each year, said Jay P. Greene, a professor of education and political science at the University of Arkansas.

That’s “buckets into the sea” compared to the $600 billion the United States spends on K-12 education each year, he said.

Because of the scale, private philanthropy cannot change public education with money alone, he said. Nor do foundations have enough political power to sustain changes over time if parents and others do not support them, he said. But foundations can change public policy if they leverage their money — convincing a state to adopt a law allowing charter schools, for example.

“They can help create a policy but then others have to benefit from that policy, become constituents and advocate for that policy on their own, independent of the foundation,” Greene said. “If that doesn’t happen, whatever policy change they attempt will die because it won’t have the enduring political support it needs to survive.”

Gazley and others note that even if public money dwarfs donations overall, the differences in private fund raising can matter to individual schools.

“When you view it case by case it is a problem because it makes people in those communities feel unequal in terms of the way is raised and also possibly get unequal services,” she said.

Some experts argue that there is not enough information about private money to show that it works to the advantage of rich schools. Corporations and organizations such as the Gates Foundation could even out inequalities by giving more to poor schools.

Wolff isn't convinced by the argument. 

“That doesn’t ring true to me at all,” she said.

Wolff agreed that there was too little accountability for private funding of schools, and that poor schools got federal money that wealthier schools did not. But none of the private donations are enough to make up for what is not being provided in public funding, she said.

Meanwhile, at P.S. 116, a school in the Kips Bay neighborhood on the East Side of Manhattan, parents are paying for professional development for the faculty, enrichment programs for the children and books and materials for all of the classrooms. 

Shah said she had never felt pressure to donate. 

“Absolutely not,” she said. “Our principal, Jane Hsu, is absolutely fantastic. She has never asked us once. We do it because we want to support the school.”

The most recent data on the school provided by the New York City Department of Education shows that 92 percent of parents thought their children's instruction was rigorous. Sixty-six percent of students meet New York state standards on the state's English test; 58 percent on the math test. The pass rate of the school's former fifth-graders in their sixth-grade math, English, social studies and science classes is 95 percent.  

Kips Bay has long been popular with young New Yorkers who work at the United Nations and the major hospitals on First Avenue but more families are moving in. 

Shah said that the moment parents get involved with the PTA, they start thinking about ways to raise money, Shah said. Everyone comes together to help in any way they can, she said.

“Because our school is superb,” she said. “P.S. 116 is just out of this box. The teachers are so amazing. Even the teachers donate.”

Nation’s Top 10 Consumer Complaints in 2016


Shoddy installation of solar panels and leasing lemons vehicles are leading high on the list of complaints to state and local consumer protection agencies last year across the country, according to the annual consumer agency survey conducted by Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI).

The report included complaints from 39 state and local consumer protection agencies from 23 states participated in the survey.

The survey asked about the most common complaints they received in 2016; the fast-growing complaints, the worst complaints, new trends in consumer problems and new laws that are needed to better protect consumers.

Complaints about solar energy sales were cited as a new consumer problem that could increase in the future as the green energy industry grows. Despite solar energy being environmentally friendly, and for consumers a sound economical choice, the complaints ranged from ranged from misleading sales practices to inferior installation of the equipment.

"Consumers should check out the company and make sure they understand the terms of the agreement before they sign on the dotted line for solar contracts," said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at CFA.

Another new problem is used car leasing with little to no down payment where state lemon laws may not apply. Grant said the interest rates may be relatively high, however, and state lemon laws and other consumer protections may not apply to these transactions.

"Consumers who lease used cars may be stuck with lemons or be on the hook for costly repairs," Grant said.

In 2015, imposter scams were on the top ten complaints this year -- scams did not make the list but were still widespread, according to the survey.

"Imposter scams are still prevalent," said Amber Capoun, NACPI President and a Legal Assistant in the Office of the State Banking Commission in Kansas.

Some agencies reported a new trend in scammers requesting payment via store gift cards.

"Crooks are looking for ways to get cash fast and avoid being traced," NACPI President Capoun observed. "Gift cards should only be used to buy something for you or someone you know, not to send payments to strangers."

The top complaints were those most frequently cited by the agencies as the most common complaints they received last year:

1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes.

2. Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job.

3. Utilities: Installation issues, service problems, billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, internet, electric and gas service.

4. Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver.

5. Credit/Debt: Billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.

6. Health Products/Services: Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver, medical billing issues.

7. Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform.

8. Tie - Landlord/Tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics; household goods misrepresentations, failure to deliver, faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances.

9. Internet Sales: Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases.

10. Home Solicitations: Misrepresentations, abusive sales practices, and failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations.

The CFA has joined other groups to better protect consumers by showing support for laws can that telephone companies should be required to do more to block illegal robocalls and other scam calls. The Federal Communications Commission has proposed rules which would allow phone companies to block calls in certain circumstances where the Caller ID appears to be spoofed.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Search Underway for Suspect in Hartford


A search is underway in the Airport Road area of Hartford.

Hartford police said they are assisting Connecticut State police and Middletown police in the search for a suspect.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Afternoon and Evening Showers


NBC Connecticut Meteorologists are forecasting periods of rain through the afternoon and into the early evening hours.

The showers will become more widespread by 4 to 5 p.m. 

Take a look a First Alert Future Radar at 5 p.m. It shows heavy showers and thunderstorms moving through western and central Connecticut.

The showers and thunderstorms move into eastern Connecticut by 6 p.m.

Conditions will dry out later this evening and beautiful weather is forecasted for tomorrow. 

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DOJ Files Brief Rejecting LGBTQ Workplace Protections


The Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted an amicus brief opposing the extension of Title VII discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation.

The brief was submitted in the Second Circuit case of Zarda v. Altitude Express. The plaintiff in that case, Donald Zarda, alleges he was unlawfully fired for being gay. The Justice Department's brief argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin and sex, does not protect Zarda from this form of discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an independent federal agency tasked with enforcing federal anti-discrimination law, has already filed a brief in support of the plaintiff. The Justice Department has therefore created a split in the federal government’s position on the same case.

The brief came on the same day President Donald Trump tweeted that the U.S. military will no longer "accept or allow" transgender people to serve.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Team Tony’s Tigers Gears Up for Second Closer to Free Ride


While undergoing treatment, Laura Luzzi remembers seeing the Closer to Free riders from the 8th floor of the Yale-New Haven’s Smilow Cancer Hospital.

"I looked down and saw the riders coming in and I said if I ever get out of here I’m going to volunteer," Luzzi said.

Luzzi and Denise Hindinger are close friends from the same Hamden neighborhood. Hindeinger first rode in Closer to Free in 2015 for Luzzi and in memory of her mother. 

"I know she was struggling with a cancer diagnosis," Hindinger said about her friend. 

In 2015, Hindinger received a bike from her family for Mother’s Day.

"Looking at my Facebook feed and Closer to Free popped across the feed and I said to my husband, 'I’ve got a bike, I’m going to do this ride, I’m going to do it in honor of Laura'," Hindinger said. "I’m also going to do it in honor of my mother I lost my mother to cancer in 2004."

Hindinger completed the first ride by herself, not knowing two months later Smilow doctors would care for her dad, Anthony DeMaio, after a prostate cancer diagnosis.

"We developed team 'Tony’s Tigers' in honor of my dad who passed away in 2016," she said.

The name was a no-brainer, Hindinger said.

"Years ago he ran an Exxon station and there was an old slogan that Exxon had, ‘Put a tiger in your tank', so we always called him Tony the tiger,” she explained.

The three bracelets on her wrist represent this being the third year Hindinger is riding and raising money for Smilow.

"A hundred percent of the dollars," she said. "That’s amazing."

Her close friend Luzzi knows how the ride directly supports research and patient care.

"Through the efforts of Smilow have been able to come up with new treatments," Luzzi said. "Which keeps me here. I walk in they said, oh she’s here, she’s alive, she’s our miracle child."

The first two years Hindinger did the 25-mile ride, but this year she’s taking on the 62.5-mile course. Luzzi is planning to volunteer at a rest stop in Hamden before returning to the Yale Bowl to greet the riders at the finish line.

There is still time to sign up for Closer to Free on Saturday, September 9.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

78-Year-Old Man Reported Missing in Stratford


A 78-year-old man has been reported missing in Stratford on Thursday. 

Vincent Damato was last seen on Thursday wearing a gray button down shirt, khaki pants and black shoes.

He is described as a 5-feet-6-inch elderly man with black hair and brown eyes, weighing about 166 pounds. Police did not provide the media with a photo. 

Police said he may be operating a green 4-door 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis with Connecticut plates.

Anyone who has any information is asked to call (203) 385-4100. 

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