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Limited Power Could be Restored to Metro-North This Weekend


Partial service could be restored to Metro-North's New Haven Line this weekend following a massive power failure that brought service to a crawl and clogged the highways, Gov. Dannel Malloy said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

A feeder cable serving an eight-mile portion of the New Haven Line's electric fleet failed yesterday. The de-powered section includes four towns and four stations from Stamford and New York.

Malloy warned that repairs could take “as long as three weeks or more," but said the MTA and power company Con Edison are working to restore partial energy to the line as early as Saturday.

He said the plan is to bring in three transformers to provide some 13,000 kilowatts of energy to the track.

This is only a fraction of the normal hundred-thousand kilowatts that service the line, and authorities will conduct tests this weekend to determine the number of trains that can run on this limited-power system.

Malloy said he hopes to release an updated plan no later than Sunday so commuters can arrange their work weeks.

The governor said communication is vitally important and promised a "better protocol" going forward.

"We didn't receive immediate notification yesterday morning," he said, adding that this made it difficult to alert commuters.

Until the problem is solved, Metro-North is offering limited service on diesel trains, which can accommodate about 30 percent of the New Haven Line's daily ridership.

Twenty-four diesel trains are now operating on the New Haven Line, according to the MTA. The line normally runs four diesel train sets.

One train is running per hour in both directions and commuters are expecting the commute to be long and crowded. The power problem primarily affects the Metro-North New Haven Line, so train service to and from the New Haven station is limited.

"We realize this is not nearly enough," the MTA said in a statement Thursday night. "Customers endured crowded conditions; longer travel times or had to seek alternate means of travel. It is, however, at this time the most service that can be offered in a safe and organized manner given that there is no power for an eight-mile section of the road."

Malloy has also suspended all roadwork on Interstate 95 to keep traffic flowing during the Metro-North outage, and has offered to move Connecticut trains across the state line to help with increased traffic running through New York.

He encouraged the MTA to reimburse commuters riding the New Haven Line and said he hopes the repair work on a second feeder cable can be expedited to restore power by Oct. 7.

Currently, the maintenance work is scheduled to finish up on Oct. 14, but Malloy said that's not soon enough.

"These are extraordinary circumstances and I've indicated to them that normal reaction time is not sufficient," he said during Thursday's conference.

Diesel service has been running from Stamford to Harlem 125th Street and Grand Central Station at the rate of one train per hour in each direction.

The problem is also affecting Amtrak. Acela service is disrupted between New York’s Penn Station and New Haven, and regional service is operating with delays. Service from Boston to New York is canceled through Sunday, according to Amtrak.

Malloy has asked people to carpool or work from home if possible.

A few travel options are available for commuters who rely on public transit.

A.M. Peak:

Starting on Thursday morning during peak hours, MTA is providing shuttle buses and trains from New Haven to Stamford and back. Electric trains run from New Haven to Stamford every 20-to-30 minutes during peak travel time.

From there, commuters can take a diesel train to Harlem 125th Street and Grand Central Station.

Another option is to take a local train from Stamford to Rye, then take an express bus to White Plans and catch the Harlem Line to Grand Central. New Haven Line tickets will be honored on the Harlem Line while the problem persists.

Commuters can travel from Grand Central to Stamford via diesel trains, which will run every 30-to-40 minutes throughout the morning and during the day. The diesel trains will make all local stops between the New York and Stamford stations.

Hourly connections are available from Stamford to New Haven during peak hours.

A map posted to the MTA website highlights travel options for the morning commute.


Service into New York will slow down during off-peak hours. An hourly shuttle will run from New Haven to Stamford, departing 45 minutes after the hour.

Trains traveling from Grand Central to Stamford will depart every 30 minutes at :04 and :34 after the hour.

P.M. Peak:

In the evening, limited direct service will run from Grand Central to Stamford, with connections to New Haven every 20-to-30 minutes. Trains from New York to Stamford will not make local stops.

Commuters can also take the Harlem Line to White Plains, then take an express bus to Rye and transfer to a local train to Stamford. Trains from Rye to Stamford will run every 20-to-30 minutes.

Evening commuters can find more information on this Metro-North map.

More Information:

Shuttle trains and buses will also operate on the New Canaan, Waterbury and Danbury branches.

AM Peak service on the Danbury line will include all stops to and from South Norwalk and the New Canaan Branch service will include all stops to and from Stamford.

Travel options are outlined on the MTA website

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

Pilot of Plane Man Fell From ID'd


Rescue crews continued searching Friday for the passenger of a small plane who reportedly fell out into the ocean near Key Biscayne.

Miami-Dade Police crews expanded the search for the passenger, identified by police as 42-year-old Gerardo Nales, who fell out of a Piper PA46 on Thursday. Authorities searched by sea and air from Haulover Beach south to Turkey Point because of currents and weather conditions.

The search stopped at nightfall and will resume Saturday. That will be the last day of the recovery effort, police said.

The pilot said his passenger fell about eight miles southeast of Tamiami Airport with no parachute, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

NBC 6 South Florida learned the pilot of the aircraft was Felipe Fons. He has attended Dean's International Aviation, a flight school at Tamiami Airport.

Lance Hyatt, a ground service worker at the school, said he saw Fons and what he believed was Nales heading to the plane on Thursday.

Police have not released the identity of the pilot, citing their ongoing, active investigation.

Fons was being interviewed by police and the FAA. NBC 6 spoke with a woman at his home on Friday but she would not put him on the phone and eventually hung up.

Police have not indicated any evidence of foul play and the pilot was very cooperative with the investigation, authorities said.

“Felipe is a cool dude," Hyatt said of Fons. "He's quiet for the most part but he always had a smile on his face.”

Fons would come in, do his flight and leave, Hyatt added.

The plane, which was about 2,000 feet in the air at the time of the incident, later landed safely at the airport, and a massive search by sea and air began. The search had been postponed Thursday night because of bad weather and poor visibility.

Miami-Dade Police aviation and marine units, along with other local agencies, were searching for the man on Friday.

In the mayday call to air traffic controllers posted on the website LiveATC.net, the pilot reported the bizarre incident.

"I have a door ajar, and a passenger that fell down. I am six miles from Tamiami," the pilot said.

A little later in the exchange, the air traffic controller asks: "So you said you had a passenger who fell out of your plane?"

"That is correct, sir. He opened the back door, and he just fall down the plane," the pilot said.

The plane took off from a local airport, located at 12800 SW 137th Ave. in Miami.

NBC 6 obtained manuals for the Piper aircraft that show how the door is closed and secured.

One instructor pilot at Dean’s International Aviation, where Fons got his commercial and instrument certifications, said securing the door would have been one of the first items done before the plane made it to the runway for takeoff.

“Part of the preflight preparation would have been to secure that door and even if it wasn't secure in flight, you could remedy the situation,” Humberto Perez said.

More on NBC6.com:


Photo Credit: NBC6.com

2 Charged With Prostitution in Berlin


Berlin police have arrested two women on prostitution charges after a raid on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington.

Detectives ran an undercover operation yesterday and arrested Rehana Brown, 29, of Springfield Massachusetts, and Abigail Claudio, 19.

Brown was charged with prostitution after offering to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for a fee. 

Claudio was also charged with prostitution and second-degree failure to appear after discovering an active warrant.

Plane Hits Bird, Emergency Landing


A Dallas-bound American Airlines plane carrying 139 passengers taking off from San Jose International Airport hit a bird early Friday morning and had to make an emergency landing.

There were no injuries, including among the five crew members aboard, according to airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes.

But Michael Whitley, who lives in Dallas, told NBC Bay Area that he wrote a goodbye message on his palm to his children, because he thought he was going to die.

"You never know," Whitley said.

He said it was "pretty tense" on board for a while and credited the pilot for "doing a great job" in landing the plane safely.

"I heard a loud bang," he said, "And the whole plane kind of shook. It was shuddering pretty good. Everyone's blood pressure was going through the roof."

SPOTLIGHT: NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit Reports on Bird Strikes

Flight 1118 took off from San Jose at 6:20 a.m. and struck a bird at 6:42 a.m., Barnes said.

Airline spokesman Matt Miller said maintenance crews are checking out the engine to see if the bird strike did any damage.

At 7:45 a.m., passengers, such as Patrick Lawler, were in the baggage claim area, hoping to get on different flights to the Dallas area.

"They haven't told us anything," Lawler said. "I never really liked to fly anyway."

For the first 10 months of the year, San Jose Airport officials say they "hazed,” or dispersed, more than 5,000 birds. They do that by playing loud music near the runways where the bird gather.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

3 Charged in Shooting Involving Off-Duty Correction Officer


Authorities are investigating a shooting involving an off-duty correction officer in Hartford late Thursday night.

The off-duty correction officer, Mr. Angel Ortolaza  41, was stopped at a red light at Wethersfield Avenue and Main Street in his personal vehicle when a car with several people inside pulled up to him and an "aggressive conversation" took place between the two cars, according to Hartford police.

Investigators said someone inside the car pulled out a gun and opened fire on Ortolaza and the suspect car sped off. 

Ortolaza chased after them and called 911.

The suspects shot at Ortolaza during the pursuit and at some point the off-duty correction officer returned fire, police said. 

No one was injured in the shooting, according to police.

Hartford Police joined the pursuit and caught up to the vehicle about two miles away, but three people ran.

Officers tracked them down and took three suspects into custody at Cowles and Baldwin streets, police said.

Police have arrested Luis Lugo-Ortiz, 25, of Hartford, and charged him with operating a motor vehicle without a license, engaging police in pursuit, interfering with police investigation. Police said there are also 21 Hartford arrests, which are largely narcotics and motor vehicle-related charges. Bond was set at $75,000. 

Juan Ramos-Rivera, 25, was charged with interfering with a police investigation. This is his first Hartford arrest. His bond was set at $10,000.

Carlos Collazo, 24, of Hartford, was charged with criminal attempt, assault in the first degree, reckless endangerment, unlawful discharge, carrying a pistol without a permit, criminal possession of a firearm. Police said there are six Hartford arrests, including carjacking and narcotics charges. His bond was set at $500,000.

Police said a fourth person was in the suspects' car, but that person is cooperating with police and was not arrested.



Fairfield Police Searching for Missing 18-Year-Old


Fairfield Police are searching for 18-year-old Basma Shaham, who they said is an endangered runaway.

According to Police, Shaham left her Pierce Street residence in Fairfield some time after 8:30 a.m. on Thursday and took clothing and personal items with her.

She is believed to be traveling to Chicago, where family and friends reside.

Shaham has brown hair and brown eyes. She is 5-feet-4 and weighs 160 pounds, police said.

Anyone with information should call the Fairfield Police Department Detective Bureau at

Photo Credit: Fairfield Police

Remains Found Are Missing Family


Human remains found in a Southern California desert were identified Friday as members of a San Diego family who have been missing since 2010.

McStay Family Mystery: Timeline of Events

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said the remains of Summer and Joseph McStay were identified through dental records. The other remains found nearby earlier this week are believed to be those of their children, McMahon said.

McStay family members attended the Friday news conference at which the Sheriff's Department announced the findings.

"It gives us courage to know that they're together and they're in a better place," said Mike McStay, Joseph McStay's brother. "It's been a tough road."

The deaths have been ruled homicides, but the cause of death will not be released to "protect the investigation," the department said in a news release.

Joseph's father, Patrick McStay, spoke out for the first time Friday since his family's remains were identified.

"You've got to be a cold-blooded killer to murder two children," Patrick said, "I think someone hired somebody to do this, and that's where all the evidence I have leads me."

Rick Baker, the author of the book, "No Goodbyes: The Mysterious Disappearance of the McStay Family," asked Amazon to pull the book from its digital shelves after learning the remains were those of the McStays.

Baker also had a popular blog about the disappearance of the family, but removed it from the Internet since the discovery.

"The purpose of both of those items was to bring publicity to the case to find the McStays," Baker said. "Tragically, they were found."

A motorcyclist found skeletal remains Monday morning in the area between Quarry and Stoddard Wells roads, just north of Victorville, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Victorville Station said. When investigators began to analyze the bones, they came across another set of remains in a shallow grave about 6 to 8 feet away, sheriff's spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.

Investigators said they believed the remains were that of four people, and it appeared that the remains had been there for "an extended period of time."

The announcement is a key development in solving the 4-year-old mystery about what happened to the San Diego family (pictured below). McMahon said he could not confirm that the deaths are linked to a drug cartel after being asked several times about that possibility at the news conference.

"We're looking at all options in investigating who the suspects are," said McMahon. "It's too early for us to identify anybody as a suspect."

Joseph McStay, of Fallbrook, Calif. and his wife Summer were last seen with their two children, then ages 3 and 4, in February 2010, NBC7 San Diego reported. A group resembling the McStay family were spotted on surveillance footage crossing into Mexico at the San Ysidro border crossing on Feb. 8, 2010.

Investigators with the FBI, which is handling the family’s case, said it’s believed the family went to Mexico of their own free will.



Photo Credit: FBI

Easter Seals Camp in Hebron to Close


Camp Hemlocks, a 63-year-old summer camp in Hebron for children with disabilities, will close for good on Saturday.

For Germain and thousands of others, Camp Hemlocks was a place to feel normal and do what many take for granted.

"I went horeseback riding, archery, swimming, fishing, boating, all that stuff, but they did it so that people with disabilities could enjoy it too," said Germain.

Germain was born with a condition affecting the way the bones and muscles in his extremities developed, and as a camper and later a member on the board of directors, the experiences changed his life by giving him the confidence he needed.

"I think that's why I'm so upset about it, that now other people aren't going to be able to experience that kind of thing there," said Germain. "It's depressing, it's disappointing, but it doesn't surprise me."

The fully-accessible camp for kids and adults with disabilities established by Easter Seals has been in Hebron the last 39 years.

Easter Seals runs the camp and said financial reasons prompted the decision.

“Closing Camp Hemlocks is an option that was not made lightly, but after an extensive review, this was the best decision for the organization and the people we serve,” Roslyn D. Burton-Robertson, PhD, Executive Director of Easter Seals CFC, said. “Camp Hemlocks is so near and dear to the people we serve and it is with a heavy heart that we must say goodbye.”

The camp has not been at full capacity in years and the organization doesn't have the money to keep operating it.

Easter Seals CFC says it's shifting its priorities by expanding its existing services in Coastal Fairfield County and focusing on self-advocacy programs and assisting caregivers.

The organization has not revealed what will become of the property.


Photo Credit: Getty Images for Capital One

Man Again Charged With Defrauding Tenants


Norwich police have again arrested a local man accused of scamming tenants.

When police arrested Zane Megos, 55, of Dellwood Road in Norwich, last year, they said he advertised homes for rent, knowing the properties were not available, and accepted cash for them.

He either did not own the homes or they were condemned, according to police. 

Just before 1 p.m., police arrested him again on a warrant after a four-month investigation of similar crimes.

Zegos had been released from custody and a condition of his release was that he was not to offer to rent or take any security deposits from anyone, police said. 

However, police received a report from the Norwich Housing Department that Megos had met people in a shopping plaza off of Salem Turnpike in Norwich and engaged in what appeared to be financial transactions that seemed to be consistent with his previous activities.

Investigators tracked down people who had met with Megos and determined that he took a down payment from a couple looking to rent an affordable apartment on North Main Street, police said. 

The victims told police they asked Megos for their money back after several delays, but only received a portion of it. 

Then, detectives went undercover, posing as prospective tenants interested in a property listed on Craigslist, spoke to Megos and his associates over the phone and arranged for meetings in person. 

Police said Megos was held on a $10,000 cash-only bond and is due in court in New London on Dec. 5.

Megos was arrested on a warrant and charged with violating conditions of release.                   

Photo Credit: Norwich Police

Emergency Vaccine for Princeton


Emergency doses of a meningitis vaccine may be on their way to Princeton University in an effort to halt an outbreak that has infected seven students there this year, even though the drug isn't approved for use in the United States.

Health officials said on Friday that they will import Bexsero, a vaccine approved only in Europe and Australia, but not in the U.S., that protects against meningitis B, NBC News reported.

"This is a bad disease, and we know how devastating it is," Dr. Thomas Clark, acting head of the Centers for Disease Control's meningitis and vaccine preventable diseases branch, told NBC News. "A lot of us had a gut feeling that there would be more cases and we should get the ball rolling."

As many as 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students at the Ivy League school could be inoculated to stymie the spread of the illness, which is a dangerous infection of the protective membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. The infection kills 10 percent of teens and young adults who get it, according to NBC News.

The university has been working with CDC officials to stop the spread of the disease. In October, the CDC submitted an investigational new drug application, or IND, to have the vaccine imported after a fifth student fell ill. Since then, two more students have been diagnosed. The latest case was uncovered on Sunday.

The drug will be approved for use in Princeton community only because of the seriousness of the outbreak, Clark told NBC News. Clark said the vaccine is regarded as safe, and the IND does not imply that it's an experimental vaccine.

Three of the cases involved students living in campus dorms, according to NJ.com. Six of the infected students have recovered from the illness. The seventh student is recovering.

In September, the school distributed red cups with the message "Mine. Not Yours" to encourage students to not share their drinks as a way to curb the spread of meningitis, which is spread from person to person by contact, kissing or coughing.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Feds Join "Batkid," Charge Villains


With people worldwide having a grand old time with Batkid traipsing around Gotham City – aka San Francisco – on Friday, the mood was high, the superhero references abounded and jokes were flying low and high.

Even the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California and the FBI had some fun, issuing "federal charges" (pdf) against the Penguin and the Riddler for conspiracy and kidnapping.

Allegedly, of course. Attempts to reach attorneys for both villains for comment were not immediately successful.

In a press release using "Gotham City" as a dateline, U.S. Attorney Melissa Haag charged that Edward “E.” Nigma, aka “The Riddler,” and Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, aka “The Penguin,” had thought it was a good idea to put an unnamed female in the path of a cable car, rob a bank and kidnap San Francisco Giants mascot Lou Seal.

Somehow they thought these latest stunts would go undetected by Batkid, Haag stated.

And who is Batkid? A boy named Miles from California who morphed into a superhero for a day, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit that grants wishes to sick children.

Miles has battled leukemia since he was one. He is now in remission. San Francisco turned into Gotham City for a day to honor his wish of becoming a Batkid for a day.

MORE: SF Morphs Into Gotham City for "Batkid" Battling Leukemia

However, at approximately 9 p.m. on Thursday, court records indicate that the bat signal went up and the crime rate began to go down in Gotham and San Francisco.

"A certain caped crusader was pivotal in making this day a reality," Haag said in a statement. “We’ve been chasing Nigma and Cobblepot for years and just when I was about to give up hope that we would ever bring them to justice, wouldn’t you know it – Batkid shows up and saves the day.”

Not to be outshined, the FBI made a statement about the arrests, too, though the agents also credit Batkid with most of the heavy lifting.

“I’ve talked a lot about cooperation in the past with other outstanding law enforcement partners, but I can honestly say we broke some new ground today,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.

“The FBI and the San Francisco Police Department are good, but if it wasn’t for Batkid, I guarantee you that these two villains would still be at-large on the streets of Gotham today. Citizens of this great city are not only safer tonight because of Batkid, but they will undoubtedly be humbled by the courage he has displayed in battles he has taken on and won.”

DOWNLOAD: Federal Charges Leveled Against Penguin, Riddler

Social Media Cheers "Batkid"


Giving a 5-year-old boy, Miles, who is in remission from leukemia, the dream of being a Batkid for a day is touching people across the globe.

People turned to Twitter and Instagram, getting into the spirit of giving a boy, who has battled cancer since he was 1, a day to remember.

Even President Barack Obama retweeted the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the agency making the dream a reality, urging others to follow @SFWish. He also recorded a Vine message congratulating Batkid.

On Friday, through the efforts of the Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area, 12,000 volunteers gave this "Batkid" an incredible day of dressing up as a superhero and rooting out evil and crime in Gotham City (aka San Francisco).

Police officers in Campbell put on bat masks, graphic designers created images of Batman floating over the Golden Gate Bridge, and three Harlem Globetrotters stood in a circle, pointed to the camera and wished Miles a great day: "Good Luck Bat Kid."

In a particularly funny tweet, Tony Michaels, a country DJ who lives in Fremont, said that Batkid helped an emergency landing in San Jose. An American Airlines flight did strike a bird about 6:40 a.m. Friday morning, and no one was injured.

MORE: SF Morphs Into Gotham City for "Batkid" Battling Leukemia

"This wish stands out because it's not to meet a star, or an athlete or go to Disneyland," said Michaels, who has been tweeting a lot about #SFBatkid. "He's his own wish. He's not pretending. He's himself. That's awesome."

As for why so many people are volunteering to help?

"Eighty to 90 percent of everything is negative," Michaels said. "This makes people feel good. People can hold on to that."

PHOTOS: San Francisco's Batkid Saves Gotham

Photo Credit: AP

Nurses at Lawrence and Memorial Get Permission to Strike


Nurses and technicians at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London have voted to authorize their union leadership to call a strike unless a contract agreement is reached.

Thursday night's vote came less than 48 hours before the contract expires. The hospital’s public relations director, Mike O’Farrell, said the authorization for a strike does not mean one will happen. Notice of a nurses’ strike would come at least ten days before it begins.

The state requires hospitals make a plan if a strike does occur. Lawrence and Memorial has a plan prepared that would bring in outside staff and shift around the staff that does not strike. O’Farrell says “the team that would come into place is fully qualified health care professionals. We’re not going to compromise patient care.”

O’Farrell says the hospital’s focus is on patient safety and negotiating a contract on which both sides can agree.

President of the Nurses Union, Lisa Dabrosca, says the union does not want to strike, but they will if they have to. She says the hospital has been laying off the union’s workers and shifting work from Lawrence and Memorial to their shell corporations.

Despite O’Farrell’s assurances, Dabrosca says “the people who are replacing our laid off workers are not equally as qualified.” She notes that neither pay nor benefits are part of the problem. “We want to be able to follow our work if it moves to a clinic-based setting,” Dabrosca said.

Dabrosca expresses concern that many of their patients live in or near New London and use the bus system to get to the hospital. She says that the hospital has sent work out to places like East Lyme, Stonington, and other locations that are too far for those people to reach via the bus system. “The patients may not be okay,” she says. “We’re worried about them.”

Right now, “the ball is in the hospital’s court” Dabrosca says. “We can’t sign an agreement until they allow us to follow the work.”

One visitor at Lawrence and Memorial, Mechele Walker, was also concerned for the impact a nurses’ strike could have on patients. “The people wouldn’t get the help they need,” she fears. “It’s not a good situation.”

Lawrence and Memorial has not had a strike in the 101 years the hospital has been open.

WATCH: Obama Congratulates "Batkid"


San Francisco's — make that Gotham City's — own "Batkid" doesn't just have the rapt attention of a city awaiting his heroism. He's also got the admiration of President Barack Obama.

The president recorded a video message Friday congratulating the country's newest superhero, who is being lauded by everybody from Mayor Ed Lee to federal prosecutors, plus plenty of fans on social media.

"Way to go, Miles! Way to save Gotham!" the president told the California 5-year-old better known Friday to people far beyond San Francisco as Batkid.

Check out the president's message for Miles below.



Roofing Crew Blamed in Chicago Fire


The Chicago Fire Department continued to battle hot spots after a massive fire destroyed a North Side strip mall Friday.

Firefighters returned to the scene around 3:30 a.m. Saturday and were working to put out rekindled hot spots for about an hour.

They continued to work on hot spots as they sparked throughout Saturday.

"We'll probably still come back two or three times later," said Battalion Chief Michael Smandra. "We can't get to it because of the way the roof is caved in, for safety reasons."

Fire officials believe a roofing crew using propane torches sparked the massive blaze. Authorities say the roofing crew left after the fire started, and didn't return back to the scene.

NBC 5 reports that the roofers also left behind a vehicle at the strip mall.

It took emergency crews two hours to get the fire under control, which started at about 4 p.m.

Heavy smoke and flames could be seen pouring out of the building located at 3106 W. Peterson, near North Lincoln Avenue.

"It was a great business and beautiful store we built," said business owner Sammy Dajani. "It took 45 years to get to where we are at. Now it's gone, just like that."

The fire appeared to have originated at Mid American Furniture and then spread to the adjacent American Mattress store and a ForEyes optometry store.

A Supercuts and a nail salon are also located in the strip mall, and firefighters were also tasked with keeping the fire away from a liquor store, which could have created an even more flammable situation.

Nearby power lines caused several explosions at the scene.

Officials upgraded the incident to a four-alarm fire before it was struck, and used more than 200 firefighters to extinguish the flames.

The roof caved in on the building.

Firefighters set up on the north side of the burning building in order to prevent the fire from spreading to an apartment building directly behind the strip mall.

ComEd confirms 700 were without power on the North Side due to the fire.

The No. 11 Lincoln and the No. 84 Peterson CTA buses were also rerouted.

No injuries were reported at the scene.

GOP Leader: Special Session Needed for Obamacare Fix


Senate Republican Leader John McKinney is calling for Governor Malloy to convene a special session of the General Assembly.

McKinney said Friday only the state legislature can authorize the fix to the health care law that President proposed.
"Connecticut cannot implement the president's request that if they like their plan they can keep it," said Sen. McKinney.
He said that's because a 2011 law passed by the General Assembly requires insurance companies in the state to comply with the Affordable Care Act.
"This statute says that you cannot sell an insurance product that does not comply with the Affordable Care Act," he said.
On Thursday President Obama reversed course after millions were dropped from their current plans since those plans were no longer compliant with Obamacare.
Insurance companies have already set rates to be compliant with ACA. They warned on Thursday that the President's "fix" could drive up premiums.
"What I worry about in this change is that it adds yet another layer of confusion on top of an already confusing situation," said Mitchell D. Weiss, Professor of Finance at the University of Hartford.
Some experts believe this will create even bigger problems for the law because people may not head to the exchanges if they get their current plans back.
Connecticut's insurance exchange, Access Health CT released new numbers on Friday showing more than 13,000 have enrolled. They are watching what's happening closely.
"We're waiting to see what the insurance department and we will obviously comply," said Kevin Counihan, CEO of Access Health CT.
The Connecticut Insurance Department said late Friday they are still weighing their options.
"In the wake of the decision yesterday in Washington, the Governor has asked the Lieutenant Governor and his Insurance Commissioner to gather the facts and determine what action, if any, needs to be taken by the state to ensure we are achieving this goal," said Andrew Doba, Director of Communications for Governor Malloy. "Until all the facts are in, there is no reason to call a special session.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police and Federal Agents Bust Sex Trafficking Ring


Federal authorities and local police arrested three men after breaking up a sex trafficking operation in the Hollow neighborhood of Bridgeport on Thursday.

Police said Emiliano Alameda-Cabrera, 36, and brothers Dardo Reyes, 29, and Patricio Reyes, 33, were charged Friday with prostitution-related charges.  All are being  held on $1 million bond each.

In a year-long investigation police learned the group was part of a larger, multi-state ring that trafficked women. Investigators said the ring is believed to have ties to organized crime in Mexico.

The operation took place at two houses at 46 Lexington Ave. and 204-206 Olive St, where police issued search and seizure warrants and arrested the three suspects.

Federal agents and police surveillanced the two homes and saw women transported back and forth. Several women traveled between New York and Bridgeport to work as prostitutes, police said.

According to authorities, a confidential informant posed as a customer and was quoted a price, but claimed he felt uncomfortable having sex there because there were children in the residence.

Police said he was handed a business card and told, "I will drive the girls to you. Just call me."

 "This truly is a sad case," said Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. "These arrests resulted from outstanding cooperation and coordination between a number of agencies: local, state and federal.  The FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement all played key roles in the investigation," he added.

Five children were placed in the care of the Department of Children and Families.

Police said they located two women suspected of being prostitutes. The women are being provided services by the International Institute of Connecticut.

The investigation remains active in New York and Massachusetts.

Chicago Cardinal Slams Gay Marriage


Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has one more thing to say about the same-sex marriage bill being passed in Illinois.

"There will be consequences for the Church and society that will become clearer as the law is used to sue for discrimination," Cardinal George writes in a letter he asked to be placed in all church bulletins throughout the Chicago Archdiocese.

"The law has made some gays and lesbians happy, and that is not a bad thing in itself," George adds. "The law, however, is bad law because it will contribute over the long run to the further dissolution of marriage and family life, which are the bedrock of any society.”

The letters, seen printed in an early copy of Sunday's bulletins, are due to be distributed days before Gov. Pat Quinn will sign legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry in Illinois.

George writes that he believes Pope Francis’ words about same-sex marriage have been misused, and while he does not mention House Speaker Mike Madigan by name, the Cardinal notes Madigan's use of the pope's "who am I to judge?" comment during lawmakers' debate about the bill.

“The Pope was not speaking about approving gay marriage. To use his words against his teaching, as they were used on the floor of the State House of Representatives on November 5, is less than intellectually honest.”
Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown says the General Assembly altered state law, “not the Bible or the Sunday missal.” Brown spoke in favor of the separation of church and state.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Permits Plummet for Porn Production


Filed permits for adult films have dropped 95 percent in the year since Los Angeles County voters passed Measure B, which made condoms mandatory during local film production, according to a trade association for the adult industry.

At this time last year, 480 film permits for adult films had been filed in the county, as opposed to a dismal 24 permits filed so far this year, said Diane Duke, CEO of the Free Speech Coalition, who cited a FilmLA report.

Duke said the county has lost more than $450,000 in revenue using a conservative estimate of a permit costing about $1,000.

"That doesn't even take into consideration what a film crew spends in a day," Duke said.

Voter-passed Measure B was aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among adult film actors.

But Duke said performers test for HIV every 14 days, and that the virus hasn’t originated from filming production in 9 years.

"We want to comply with the law, but the law is just impossible to comply with," Duke said. "This is a non-issue as far as health is concerned."

Testing was required monthly before three performers tested positive for HIV in September, leading to the change to once every two weeks. Duke said the cases were not traced back to the film production.

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No Resolution Yet for "Arab" Mascot


Southern California district officials have yet to find a resolution to the controversy of a high school mascot that a civil rights group finds offensive and stereotypical.

Coachella Valley High School’s "Arab" mascot -- a mustachioed man with a scraggly beard and hooked nose -- was the topic of discussion during a special board meeting Friday night at the school’s gym.

The controversy began when Abed A. Ayoub, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s director of legal and policy affairs, wrote a letter to the district on Nov. 1 saying that cartoons, mugs and T-shirts of the mascot around the campus, were examples of stereotyping, and should not be tolerated.

Coachella Valley school district Superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams said during the meeting he plans to give Ayoyb a special tour of "locations" near the school in an attempt to show that the mascot was not intended to offend anyone.

Further details about the meeting's conclusions were not clear.

Some took to social media to express their displeasure with the mascot.

“Hey, you Bigots are hilarious! My school and I decided to change our team names to the 'Africans'. Our sister school is going with the name, 'Mexicans'. There mascot is a taco,” someone posted to the Coachella Valley High School Alumni Association Facebook page on Nov. 8.

Ayoub said it was a member who brought the mascot to the group’s attention over a month ago. After gathering opinions from the Arab-American community, many felt the mascot was demeaning and the group decided to act, Ayoub said.

“This is a very sensitive conversation,” Ayoub told NBC4 Friday. “An overwhelming number of individuals thought it was offensive.”

Ayoub said the group would not be at tonight's meeting, but that dialogue stemming from the letter have been open and productive.

“We’re glad that the meeting is taking place and that the issue is actually moving forward,” Ayoub said.

Members of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee are visiting the Thermal, Calif. community next week to “foster an understanding” between the group regarding their feelings about the mascot.

Ayoub said his ultimate hope is that the district moves away from the stereotypical image, whether or not that means scrapping the mascot altogether.

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