Archive | April, 2009

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“Deal or No Deal” Show Comes to CT


Howie Mandel, Host of "Deal or No Deal"

Howie Mandel, Host of "Deal or No Deal"

HARTFORD — Another television show is moving its production to Connecticut.

The syndicated daily game show “Deal or No Deal” will begin taping at the Studios of Sonalysts, Inc. in Waterford this summer, Gov. Jodi Rell announced today.

According to the press release, Endemol USA and production partner NBC Universal Domestic TV Distribution have signed a lease for production space at Sonalysts, attracted by Connecticut’s digital media and film production tax credit program.

This announcement comes on the heels of NBC Universal’s announcement earlier this year that it will relocate several additional shows to downtown Stamford.

“I’ll never say ‘No deal’ when there’s a real shot at growing jobs and improving the economic outlook for our state,” Governor Rell said. “This is tremendous news for Connecticut and its ever-growing film and television industry. We’ve done everything we can to make our state an attractive and economically smart place to make good film and TV – and you can see it paying off.

“We’re delighted to be working with both NBC Universal and Endemol USA as we continue to attract and sustain projects that further Connecticut’s burgeoning role as a premier destination for film and television production,” Rell said.

Barry Wallach, President of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution said, “We are thrilled to continue working with the Governor and the State of Connecticut to further expand the footprint of the entertainment industry and bring new jobs to the region as a direct result of the state’s production tax credit.”

Others agreed.

“We are excited by the opportunity of moving ‘Deal or No Deal’ production to Connecticut,” said Endemol North America Chairman David Goldberg. “The Connecticut location and the state’s production tax credit will help us to continue to produce quality content – a fun, energetic and interactive game show – for what we hope will be years to come.”

State officials said the move is expected to create dozens of new, high-end production jobs and bring millions of dollars in added revenue to the state’s economy.

“Deal or No Deal” will occupy a 15,000-square-foot stage and support facilities at Sonalysts in southeastern Connecticut – an area already home to the state’s two tribal casinos, the Mystic Aquarium and other top tourism draws.

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CT Teacher of the Year, Now National


WASHINGTON, DC — Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year is now the 2009 National Teacher of the Year.

Anthony Mullen worked his way through college while rising in the ranks of the New York City Police Department. His second career as a teacher in Greenwich’s ARCH School, an alternative high school for at-risk and special needs teens, has given him a chance to make a difference in the lives of some of the district’s most challenged students.

He has many fans across the board, including state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan.

“Anthony Mullen truly knows what the phrase ‘No Child Left Behind’ means when it comes to helping his students. He serves as an inspiration and role model for all of us,” McQuillan said.  “Teachers who work with our most challenged youngsters are dedicated professionals who can make all the difference in helping them to find success in the world. They work miracles every day to turn around students’ lives.”

Governor M. Jodi Rell offered her congratulations, saying, “This is wonderful news for the teachers of our state. Anthony Mullen is an outstanding educator who exemplifies the best traditions in teaching. His work in the classroom is focused on helping all students achieve.  It is challenging work to meet the needs of children every day, and I cannot emphasize enough the impact that our teachers’ efforts – and their success – have on our state’s future. My best wishes go to Tony Mullen as the 2009 National Teacher of the Year and to all educators who, each day, make a difference in the lives of children.”

“The NYPD provided plenty of opportunity to work with troubled teenagers – young people destined for prison unless they received the benefits of a quality education and positive adult role models. I wanted to be that role model,” stated the honoree.

Mullen has been teaching in Greenwich for seven years. He is highly regarded by students, staff and administrators. He has introduced several new courses to engage his students, including forensics, electronics, carpentry and horticulture. He is credited with having high energy and an enthusiastic spirit in his classroom, where his goal is to help students overcome obstacles in order to earn their high school diploma. His approach is hands-on and practical with a mix of good humor.

As National Teacher of the Year, Anthony Mullen will travel the country speaking with education groups on the value of good teaching. He will participate in numerous advisory committees.

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Film Review: Fighting Falls Flat


By Jonathan Smalls, Film Critic

Fighting is a story about hustlers–, “someone who can’t win, but who wins.” That quote from the movie itself sums up the direction of this film very well.

The general story arc is extremely simple that even a grade schooler could have written it after watching tany simplistic combat story in the last thirty years: a mild mannered man just wants to mind his own business, but external forces compel him into a seedy world of violence.

Dito Montiel, (Left), coaches Channing Tatum, (Right), in preparation for a fight scene.

Dito Montiel, (Left), coaches Channing Tatum, (Right), in preparation for a fight scene.

He is surprisingly good, bangs a few heads and gets the girl. The end.

Dito Montiel and Robert Munic are not exactly veterans of fine scripting, but they certainly could have done better than that.

Dito Montiel, (Left), coaches Channing Tatum, (Right), in preparation for a fight scene.

The film runs an hour and forty minutes, which seems to be standard for modern movies, but is hardly enough time to tell a good story and develop character interaction.

Aside from the actual combat, there is very little conflict in this movie. There are no twists, no intrigue. The most that the audience gets is a sparsely informed, back story.

The tag line for Fighting reads, “Some dreams are worth the fight,” but the film never even establishes what motivates any of the characters beyond greed.

While the story is weak and underdeveloped, its execution is what saves this film. Montiel directs the camera in ways to completely immerse the viewer in the dark gutters of street fighting, making his heart pound as he experiences vicariously how frenetic and desperate a fight really is.

The direction really shines in the Chinatown fight with Cung Le, bringing together a champion, mixed martial artist with some of the best shots and timing you could ask for.

Each fight is a completely different beast from the last, the boroughs each have unique personalities. Directing is clearly where Montiel excels.

Channing Tatum as Shawn MacArthur plays a simple, southern boy well. The character is not at all nuanced and never develops or changes as the story progresses, so this role will not do much to build Hollywood credibility for him, but it certainly works well for the story at hand.

Terrence Howard however is extremely nuanced. He assumes a very tremulous, effeminate persona for his role as Harvey Boarden. While it at first seems strange, it affords him an opportunity to show subtle differences between when the character is confident and powerful and when the character is anxious or nervous.

Terrence Howard

Terrence Howard

There are a few, funny and enjoyable moments in the story, but the supporting cast mostly serves to stolidly march the story along to the next fight. This includes the obligatory romance with Zulay Henao, who uses her, real name in the movie. That is not true at all of Brian White as the antagonist though. He is just arrogant, mean and he makes the audience hate him.

Fighting manages to distinguish its self from other films in its genre with excellent casting, fine acting, realistic choreography and immersive filming. While its story falls flat, the movie still manages to show what a talented crew can do to salvage the poorly written script.

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Gallery Opening: Reflections on Immigrant Experience


HARTFORD — For a while now, Hartford residents Carlos Hernandez Chavez and Marela Zacarias have been creating murals at Charter Oak’s gallery that illuminate their own unique experiences of immigration and their intimate knowledge of the struggles and challenges of the immigrant community of Hartford in 2009.

To share this experience with the Greater Hartford community, the Charter Oak Cultural Society wnvites this community and beyond to join them on Thursday, April 30 at 5:30p.m. as the center unveils these powerful works entitled: “Murals as Mirrors: Reflection on the Immigrant Experience.”

There will be live music, wine and hors d’oeuvres served at this gallery opening. Admission is free.

For more information visit, www.charteroakculturalcenter.org.

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West End Activist Dies


HARTFORD —  A memorial service is scheduled for today for long-time West End community activist and scholar, Carl Dudley.

Dudley was president of the West End Civic Association for nine years when  he died Wednesday morning. He was 76.

“Hartford has lost a change agent for social justice,” Mayor  Eddie Perez said in a press release today. “Carl helped WECA strengthen its voice in the community and thus gave residents a stake in their neighborhood.  He was a professor, an author, and an activist.  But most importantly, he was a devoted family man and friend.  He will be missed.”

A memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m., Saturday, April 25, at:

Carl S. Dudley, a colleague and retired professor here at Hartford Seminary, passed away on Wednesday. Carl was Professor, Emeritus, of Church and Community in the Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research. He was one of the founders of the discipline of congregation studies and a national expert on small churches.

Many are saddened by the news, including his son, who wrote a brief remembrance:

Carl Safford Dudley, Presbyterian minister; author, co-author or editor of 16 books about church and community relations; community leader and activist; vivacious neighbor and faithful friend; devoted and loving husband; and energetic father, died in his Hartford, CT, home on Wednesday morning of complications due to cardiac amyloidosis, in the company of his wife and children.

He was 76 and is survived by his wife, Shirley, sister, Jay Goldspinner, his five children and nine grandchildren.

Reverend Dudley spent a lifetime in the ministry, organizing churches from Buffalo, New York, to St. Louis, Missouri, and rallying communities from Selma, Alabama to Hartford, Connecticut.

While often described as a maverick for his unorthodox ways and his open challenges to the status quo, it was Dudley’s discipline and perseverance, as well as his understated pragmatism, which made him a great leader in the church and the community.

Dudley’s ministry started and ended in the home, where he created a space for both his family and friends to flourish in his presence. He will be missed by many.

The family welcomes donation in his memory.

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Church Offers Mother’s Day Portraits


WEST HARTFORD — In recognition of Mother’s Day, Calvary Fellowship will offer free family portraits on Sunday, May 10.

This is the third Mother’s Day Calvary Fellowship has hired a local photographer to offer families an opportunity to sit for complimentary portraits, according to Billmothers-day-gift LaMorey, lead pastor.

“We hope this is a service to the church and the community at large – especially during these economically challenging times,” LaMory said. “We really can’t think of anything Mom wants more than to gather with her family, and a group portrait is the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

Portraits will be taken by West Hartford photographer Rick Dubie of New Image Photography. Sittings are available before and after the morning service. Reservations are not required. Sittings are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each family will receive both a print and digital file portrait. Portraits will be available for pick-up the following Sunday, May 17.

Calvary Fellowship meets Sundays at 10 a.m. and features contemporary music and offers relevant biblical teaching and fun-filled Bible classes for children.

Calvary Fellowship meets at at Solomon Schechter Day School, 26 Buena Vista Road, West Hartford.

For more information and directions, visit www.calvaryhartford.com or call 860-231-9957.

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Supreme Court Splits on Reverse-discrimination case


By Warren Richy

WASHINGTON, DC — The US Supreme Court divided into sharply defined liberal and conservative wings on Wednesday as the high court heard argument in a case involving allegations of reverse discrimination against white firefighters in New Haven, Conn.

As in most highly divisive issues at the high court, the outcome of the case may ultimately depend on the views of Justice Anthony Kennedy. During the 70-minute oral argument Wednesday, Justice Kennedy seemed troubled by the city’s decision to throw out all results of a promotion exam only after officials learned that no African-American candidates had scored high enough to be promoted.

“[The city] looked at the results, and it classified the successful and unsuccessful applicants by race,” Kennedy told Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler. “And you want us to say this isn’t [using] race [to decide]… I have trouble with this argument.”

In the past Kennedy has expressed distrust of the use of race as a criterion for government decisions and benefits, but he has also been reluctant to embrace the more robust positions of his conservative colleagues.

The case is significant because it lies at the intersection of two important provisions of antidiscrimination law and could provide further clarity to employers seeking to avoid potential discrimination lawsuits.

It focuses on a test given in 2003 to firefighters seeking promotion to lieutenant and captain. When the city determined that no African-American candidates qualified for a promotion it threw out the results. White and Hispanic firefighters who did qualify called it illegal discrimination and filed a lawsuit.

The city says it threw out the test in an effort to comply with civil rights laws, not violate them. New Haven officials said they were worried that if they relied on the results of the test and promoted the white firefighters, the city might be vulnerable to a lawsuit by black firefighters claiming that the test caused an illegal “disparate impact” against minority job candidates.

At issue in Ricci v. DeStafano is whether the city acted properly in throwing out the exam results, or whether city officials should have followed its civil-service rules and awarded the promotions to the top test scores without regard to race or ethnicity.

The case revolves around Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which requires that job candidates and employees be treated equally without regard to race or ethnicity.

But it is frequently difficult to prove that an employer is engaged in intentional discrimination. For this reason, Congress has also empowered victims of discrimination to sue in instances when an employment practice results in a disparate impact against members of a protected minority group.

Read more at http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0423/p02s01-usju.html

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Mayor Proposes Budget for 2009-2010


HARTFORD —  The proposed budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year — abput $548 million remains the same as the budget approved by Council for FY’08-’09, according to a press release from the mayor’s office Monday.  

The budget, according to the release, will maintain core city services, and will include the following components:

  • $1.5 million in funding to prevent foreclosures of Hartford homeowners and assist homeless families with young children.
  • $3 million in increased local share of funding for the Board of Education.
  • $1.7 million in local and stimulus funding to create 200 jobs in Hartford’s Arts and Heritage Sector.
  • A class of 40 police officers to be funded entirely by federal stimulus funding.
  • $33.1 million in debt service to continue critical public construction projects that are providing good paying construction jobs for hundred of Hartford residents.
  • 145 fewer municipal government positions from the FY ’08-’09 budget

To pay for this budget and make up for revenue loss from the state and other sources, the mil rate will increase by 8.89 mils, a tax increase of 8.3%.  

For the average Hartford resident homeowner, the city figures this will translate into a property tax increase of approximately $1 a day ($378).  

Substantial concessions by municipal unions and increased aid from the state that materialize during the budget process could reduce the size of the proposed mil rate increase.

“This budget reflects important priorities for our City in these difficult economic times.  We have made prudent cuts across city government and have devoted more resources to job creation, housing and education while maintaining our commitment to public safety,” Mayor Eddie Perez said.

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‘American Violet’ Opens in Hartford


Newcomer Nicole Beharie plays the heroine in this gripping film based on a true story.

The story takes place in Hearne, TX. Population 5,000. In November 2000, 20 residents of Hearne were rounded up and arrested on drug distribution charges. The result was 20 criminals behind bars. But several people were innocent.

The 20 were fingered by a known crack addict who later admitted he was threatened by authorities if he did not implicate 20 residents of the Hearne housing projects.

The residents were booked and offered plea bargains if they confessed. Several innocent people took the plea bargain. Regina Kelly, a waitress and mother of four, refused.  
   
The film “American Violet” tells Kelly’s story of defiance and suffering. The other stars are Alfre Woodard, Michael O’Keefe, Charles S. Dutton, Tim Blake Nelson, Will Patton and Xzibit.

 The film is 98% accurate, according to Regina Kelly, the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

           

Regina Kelly and Nicole Beharie

 Actress Beharie was inspired by Kelly’s story and anxious to take the role in order to get the story out to the public and bring exposure to corruption and racism in law enforcement.

      “I hope it affects people in the same way that it affected me. When I read the script, I was disgusted that it happened,” Beharie said. “Some things happened in the beginning, but what she did in that moment [was] a totally different situation. I think that’s what the film is asking you to look at…. I think that’s what makes the film more powerful.” 

For more on the film, visit www.americanviolet.com.

For more on Regina Kelly and updates on the Hearne, TX drug raid, go to www.reginakelly.com.

 

Trailer:

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Police Charge Man in I-84 Car Chase


HARTFORD —  A Hartford man involved in a car chase on I-84 has been identified and charged by Hartford police Friday, according a news release.

Ellis Thomas, 25, of 16 Case Street, Hartford, has been charged with numerous motor vehicle violations following a motor vehicle pursuit that led onto I-84 east and involved Hartford, Manchester and Connecticut State Police.

Thomas, AKA Ellys A. Thomas, is described as a Black male, 5’11”, 175 lbs, is charged with reckless driving, reckless endangerment first degree, operating a motor vehicle under suspension, failure to renew motor vehicle registration, misuse of plates, disobeying a police officer, interfering with police, operating a motor vehicle without insurance, theft of a license plate, and failure to display a license with a valid registration sticker. 

Thomas was taken into police custody without incident and booked at Hartford Police Headquarters on Friday.  Thomas’ bond was set at $125,000.

thomas_ellis

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