Archive | March, 2010

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Legendary Teacher Jaime Escalante Dies


Latino Print Network, News Report, Staff

RENO, Nev. — The family of famed teacher Jaime Escalante, 79, has announced that he passed away at 2:27 pm. The cause of death was coronary and respiratory failure, precipitated by cancer.

A native of La Paz, Bolivia, and the son of two elementary-school teachers, Escalante came to America in 1963 at age 33. Although he was already an accomplished and popular science and mathematics teacher in Bolivia, he spoke almost no English and had to return to school to become a certified teacher in California.

He worked at a series of jobs as he studied, from a restaurant to a computer company, and in 1974 attained his goal. Arriving at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, he encountered a culture of low expectations, gang activity and administrative apathy.

His success in overcoming these odds and in enabling “unteachable” students to master advanced mathematics made him a national and international hero. The 1988 movie about his Garfield AP Calculus program, Stand and Deliver, remains one of the most popular and beloved films ever made about the teaching profession.

His career has been celebrated in a number of books, most notably Escalante: The Best Teacher in America (1989), by Washington Post writer Jay Mathews. He became a presence in classrooms throughout the U.S. – and the world – through the PBS series FUTURES with Jaime Escalante. One of the most popular classroom programs in the history of public broadcasting, FUTURES combined examples of Escalante’s teaching style with his purpose to help his students discover rewarding careers in math and science.

“Jaime exposed one of the most dangerous myths of our time – that inner city students can’t be expected to perform at the highest levels,” said Edward James Olmos, who played Escalante in Stand and Deliver. “Because of him, that destructive idea has been shattered forever. This is a legacy that changed American education, and I will work to ensure that it continues long into the future.”

“Jaime’s greatest gift not only to me but to anyone taught by him or who saw Stand and Deliver is that no matter who you are or where you came from you can achieve anything,” said actress Vanessa Marquez, who played a student in the film. “It is no surprise that after meeting him I aced all of my math classes in college and I have used what I learned from him for the past 23 years. He will always be a part of my life.”

Escalante is survived by his wife, two sons, and six grandchildren. Services are pending. “The best way to honor the life and work of this great man is to keep it going and I, along with others whose lives he touched, intend to do that,” said Olmos. in lieu of flowers I am asking those who share this goal to send donations to the Jaime Escalante Legacy Project at 236 West Mountain Street, Suite 105, Pasadena CA 91103.

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Trinity College and City to Host Hip Hop Festival


HARTFORD — The Hartford Office for Youth Services (HOYS) collaborates with Trinity College and the Temple of HIP-HOP to sponsor the 5th Annual International Hip-Hop Festival in conjunction with the 3rd annual “Youth 4 Change” conference.

The event will be held April 10 from 10am -3pm in  in the Washington Room at  Trinity College’s Mather Hall.

The festival was created to build a sense of community between the City and the campus through outreach and exposure to events and happenings.  Through student-initiated work, this umbrella event seeks to use Hip-Hop, and its global proliferation, as an educational tool to teach the history of Hip-hop and its culture.

The Youth 4 Change Conference will give middle and high school students a unique opportunity to discover Hip Hop not from a perspective of violence and material consumption but rather as a tool for empowerment, positive expression and a means to reduce violence and increase community ownership through interactive workshops.

Mayor Eddie A. Perez, who also serves as a member of the Board of Education says, “This joint venture is a unique approach to reaching our young and impressionable residents.  Thanks to stronger connections with the community, Hartford has made serious inroads in reducing youth violence.  We must continue to be innovative and on the cutting edge in seeking to find ways to maximize our children’s positive potential.”

Enid Rey, Director of HOYS says, “The talent held by Hartford’s youth is undeniable. Youth are constantly looking for venues to develop and share their talents.  The conference will provide a great opportunity to connect Hartford’s youth to an international community that uses the medium of Hip Hop not only as a means of self expression but as a tool to address social issues. This conference promises to be an exciting event.”

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HPD Investigates Park Street Homicide


HARTFORD — A local man died this weekend  after city Police responded to shots fired at Park and Broad streets.

Police said that on March 27 at about  4:45 a.m.,  they  found  Cesar Torres, 25, of 250 Homestead Ave., Hartford, suffering from a gunshot wound. 

Emergency Services Personnel responded and transported  Torres to Hartford Hospital for treatment.  He succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at 3:04 am., police said.

The Hartford Police Department’s Major Crimes and Crimes Scene Divisions responded to the scene and are investigating the incident. 

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Major Crimes Division Supervisor, Sergeant Rob Davis, Jr. at 860-757-4256 or to telephone the Hartford Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 860-722-TIPS (8477).

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Hartford Blacks Question MDC’s Minority Hiring Practices


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — For three years the Greater Hartford African American Alliance has been picketing the Metropolitan District Commission in protest over perceived dismal hiring practice for blacks.

So on a particularly crisp Monday afternoon in early March, Alliance President Clarke King and three other members gathered outside MDC’s headquarters on Main Street in Hartford with picket signs. It was their latest attempt to bring attention to MDC’s  $2 billion Clean Water Project underway in Hartford and eight surrounding towns hooked up to the city’s sewer system. According to the state chartered agency’s website, it will spend billions to improve the area’s water quality and expand the capacity of Hartford’s aging system.

Authorized by a 2006 referendum, the project is in response to a federal Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency consent decree, and a Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection consent order to clean up the water supply by 2012. It is considered a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity that will funnel money to thousands of contractors and workers in the Greater Hartford area. And Alliance members say blacks in the city should get their equal share.

This recent gathering at MDC prompted a visit from MDC’s Diversity Committee Chairman Adam Cloud to “share the facts.”

“There is an information gap,” Cloud says after the Alliance meeting at Rajun Cajun restaurant March 13. “It’s hard to agree when the facts are missing.”

Cloud promised to forward the latest facts to The Hartford Guardian the following week, only to say one week later that there was going to be a small job fair on March 22 for 10 of 15 graduates of a training program held earlier in Promfet. The mini job fair was at the MDC’s training facility on Maxim Road. The Guardian was invited. At this gathering, three contractors were present to look at resumes.

City-based contractor Rohan Freeman interviews job applicant at MDC training facility in March

Trainees vs. Union Members

Gregory Crawford has about 10 years in construction work, unlike his counterparts at the fair; they have minimal or no construction experience. Crawford has also been through the Hartford Jobs Funnel training Program and the Promfet Laborer’s Training Academy. Based on the strength of his resume alone, Paganelli Construction Group targeted Crawford and showed up to offer him a job, which will lead to membership in the union, says Paganelli’s Project Director Michael Daddario. The other graduates just finished a training program, he says, so he has no need to interview them.

Besides, Daddario says: “I have workers who have been laid off for a long time and are waiting for job opportunities, and they are union members.”

Laborers Union  Local 230 in Hartford guidelines stress hiring based on seniority. And the Alliance sees this as a way to keep out minority workers, who are new to the process. This does little to alleviate MDC’s 75 year record in hiring minority contractors and city workers if the agency works exclusively with unions, one Alliance member says. So the Alliance is looking to meet with MDC top officials to discuss ways in creating entry points for blacks.

City and Minority Contractors

Formed in 1992, the Greater Hartford African American Alliance is a community-based organization that promotes advocacy for African Americans with regard to housing, education, and public safety. Members  say they have good reasons to carry on their three-year negotiation with the MDC on its minority and city hiring practice. About 90 percent of the work being done, or scheduled to be done, will be in Hartford. Hartford’s 150-year old sewer system must be replaced because suburban growth in Bloomfield, East Hartford, Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor. This  has caused backups and sludge in the city’s sewer system and overflows in the city’s water supply. City tax payers who help support the MDC should get access to more jobs, not just lower paying jobs but managerial positions, Alliance members say.

MDC’s independent Disparity Report supports the Alliance’s reasoning. According to the study, race and gender preferences are allowed to correct historical patterns of discrimination. But it doesn’t emphasize town specific hiring.

And that causes a conundrum for Michael Jefferson, who was hired as the Diversity Manager in 2009. Jefferson and Cloud are black. They contend that MDC serves several towns—not just Hartford. More importantly, people of color do not live in Hartford alone.

Nevertheless, King is specifically focused on Hartford because of the dismal unemployment rate for black youth and adults in the city. According to the state’s unemployment figures, the jobless rate for Hartford blacks is 16.8 percent, compared to the other towns such as Avon, where the jobless rate is 6.4 percent.  Overall, the state’s unemployment rate is 9.8 percent for nonseasonally adjusted workforce and 9.1 for seasonally adjusted workforce.

There’s more to the data as well, says Interim President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Hartford, Richard Brown.

“What [the statistics] doesn’t’ take into account is age, where those 18 to 25 have an unemployment rate  of up to 30 percent, depending on which group you talk to.”

This age group, Brown says, faces other challenges. It’s an employer’s economy, and they can afford to be more selective, which means a college graduate from the University of Connecticut can be working at Target as a cashier, a job usually reserved for high school graduates and college students.

 

Larger Trend

Hartford’s unemployment rate for blacks is reflective of a larger trend. The national Urban League recently released a report about the state of black America, which states that even educated blacks are twice as likely as their white counterparts to be unemployed. In a CNN article Andrew Grant-Thomas, the deputy director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, says he believes the statistics for unemployed black Americans is far greater than what’s being reported. The figures don’t include people not actively seeking employment or people with higher education degrees forced to take jobs for which they’re overqualified.”The disparities are definitely huge and that number understates the size of the disparity,” he says. “You want to take that number and double it.”

Before the recession, 40 percent of black men held blue-collar jobs, which include manufacturing, transportation, construction and moving materials. Since then, one-fifth of those black workers were laid off. The crucial issue, according to another news report, is that as the economy reconfigures itself, 6 in 10 unemployed black men report that their former permanent, or less-than-full-time jobs are gone forever. The average layoff period for these men was also 33 weeks, making it harder to reenter the labor market. The National Urban League’s proposed action plan for President Obama’s administration encompasses six points: direct job creation; expansion of the Small Business Administration’s loan program; the creation of green empowerment zones; expanded hiring of housing counselors nationwide; expanded summer jobs program for youths; and the creation of urban jobs academies. Here in the Greater Hartford area, the local chapter of the Urban League will host its Diversity Job Fair at Rentschler Field in East Hartford on April 29. Brown said there will be several job opportunities from companies such as United Technologies, Aetna, and Comcast. These companies will specifically be looking for qualified people of color. Brown added that the League is in the first stages of collaborating with MDC to provide training for the Clean Water Project.

MDC’s Diversity Efforts

Jefferson says that MDC’s recent diversity effort has been impactful, given the little resources his team has to work with. The community, he says, would need to look to policy to address the larger concerns. And that’s where Cloud comes in as chair of the Diversity Committee. But the Alliance has “little faith” in his ability to get results for the community. Besides, Cloud’s March 13 visit was his first to the Alliance meeting, King says. Alliance Vice President Michelle Brown (no relations to Richard Brown) says: “I think he is sincere in his attempts, but I don’t think he’ll get the support he needs from the MDC board.”

Cloud is quick to disagree with Michelle Brown, saying MDC board members are “very sincere in putting minorities to work.”And the sincerity can be seen in the new job training program, which not only trains individuals but help them get a job, Cloud says.

So far, only one participant from the Promfet training program has been hired: Crawford. He lives in Newington and will start his new job April 12.

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Bill Mandates GPS Monitoring of Abusers


HARTFORD —  A bill allowing Connecticut’s Judicial Branch to select three courts to electronically monitor certain domestic violence offenders has passed a legislative hurdle.

The proposed pilot program is part of a package of domestic violence reforms that passed the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee on Friday.  

Domestic violence is a major issue during this year’s General Assembly session. It comes in the wake of some high-profile cases where women were killed, allegedly at the hands of their estranged husbands.

The bill also allows the Judicial Branch to expand the number of specialized court dockets that specialize in domestic violence cases.

Read more here

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Obama Has Mojo–Health Reform’s Lessons for Immigration Reform


New America Media, Interview with Frank Sharry, Sandip Roy, Posted: Mar 28, 2010

Editor’s Note: An estimated 200,000 people showed up at the National Mall last weekend calling for immigration reform. But the march was overshadowed by the dramatic passage of health care reform. What are the lessons from health care reform for those pushing for a reform of the country’s immigration laws? New America Media Editor Sandip Roy spoke with Frank Sharry, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based immigration advocacy group America’s Voice.

MP3

What lessons are you drawing from how health care reform eventually came to pass?

One, the president has mojo after all. He had to contend with scared Democrats, obstinate Republicans and fractious constituency groups. And he persevered, and as a result they made history. That’s pretty much the same formula we need on immigration reform. Obviously the delay in health care reform compresses the calendar for us to get it done and this is an election year, but we think the window of opportunity is open for a few months.

Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the co-sponsor of the Schumer-Graham immigration bill, said before the bill was signed, ‘The first casualty of the Democratic health care bill will be immigration reform. If the health care bill goes through this weekend, that will, in my view, pretty much kill any chance of immigration reform passing the Senate this year.’ What is your reaction?

I think what he is saying is that the toxic atmosphere of partisanship on Capitol Hill will make it difficult to move on legislation like immigration reform that needs bipartisanship. But I doubt if a spat over a procedural matter will end all chances of immigration reform. But if Republicans do stand in the way, they will once again be blamed for blocking immigration reform and putting themselves behind the eight ball politically with the fastest growing group of new voters in the country. I think it’s more bluster and bluff. And I think we have a good chance of seeing a bipartisan bill being introduced in April.

Do you really think the Democrats have the stomach for another protracted fight?

I think many Democrats have realized after health care reform that they were elected to take on the tough issues and they are going to be judged, come November, on their record of accomplishment, not on how many post offices they named. Look, the Democrats and Obama inherited a huge mess. The country wants change. They voted for change. And if they don’t get change, they will keep voting for change.

Our advice to Democrats – lean into these issues, take them on, fight hard for them and let the politics take care of itself. The politics of immigration are so misunderstood inside the Beltway. The pundits say it’s too hard, maybe it mobilizes Latinos, but it hurts you with swing voters and arouses the right in a way that will make health care look like a garden party. The fact is, I think the immigration debate will look a lot more like the Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation fight, where nine Republicans voted for her confirmation. I think we will see Tea Partiers on the outside but we may see more of a Sotomayor-like tone on the inside.

Is that why you released an internal poll of Latinos and the 2010 elections? Did you make it public to put pressure on the parties?

Exactly. We have been saying immigration reform is a threshold issue for Latino voters, with tremendous intensity among Latino immigrant voters. Many in the political class say, ‘No, they don’t really care that much.’ But what I think you saw a demonstration of on Sunday, March 21 is 200,000 people saying this issue is what defines whether the political class is respecting us or not. This is what Katrina was for many African-American voters. If [Democrats] do lean into this issue, Republicans will have to deal with something that divides them. So Democrats would be wise to do that, rather than hide behind their desks until November.

Since no Republicans voted for health care, would they be on the defensive when it comes to immigration reform? As in, they would look even more like the party of ‘no’ if they also oppose immigration?

It looked like a good strategy when health care reform was on the ropes. It does not look like such a good strategy now when what they have done is said no to covering 32 million people. Many people are divided about whether the reform package is good or not, but polling shows people are quite pleased Congress is actually doing something. I think Republicans are going to have to stand up to the far right and say, ‘This is an issue we have to get off the table and that we should share credit with. If we wait too long, it will be too late for us.’

In 2006, 23 Republican senators voted for a version of comprehensive immigration reform. Despite a more right-leaning bill in 2007, that was essentially written with the help of the Bush White House, only 12 Republican senators voted for it. Take a look at it now. What’s our universe of possible gettable Republican senators – probably in the neighborhood of 10. I think the Republican Party has made a historic mistake in losing the advantages that were built up with George W. Bush reaching out to this community. Now they are on the verge of looking like the party of ‘no,’ not just on all manner of issues, but to Latino voters.

Health care as it finally passed was very different from health care reform as was proposed. While you don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good, are you satisfied with the Schumer-Graham proposal as the starting point here? Is there enough room for compromise as there definitely will have to be?

They have issued a blue print. It’s not highly detailed yet. It has the right elements. Sure, they couch it in very conservative terms, law and order terms. The solution to the problem of unauthorized immigration is you combine some smart targeted enforcement, in particular going after employers who are unscrupulous, with a way people here illegally can get on the path to citizenship, get to the back of the line, etc.

But grassroots groups are saying the Schumer-Graham bill is much more onerous on people trying to legalize themselves, that it could mean waiting 20 years outside the United States.

None of those details are known yet. What has been represented to us is the legalization program will have low fees, a six or seven year period of conditional status. What’s onerous is the current situation in which every day people are being picked up, detained and deported. The Obama administration is on track to surpass the Bush administration’s record of deporting some 400,000 people a year. This is a human rights crisis in immigrant communities.

Insurance companies and chambers of commerce spent millions trying to defeat health care reform. Is the hope for immigration reform that a lot of business is in support of it?

The best part is we won’t have zillions of dollars being spent against it, as they did in health care reform, by the business community. Businesses generally are in favor or not opposed. The opposition comes from a virulent and visible anti-immigrant movement that is very effective at mobilizing people who want to deport 11 million people and keep the people who look different out of the country. I don’t think we will be facing zillions of dollars in ads but we will be facing millions of faxes from angry people

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WeekEnd Movie : ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ Overflows With Laughter, Cliches


By Jonathan Smalls, Film Critic

Hot Tub Time Machine is an interesting exploration of that age old question: “What, if I knew then, what I know now?” The premise is that four friends travel back in time to a pivotal day in their lives in 1986. Plot holes abound, but none of them are so mind boggling as to ruin the movie. In fact this tale is so farcical that most errors of omission and comission are actually pretty forgiveable.

Continuity aside, the film is not bad. It is entirely aware of how ridiculous it is, and even breaks the fourth wall to ensure that you know it too. The story is like a runaway pet though: all over the place, and hard to follow. The reason why is that the only commonality between the four friends is that they are on the same trip, and they talk to each other. Other than that, they embark on completely different adventures, and telling their stories just becomes messy. The story is also pretty short at an hour, and a half, and that presents another problem.

The preview trailing gives away an awful lot of the jokes. This problem is not unique to Hot Tub Time Machine, but between writer Josh Heald, and director Steve Pink, they should have worked out a solution. They could have used takes, which were good, but not included in the final cut. They could have written separate scenes just for the trailer. The public pays for the movie with the expectation that it can not be boiled down to a minute, and a half, but a little too often Hollywood disappoints.

Rob Corddry steals the show with his character as Lou. Although this is an ensemble movie, most of the jokes, and action involve him. He is over the top funny throughout, but still manages to deliver the sad undertone of his character when the time comes.

The silver medal goes to Craig Robinson. His performance is no thing, which we have not seen in Walk Hard, or the Office, but it is entertaining nonetheless. John Cusack plays a heart sick romantic with some comedic elements. It is shocking, I know, but what more can we expect from him? The other characters get to play off of him, and he still gets to be famous.

The supporting characters are a wealth of 1980s stereotypes complete with jeri curls, leg warmers, and brick like cellulars. Aside from that, they are no different from other guy flicks like American Pie or the Hangover. In fact, if you take away the time travel, that is exactly what you have.

If this movie really, really appeals to you as a viewer, you will probably enjoy it. Hot Tub Time Machine is OK as far as movies go. Otherwise though you will realize that it is neither original nor amazing. It is just another grab for market share in an already crowded field of tales of men, booze, sex, and wacky hijinks.

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Tech High School Students Compete in SkillsUSA


MIDDLETOWN —  More than 1,000 technical  high school students are competing in the states SkillsUSA championship competion today at Middletown’s Vinal Technical High School.

The event is from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and  will feature “hands on” trade  technology and academic skills, organizers said.  An award cermony will be held at New Britain High school at 6 p.m.

The  program is the state-level competition for public high school and college  and postsecondary technical students enrolled in trade, technical, and skilled service profession instructional programs including allied health occupations.

Begun in 1967, the SkillsUSA Championship Program has grown from 54 competitors in three contests to more than 1,000 competitors in 52 hands-on skill and leadership contests this year.

The event  will also showcase how Connecticut students are preparing for future jobs in professional trades, skilled services and technologies in the state, organizers said. Students compete in different skills tests, including  masonry, carpentry, graphics, culinary, plumbing and welding.

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Police Arrested East Hartford Man Linked to Fatal Car Crash


HARTFORD — A East Hartford man was arrested yesterday in connection with a car crash that killed one  and injured seven others, police said.

 Anthony Harris,  21, of 30 Hammer St., apartment 2 of East Hartford, was arrested at his home for first degree  Manslaughter, Operating Under the Influence, Reckless Driving, and Operating Without a License.

The Hartford Fire Department responded to the scene and extricated the trapped party.  All seven injured occupants were transported to area hospitals for medical treatment, police said.

 The trapped party, later identified as 14 year old Alexis Cruz of 912 Mary Sheppards Place, was pronounced deceased at Hartford Hospital.

Police said that on Jan. 23  Hartford Police Officers responded to the area of Chandler Street and Coolidge Street on a report of a serious car crash involving a 2010 white Ford Taurus and a  2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Upon arrival officers observed that there were seven injured occupants and that one party was still trapped inside Ford Taurus which was smoking. 

 A $100,000.00 bond was ordered.

Any person with information about his incident is asked to contact the Crimes Scene Division Supervisor, Lieutenant Jason Thody at 860-757-4225 or telephone the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 860-722 TIPS (8477).

Anonymous, confidential tips may be made by calling Hartford Crime Stoppers at 860-722-TIPS (8477).  Hartford Crime Stoppers is a community and business based organization that awards up to $1,000.00 for information from confidential sources that lead to the arrest of a suspect in a police investigation.

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CT Graduation Rate for Minority Students Deemed Dismal


HARTFORD  — Connecticut Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan yesterday sounded the alarm after results of  the state’s wide education gap between whites and minorities.

According to a press release,  the state’s high school graduation rates for black and Hispanic students are alarmingly low, and he says urgent action is needed.

New figures for the class of 2009 show a 58 percent graduation rate for Hispanics, 66 percent for blacks and 87 percent for whites. Connecticut’s overall rate was 79 percent.

Officials say they began using a more accurate system of tracking graduate rates last year, and it showed the 2009 numbers were worst than those in previous years.

McQuillan is pushing several proposals, including offering student and family support programs and moving up to July 1, 2010, the effective date of a law change that will prohibit 16-year-olds from dropping out of school, even if they have parental permission.

An AP report is used in this article.

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