Archive | December, 2011

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Hartford Mayor Appoints Interim Police Chief


HARTFORD —  There’s a new chief in town.

Beginning Jan. 1, Brian Heavren will be Hartford’s interim Police Chief, replacing 30-year veteran Daryl K Roberts. After five years as Chief, Roberts retired on Friday.

Heavren is currently the assistant chief. A  20-year veteran of the Hartford Police Department, he was appointed Assistant Chief in 2007 and commands the Detective Bureau.

Previously he served as Chief of Patrol, Headquarters Commander, Homeland Security Coordinator and Commander of Emergency Services. He has also served as a volunteer firefighter in Connecticut and Maryland.

He holds a Master’s Degree in Management and a Certificate in Homeland Security from St. Joseph College. He also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency Health Services Administration from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

“I am pleased that Chief Heavren has agreed to take the helm of the Hartford Police Department to ensure a smooth transition as we continue our search for a permanent Police Chief,” said Mayor Segarra. “Moreover, I am grateful to Chief Roberts for his unwavering commitment to the City and its people over the past 30 years.

”In addition to Heavren’s appointment, the Mayor has selected James Rovella to serve as an assistant to the Mayor, effective Dec. 31, 2011. Rovella, who currently leads the Shooting Task Force, will maintain all responsibilities as Chief Inspector for the State’s Attorney’s Office while ensuring clear communication between the Police Department and the City of Hartford.

Rovella, who previously worked at the Hartford Police Department for 20 years as a patrol officer and detective, has served with the Chief State’s Attorney’s since 2001, responsible for the Division of Criminal Justice’s operational and administrative duties.

The Mayor and his cabinet team are reviewing Requests for Proposals from companies interested in overseeing the search process. The selected firm, which will implement a process that includes community input and a thorough vetting of candidates, will be selected in late January.

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Holiday Spirit Evident At Annual Event


HARTFORD — Over 130 adults got into the holiday spirit at Loaves and Fishes annual Christmas Dinner, which was held for clients on December 23 at the Immanuel Congregational Church at 10 Woodland Street in Hartford.

Everyone was entertained by the Simsbury High School’s Holiday Cabaret singers who performed a variety of Christmas Carols throughout the lunchtime event.  The students also donated over $2,000 that they raised through musical performances at local businesses and private parties.  The Holiday Cabaret singers have been helping Loaves and Fishes for over 20 years.

Loaves & Fishes Ministries Inc. is a non-profit that began 30 years ago as a soup kitchen in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood. Currently, the soup kitchen serves an average of 130 meals daily Monday through Friday.  But over the years, the non-profit has evolved into an organization that helps its clients reach personal responsibility and financial independence through education, counseling, and economic development programs.

For more information on ways to donate or volunteer, please go to www.loavesfishesministries.org

 

 

 

 

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AOL/Patch Director and Lennie Grimaldi Speak At Media Luncheon


Update: Lennie Grimaldi, publisher of Only in Bridgeport, will also be a panelist.

HARTFORD — On Jan. 6, The Hartford Guardian will celebrate its seven-year anniversary as a civic journalism organization that focuses on hyper–local news in the capital city.

The Civic Engagement Media Luncheon will be from 11: 30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Hartford Club and will feature keynote speaker Anthony Duignan- Cabrera, Editorial Director for AOL Patch East. Duignan and other new media urban journalists will speak to the intersection of online media and the urban landscape—a new frontier in journalism. Each ticket is $55.

Anthony Duignan- Cabrera

“I am honored to be a part of this exciting event and to have the opportunity to speak about the changing local and urban media landscape, Duignan-Cabrera said. “The Internet has obviously played a key role in shaping the evolution of the news industry.”

Other panelists include Lennie Grimaldi, an independent publisher of Only in Bridgeport.

Since its inception in January 2004 by its founder Ann-Marie Adams, The Guardian has been a vanguard in new media. It has broken news about predatory schemes with condo associations and the foreclosure crises in Connecticut In 2010, The Guardian won a national award from the International Center for Journalists, which touted its work as “competent and competitive.” In addition, it has garnered recognition from The Hartford Business Journal and the University of California-Berkeley’s Knight Digital Media Center. The Guardian was the first of the new wave of hyper-local news organizations in Connecticut.

Lennie Grimaldi

The Guardian is a crucial component of the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, Inc., a 501 ( c ) 3 Hartford based nonprofit organization that aims to spur civic participation, develop youth and family media literacy skills ad help build cohesive communities. It’s fulfills its three-fold mission by using 1) The Hartford Guardian, our award-winning hyper-local online news magazine that provides cutting edge reporting; 2) the Summer Journalism Institute, a training program that fosters critical thinking skills and media literacy for high school juniors, seniors and city residents. 3) the Community Conversations, periodic forums to foster understanding and build consensus about issues that impact city residents.  Moreover, CABC Inc embodies civic journalism by expanding the discourse in our democracy and by building communities through civic journalism.

For tickets and information, please call 860-515-8821. No tickets at the door. No exception.

 

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Nearly 50 Percent of Connecticut High School Students Fail To Graduate


Despite a slight improvement, nearly one in five Connecticut high school students failed to graduate in 2010, according to a report released on Thursday by the Connecticut Department of Education.

State officials said the numbers were worse for Hispanic, black, poor (i.e., eligible for free or reduced-price lunch), special education and English language learner students, with about 1 in 3 not receiving a standard diploma within four years. In contrast, the rates for white, Asian and students not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch were much better. Table 1 shows the numbers for each student subgroup in more detail.

Table 1: Connecticut 2010 Cohort Graduation Rates*

Graduates Non-Graduates
Category 2010
Cohort #
Four-Year
Graduation Rate
Still Enrolled Non-Completers
(Certificate of Attendance)
Other
All Students 44,461 81.8 6.1 0.4 11.7
Hispanic 6,917 64.0 11.4 0.5 24.1
Non-Hispanic 37,544 85.2 5.1 0.4 9.3
Indian 146 72.9 6.9 0.0 20.2
Asian 1,562 88.8 3.3 0.1 7.8
Black 6,431 68.7 10..5 1.2 19.6
White 29,405 88.7 4.0 0.2 7.1
Male 22,835 78.5 7.9 0.7 12.9
Female 21,626 85.4 4.1 0.1 10.4
ELL 1,938 60.1 11.0 0.0 28.9
Non-ELL 42,523 82.7 5.8 0.4 11.1
Eligible For Lunch 11,368 62.7 12.0 1.3 24.0
Not Eligible For Lunch 33,093 88.4 4.0 0.1 7.5
Special Education 5,091 62.5 21.3 0.8 15.4
Non-Special Education 39,370 84.3 4.0 0.4 11.3

 

“The statewide graduation rate gap in Connecticut subgroup populations mandates that we begin identifying exemplary schools that model preparation and success for students in our lower-performing communities,” Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor said. “From the local level to the state level, we must redouble our efforts to graduate the next generation of leaders on time all of the time.”

To determine the 2010 four-year graduation rate, the Department analyzed individual data from 44,461 students. The analysis revealed that, 33,369 students, or 18.2 percent, failed to complete high school in four years. That is down from a preliminary rate of 20.7 percent in 2009, a difference of about 1,000 students. (Data from 2009 are still being evaluated and are not considered final yet.)

This was the second year the rate has been calculated using a more accurate method prescribed under the No Child Left Behind/Elementary and Secondary Education Act four-year cohort graduation rate calculation rules. Before 2009, the Department had to estimate the rate from dropout data and self-reported aggregate graduate data. Now, by using student-level data from the state’s public school information system, the Department is able to track individual students longitudinally from the time they enter ninth-grade through to graduation. This method is more accurate for calculating the school, district and state graduation rates and provides a uniform system across the state.

The 18.2 percent of students who missed the four-year graduation target in 2010 includes 6.1 percent who are still enrolled and 0.4 percent who were “non-completers” and received a certificate of attendance. The remaining 11.7 percent did not graduate, were not still enrolled, or did not receive a certificate of attendance. It should also be noted that about one-fifth of all students with disabilities ages 18-21 remain enrolled in public education even though they have completed the requirements for a high school diploma within four years. These students continue their enrollment to maintain eligibility for transition services designed to help students move from high school into postsecondary activities.

“These numbers underscore the importance of creating the pathways and partnerships needed to make being ready for college possible for a greater number of our state’s students,” said Board of Regents of Higher Education President Robert Kennedy. “This won’t happen overnight, but reviewing this data enables us to drill down and see where we need to do more to prepare our students for a college degree or a trade. I’m eager to work with Commissioner Pryor to make this a reality.”

The four-year graduation rate varies widely across the state. Ten districts—Bolton, Cromwell, Guilford, Madison, Monroe, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Weston, and Regional School Districts 17 and 18—exceeded 95 percent in 2010. Six districts—Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven, New London and Norwich—had rates lower than 65 percent.

“We refuse to accept the notion that some students will not graduate from high school prepared for college and career.” Commissioner Pryor said. “The economic and social costs are too great.  We can and must do better.”

For details on four-year graduation rates by district and school, please visit the following Web sites:

 

Check back later today for the Hartford Public School story.

 

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Pew Report: U.S. Deportees Increase, Latinos Vexed


HARTFORD — The number of deportees from the United States has been on the rise and many of these unauthorized removals by President Barack Obama’s administration have been Latinos, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.

By a ratio of more than two-to-one (59 percent versus 27 percent), Latinos disapprove of the way the Obama administration is handling deportations of unauthorized immigrants, according to a new national survey of Latino adults by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

Deportations have reached record levels under President Obama, rising to an annual average of nearly 400,000 since 2009, about 30 percent higher than the annual average during the second term of the Bush administration and about double the annual average during George W. Bush’s first term, according to a press release by the center.

More than eight-in-ten (81 percent) of the nation’s estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants are of Hispanic origin, according to Pew Hispanic Center estimates. Hispanics accounted for an even larger share of deportees in 2010—-97 percent.

 

 

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Registration Opens For Arts Color Contest


HARTFORD — The Community Renewal Team (CRT) is now accepting entries for the National Arts Local Color contest. All forms of visual arts will be accepted and $2,400 in prize money will be awarded.

Entires will be divided into youth, intermediate and professional categories.

Connecticut residents age 6 and older are eligible to participate. Worls in all forms of visual arts are welcome. To enter, participants are encouraged to pre-register by Jan.7 and must deliver their works  of art to the Capital Community College Lobby at 950 Main St. in Hartford between 3-5 p.m. Jan. 9-12.

Only the first 350 entries will be accepted. A free, public gallery showing will beheld Jan. 23-Feb. 4 at Capital Community College.

An awards ceremony and reception will be held a the college on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:00 p.m.

For registration form, complete rules or more information, contact Nancy Shapiro at (860) 560-5471 or by email at nancys@crtct.org. Participants may also register online at www.nationalartsprogram.org/venues/hartford-ct.

 

 

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New CT Law For Business Report Filings


HARTFORD — There’s a new law on the books for the more than 300,000 businesses in Connecticut.

Beginning Jan.1 2012, all businesses must file thier annual report online. That’s because of House Bill No. 6565, which was passed unanimously by the Connecticut General Assembly in the 2011 session.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on Tuesday reminded businesses registered in the state that they will be required to file their annual reports with the Secretary of the State’s office online.

While there are a few exemptions to the new requirement, businesses can log on atwww.sots.ct.gov to file their annual reports.

Secretary Merrill said she expects the new requirement to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, streamline and improve customer service, and eliminate the use of at least two tons of paper processed by the Secretary of the State’s office every year.

 

In requiring Connecticut businesses and non-profits to file their annual reports online, HB 6565 also requires businesses that register with the state to provide an email address to the Secretary of the State’s office for notifications of when annual reports are due.

State officials believe the online filing system will bypass the cumbersome and tedious steps of reviewing the paper files of the annual reports since businesses will know instantaneously if their report had sufficient information to be processed.  Any filings lacking requisite information will instantly be rejected and the businesses or non-profits will be told what data is lacking.

 

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“Tax Holiday” News Coverage Misses Democrats’ Social Security Breach


New America Media Commentary, Paul Kleyman

PhotoPresident Barack Obama discussing the extension of the payroll tax cut. (White House Image: David Lienemann.

Democratic leaders and the White House are congratulating themselves as they depart for the holiday weekend about their tax-holiday victory—but only until the Feb. 29 leap-of-faith day–over GOP hardliners. But the payroll tax holiday, like most vacations, will have its bill to pay.

The national media have been playing the bipartisan shuffle in terms of Democratic stimulus versus GOP stinginess. But such major media as the New York Times and Wall Street Journalhave largely abrogated their responsibility to report another viewpoint that multiple progressive experts and commentators have argued for since the essentially Republic tax-cut idea was put forward and accepted last year by the Obama White House.

A long list of prominent policy experts and advocates have contended for over a year that although the economy likely needs the tax cut’s modest economic transfusion, President Obama could have accomplished the same thing even more effectively — and without breaching the firewall between the Social Security Trust Fund and general U.S. tax dollars — by fighting for his own Making Work Pay program.

Although Making Work Pay wasn’t as politically catchy as Payroll Tax Holiday—it was an effective tax credit of up to $400 passed as part of Obama’s 2008 stimulus measure. It lasted two years and lapsed with Obama’s judgment on this issue.

Cut Fails as Middle-Class Tax Break

With Making Work Pay, the government could have set the tax credit at, say $800 for the year, about the “average” amount saved under the payroll tax. With the payroll tax cut, the Über Percent pay the FICA payroll tax on their earnings up to about $110,000. But if everyone had been limited to $800 or so, then much more of the $112 billion payroll tax cut from 2011 would have gone to people who could really use it and would get into the economy.

In other words, by giving everyone a 2 percent cut, Washington has gifted more money to wealthier people, those apt to salt the savings away in their banks, and less to middle and working class people, who would be more likely to spend it on rent, groceries and maybe a few holiday gifts.

In fact, the number crunchers at Sentier Research released their analysis this week casting doubt on whether the tax holiday is really a “middle-class tax cut” at all.

Sentier showed that compared to how much people at different income levels would have received under the Making Work Pay tax credit, under the payroll tax reduction, “The largest tax savings went to households in the highest income” brackets. The bottom 30 percent of Americans actually lost money.

What’s more, “Households in the middle-income deciles gained very little, casting doubt on the often-heard assertion that this was a ‘middle-class tax cut,’” says Sentier Research.

Even without the tax-credit comparison, says Sentier, the tax savings that went to the nation’s richest 10 percent in 2011 was $2,990, quadruple the savings for workers in the middle – and 25 times higher than the mere $122 amount—about $10 a month–saved by the bottom 10 percent.

That total bill the federal government needs to pay the Social Security Trust Fund back ($112 billion in 2011) won’t much affect the long-term solvency of Social Security — unless the holiday becomes permanent. And therein lies the national rub, which mainstream media seems to have shrugged off as hardly worth a mention in most news reports.

The Nation’s Retirement Nest Egg

Now, don’t get me wrong: The billions from the payroll tax holiday, now that we’re stuck with this vehicle, should be renewed for now. But it was a dangerous way to go. Republicans originally proposed this approach years ago knowing it would break the barrier between the nation’s retirement nest egg and general U.S. tax revenue. That barrier guards against short-term pressures, just as private pensions are separate from family cash flow, or from corporate budgets with penalties for withdrawal except in certain cases.

Here’s why that division between the nation’s pension plan and annual political wrangling over our tax dollars is so important. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had Social Security designed to stand independently from any other part of the federal budget. Liberal factions of the 1930s actually opposed his approach because they thought Congress should cover the program’s costs annually through general taxes, as other countries did at the time. Liberals thought doing so would remind Congress of its duty to the public welfare annually. Yeah, that was going to work really well.

FDR tied Social Security to workers’ wages, with an equal contribution from their employers, so everyone would feel it was his or her money. Conservatives contend that the payroll tax contributions are not really yours, but the refrain heard in today’s town hall meetings and echoed in national polls has been, “It’s our money. Keep your hands off of it.” And truth be told, the program has been paying retirees (and later family survivors and those who become disabled) steadily for most of its 76 years of operation).

Now, though, the government needs to pay back the payroll tax cut — through general taxes. A temporary boost to the working stiff in tough times? As predicted by media-ignored national experts and economists on the left, GOP leaders have been saying since its passage last year that they plan to attack any future Democratic effort to restore the 2 percentage point reduction by screaming bloody murder that Democrats want to raise your taxes. As seen this week, of course, the donkeys are grinning over extending it themselves.

The unreported concern is that once the prophylactic wall between Social Security and overall taxpayer dollars is punched, although just a little, it will be like a puncturing a vacuum-packed can. Longstanding conservative arguments that Social Security really isn’t in a family and retirement lockbox, but is only sealed from other federal spending by worthless promises, could become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

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GE Funding Settles IIlegal Conduct Lawsuit


HARTFORD —  Attorney General George Jepsen on Friday announced a $34.25 million multistate settlement with GE Funding Capital Market Services, Inc. (“GE Funding”) as part of an ongoing nationwide investigation of alleged illegal conduct in the municipal bond derivatives industry.

Connecticut and New York led the investigation for the working group of 24 states and the District of Columbia. As part of the multistate settlement, GE Funding has agreed to pay $30 million in restitution to affected state agencies, municipalities, school districts and not-for-profit entities nationwide that entered into guaranteed investment contracts with GE Funding and two of its affiliates – Trinity Funding Company, LLC and Trinity Plus Funding Company, LLC – between 1999 and 2005.

The State of Connecticut and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority are expected to receive approximately $185,000 in restitution under the settlement. As a lead state in the investigation, Connecticut also will receive an as-yet undetermined share of a $1.25 million civil penalty and $3 million in fees and expenses for the investigation, which GE Funding agreed to pay to the settling states.

“GE Funding, Trinity Funding and Trinity Plus all violated the trust that bond issuers placed in them.  This settlement and the accompanying federal settlements will help to compensate the issuers for their losses as a result of the wrongful conduct,” Jepsen said.

The multistate settlement is one component of a coordinated, global $70 million settlement that GE Funding entered into on Friday.

GE Funding is the fifth financial institution to settle with the multistate working group in the ongoing municipal bond derivatives investigation following Bank of America, UBS AG, JP Morgan and Wachovia.

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“In the Land of Blood and Honey” Delivers Raw Drama


By Jonathan Smalls, Film Critic

Leave it to the artists to create true art. Angelina Jolie, and Graham King are the biggest names associated with In the Land of Blood and Honey, and they appear no where on screen. There is no need to be at all surprised by this quality of work from King after an amazing show like the Departed. What is most surprising is that Jolie, one of the most recognized faces in Hollywood, directed this film so that her looks count for no thing. In the Land of Blood & Honey stands on its own as a powerful, and compelling tale of the Bosnian war.

The plot mostly follows your typical star crossed lovers; a Serb, and a Muslim are dating, and then separated by the war. That can be the basis of a good story, but not the whole thing by itself. What makes this film so powerful is that it pulls absolutely no punches, hitting audiences with the full force of the humanity of the oppressors, and ugliness of their genocide, the emotional devastation of systematic, mass rape. This film is not for the faint of heart. It looks straight at you with the unapologetic, unflinching candor that can only come from as driven an artist as Jolie behind the camera.

The plot its self is not particularly strong. In fact once you remove the power of the images the script actually starts to feel like a hodge podge of events, like the producers wanted to be sure to throw every thing in rather than tell a completely coherent narrative. It is still pretty good, but probably the weakest link in the chain.

The film also wins huge kudos for breaking the Hollywood convention of corrupting all foreign languages into English with a British accent, English with a Russian accent, or English with a Chinese accent. Although one version of the film is in English, the other is in full out Serbo-Croatian with subtitles.

The cast of actors, led by Goran Kostic as Danijel, and Zana Marjanovic as Ajla, are varied. The quality of their performance seems inversely related with their time on screen. Kostic, and Marjanovic seem wooden, and boring most of the time; there is very little passion between them, or any one else. On the other hand the supporting characters are aggressively invested, and believable with their roles. In this fim you definitely need to look past the leads to see the real performances.

The only outright problem with the film is that in its falling action is changes from a riveting tale of lives changed in a civil war to a commentary on USAmerican interventionism. What makes it great is that it feels like an unbiased account of how ugly civil war can be over some thing as ridiculous as who loves God the right way, but then it turns into a finger wagging school teacher with our lesson for the day.

In the Land of Blood and Honey is very raw, very unapologetic. It may make some audiences uncomfortable. It takes the common love story in a war setting, and removes all sanatization of how lives are affected. This film may give you reason for pause after leaving the theatre. It is not at all perfect, but its core is extremely strong, and emotional.

 

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