Archive | July, 2015

Dirt Salon to Present Pop Show: SODALICIOUS


HARTFORD — The Dirt Salon will present the premier of SODALICIOUS! – a  Pop Art Show featuring a vast exhibit of photography by artist Beth Phillips who has photographed numerous works by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, both of whom have been major influences on her own art.

“I knew artists Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat from 1983-1988,” says Phillips, who worked with the artists during exciting periods of their careers, but also unfortunately near the end. ”

June Bisantz to perform at the Dirt Salon in Hartford

June Bisantz to perform at the Dirt Salon in Hartford

Andy Warhol passed away February 22, 1987. His Estate called me to photograph thousands of paintings at the new “Factory” at 22 East 33rd. The following year, when Jean Michel Basquiat passed away on August 12, 1988, his father, Gerald Basquiat, called me to photograph hundreds of his paintings and drawings.”

Years later, her own photographic work would hearken back to both Basquiat’s hip hop street life and Warhol’s repetitive collection of Campbell soup cans. On long walks around New York City, Ms. Phillips began noticing crushed soda cans. Ms. Phillips began collecting and photographing crushed soda cans and educating herself about recycling. People began sending her crushed soda cans from around the world. The resulting work draws attention to the need for recycling and recyclable packaging while commenting on the art of the soda industry.

SODALICIOUS! features nearly two hundred photographic prints.

As part of the Pop Art tribute, there will be exhibits by two emerging Connecticut artists: Thomas Radovich and Katie Fogg. Radovich’s work began as an exploration of nostalgia but has expanded into a nearly compulsive need to document every action figure, stuffed animal, and toy in his ever-growing collection.

Katie Fogg’s paintings have been displayed in numerous group exhibitions throughout NYC and Connecticut, and have been acquired by private collectors. Fogg’s KFOGG Studio is located in her hometown of New London and she also keeps a studio in Brooklyn, NY.

Phillips, an artist and photographer, attended the Hartford Art School and the Rhode Island School of Design. She lived in New York City for about 30 years and ran a business photographing fine art.

SODALICIOUS! will also include a musical treasure not to be missed – June Bisantz Jazz.
Tickets are $15 in advance (go to: thedirtsalon.com), $20 at the door.

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Endorsed Democratic Candidate Luke Bronin Talks Education, Crime with Residents


By Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Two days after the  Hartford Democratic Town Committee endorsed Luke Bronin for mayor, he made a stop at his Albany Avenue campaign office to discuss crime, education and jobs with city residents.

“Hartford wants a Mayor who’s working every single day to make our neighborhoods stronger and safer, who’s fighting for jobs and for economic opportunity for Hartford residents, and who gets back to the basics of delivering city services on every street,” Bronin said in a release to the press. “We need a mayor who’s hands-on and who does the hard things, so that Hartford can become the great city we all know it can be.”

Bronin received 49 votes from the committee after incumbent Pedro Segarra walked out of the nominating convention before the vote Monday night, saying he “will not lend himself to a process” that selected him when he ran for mayor in 2012.

“There comes a moment in one’s life when you must stand up for what is right and walk away from what is wrong. Tonight was one of those moments,” Segarra said in a statement to the press. “I chose not to accept the nomination of the Democratic Town Committee because I am in this race for the people of Hartford and not the politics.”

Bronin and Segarra faced off at Bulkeley High School auditorium but left before the vote. And his supporters abstained from voting–shouting “four more years” for the incumbent mayor.

Segarra said he has been a resident of Hartford for 41 years.  He replaced former Mayor Eddie Perez in 2010 and was elected to a full term in 2012. Segarra said he will gather petition signatures to qualify for the Sept. 16 primary.

Bronin is a Yale Law School graduate and former legal adviser to Gov. Dannel Malloy.

A relatively new comer to the city, Bronin said he was honored to receive the nomination.

Photo courtesy of www. inagist.com.

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Hartford Lawmakers to Discuss Spike in Violence


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  On the heels of its 19th homicide for the year, Hartford lawmakers will meet with residents to discuss the recent spike in violence.

Rep. John B. Larson (CT-01) will be hosting a forum on July 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Parker Memorial Community Center.

Along with Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-05) and Mayor Pedro Segarra, he will meet with members of the community to hear their thoughts, answer questions, and discuss possible paths forward from these recent tragedies.

In 2014, the number of homicide was 19.  Since 2015, there has been 19.

The latest shooting happened Sunday evening and police are still looking for the gunmen.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has offered assistance with combating crime in the state’s capital city. His administration is sending in probation officers and parole officers to track down “the 1 percent” police say are responsible for most of the violent crime in the city.  Malloy also said he plans to commit resources from the departments of probation and parole, the state’s attorney’s office, the U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Additionally, state troopers teamed up with Hartford police after a surge in shootings and homicides last weekend.

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Box Office Revives Puritan Play, The Gallows


FILM REVIEW — Scary movies with a puritan theme is a rare commodity at the box office. So it’s a surprise to see a relatively successful showing of this genre in North American theaters, raking in about $21 million in two weeks. In other territories, it garnered $9.4 million and raked in an impressive worldwide total of $30.8 million against a budget of $100,000.

Not bad for a small-budget film with a familiar horror template,based on a real-life tragedy.

Beatrice High School’s most infamous stage production was revived with budding thespian Pfeifer Ross, who plays the high school kid, Charile Grimmel.  The film begins October 1993 at Beatrice High  in Beatrice, Nebraska, with production of  “The Gallows.” Grimille’s parents, delighted about their son’s performance, record the play. In the third act, Charlie’s character is set to be hanged at the gallows.  Then tragedy strikes as the door beneath Charlie’s feet opens and he falls through with a noose around his neck. He died of strangulation in front of his co-stars and the  audience.

Twenty years later, a student at the same school, arrogant football player Ryan Shoos tapes his good-natured friend (and the events of the film) Reese as he is in a production of “The Gallows” playing the same character Charlie played. Reese acts alongside his crush Pfeifer,

The Gallows ended with the death of  Grimmell with leading man, Reese Houser. He plays a former football star who lacks acting talent but tried out for the play. He died in a deadly freak accident at a high school play in Nebraska.

The film is  a mash up of The Blair Witch Project and Brian De Palma’s horror movie, Phantom of the Paradise.

Directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Louflin,  The Gallows serves up a modicum of scare on the scare-o-meter: The scares consist of moving objects and sound effects with lots of bloody and fear-inducing scenes.

However, it’s a story best left in the past.

 

Movie Review by Fran Wilson

 

 

 

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New Hampshire Unveils Pumpkin Festival Line Up


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

NEW HAMPSHIRE — New Hampshire is gearing up for its 25th  this fall.

As pumpkin plants around the northeast are just beginning to bloom, the organizers —  Let it Shine, Inc., and Sterling Design & Communications — will collaborate  with the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce to provide  programming for Pumpkin Festival 2015. The 2015 Pumpkin Festival runs from 10am-8:30pm on Saturday, Oct. 24 in the heart of NH, downtown Laconia.

Presented by ZIPPO, this is the first year it will take place in downtown Laconia. Following are the schedule for what officials say is a program that may vie for  Guinness World Record for the most lit jack-o-lanterns in one place–record recaptured from Boston by Keene in 2013. A total of 30,581 jack-o-lanterns were reported.

The Runaway Pumpkin 10k & 5k Run/Walk 9 a.m.
Location: Laconia Athletic & Swim Club, 827 North Main Street, Laconia
Before the festival, first thing in the morning, a choice of distances, welcoming walkers as well as serious runners to this scenic course which includes the WOW Trail WOW is an acronym for the three lakes along the rail trail, Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam and Opechee.

Pumpkin-festival-2015-thehartfordguardianPronounced “Pumpkin Alley,” it’s Pump-Canal(y) Street for Kids
If renowned area artist Larry Frates achieves his vision, Laconia’s Canal Street will be orange from one end to the other with activities for kids and creative types of all ages. Shops on the street have their own special pumpkin plans, so do not miss this street in your explorations of Pumpkin Festival 2015.

Haunted Attractions for that Special Thrill
The Belknap Mill, the oldest, unaltered brick textile mill in the United States, has plenty of history to draw from for its planned haunted mill attraction. Stay tuned for details! And across town, the UCC/Congregational Church plans to send chills up many a visitor’s spine too.

ZIPPO, Official Lighter of Pumpkin Festival
In addition to hosting the Welcome Center near the Railroad Station, ZIPPO will be offering their official candle lighters for sale at their booth and at the Pumpkin Shop/s where festival logo souvenir t-shirts and other experience extenders can also be purchased.

The Pump(kin) Dump Derby 8:30pm
A race to clean up Pumpkin Festival involving competing teams, lottery-assigned territories and a grand prize $1000 to the team’s charity of choice. All teams who complete their territory win $100 for the charity of their choice. Sponsored by Shipyard Brewing.

Spectacular Pumpkin Tower Plus Thousands of Jack-o’-Lanterns on Street-level Displays
10am-8:30pm

The signature tower is the centerpiece of Pumpkin Festival 2015. Streets will be lined with pumpkins and pumpkin spectators, for smooth strolling and the best viewing, unfettered by vendor booths and queues. Families and seniors will feel very welcome and handicap parking in excellent locations makes access easy. Live musical entertainment will add to the atmosphere on the bandstand and at other selected locations but the sights will carry the day!

More information will be posted as available online at pumpkinfestival.org

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Child Abuse Conference Set for August


WINDSOR — A conference to help survivors of severe child abuse and torture will be held August at the Double Tree Hotel near Bradley Airport.

This conference, schedule from August 7  – 9 between 9 – 5 p.m.., will be  at the DoubleTree Hotel at16 Ella Grasso Turnpike, Windsor Locks, CT.

Ritual Abuse And Extreme Abuse Clinician’s Conference is a one-day conference preceding the regular conference will be open to licensed practitioners in related fields to discuss issues in working with clients suffering from ritual abuse and extreme abuse symptoms.

 The gathering is aim to educate survivors of this abuse and their helpers.

Pre-registration is preferred.

For information write  S.M.A.R.T., P. O Box 1295, Easthampton, MA 01027-1295  E-mail: smartnews@aol.com, conference information is at:  http://ritualabuse.us/smart-conference/.

Students studying in related fields and retired licensed practitioners may write smartnews@aol.com by e-mail for more information. Internet conference information is available at: http://ritualabuse.us/smart-conference/ritual-abuse-and-extreme-abuse-clinicians-conference-2015/.

 

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What Does the Anthem-Cigna Deal Mean for Consumers?


The announcement Friday that Anthem Inc. plans to buy Bloomfield-based Cigna Corp. comes amid a period of rapid consolidation in the health care industry that some observers have likened to an arms race.

Hospitals – seeking, among other things, greater leverage in negotiating with insurers – have increasingly been joining larger systems, while the insurance industry – already concentrated in many states – is poised to undergo even more consolidation.

Where does that leave consumers?

“That’s the million dollar question right now,” said Jim Wadleigh, chief executive of Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT.

Experts say potential benefits of consolidation include economies of scale that can lead to reduced costs, while potential drawbacks include reduced competition that could have the opposite effect on prices.

“The [question] that everyone is worried about is, are these hospital systems just going to make money, or are the carriers just going to make more money and leave the consumer behind and ultimately not reaping the reward?” Wadleigh said.

The Anthem-Cigna deal follows the announcement earlier this month that Hartford-based Aetna had reached an agreement to buy Humana. Both deals must be reviewed by federal and state regulators in what could be lengthy processes. Anthem and Cigna said Friday they expect the acquisition to close in the second half of 2016.

“It in some sense makes sense to have companies come together, but obviously we need to make sure there’s enough competition in the marketplace and that people have choices,” Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade said in an interview earlier this week. “As things present, we’ll all be looking very closely at this.”

Anthem, Cigna and the Connecticut market

In announcing the agreement Friday, Anthem and Cigna executives emphasized the potential for the combined company to drive changes in health care delivery, manage the cost of care and offer affordable insurance. The companies said they anticipated $2 billion in “synergies” – savings – within two years of closing the deal.

Nationally, Anthem has 38.5 million members, while Cigna has 14.5 million.

In Connecticut, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield had nearly 1.16 million customers in 2013, while Cigna covered 483,363 people in the state, according to the most recent figures available from the Connecticut Insurance Department. Anthem had nearly 49 percent of the private insurance market, while Cigna covered 20 percent of customers.

But the two companies overlap only in certain parts of the market. Cigna has minimal presence in the state’s individual market – it currently has 317 policies in effect – and does not sell plans through the state’s small-group market, while Anthem is a leading carrier in both markets.

Will it affect prices?

This is a picture of Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade.

While the companies emphasized affordability, some critics raised concerns that growing market power could lead to increased prices for consumers.

“The combined effect of these mergers will reduce the number of large, national health insurance providers from five to three – limiting access to affordable health care and raising premiums,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a statement. “These mergers must be seriously scrutinized to ensure that consumers and health care providers are protected from mega-insurer market power abuse.”

Some research indicates that premiums have gone up after past insurance company consolidation. But it’s not clear how applicable that research is to current conditions because of the significant changes created by the federal health law, said Sabrina Corlette, senior research fellow and project director at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.

“I think there’s really no good current research out there that helps us say definitively what might happen,” she said.

Corlette said the impact could vary by market. Because Humana has a large presence in Medicare plans, for example, she said that market could be particularly affected by Aetna’s acquisition of the company, while the product of an Anthem-Cigna transaction could be particularly strong in the employer market.

Consolidation can give insurers more leverage in negotiating what they will pay health care providers for care, which is a major factor in the cost of insurance.

In some areas, dominant hospital systems can now drive price negotiations, since insurers can’t afford to not have those hospitals in their networks, experts said.

In theory, consolidation among insurers could counter the bargaining power that dominant hospital systems have, said John Aloysius Cogan Jr., a professor at the UConn School of Law and a former Rhode Island insurance regulator. But, he added, that’s not a foregone conclusion, and hasn’t been the case in some markets with one dominant insurer.

Cogan noted that hospital-insurer negotiations are among the few areas of health care that are not regulated.

“I’m not so sure that this is going to make things better,” Cogan said of insurance company consolidation. “I don’t know that it’s going to make things worse. There’s already a pretty unhealthy dynamic in the mechanisms in the market that establish prices.”

While the number of major national insurers could drop if the Aetna and Anthem purchases go through, Wadleigh said Connecticut’s insurance industry is “pretty diverse.” Massachusetts-based Harvard Pilgrim Health Care recently entered the market, while HealthyCT began operating in 2014. Farmington-based ConnectiCare now has the most customers in the state’s individual market.

But Wadleigh said he’s been hearing that across the country, regional insurers are getting nervous about their ability to remain competitive. “Those are some of the things that I will always be on the lookout for to make sure that all of our carriers have some sort of even playing field so they can represent all of our customers equally,” he said.

Connecticut’s insurance department will review the proposed transaction and evaluate, among other things, whether it would substantially reduce competition in any line of business. The deal is also subject to approval by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission.

Wade, Connecticut’s commissioner, worked for Cigna for 21 years and her husband is an attorney at the company. Asked earlier this week if she would participate in any regulatory action related to the company, Wade said she would determine that “when the facts of the situation present itself.”

Cigna’s presence in Connecticut

Catherine Smith, commissioner of community and economic development.

For Connecticut, there’s another consideration: Cigna employs thousands of people in the state. The company made Bloomfield its corporate home in 2011 as part of a deal with the state worth between $47 million and $71 million. In exchange for tax credits, a loan and job training grants, Cigna promised to create at least 200 jobs within two years, maintain its 3,883 Connecticut jobs and make at least $100 million in technology and real-estate investments.

Among other things, the agreement requires Cigna to maintain its Bloomfield and Windsor operations for at least 10 years. If the company were to relocate those operations outside the state during that period, it would have to repay all tax credits and funding provided by the state.

Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith said Friday that her agency would be in a “wait and see mode” while the two companies determine how to integrate, but hopes to talk to them when they’re ready about the “benefits of being in the state.” Smith said the state has the advantage of having a “deep pool of talent” in the industry as well as legal, accounting and actuarial firms with expertise in insurance. And she noted that Anthem and Cigna don’t serve overlapping customers.

“We’re optimistic they need a lot of those employees, that they will end up retaining a large footprint here,” she said.

The announcement Friday that Anthem Inc. plans to buy Bloomfield-based Cigna Corp. comes amid a period of rapid consolidation in the health care industry that some observers have likened to an arms race.

Hospitals – seeking, among other things, greater leverage in negotiating with insurers – have increasingly been joining larger systems, while the insurance industry – already concentrated in many states – is poised to undergo even more consolidation.

Where does that leave consumers?

“That’s the million dollar question right now,” said Jim Wadleigh, chief executive of Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT.

Experts say potential benefits of consolidation include economies of scale that can lead to reduced costs, while potential drawbacks include reduced competition that could have the opposite effect on prices.

“The [question] that everyone is worried about is, are these hospital systems just going to make money, or are the carriers just going to make more money and leave the consumer behind and ultimately not reaping the reward?” Wadleigh said.

The Anthem-Cigna deal follows the announcement earlier this month that Hartford-based Aetna had reached an agreement to buy Humana. Both deals must be reviewed by federal and state regulators in what could be lengthy processes. Anthem and Cigna said Friday they expect the acquisition to close in the second half of 2016.

“It in some sense makes sense to have companies come together, but obviously we need to make sure there’s enough competition in the marketplace and that people have choices,” Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade said in an interview earlier this week. “As things present, we’ll all be looking very closely at this.”

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President Obama Visits Kenya, Says Africa is On the Move


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

President Barack Obama on Friday made his first official trip to his father’s homeland: Kenya.

Despite a security breach and other concerns, Obama reunited with his 96-year-old grandmother Sarah Obama and his sister Auma Obama in Nairobi. This is the first public–and long sought after–visit with his African relatives since his ascendancy to the White House.

“It was a wonderful time,” Obama said  after spending time with his relatives this weekend. He said he will have “more freedom to reconnect” when he’s no longer president.

 

His homecoming in Nairobi, Kenya also included the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi. His three-day visit to Kenya will address business and investment and the region’s security threats.

At the summit, he urged equal rights for gays and lesbians in Africa and more opportunities for women and girls.

“When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread,” Obama said during a joint news conference Saturday with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

However, his host Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta disagreed and said gay rights was a “non-issue.”

Gay rights are “not really an issue on the foremost mind of Kenyans. And that is a fact,” he said.

To aid Kenya’s economic trajectory, Obama announced more than $1 billion new commitments from the U.S. government, as well as American banks, foundations and philanthropists. Half of the money, White House officials said, will go to support women and young people, who Obama says face bigger obstacles when trying to start businesses in a growing economy. Africa, Obama said, is one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

He also visited Memorial Park Saturday for a wreath laying ceremony in honor of the victims of the deadly 1998 bombing at the U.S. Embassy.

While in Kenya, Obama is also scheduled to meet civil society groups to discuss human rights and civil liberties.

Obama first visited Kenya three decades ago and then in 2006 as a senator in Chicago.

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Hartford Police Arrest Shooting Suspect


HARTFORD — A Hartford man is facing charges of  attempted murder after shooting a Windsor man six times, leaving him in critical condition.

Deshawn Walton, 20, of Hartford, was charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault, criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit.

Walton allegedly shot  Tequan Vail, 25, of Windsor on on July 18  at about 8 p.m. inside a building at 2006 Main St., police said. Vail suffered six gunshot wounds to his head, neck, chest, back and shoulder.

Walton, who goes by the street name of “Debo” and is a suspect in other shootings, was arrested on Thursday in Hartford.

Walton is being held on a $3.5 million bond.

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Children’s Museum Receives Grant


WEST HARTFORD —  The New Children’s Museum received a $20,000 grant from SBM Charitable Foundation and a $5,000 grant from the programs for Manchester schools.

Through its SAFA programs, the Museum engages students at low-income schools with innovative, hands-on STEM activities. SAFA programs span a wide range of subject matter including engineering, chemistry, zoology, astronomy, physics, and environmental science. Programs are designed to excite children about learning and help close the achievement gap.

Support from SBM and the Ruddell Fund will allow the Museum to purchase new equipment for ecology activities, develop new curricula, and carry out SAFA programs with K-6 Manchester students throughout the 2015-2016 academic year. These enhancements will build upon last year’s programs, in which students learned real-life scientific skills. In one SAFA class, students collected water, sediment, and microorganism samples at a nearby stream, collaboratively analyzed the samples, and translated their findings into visual data.

The New Children’s Museum is positioned as a premier STEAM education center, integrating science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Home to over 100 live animals, the Museum features hands-on science exhibits, out-of-this world digital planetarium shows, and programs for young children and families.

The New Children’s Museum and Roaring Brook Nature Center are the region’s premiere destinations for science and nature exploration. The New Children’s Museum and Preschool are located at 950 Trout Brook Drive in West Hartford and Roaring Brook Nature Center is located at 70 Gracey Road in Canton. More information is available at www.TheChildrensMuseumCT.org.

For more information on Science Achievement for All or to sponsor an educational program, please contact Julie Barnofski Portfolio, Grants Manager, at jportfolio@thechildrensmuseumct.org or (860) 231-2830 x51.

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