Archive | October, 2015

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The Crane Hotel: The Jewel of Caribbean Luxury Hotels


By Ann-Marie Adams I The Hartford Guardian

St. Philip, BARBADOS — Perched on the seaside bluff on the southeast coast of Barbados is The Crane, one of the many jewels of the Caribbean.
Crane  ResortThis luxury hotel is the centerpiece of a 40-acre villa complex with historic buildings and landscape gardens overlooking the Atlantic Sea.

This ocean touches the marine-blue sea of the Crane Beach that is accessible by a glass-front elevator. Arguably, it is the island’s oldest hotel in operation and the number one resort hotel in the Caribbean.
From this simple but elegant setting, you can be quite content while taking in the view from the comfort of a private plunged pool below over-sized terraces or elegant gardens.
Some bedrooms boasts four-poster mahogany, king sized beds, bathrooms with multi-jet showers and a two-person Jacuzzis emoting English charm and luxury.

Through the wooden louvre doors that open inward is an over-sized terrace above the private plunged pool, which offers a different ambiance than the garden-view rooms with old Caribbean-styled resort living suites.

The hotel, built in 1887, boasts several restaurants, including the Italian Restaurant, Donofrio’s. It offers casual dining that with a wide variety of cuisine from Old World Italy.

The seafood restaurant, L’Azure, serves up fresh seafood with a gorgeous view of the blue and marine ocean with the trade winds swirling above the cliff.

The Zen Restaurant, surrounded by glass walls above the pink-hued Crane Beach, serves up authentic Asian inspired cuisines and offer patrons.

This is understated elegance and sophistication tucked away in the lesser Antilles. And it’s only a four-hour trip from the United States.
With an understated elegance and sophistication, this storied hotel on a dramatic Cliffside location is what some call a resolutely British resort on a resolutely British island.

The Crane
St. Philip, Barbados
246-423-6220
www.thecrane.com

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Connecticut Department of Labor Sponsors Job Fair


WETHERSFIELD — More than 35 employers will be on hand in Waterbury to meet with job seekers and discuss employment opportunities during a Diverse Ability Career Fair.

The event will be held Oct. 29 at the Courtyard by Marriott 63 Grand St., Waterbury.

The job fair, “Build a Diverse Workforce – Boost Your Bottom Line,” is a free event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.,  looking for employment opportunities, as well as a resource fair for employers interested in learning about recruitment and training resources, and available support services when hiring employees with disabilities.

Sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Labor and the Department of Rehabilitation Services, along with partners Northwest Regional Workforce Board and the Connecticut Business Leadership Network, the event features a career fair from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.,

Résumé Critique/Practice Interview session for job seekers from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and a “Making Section 503 Work for You” workshop for employers at 2 p.m.

In addition, ongoing résumé critiques will be offered throughout the career fair and American Sign Language interpreters will be onsite.

Free parking will be available in the garage adjacent to the Marriott. For additional information about the Diverse Ability Career, please visit www.ctjobfairs.com.

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President Obama to Send Special Forces into Syria and Iraq


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON —  More troops will be in Syria to help the local officials fight against the so-called anti-government group in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria , according to a White House aide.

On Friday President Obama authorized dozens of Special Operations Forces to Syria. This would be the first time US troops work on the ground, officials said.

ISIS GRAPHIC

This move by President Barack Obama is a part of the overall effort to deter terrorist activities in the region.

Several other steps were also announced Friday, including a new potential deployment to Iraq.

According to reports, White House officials are working with the Iraqi government to set up a “Special Operations Force task force to further enhance our ability to target ISIL leaders and networks.” That includes sending special aircrafts, including F-15 fighters and A-10s to the Incirlik air base in Turkey.

Additionally, Coalition aircraft also hit Islamic State fighting positions, weapons and other targets near five Iraqi cities, including Sinjar and Tal Afar, a military statement released on Friday said.

Reuters first reported that the administration was sending forces to Syria to serve as advisers.

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State Revokes Property Management’s License


HARTFORD — The Connecticut Real Estate Commission recently revoked the community association manager’s registration of Ennis Property Management, Inc.  The Commission onfound that Ennis Property Management Inc. identified a condominium roof as storm damaged and then ordered replacement without the consent of the Condominium Association.

The Commission further found that Ennis Property Management Inc. paid the individual owner of the Corporation, Robert Ennis, ten percent of the replacement cost, totaling over six thousand dollars.

Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris said, “This should serve as a warning to all association managers to not engage in self-interested financial arrangements.”

The complainant, Donald Kennedy, speaking on behalf of Silversmith Association, who brought this issue to the Department’s attention, thanked the Department of Consumer Protection and the Real Estate Commission for their handling of this case.

“The State has the responsibility to protect consumers from individuals who break the law and in this case the State did a great service for us, the consumers,” Harris said.

 

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Hartford Officials Host Public Safety Law Debate


HARTFORD — Hartford officials hosted a Community Forum on the Second Chance Society Bill to discuss the impact of the new public safety law.

Members of the public and representatives from local community groups were in attendance to learn more about the new initiative and have their questions answered by State Rep. Matt Ritter’s State Sen. Eric Coleman (D-Bloomfield) and others.

Connecticut Department of Corrections Commissioner Scott Semple and Undersecretary of Criminal Justice and Policy Planning Mike Lawlor served as panelists at the forum and discussed the predicted impact of the Second Chance Society Law.

“The Second Chance Society initiative will lower incarceration rates for non-violent crimes so that minor offenses don’t carry disproportionate penalties,”  Coleman said. “This is a new policy that’s being  instituted in states across America,  and I think the more the public learns about it, the more questions that are asked and answered about it, the greater the support will be.”

For years, Connecticut’s drug policies have swelled its prisons with nonviolent drug offenders who struggle to reintegrate into society upon release. A “Second Chance Society” will reverse these policies largely by reducing jail time for such offenders.

“Gov.  Malloy’s goal is to reduce crime by focusing on violent, high risk offenders.  The Second Chance Society reforms will help substance abusers succeed in recovery, find housing and employment and stay out of jail.  The barriers to employment and housing that many ex-offenders face will be eliminated for those who have turned their lives around,” remarked Undersecretary Lawlor.

“It is promising to see community engagement with such an important topic on the table. The Connecticut Department of Correction will continue to enhance our Reentry efforts to compliment  Malloy’s Second Chance Society,” said Commissioner Scott Semple.

 

 

 

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Malloy Postpones Raises for 1,600 State Agency Managers


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy postponed raises Thursday for about 1,600 non-union managers, saving more than $5 million this year – an opening, cost-cutting salvo on the eve of bipartisan negotiations to stabilize state finances.

The governor, who will begin talks Monday with legislative leaders to close an estimated $118 million deficit in this year’s budget – and to begin mitigating a larger shortfall after the next state election – also directed agency heads to intensify efforts to identify services that are not core government functions and therefore could be cut.

Malloy’s office didn’t release any statement about the directives.

But according to a memorandum from his budget chief, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, cost-of-living and merit raises due next month for non-union managers are deferred “until at least January 1, 2016.” The directive does not affect $1.4 million in raises awarded in December 2014 to 200 appointees of Malloy and other constitutional officers.

The governor and the legislature had included about $5.1 million in this fiscal year’s budget to provide raises starting in mid-November for about 1,600 departmental and agency managers.

This included a 3 percent cost-of-living raise and merit pay hikes averaging about 1.5 percent, for a total average increase of about 4.5 percent.

“Because of the scale of the problem we face, we need to make every effort to ensure that we are able to realize savings,” Barnes wrote to commissioners.

The governor’s budget director also asked agency heads to continue several efforts that have been in effect throughout the fiscal year – and for much of the past five years, including:

  • Deferring all spending possible “without impacting health and public safety.”
  • Restricting overtime, hiring and other staffing costs whenever possible.

Barnes also tasked each department with reviewing all services it currently provides “with an eye toward identifying what activities are core government functions and what are not. We must acknowledge that our budget reality today demands that we consider reducing or eliminating some non-core services.”

Malloy announced on Monday that weaker-than-anticipated state income tax receipts have opened a $118 million hole in the budget. That represents a relatively modest two-thirds of 1 percent of the general fund, which covers the bulk of the state’s annual operating costs.

But there are other causes for concern.

This is the second deficit Malloy has reported since the fiscal year began on July 1.

In mid-September, the governor reported a $103 million shortfall – also attributed to weak income tax receipts – and closed that gap largely with emergency cuts to hospitals and social services. Legislators from both parties have since objected to those cuts and pledged to find alternative spending reductions.

Also, the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis says state finances, unless adjusted, are on pace to run much deeper in the red – about $927 million – in 2017-18, the first fiscal year after the November 2016 state elections.

And if the income tax revenue erosion trends identified this fall project out into the next few years – as they traditionally do – the post-election shortfall swells to about $1.1 billion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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President Obama to Address Substance Abuse


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Many Americans died from drug overdose—not heroine but prescription drugs.

 
That’s why President Barack Obama will spotlight on the growing substance-abuse problem in the country.

 
“More Americans die every year from drug overdoses than they do in car crashes,” Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday. “And most of those deaths aren’t due to drugs like cocaine or heroin – but rather prescription drugs.”

 

 

 

 
This abuse leads to the use of harder drugs. For example, heroine use is on the rise, up 33 percent from 2013 to 2014.

 
Obama plans to travel to Charleston, West Virginia to host a community discussion on the prescription drug abuse and heroin epidemic and propose increased funding to address substance abuse. This move, the White House said, 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan.

 
Communities in West Virginia and in states across the country have been developing and implementing responses that involve all sectors of their communities.

 
Obama hopes to discuss local, state and federal efforts as well as private sector initiatives with those who are addressing the epidemic on a daily basis.
He said addressing America’s drug problem would reduce the cost of a burgeoning prison system.

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Malloy Calls for Bipartisan Talks as Budget Hole Deepens


Declaring that weak income tax receipts opened the second major state budget deficit in two months, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took a new approach Monday, calling for bipartisan negotiations to cut spending, stabilize state financing and address the deeper question of how much government Connecticut can afford.

“We must define government’s core services now and what government can fund year after year in the future,” Malloy said. “Despite suggestions or claims to the contrary, what we define as governmental services cannot be comprised as every single line item in the budget.”

Malloy said he will outline his priorities next week and call the General Assembly into special session when he and the legislative leaders reach a consensus.

The Democratic governor, who previously had referred to Republican calls for major labor concessions as “not serious” and “unrealistic,” also said that labor savings must be an element of the fiscal examination he envisions. He offered no details, saying he will not negotiate in the media.

The new shortfall he announced was estimated at nearly $120 million. That represents less than three-quarters of 1 percent of this fiscal year’s general fund, but the new projection comes barely a month after the administration reported a $103 million shortfall — and subsequently closed it with emergency cuts aimed largely at hospitals and social services.

Malloy ruled out tax hikes, something legislators from both sides of the aisle have been avoiding as well. The new two-year state budget enacted in late June boosts a wide array of taxes by about $1.3 billion over the biennium, while also canceling or postponing previously approved tax cuts worth close to $500 million.

“We’ve heard the calls and seen the press releases,” Malloy said. “Now, we’ll have an opportunity for all of us to talk about specific, concrete ideas to move Connecticut forward. We must use the economic reality of the moment to have a real discussion – not just in the Capitol, but across Connecticut – about how we balance our budget this year, while continuing to build and grow for the long-term. It’s time for all of us to make tough decisions – and make them together.”

Malloy’s call for bipartisanship came with a significant dig at the GOP leaders for objecting to his $103 million in previous cuts without agreeing on alternatives.

House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, issued a statement that suggested the governor had stolen legislative thunder.

“We were prepared to offer today a more fair and equitable alternative to the current rescissions by the governor by starting with a 2.5 percent across-the-board spending reduction that would save about $125 million. This approach would have helped maintain the critical services that thousands of families rely on every day, and keeps much needed local property tax relief intact,” Sharkey said.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said he welcomed the prospect of bipartisan talks, but he, too, got in his digs at the legislature’s minority party.

“I’ve said all along that I am willing to work with the Republicans on the budget,” Looney said. “However, they need to show their commitment to participating in real negotiations. The people of Connecticut do not need Republican political posturing and schemes that include $600 million in unrealistic phantom cuts.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Len Fasano responds Monday to Gov. Malloy's proposal for bipartisan talks on the state budget.

Meanwhile, the top Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Len Fasano of North Haven, welcomed the call for bipartisan talks. But Fasano said he also believes the deficit is significantly worse than Malloy disclosed, adding that the GOP wants to participate in a process that honestly addresses the problem and stabilizes state finances for the long term.

“We have to do what’s right for the state,” Fasano said, adding that Democrats finally have “realized they’ve stepped into a big mess, and they can’t get out.”

Those “phantom cuts” Looney cited involved House and Senate Republican calls for state worker concessions to mitigate service cuts in the new biennial budget.

Unions granted concessions in 2009 and 2011, and union leaders have said repeatedly in recent months that lawmakers should consider tax hikes on the wealthy and on corporations – and not concessions – to stabilize state finances.

But while Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders criticized the GOP push for concessions as recently as last month, Malloy made it clear Monday that talk of union givebacks no longer is taboo.

“I think everything’s on the table,” Malloy said. “Labor has to be at the table.”

But the governor also noted that the current budget already sets some aggressive goals to contain labor costs.

The administration is tasked with achieving a $10.5 million savings this fiscal year and next in overtime, and also must secure a $35 million annual savings through hiring restrictions.

Larry Dorman, a spokesman for one of the largest state employee unions, Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, could not be reached for comment immediately after the governor’s announcement on Monday.

Malloy is the second Democrat in recent weeks to acknowledge the growing prospect of another call for state employee concessions.

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, said Democratic committee members searching for alternatives to the emergency cuts made to hospitals and social services have been exploring furloughs – unpaid days off – for union and non-union workers. Furloughs could not be imposed on unionized staff without negotiating with the bargaining units.

Like the earlier deficit disclosed in mid-September, the latest shortfall also stems from weaker-than-anticipated state income tax receipts.

But while the administration said the first problem chiefly was tied to capital gains, dividends and other investment earnings – which represent about 40 percent of the overall income tax stream – the latest revenue gap is tied to the income tax’s largest component: paycheck withholding.

 And while investment earnings are more volatile, paycheck withholding is seen as a stronger indicator of the state’s overall economic health.

 Despite a steady reduction in Connecticut’s unemployment rate in recent years — it fell Monday to 5.2 percent —  economists consistently note that much of this growth has come in retail and other lower paying jobs.

Fasano said his office pegs the shortfall in the current budget closer to $300 million. And if legislators want to replace the governor’s mid-September cuts of about $100 million to hospitals and social services with alternative spending reductions, then the overall challenge facing the bipartisan negotiations is roughly $400 million.

Though weaker-than-anticipated state income tax receipts are the largest component of that $400 million challenge, Fasano said, Senate Republicans have identified several other issues including:

  • Overly aggressive savings targets built into the new budget.
  • More than $80 million in debt payments in the new budget are supposed to be made using bond premiums — additional funds the state borrows when it finances capital projects at premium rates. Treasurer Denise L. Nappier, a Democrat, warned Malloy and the legislature of this problem when they adopted the budgeted back in June.
  • And anticipated shortfalls in revenues from keno gaming and from federal grants.

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Poll: Support for Hillary Clinton Drops Among California Democrats


By Allyson Escobar
Democrats in the Golden State are losing faith in Hillary Clinton.

According to a new Field Poll, the former first lady and secretary of state’s support has dramatically plummeted in the California. Clinton has dropped 19 points since May, and 26 points since February, reported the San Jose Mercury News. In contrast, Clinton’s closest rival Bernie Sanders has surged in support, the poll found.

“I think it’s primarily has to do with the fact that over the past few months almost all the news voters have heard about Hillary Clinton has been about this email scandal, and not her policy positions,” said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. “The campaign is pretty much in a defensive mode and that’s never a good thing.”

California Dems also think it would be a “good thing” for Vice President Joe Biden to enter next year’s presidential race, looking for something to get excited about.

“Certainly we’ve been hearing a lot from the Republican side, they’ve been having spirited debates,” DiCamillo added. “Maybe Democrats would like to see a little more attention paid to their side, and if Biden got in, that would add a little more balance and drama to the campaign.”

63 percent of likely voters said it would be a good thing if Biden, a strongly Catholic Democrat, runs for president. In contrast, only 15 percent said they would actually back him if he does.

“What that says to me is that Democratic voters really would like the opportunity to see their candidate against any and all comers, and Biden would certainly be welcomed into the race,” he said. “That might turn more attention to the Democratic primary.”

According to Reuters, an earlier Field Poll conducted in May found that 66 percent of likely primary voters supported Clinton as first lady during the administration of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and later a US senator from New York.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

With four months to go before the first Iowa caucuses, and eight months before California voters decide on candidates, “it’s way too early to say what will happen,” DiCamillo said. “Especially given the upcoming Democratic debates, early primary results in other states, and whatever conclusion a federal investigation reaches on whether Clinton’s email practices jeopardized classified information.”

With the email server controversy and ongoing questions about the Benghazi attack, DiCamillo noted, “If [Hillary] can effectively get people talking more about her issues than her emails, she has plenty of time to bounce back and widen her lead again.”

Only 47 percent of likely voters in next June’s Democratic primary now support Clinton. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders’ support has grown from 9 percent in May to 35 percent currently. The self-described “socialist” and Vermont senator has his strongest support in the actively liberal Bay Area, at 38 percent (to Clinton’s 45 percent).

California is almost certain to be carried by a Democrat in November, the Mercury News reported.

However, the Field Poll survey of 391 Democratic likely voters (from Sept. 17 to Oct. 4, with a five-percentage-point margin of error) seems to reflect the party’s inconsistency as candidates prepare for the first of six televised debates, hosted by CNN next Tuesday, Oct. 13 in Las Vegas.

Beyond the Golden State, Sanders has closed the gap so that Clinton now leads by only 16 percentage points, according to an average of recent national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. In Iowa, she leads Sanders by six points. In New Hampshire, Sanders leads Clinton by 11 points.

Despite wavering from some supporters, California remains a rich source of campaign cash for Clinton — she was in the Bay Area just last week to raise money in Saratoga, Belvedere, Orinda and San Francisco.

Clinton is still the most likely to win California’s primary and the nomination,” said Jack Citrin, director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. “If only because she stands a better chance against any Republican nominee. It’s improbable to me that someone with Bernie Sanders’ background would be nominated, especially once people start thinking about what’s likely to happen in the general election.”

“She communicates well with other countries…it isn’t just us, it’s the world, and we have to remember that,” Laurie Koester, 64, told the Field Poll. She also likes Clinton’s environmental views and how she handled Republican attacks on her trustworthiness, “with grace and aplomb.”

Yet on Biden’s experience, Koester said: “[Biden] can enrich the race’s dialogue. He can kind of show her the ropes.”

Overall, the Field Poll of California Democratic likely voters found:

– 47 percent support Hillary Clinton (down 19 points from May) while 35 percent support Bernie Sanders (up 26 points from May).

– Clinton’s support is weakest (45 percent) and Sanders’ support is strongest (38 percent) in the Bay Area.

– Clinton is doing much better (52 percent) than Sanders (22 percent) among Latino voters.

– 63 percent believe it would be a good thing for Vice President Joe Biden to enter the race, but only 15 percent said they would vote for him if he does.

– Fewer voters say they’d be enthusiastic about having Clinton as the party’s nominee: 37 percent now, compared to 46 percent in May. Another 42 percent say they would be satisfied if Clinton wins the nomination, while 26 percent would be dissatisfied.

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Transportation Department to Discuss I-84 Project


HARTFORD — The Connecticut Department of Transportation will hold a series of discussions about how to transform I-84 Hartford to have alternative routes into and out of the city.

Department officials will hold three public meetings to discuss the most viable alternatives being considered for the highway next to the old G. Fox building on Main Street.

Over the last six months, the CTDOT has developed and reviewed more than 100 possible alternative configurations to replace the aging I-84 Viaduct in Hartford, officials said.

Preliminary evaluations of the alternatives have addressed issues of traffic operations, safety, bicycle and pedestrian mobility, property impacts, and costs.

The CTDOT team will be presenting the results of these evaluations to gain stakeholder input on the potential for significantly reducing the number of alternatives that will be refined and subjected to more detailed investigations, including consideration of environmental, land use, traffic, bicycle and pedestrian impacts.

The meetings will take place on the following dates:

Oct. 20  4 – 8 p.m. at the Whiton Memorial Branch Library, 100 North Main St. in Manchester.

Oct. 22  4 – 8 p.m. (presentation at 6 p.m.), Elmwood Community Center, 1106 New Britain Ave., West Hartford
Oct. 29  4 – 8 p.m.  Hartford Public Library, 500 Main St., Hartford

To view the complete press release, visit the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s website.

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