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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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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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Obama Unveils Quicker Family Reunification for Filipino WWII Vets

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House responded to years of pressure from immigrant rights groups on Wednesday with an announcement of a new policy that will expedite the process of bringing certain family members of Filipino veterans of World War II to the United States.

The policy, announced along with a number of other efforts that are a part of President Obama’s executive actions to improve the U.S. immigration system, would skip the long wait times— sometimes more than 25 years — for family members of these Filipino veterans, who are now American citizens or legal permanent residents, to immigrate legally to the U.S.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State, according to the White House, “will work together to provide clear guidance to the public on the application process, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.”

Advocates for the policy directive immediately hailed the announcement, hoping that it will be implemented soon.

Day to celebrate

“This is the day to celebrate,” said Mee Moua, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC).

In 1941, more than 260,000 Filipinos responded to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call to fight side-by-side with American soldiers during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. After the war, in 1945, Roosevelt promised these Filipino veterans U.S. citizenship and veterans’ benefits.

But it took nearly 50 years for the U.S. government to grant citizenship to Filipino veterans, in 1990, and since then they have been waiting for their children to join them in the U.S.

And because the U.S. government puts limits on visas so that each country can only receive 7 percent of the 226,000 family-sponsored available visas every year, the wait for Filipino American families can exceed many years or even decades.

Of the 4.2 million people waiting for family-sponsored visas, nearly one-third are from Asian countries, including the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam.

Inhumanely long backlog

“Until now, the inhumanely long visa backlog has separated them [Filipino veterans] from their children and denied them the opportunity to live together in the United States,” Moua added. “It’s long past time the U.S. made good on its promise and we hope [the] USCIS will implement this as quickly as possible.”

“We are extremely pleased to hear the good news coming from the White House, that Filipino World War II Veterans will soon be reunited with their families,” said JT Mallonga, national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations.

Mallonga added, “They have endured so much pain waiting for many years for this to happen. But with this latest executive action by the Obama administration, our ailing and aging heroes will no longer be separated from their loved ones.”

Estimates indicate that there are about 6,000 Filipino veterans of World War II who are still alive in the United States today. Now in their 80s and 90s, most of them need the care and assistance of their families, and they long to reunite with their family members during their golden years.

Parole as an avenue

“Parole is an avenue provided under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that allows individuals to come to the United States for a temporary period of time,” according to the White House announcement, “based upon urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”

However, the Obama administration has not provided any specific details on the eligibility requirements of the policy, or when will it be implemented. Considering it is part of Obama’s executive actions, many are concerned that the policy may no longer be enforced once his presidential term ends in 2016.

Recognizing the challenges ahead, Erin Oshiro, AAJC’s immigration and immigrant rights program director, says that advocacy groups are now reaching out to the administration and putting more pressure to move forward with the implementation of the new family reunification policy for Filipino veterans.

“It never moved quickly in D.C. Time is really of the essence here,” Oshiro added. “But this is an opportunity for us and the community to weigh in and ask the White House to make this program possible.”

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CT Unemployment Rate Hits Lowest Mark Since July 2008

HARTFORD — Connecticut’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.7 percent in June, its lowest point since July 2008, as the state added 600 jobs last month – including 2,600 in the private sector that offset losses in government employment, the state Department of Labor reported Monday.

The state has added 27,900 jobs across all sectors since June 2014, when the unemployment rate stood at 6.5 percent.

Connecticut now has gained 13,800 jobs through the first six months of 2015. The state has recovered 97,900 positions, or 82.3 percent of the 119,000 jobs lost during the last recession.

“Above-trend private-sector job growth looks to be continuing, while the jobless rate has recently declined significantly,” said Andy Condon, director of the labor department’s Office of Research.

“This is yet another milestone reached – unemployment is down to its lowest point in seven years,” Gov Dannel P. Malloy said. “This news comes just a month after we created nearly 6,000 jobs, a huge one-month total.  We are no doubt making progress, and our strategy is no doubt moving Connecticut forward.”

The governor added that these numbers are “another marker that residents’ lives are improving, and another indicator that our economy continues to head in the right direction as a result of our efforts to create jobs.  We know that until everyone that wants a job has one, our work is not complete.”

Peter Gioia, chief economist for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, noted that Connecticut’s rate is still more than 1 percentage point higher than that of Massachusetts. It also exceeds the national rate of 5.3 percent, “and shows just how stubborn our economic recovery (is) more than five years after the end of the recession,” he said.

Four of the state’s 10 major industry supersectors experienced job gains last month, while five declined, and the information supersector remained unchanged.

The construction and mining supersector enjoyed the biggest gain, adding 2,300 positions in June, while financial activities, manufacturing and professional and business services also grew.

The government supersector faced the biggest drop in June, shedding 2,000 jobs – primarily at the municipal government level. According to the labor department, the timing of local school closing can shift public employment levels sharply during the summer months.

Other supersectors that lost jobs in June include: leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation and utilities; education and health services; and other services.

Two of the state’s four major labor market areas gained jobs in June, led by Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, which added 2,100 positions. The New Haven market added 100 jobs.

The greater Hartford area was the biggest loser, shedding 1,500 positions, while the Norwich-New London-Westerly market dropped 500.

ct unemployment2ChartSC.asp

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Meriden Man Charged with Unemployment Fraud

MERIDEN –A Meriden man was arrested on Monday for using Social Security numbers assigned to two out-of-state women to allegedly collect more than $12,000 in unemployment.


Miguel Mendoza, 28,  of 114 Liberty St. in Meriden was charged with one count each of larceny in the first degree by defrauding a public community and unemployment compensation fraud.


The arrest is the result of an investigation by the Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney following a complaint by the Connecticut Department of Labor.


According to the arrest warrant, Mendoza fraudulently collected about  $12,513 in unemployment benefits from December 2009 through March 2013. He used Social Security numbers assigned to female residents of Tennessee and Massachusetts.


Mendoza was arraigned today in New Britain Superior Court. His bond was set at $25,000 cash only and the case was continued until Aug. 25, 2015.



The case is being prosecuted by the Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit, which was established under a partnership between the Division of Criminal Justice and the Department of Labor to investigate and prosecute alleged fraud in the unemployment compensation program.

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Hartford Celebrates AmeriCorps

HARTFORD — During the 50th anniversary celebration of AmeriCorps VISTA, Mayor Pedro E. Segarra on Tuesday announced the launch of the North Hartford Promise Zone AmeriCorps VISTA project.

The project aims to assist in achieving the goals of the newly-designated North Hartford Promise Zone, including improving the quality of life for residents through increased economic activity, improved educational opportunities, reduction of serious and violent crimes, improved health and wellness, job creation, and improved home ownership and rental housing assistance programs.

“The North Hartford Promise Zone will be strengthened by the addition of five AmeriCorps VISTA members who will help achieve Promise Zone goals in job creation, affordable housing, crime reduction, economic development, education, health and wellness for North Hartford,” said Mayor Segarra.

Hartford was awarded a Promise Zone designation for North Hartford – a 3.11 square-mile area encompassing the Clay Arsenal, Northeast and Upper Albany neighborhoods – making Hartford the first City in New England to have been selected as a Promise Zone community by the Obama Administration.

The Promise Zone is a White House initiative designed to support high need, high capacity communities across the country with implementing neighborhood revitalization strategies focused on job creation, increased access to quality, affordable housing, expanded educational opportunities, improved public safety and improved health outcomes.

AmeriCorps VISTA, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, helps build the capacity of nonprofit organizations, addresses underlying causes of poverty, and engages the local community in developing sustainable solutions to end poverty.

In Connecticut, more than 60 AmeriCorps VISTA members are currently serving at 45 sites.

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Obama Designates State Funding

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD  — President Barack Obama’s administration has given the green light for several states to access $1 billion in federal funding for economic development and to boost manufacturing.

This is one of several key pillars of the President’s strategy to “accelerate progress in U.S. manufacturing and improve the competitiveness” on the global marketing.

Connecticut is one of 12 applicants to receive this designation by Obama’s administration’s Investing in Manufacturing Committee Partnership Initiative.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the designation will ultimately help the state “accelerate and enhance our initiatives to boost innovation, worker skills, supply chain capabilities, infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Malloy said Connecticut was selected because the state hosts sizeable aerospace and defense shipbuilding industries.

For decades, manufacturing was a major economic driver in America. After the economic boom in the 1940s and 1950s, many manufacturing jobs declined, and companies moved out of rural and urban areas.

The Obama administration is aiming to improve the economy with this latest development.

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Gov. Malloy’s Chief of Staff to Leave Office

By Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  One of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s top aide will be leaving his post by the end of 2015.

In an announcement to the press on Monday, Malloy said the departure of his longtime Chief of Staff, Mark Ojakian is necessary. Ojakian has served in one of the state’s most powerful position for almost four years. Known as OJ inside the state capitol, Malloy’s top advisor works long hours and serves as his confidante on many issues.  He  has  “a reputation for working people pretty hard.”

“I will miss working with Mark on a daily basis, but I understand it is time for him to turn the page to a different chapter in his life.  Mark has been one of my most trusted friends and advisors,” Governor Malloy said.  “Through his efforts, we have been able to make an agreement with labor that allowed the state to cut billions in long-term debt, passed an increase in the minimum wage, implemented paid sick leave, made record investments in transportation, and passed a sweeping reforms to our criminal justice system.”

Before joining Malloy’s office, Ojakian, 61, served as Deputy Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management and served as Deputy Comptroller under then-State Comptroller Nancy Wyman for 16 years.

In his role as Deputy Comptroller, he acted as senior policy advisor, oversaw over 250 employees, and had fiscal responsibility for over $1 billion in state accounts.

Malloy said Ojakian, who is openly gay, agreed to move on to another chapter in his life.

“It has been an honor to serve Governor Malloy.  He is not only a dedicated, hardworking public servant who has put our state on the path of progress, but he has also been a great friend,” Ojakian said.  “I will miss working with Governor Malloy.”

Ojakian lives in West Hartford with his husband, his two sons and two grandchildren.

Malloy is expected to announce Ojakian’s replacement in the coming weeks.

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East Hartford Schools Receive Grant

EAST HARTFORD — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded the East Hartford Public Schools a grant to start pre-Kindergarten services.

The $641,205 start-up funding for pre-K services would allow up to  260 students to participate in the federal Head Start grant.

This grant–for the last 25 years, was coming from the Community Renewal Team.

But this year, the East Hartford Public Schools was a direct grantee, receiving the money directly from Health and Human Services


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French Tall Ship Hermione To Dock in Newport, Rhode Island

By Liz Kelly, Contributor

NEWPORT, R.I. — The largest and most authentically built Tall Ship in 150 years, Hermione, an exact replica of General Lafayette’s Frigate of Freedom, is due to arrive at Fort Adams in Newport.

The ship, docking on July 8 for a two-day stay, is reenacting the return of 22 year-old General Lafayette to the shores of Colonial America 235 years ago, heralding France’s critical support of the Colonies’ War of Independence.

In celebration of this beautifully reconstructed Tall Ship’s arrival and the important journey it commemorates, numerous events are planned throughout Newport July 8-9, including tours of the Hermione, dedications, lectures, Colonial military drills and Colonial theme dinners, demonstrations, and even lunch with Lafayette’s friend and commander, General George Washington.

The voyage of the Hermione is in part to symbolize and rekindle through the Hermione the intimate ties between France and the United States, and the spirit of liberty that sustains them, and to demonstrate the inestimable value of history and show that it can be a living force in increasing our understanding of the world.

Able to hold a crew of 242, 72 volunteers, one-third women, are on this journey, most of whom gave up their ‘real life’ to become steeped in the history of the vessel that changed the course of America’s War of Independence.

Events begin July 8 at 9:30 a.m. with a dedication ceremony and end July 9 at 10:00 p.m. with a Farewell Ceremony as Hermione departs.

The public is welcome to join French and American dignitaries for the festivities honoring this historic occasion as Tall Ship Hermione docks at Fort Adams in full splendor

For more information, visit: and

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