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Travel: Cape Ann Delivers Another DoctoberFest

CAPE ANN  — DoctoberFest has become an annual tradition at the Cape Ann Cinema & Stage. Now in its seventh year, it will boast seven days of the latest documentary films and other activities for attendees.

From Oct. 16 through Oct. 22, the festival will also feature special guests, an Indian dinner, hosted discussions, and a commemorative “Back to the Future” art installation.

Among the list of films are:

*FINDERS KEEPERS  (Fri. Oct. 16 @ 7:30 p.m. & Sat. Oct. 17 7:30 p.m.) is the acclaimed, morbidly comic crowd pleaser about the battle for ownership of a missing human leg.

*MEET THE PATELS  (Sun. Oct. 18 @ 6:30 p.m.) is a fun flick about a young, unmarried Indian man who, under pressure from his family, agrees to let his traditional family choose his bride. The film will be accompanied by a light Indian meal provided by Anmol India <> in Beverly.

*THE YEAR WE THOUGHT ABOUT LOVE  (Mon. Oct. 19 @ 7:30 p.m.) is about the diverse Boston LGBTQ troupe True Colors: OUT Youth Theater, as they write a play about love. Associate producer Pam Chamberlain, who was the first out schoolteacher in Massachusetts in the 1970s, will host a Q&A after the film, which will also be attended by a couple of the young people from the film.

*THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING (Tues. Oct. 20 @ 7:30 p.m.) is a premiere film event about climate change based on Naomi Klein’s best-selling book, and suggests that the impending crisis is the last best chance that mankind will ever have to self-empower and build a better world. Linda Haley from will be on hand with information about the film and her organization.
*BACK IN TIME (Wed. Oct. 21 @ 7:30 p.m.) is an all-access behind-the-scenes look at the phenomenon that is the “Back To The Future” trilogy, with new interviews with cast and crew as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first movie. On display at the Cinema through the end of November are 17 iconic minimalist “Back to the Future” prints by Geoff Bloom <>, part of his fantastic “Cinema Obscura” series.

(Thurs. Oct. 22 @ 7:30 p.m.) looks at the craziness that was National Lampoon (1970-1998), the Harvard Lampoon offshoot that changed the course of comedy in nearly every medium.
Advance tickets for all features are available at the box office or online at All tickets are $10.50 for adults, $9.00 for students and seniors (60+), and $7.50 for Cinema members, with tickets for “Meet The Patels” priced at $20.00, $18.00 for Cinema members.
*The Cape Ann Cinema & Stage, now in its ninth year, is a living-room-style digital cinema in downtown Gloucester that shows the best independent and foreign films, as well as live theater, music, and comedy. More information at

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Hartford Officials to Hold Hearing on New Energy Facility

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford resident are invited to have their say about the city’s proposal to improve the water and energy supply.

Mayor Pedro Segarra will join the Hartford’s Advisory Commission on the Environment and the Department of Energy and Environment Protection for a hearing to discuss proposed plans for a new technological approach to improve waste processing at Hartford’s waste to energy facility.

The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Gina McCarthy Auditorium, 79 Elm St. in Hartford.

DEEP officials will present plans to upgrade the facility, and residents will then have a chance to asked questions about how this new upgrade would affect quality of life in the city.

Businesses can bid for a chance to work on the proposal by submitting bits to  the ‘Request for Proposals’ at: .


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Fire Fighters Investigating Capen Street Blaze

HARTFORD — The Hartford fire department are still investigating a fire that happened on Capen Street on Thursday.

Late Thursday, firefighters responded to a three-alarm fire that set a blaze to a multi-family house  on Capen Street late Thursday.

The fire began at about 9:30 p.m. and witnesses said that smoke could be seen coming from the rear of the building.

 Late evening, police had to block off the area to traffic to contain the blaze.


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Police: Children Taken From Hartford DCF Home Found

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — State officials on Tuesday found the two children who were taken from a Department of Children and Families facility on Hamilton Road.

Police said the unidentified children are now safe.

The children, both of whom are 7 years and 7 months old, were taken by their mother from the facility, police said.

There’s no more information available at this time about where the children were held or why they were taken from the facility.

Police is still investigating the matter.

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Malloy’s Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer to Resign

Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s labor commissioner is retiring.

Sharon Palmer, 71,  a former teachers’ union president and AFL-CIO officer, is  leaving after working 58 years for the state.

She has several reasons to retire now.

“Why not? I’m turning 72,” said Palmer, who says her working life began 58 years ago. “I’ve never been laid off, never unemployed since I was 14. It’s time.”

Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman  announced Palmer’s decision Friday afternoon with tribute statements.

She, who was appointed in 2012, was the governor’s second commissioner. Her career began in education as a science and math teacher in Waterford. She was a teacher for the Department of Defense, instructing the children of military personnel in Hanover, Germany.

When Malloy appointed her commissioner, she was a vice president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO and president of the state chapter of American Federation of Teachers, two of Malloy’s strongest supporters.

Those programs included initiatives to fight unemployment insurance fraud and the misclassification of employees in the construction trade as contractors, a practice that allows unscrupulous companies to undercut to avoid paying workers’ compensation costs and undercut legitimate competitors.

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Youth Service Officers: We are not Abusing Kids in Jail

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A state investigation that uncovered improper use of restraint and seclusion at Connecticut’s juvenile correction facilities left out one important element, front line staff members say: their voices.

“We cannot and will not be portrayed as the enemy or the abuser of the young people we are dedicated to helping and healing,” says Suzanne Borner, a teacher at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for boys in Middletown.

“We ask you to remember that every story has another side, and a whole lot more context. Please hear ours,” said George Register, a youth service officer of eight years.

For example, consider  the story of Jennie.

A video of her being violently tackled from behind in a hallway was among those made public by the Office of the Child Advocate and became a centerpiece of the investigation‘s condemnation the juvenile facilities’ practices. Jennie had refused to return to her cell in the Pueblo Unit, the secure facility for girls.

“What people don’t realize is that back in July there was a huge riot where every single resident in the facility at the Pueblo Unit was involved. There were staff assaults. There were youth assaults. And there was mass destruction on an entire floor of the facility because the fire system was pulled,” said Sarah Levok, a youth service officer of 13 years. A fight involving four girls happened the night before the incident with Jennie.

“The staff that were still working were under the directive to make sure that they could keep the residents contained, but they still had to have some of their needs met where the kids would have to come out to use the bathroom,” said Levok.

And when Jennie was let out and refused to be locked up in her room again, staff decided they would physically escort her back into her room.

“She did have to get secure and get placed back to where she needed to be in order to keep the unit secure,” said Levok.

Jennie and a male youth service officer were injured in the incident. Last year, 160 staff were injured restraining youth at the state-run jails costing the state nearly $1 million in medical bills or lost time from work, reports the Department of Administrative Services.

The staff’s response to noncompliance of youth in their custody has been the center of debate among mental health experts and state legislators after the release of the Jennie video and seven others showing youth being violently restrained and dragged into seclusion.

Sarah Eagan, the state’s child advocate,  points to state law which only permits restraint or seclusion when there is an imminent risk of injury to the child in custody or others.


“That’s not really what happened here. What we had here was a youth standing in the common area and who didn’t want to go to her room which does not necessitate the type of intervention we see here,” she explained during a webinar when releasing the videos last month.

“The fact that they see restraint and seclusion as the only response to the fight the night before is telling,” she said Friday. “They didn’t even have a clinician present. Everyone is such a danger, but they didn’t have a clinician there to help.”

In her 68-page investigation, she documents dozens of stories of youths being restrained or put into solitary confinement for extended periods of time for not following orders.

Frontline staff members counter that they are unfairly being demonized, that the videos are being taken out of context and that they are just following the training they have received to deal with what they describe as a dangerous population.

“Many of our residents are the size of full-grown adults. They are big kids with developmental temperaments of teenagers and oftentimes toddlers. Whatever their history, their diagnosis, no matter how strong our relationships with them, each and every one of our youth at CJTS at any given moment can become aggressive and violent. Each and every one of them is inherently an  imminent risk to themselves and other residents and staff,” explained Peter Maylor, a youth service officer of nine years.

The primary crimes that result in incarceration for youths are mostly nonviolent offenses such as larceny or drug possession, according to the 2014 annual report of CJTS. The training school and Pueblo Unit house youth who commit crimes not serious enough to warrant handling them in the adult corrections system. Last year, 163 boys and girls under age 18 were incarcerated in adult prisons run by the Connecticut Department of Correction.

But several mental health experts said after reviewing the videos that the way the youth are handled might actually be contributing to the volatile environment.

Dr. Julian Ford, a psychiatry professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center, said the videos “show adults using force and coercion in ways that worsen — or actually create — conflict by provoking and escalating youths’ stress reactions.”

Staff members say they are just using the training they have received.

“In order for YSOs to do their work safely and effectively, we need more support from our agency. We need training moments, not ‘Gotcha’ moments. We are striving to do the best we can,” said Register.

“You don’t hear about all the times that staff are talking to kids, building relationships. There are a 1,000 times a day things are deescalated as a result of relations,” said Paula Dillon, a teacher at CJTS.

Staff members explained to reporters last week at their union hall in New Britain what preceded the incidents on the videos and shared stories of the good work that takes place inside the facilities. The unionized mental health professionals that work at the correction centers did not attend the event and have not yet publicly spoken.

Surveillance videos from CJTS

With the release of the videos and the sudden changes that have been made by top officials at DCF and the public spotlight on them, they say it is hard for them to do their jobs.

“Right now our structure is compromised. Our safety is compromised and security is compromised and we are just doing our best to hold it together,” said Levok. “It is very difficult for our managers to know what to tell us. The direction that we are headed in and what to do a lot of the YSOs and staff in general are unclear what their role is. They’re doing their best to use the training.”

DCF officials have said they are working to train staff on trauma-informed best practices that refrain from using restraints and seclusion.

“The men and women working at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and the Pueblo Girls Unit have extremely demanding jobs,” said DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt “The quality of these programs depends on our staff, so it is the department’s responsibility to provide them with our fullest support… We are committed to reducing the use of restraints whenever possible because we are convinced that will be better for youth and safer for staff.  We thank our staff at these programs for the hard work and dedication that they bring every day as they care for these youth. We know how difficult their jobs are and will do everything possible to support the staff in helping the youth. This includes reducing physical interventions.”

Asked if any of the incidents on the videos on the tapes were problematic, staff members who met with reporters last week said no.

hose videos just portrayed us in that one moment. It just looks like people ganging up on kids and restraining them. It never goes like that. There is a great deal of counseling that goes on before anything happens physically with youth,” said James Core, a youth service officer of nine years.

Frontline staff described the hours of talking with youngsters about their problems and the “watch sheets” that show staff checking in on he children when they are in seclusion.

“There’s staff right outside the doors, watching and checking on them,” said Levok.

While she respects their perspective, Eagan said, her investigation revealed that the staff relies too heavily on restraint and closed-door seclusion as opposed to therapeutic interventions and that the agency was unwilling to investigate her concerns.

“These issues are not created by staff and are not unique to Connecticut, but rather can be found in juvenile prisons around the country,” she said. “The videos depict common protocols and procedures in the facility and the additional harms that come to youth and staff through depicted interventions.”

Kristy Ramsey, assistant superintendent of CJTS

In the case of Jennie’s handling, DCF officials have also concluded that their personnel acted improperly, though no staff members have been disciplined for their conduct. Jennie ultimately injured herself after the incident and was hospitalized.

“We recognized immediately that that was not the best way to handle that situation and that was the finding of our own internal review,” Kristy Ramsey, the assistant superintendent of the facility told state legislators two days after the release of the videos.

So far, the legislative hearings about CJTS  have included testimony from DCF officials and mental health experts. No hearings have taken place where the public has had a chance to testify, though top legislators have said they plan to hold one.

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GOP Calls for Renewed Session to Discuss Budget Cuts

By Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writer

General Electric, the biggest company on Connecticut’s grand list,  is making plans to move out of the state because it “does not support job creation, where it’s attractive to talent.”

That’s why some Republican legislators are calling for a special session to revisit the budget after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced a series of cuts that will hit nonprofit hospitals hard, according to some business observers. So far, a $190 million cut to hospitals is slated for the 2015-2016 budget, which began July 1.

These cuts, some say, scare off big businesses.

The Connecticut General Assembly’s Senate and House Republican leaders in a press release on Thursday shared concerns about the state’s business environment and General Electric’s potential move.

Among the cuts slated for the fiscal year is a $63.4 million reduction in Medicaid payments to hospitals. This would also trigger a loss of $128 million in matching federal dollars, state officials said.

Connecticut Hospital Association CEO Jennifer Jackson said hospitals provide many programs in their communities, which will have to be cut.

Hospital leaders said the cuts would also force them to lay off workers.

“People are going to lose their jobs at a time when we dramatically need job growth in the state of Connecticut,” Jackson said, calling the cuts “a crisis situation.”

Sen. Tony Hwang the “crisis situation”also serves to scare away big businesses like GE.

“Our state is in a crisis. Our financial house is falling apart and the very foundation is crumbling as more and more businesses and residents leave for states with a stable and livable tax structure. This situation will only get worse if we do nothing. A crisis demands immediate attention,” Hwang said.

All Republicans voted against the state budget passed earlier this year saying cuts to hospitals, which are job creators, scares away other companies.

GE spends more than $14 billion with other businesses in Connecticut to support their operations. Republican leaders said that those relationships impact over 65,000 supplier jobs across the state.

“Seeing GE leave would not only spell trouble for GE employees, perhaps even more damaging to the thousands of individuals who have jobs because of the business GE provides to other companies within our state,”said . The majorities’ decisions are driving companies and jobs out.”

Lawmakers also emphasized the need for changes in the state budget to benefit all businesses as GE is only one of many companies considering leaving the state.

“A special session to rethink this budget is needed to send a strong message to businesses, to communities, to families, that lawmakers are listening and we want to help create a better future for our state,” said House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby).

 Photo courtesy of CTMIRROR.


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Feds tell States to Stop Processing Food Stamp Benefits

WASHINGTON –The state’s 423,000 food stamp recipients could soon be early victims of Washington’s budget crisis.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has instructed the Connecticut Department of Social Services and similar agencies in all of the states to not dispense any October benefits to food stamp recipients “until further notice.”

The USDA cites the threat of a federal government shutdown on Oct. 1 as the reason for holding up the benefits. Some $60 million in food aid could hang in the balance, one Connecticut official said.

“Considering the operational issues and constraints that exist in automated systems, and in the interest of preserving maximum flexibility, we are directing States to hold their October issuance files and delay transmission to State electronic benefit transfer (EBT) vendors until further notice,” the USDA letter from Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe said.

The stopping of processing October’s benefits means recipients are likely to suffer a delay in benefits, even if Congress resolves the standoff over the federal budget in the next few days.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a champion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP) the formal name for food stamps, said she spoke with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday and was told there is not enough money in a contingency fund to continue benefits past the end of the month.

“To hear of this impending disaster when we are preparing to hear from His Holiness Pope Francis, who has spoken so eloquently about hunger, is nothing short of a cruel joke,” DeLauro said. The Pope arrived in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.

The last time the government shut down, in 2013, SNAP benefits continued because there was enough money left in a stimulus bill fund to keep the program running. This time that is not the case.

Congress is running out of time to approve a budget for fiscal year 2016 or even approve a short term funding bill, called a continuing resolution. The bill is stymied by the insistence of conservative Republicans that Planned Parenthood be defunded in the legislation.

“What kind of morality moves them?” DeLauro asked.

GOP lawmakers were prompted to defund Planned Parenthood after a series of undercover videos were released, showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing — sometimes in a cavalier manner — arrangements to provide fetal tissues to medical laboratories.

“Republicans in Congress are proposing to deprive people of food – literally. And they’re doing it over bogus videos,” said Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel Malloy. “That Congress would shut down the government over bogus videos and in the process, deprive families in need of food is unbelievably alarming and unbelievably reckless.”

David Dearborn, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Social Services, said like many other states, Connecticut administers SNAP benefits through a federal account – not grants or a reimbursement program.

“If that federal account is actually frozen in October, about $60 million in food benefits would be withheld from Connecticut households and the food economy, ranging from supermarkets to farmers’ markets, throughout the state,” Dearborn said.

Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut!, a non-profit that helps Connecticut residents sign up for the food stamp program, said damage has been done already, even if there is no shutdown. That’s because it will take a few days for benefits distribution to resume and recipients, especially the elderly, are likely to drop off the program.

“If they go to shop and there’s nothing on their cards, they are going to think they’ve been cut off,” Nolan said.

She said she would try to warn recipients about the situation. “Meanwhile, I hope the food banks and food pantries are prepared,” Nolan said.

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CT Transit’s Fastrak to Expand

Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  CTfastrak will be expanded to serve the Connecticut River into East Hartford and Manchester, state officials said on Tuesday.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy recenlty announced  that the State Bond Commission will meet next week to vote on a $7 million allocation that will allow the Connecticut Department of Transportation  to purchase buses and other capital equipment necessary to expand CTfastrak east of the river.

The bus rapid transit system currently has ten stations along the 9.4 mile bus-only roadway, which extends between New Britain, Newington, West Hartford , and Hartford, partly along abandoned rail line and existing Amtrak rail line.  The planned, expanded service east of the river would usethe existing HOV lanes on I-84.

Officials said that extending this service east of the river into East Hartford and Manchester will open access to a better transportation system for residents.

“It’s good for jobs, it’s a boost for business, and it’s a step towards making Connecticut’s transportation system best-in-class,”  Malloy said.  “By growing this service east of the river, that means service extensions to Pratt & Whitney and Goodwin College, in addition to many of the other large businesses in those towns.”

Earlier this month, officials said that the current CTfastrak system between New Britain and Hartford reached a major milestone, having served one million passenger trips since paid fair service began on April 6.

Overall, the system is averaging 14,000 passenger trips on weekdays, with 9,000 on Saturdays and 5,000 on Sundays.

“Service across the Connecticut River is a natural expansion of the very popular CTfastrak system,” CTDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker said.

State officials plan to complete this expansion by late 2016.


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Plan Parenthood to Host Discussion

NEW HAVEN — Planned Parenthood of Southern New England will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by reaffirming its commitment to eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities within the Latino and Hispanic communities.

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, PPSNE is partnering with New Haven León Sister City Project for a roundtable discussion entitled “Standing Up for Women’s Health & Women’s Lives” on Sept. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at 345 Whitney Ave., New Haven, CT.

“We believe all women and their families deserve the highest quality of care no matter who they are and where they live — no matter what. Our doors are open to everyone regardless of race, income, geography, citizenship status or gender identity,” said Kafi Rouse Director of Public Relations & Marketing with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “As the leading provider and advocate for sexual and reproductive health in Connecticut and Rhode Island, we know firsthand why it is important for the Latino community to have access to a comprehensive range of preventive health care services.”

The event will focus on strategies women are using to defend their health and their lives in New Haven and rural Nicaragua. This event is free and open to the public.

Political attempts to defund Planned Parenthood would threaten basic preventive health care services for more than 575,000 Latinos who rely on Planned Parenthood for care every year – including more than 12,000 in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Hispanics and Latinos face greater obstacles to obtaining, and benefiting from, sexual and reproductive health services than whites. As a result, they experience higher rates of reproductive cancers, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections than most other groups of people in the U.S., for example:

  • Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than women of any other racial or ethnic group
  • Approximately 56 percent of pregnancies among Latinas are unintended
  • Latinos contract HIV at more than three times the rate of whites
  • Approximately 16 percent of Latinas have not visited a physician in the last two years, and one quarter do not have a regular health care provider

 For more information, email


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