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A Hate Crime Is a Hate Crime


There isn’t much left in the way of pejoratives that haven’t been said about Vester Flanagan. He was disturbed, deranged, a psychopath, maniacal, the epitome of evil, and a flat-out nut job. The gunning down of TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, and then having the gall to videotape it, and expect it to make the round of cable and network news chatter, was beyond the diabolic.

The twist in Flanagan’s heinous act is that he’s African American and the victims are white. So the inevitable finger pointing began that if it had been the other way around, African Americans would have screamed bloody murder and the furor would have raged.

This is a disingenuous argument. More than a few African Americans did call Flanagan what he was, namely a homicidal nut case, and did offer prayers and condolences to the victims’ families. It was a case of their showing that all really lives do matter.

Almost no one publicly or privately bought into Flanagan’s rambling so-called “manifesto” in which he tried to put a racial rationale on why he did what he did.

Yet, the troubling and inescapable fact is that he did just that.

This is more than enough reason not to shrug it off as the rant of a kook. If Flanagan had lived, he likely would have been slapped with a hate crime prosecution by the feds in addition to state capital murder charges.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionThe hate crime charge would have been justified. And I’m confident that many civil rights leaders would have called for hate crime charges against him. To not call a hate crime a hate crime when the perpetrator is black and the victims are white would leave them wide open to the slur that blacks are hypocrites and have a double standard when the victims are whites.

The victims of Flanagan’s rampage were innocents who, according to his manifesto, one could deduce were shot because they were white.

Blacks must mourn these murders as passionately as they do those of black victims of white attacks. And just as passionately call for the harshest punishment of the killer. The great strength of the civil rights movement was that it seized and maintained the moral high ground by never stooping to ape the violence of white racists.

The Flanagan shooting spree is deeply troubling for another reason. While it is a grotesque and extreme example of racial violence, it is hardly an aberration. Whites at times have been the targets of racially motivated attacks by blacks. While it’s true that some attacks are for their money and valuables, others are revenge assaults by blacks for real or imagined racial insults.

It is equally true that the vast majority of violent crimes against whites are committed by other whites, while the vast majority of violent crimes against blacks are committed by other blacks. It’s also true that the vast majority of racially motivated hate crimes are still committed against blacks.

Yet, even after discounting crimes that are erroneously tagged as racially motivated, many blacks do attack whites because they are white. According to FBI Hate Crime Statistics, among the single-bias hate crime incidents in 2012, there were 3,467 victims of racially motivated hate crimes. It found that nearly one in four were victims of an anti-white bias. In other words, blacks attacking whites because they were white.

A motley collection of white supremacists and rightist extremist groups has eagerly made black-on-white violence a wedge issue in their crusade to paint blacks as the prime racial hatemongers in America. Their websites and blogs shrilly rant about a so-called “wave” of black violence against whites and claim that it gets swept under the rug and the perpetrators handled with kid gloves.

A decade ago, the New Century Foundation, an ultraconservative think tank, launched a national campaign to alert whites to the danger of hate crimes committed by blacks. It uses the issue of black hate crimes to rationalize and bankroll its research into alleged genetic defects among blacks. These groups and individuals relentlessly magnify black hate crimes to oppose affirmative action programs, stronger hate crime laws and various social programs; to justify the proliferation of white-supremacist-tinged paramilitary groups, police violence and racial profiling; and to lobby for more prisons and police and tougher laws. Black-on-white violence also reinforces whites’ fears of blacks as the ultimate menace to society.

The Flanagan onslaught claimed innocent lives and caused monumental pain and suffering to the victims’ families and friends. It dangerously heightens racial distrust and further poisons racial attitudes. This is all the more reason for blacks to quickly and vigorously condemn these attacks. If not, it’s taken by some as a tacit signal that blacks put less value on white lives than on black lives. That notion is a terrible price to pay for not calling a hate crime a hate crime, no matter who commits it.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network.

 

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State Official to Discuss Nuclear Deal on Iran


HARTFORD — Connecticut residents seeking to understand the Iran nuclear agreement can have their questions answered at a community forum on Thursday in Hartford.

 
Rep. John B. Larson (CT-01) will host Chris Backemeyer of the U.S. Department of State for a community forum on the Iran nuclear agreement.
The meeting will be held Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at a location to be announced.

 

 

This  meeting is a part of President Barack Obama’s overall strategy to win approval of the Nuclear deal with Iran.

 
Larson supported Obama’s Iran agreement on July 31. Backemeyer is the Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy, and served as the lead sanctions expert in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran will help demystify why the U.S. is helping to stop Iran from building a bomb and what it means to Americans.

 
“Obviously this is a complex issue, and there is a significant amount of information to be debated and considered,” said Larson. “I am hosting this forum in the hopes of providing more information and gathering additional feedback. It is an honor to have Mr. Backemeyer join me, and I know my constituents will benefit greatly from his insights.”

 
In the weeks since the announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), Larson has attended numerous briefings both classified and otherwise with officials in the State Department and intelligence community.

 
He has also spoken directly with President Obama, and gathered feedback from constituents and advocacy groups on both sides of this agreement. His full statement can be found here.

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CT Unemployment Hits Seven-year Low of 5.4 Percent


Connecticut gained 4,100 jobs in July as the unemployment rate fell to a seven-year low of 5.4 percent, marking three consecutive months of job growth that have brought the state’s unemployment rate close to the U.S. average of 5.3 percent.

Average private-sector weekly pay was $958.91, up 2 percent over a year ago. The increase represents a gain in buying power, since the consumer price index rose by just two-tenths of a percent.

The report released Thursday by the Connecticut Department of Labor was one of the rosiest since the start of the state’s slow recovery from the great recession of 2008. The unemployment rate hasn’t been as low as 5.4 percent since May 2008.

“This is good news – our state should recognize the progress we’re making,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement. “Jobs are dramatically up, the unemployment rate is significantly down, and we’re on track to reach private sector job levels that the state hasn’t seen since before the Great Recession.”

Overall, the state now has regained 102,000 jobs, or 85.7 percent of the 119,000 seasonally adjusted positions lost from March 2008 to February 2010, when the recovery began. The private sector now has recovered 97 percent of the 111,600 jobs it lost.

“Connecticut is certainly recovering, and we seem to be accelerating somewhat,” said Peter Gioia, an economist at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. “But we’re not alone in that other states still seem to be outperforming us.”

Massachusetts, with a larger economy, gained 7,200 jobs in July and has an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.

Democratic legislative leaders saw only positive news in the report.

“Connecticut’s economic development policies are helping businesses create jobs, and the state’s job training programs like STEP-Up are preparing workers for a 21st century economy. There’s more work to do but this is extremely positive news,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.

“Early on, the General Assembly partnered with Governor Malloy to make smart, targeted investments aimed at creating jobs, and our efforts are bearing fruit,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk.

The report comes as the state’s business climate still generates bad press. General Electric, headquartered in Fairfield, is considering moving out of state, blaming Connecticut’s fiscal environment.

The report is based on preliminary nonfarm employment data for July gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Six of the 10 “super sectors” tracked by the BLS gained jobs, led by 1,600 jobs in health and education, 1,100 in financial activities, 1,000 in government and 600 in manufacturing.

Construction was the biggest loser, seeing a loss of 2,300 jobs. But it still has net growth of 1,900 over the year.

Growth was uneven throughout the state, with gains in the Harford region and lower Fairfield County and losses in the New Haven market and eastern Connecticut. Danbury reported no changes.

The private sector numbers in Connecticut have a built-in anomaly: Two major employers — the tribal casinos of eastern Connecticut — are owned by sovereign governments and are listed as public-sector employers.

The casinos have been shedding jobs for months in the face of new competition in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York.

Connecticut unemployment rate over time

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State Officials Close 23 Nail Salons for Violations


WETHERSFIELD — After a surprised investigation into the employment practices of beauty shops, the Department of Labor closed 23 salons, including five in Hartford, state officials said.

The investigation, officials said, is in response to several complaints from nail salon employees and recent news articles about questionable health and employment practices at nail salons.

According to State Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer, as a result of these investigations the wage division recovered more than $47,350 in owed wages for the employees – primarily for required minimum wage payments – and expects to collect additional money for workers.

An additional $79,000 in civil penalties was levied and collected for under reporting payroll and paying employees in cash and $21,300 for wage and hour violations.

Unannounced visits to the salons on Aug. 3 resulted in Stop Work orders being placed on the following establishments:

  • Hartford: La Nails, American Nails, Modern Nails, Pink Nails, Touch Nails
  • New Haven: Magic Nail and Spa, Fashion Nail and Spa, Outo Nails
  • Stamford: Fiji Nail Salon, Cozy Nail Salon, Classic Nails, Lux Nails, Ace Nails
  • Branford: Oasis Nails, Pretty Nail and Spa, Sera Nail Salon, Town Nails, Simply Nails
  • Westport/Darien/Southport: Posh Nail and Spa LLC (3 locations), Queen Nail and Spa, Finger Nails

 

According to Gary Pechie, Director of the Wage and Workplace Standards Division, labor agents and investigators determined that workers were being paid in cash with no payroll records, wages were below the minimum wage of $9.15 per hour, and no overtime payment was being provided.

Officials said all 23 salons are now in compliance with state workplace laws and have been allowed to resume operations.

 

 

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State Police Arrest Berlin Man for Child Pornography


BERLIN — After state police Berlin man on Wednesday was arrested for child pornography distribution.

Cory Korchman, 25, of 110 Shrub Road in Berlin was arrested on Aug. 11 after state Police Computer Crimes Unit initiated an investigation into child pornography and seized a computer and multiple computer related items.

Korchma was taken into custody and transported to Troop H-Hartford where he was processed.

He is  held on $ $150, 000 bond, and presented in court on Aug. 11.

 

 

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Labor Department to Host Breakfast Roundtable


WETHERSFIELD – The importance of selecting the correct type of flame resistant clothing will be discussed during a Breakfast Roundtable Discussion Group meeting sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Guest speaker Peter Kumiega, New England sales manager for Bulwark FR Apparel, will provide information and answer questions during the 8:15 to 9:45 a.m. roundtable meeting to be held at the agency’s Central Office, 200 Folly Brook Blvd. in, Wethersfield on Aug. 18.

The morning session will include a continental breakfast.

“When it comes to selecting this type of clothing, employers and their employees face many options,” explains John Able, CONN-OSHA Certified Safety Professional and coordinator of the Breakfast Roundtable Discussion Group.  “As a certified trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the flame resistant industry, Peter will use his expertise to help guide people in the right direction.”

Kumiega will focus on three points: understanding flame resistant options and how they relate to NFPA 70e and 2012 standards; the effects of the new OSHA standard 1910.269; and tips for partnering with a supplier that can meet specific company needs.

According to Able, admission to the seminar is free, but pre-registration is required. Please contact Able at able.john@dol.gov or call him at (860) 263 – 6902 to register for the breakfast roundtable or for additional information.

 

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Connecticut Man Goes Weeks Without Food After DSS Delays Food Stamps


Updated Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 11:32 a.m.

HARTFORD — For almost three weeks, Al Lopez went hungry in Connecticut. He was alone and bedridden in Avon after he returned from the John Dempsey Hospital in May. The cupboards were empty. The electricity was off. But Northeast Utilities, Community Renewal Team and other social agencies said no to his plea for help. So Lopez lived on just sugar and water for those three weeks until a neighbor returned from a business trip. Lopez then limped down the stairs to talk to his neighbor, who called 911. After being in the emergency room for hours, the nurses admitted him into the hospital’s psychiatric unit, where he stayed for three days and was released. The doctors deduced he was hungry — not mentally ill.

This experience was a first for the soft-spoken, 43-year-old man with a Jamaican lilt.

“It was an unpleasant experience,”  said Lopez who now stays with a relative. “I survived it.”

Hunger, that uneasy or painful experience caused by lack of food, affects about 390,000 people in Connecticut every year, according to a recent report by the Food Research and Action Center. In May 2015, about one in seven people nationwide received help from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or Food Stamps. And about one in nine were unemployed or underemployed, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lopez, an Afro-Latino who recently emigrated from Jamaica, went hungry for almost three weeks, he said, because his caseworkers and state officials said “I wasn’t eligible” for the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. So he was denied food stamps by the Department of Social Services while he was underemployed and unemployed. Community Renewal Team also delayed energy assistance applications for several months; and the Connecticut Light and Power company, now called Eversource, refused to reduce his relative’s electric bill to keep the lights on.

Previous research shows that many immigrants do not apply for food stamps or know that this and other social services exist. Or, like Lopez, they are denied services or they received inadequate or delayed assistance while they integrate into their new home. Since 2000, about 50 percent of immigrant households with little or no education received social services. Prior to that, most immigrants would do two or three menial jobs. Now, experts say, they are assimilated into the welfare system instead of jobs with livable wages. And in some cases educated black immigrants are pushed out of white-collar jobs and onto welfare.

A recent immigrant adjusting to work, school and life in America, Lopez received little or no help from the social agencies he signed up with when he lost his job as a customer representative at Big Y in Avon.  Last fall, Gifts of Love turned him away, saying they were not taking new applicants. So he went to Hartford Hospital, and they placed him in the Institute of Living mainly, he said, because they didn’t understand him, his accent and his customs. He was just anxious about his new home, how to find another job and how to cope with the loss of his mother before he was attacked by nativists in Hartford, he said. After relatives called 911, Hartford police officers took him to Capitol Region Mental Health Center, a community-based mental health facility operated by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The staff there failed to secure food stamps and Medicaid for him.

Lopez’s Case Manager, Morris Mendez, said he did the paperwork and did not know why Lopez was denied.  So Lopez followed up with his clinician at Capitol Region in Hartford, Roxanne Ellis-Denby.

“Unfortunately, you get the most help when you are in hospitals or jails,” said Ellis-Denby, who is Lopez’s clinician for about three years. “And he’s not eligible for food stamps or Medicaid until after five years here.”

Lopez’s eligibility is clear.

According to DSS’s website, every Connecticut resident (citizens and non citizens), whose income and assets are within the set limits are eligible for food stamps. Lopez was in school and work until October 2014. Because of being misdiagnosed, his clinician scheduled frequent visits to Capitol Region, so he could get help with other social services, he said. After his last visit to Capitol Region in October, he has been without a job and has zero income.

When asked why he was put in a psych ward in May, he said, they told him he had “anxieties.”

Civil Rights Advocate said that anxiety is not a reason to be in a mental institution. Lopez’s experience is only about someone adjusting to a new home or a process of acculturation, not mental illness, they said. Besides, even if he was a recent immigrant, there’s absolutely no reason DSS should delay or deny food stamps to someone unemployed, underemployed, sick or homeless,” they said.

But representatives in Hartford’s DSS office did, even though there is no backlog, according to DSS spokesman David Dearborn.

“In fact, we have an over 96 percent timeliness rate for SNAP application processing in the last six-month period evaluated by the federal government, which runs from October 2014 through March 2015,” he said. “Our internal data show that we have been maintaining that excellent rate to date.”

Lopez’s experience with DSS contradicts that prevailing trend at the department.

When contacted, a representative in the Hartford office said Lopez was denied in 2012 and 2014 when he was ill and underemployed. And despite submitting all the required documents, his application has been delayed since April 2015.

Some immigrant advocates believe Lopez is a victim of the anti-immigrant sentiment in Hartford and beyond.

Hate group membership has expanded since 2005 — fueled largely by anti-immigrant sentiment. But after President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, it spiked. That’s according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks right-wing extremists and hate groups.

Black immigrants, they say, are subjected to a particular brand of nativism—akin to the ethno-racism found among the Irish community in the early 1900s. It is now pervasive among African Americans, who are in these positions to help black immigrants but often failed to do so, they said.  Xenophobia among native-born blacks is a disturbing trend in the age of Obama, the first African-American president in the United States. And many native-born blacks now believe they “are more endowed with more rights” than black immigrants, who are pushed away by African-American and Hispanic communities. So they, “fall between the cracks,” advocates said.

Lopez is of one of many who fell between those cracks in a xenophobic society spurred by immigration reform debates since 2007.

“There is a damaging immigration narrative that is largely predicated on anti-Blackness,” said Marybeth Onyeukwu, in Truthout. “ However, there are recent attempts to discuss immigration in a way that is inclusive of the Black immigrant experience,” disallowing the erasure of Black immigrants.

Despite a ban on discrimination based on national origin and ancestry, Lopez’s situation seems to be an anomaly or a result of unconscious bias, which consists of a series of micro aggressions toward black immigrants — even from native born blacks. This incredible incident of hunger in Connecticut is, therefore, the cumulative effect of a blatant indifference toward someone’s need for help, advocates say. And black immigrants from the West Indies are less likely than Hispanic immigrants to feel empowered about exercising their constitutional rights, said Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Joyce Hamilton-Henry.

“Hispanic immigrants have unabashed demands that they have equal protection,” she said. “West Indians (some of whom are Afro-Latinos) are not as politically empowered.”

Accessing welfare and other programs—including jobs—can be seen as an indication that some immigrants have a difficult time assimilating in America. Black immigrants from the West Indies, pushed out of jobs because of anti-immigrant sentiments and other reasons, are now often assimilated into the welfare system, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

“When anti-immigrant sentiments are present,” Hamilton-Henry said, “all of us are threatened.”

The delayed SNAP application left Lopez food deficient for about a month. He called DSS and was put on hold for more than 70 minutes. As of press time, he’s still waiting for his application to be approved.

The story is based on the experiences of volunteers with the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, which publishes The Hartford Guardian. The name Al Lopez was used to protect the source used in this story.

 

 

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CT Residents Encouraged to Stay Near for College


HARTFORD — The state’s college system will have a college fair for residents in August to encourage them to stay in Connecticut.

A “Super Saturday Registration Blitz” will be held at the Connecticut Community Colleges on August 22 to allow students to “Stay Near. Go Far.” with their college education. The 12 community colleges of the Connecticut State College and Universities (CSCU) system will host this event to help new community college students enroll in fall classes.

The “Super Saturday Registration Blitz” will offer one-stop access to fall 2015 class registration at the state’s 12 community colleges. On Aug. 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., campuses will be open for registration and application fee waivers will be available. Community college staff members will also assist students through the registration process and with class schedules, course selection, financial aid, testing and other matters. Food and refreshments will be served.

“At the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, we are making it easy and quick for students to enroll in fall classes,” said CSCU President Gregory Gray. “On Aug. 22, we are making community college staff available to prospective students to help get them started on the path to a college degree at the state’s community colleges — Connecticut’s best value in higher education.”

The event will be held at community college campuses statewide including: Asnuntuck Community College, Enfield; Capital Community College, Hartford; Gateway Community College, New Haven; Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport; Manchester Community College, Manchester; Middlesex Community College, Middletown; Naugatuck Valley Community College, Waterbury; Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Winsted; Norwalk Community College, Norwalk; Quinebaug Community College, Danielson; Three Rivers Community College, Norwich; and Tunxis Community College, Farmington.

For more information, visit www.StayNearGoFar.com.

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State of Emergency Declared in Ferguson, MO


The Hartford Guardian, News Report

FERGUSON, Mo — St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared a state of emergency Monday after Ferguson protests on the anniversary of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer turned violent overnight.

Photo Credit: The Root

Photo Credit: The Root

“In light of last night’s violence and unrest in the city of Ferguson, and the potential for harm to persons and property, I am exercising my authority as county executive to issue a state of emergency effective immediately,” Stenger said in a statement. “The recent acts of violence will not be tolerated in a community that has worked so tirelessly over the last year to rebuild and become stronger.”

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar is immediately taking control of policing in Ferguson, under the order.

According to reports, protestors staged a sit-in, urging the Department of Justice to prosecute police violence. They blocked off the entrance to the DOJ building.

Activists Cornel West was among several noted activists among those who were arrested.

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Hartford Counselor Charged With Medicaid Fraud


HARTFORD —  A Hartford pastor who works as a  substance abuse and mental health counselor was arrested on Monday and charged with defrauding Medicaid with false claims of about $73, 000.

Since 2011, Dorian G. Parker billed the government health care program for services he was unlicensed to perform, state officials said.

Parker, 52, of Whitmore St., in Hartford, was charged first degree larceny,  defrauding a public community, vendor, identity theft in the first degree insurance fraud.

Credit: LinkedIn

Credit: LinkedIn

Between 2011 and 2015, Parker submitted claims for payment by medicaid for counseling services he purportedly rendered as owner of A Present Help Counseling Center on Madison Street in Hartford, according to police.

Parker’s practice is limited by law to administer counseling in alcohol and drug dependency. Instead, he allegedly billed for psychotherapy sessions for  children and infants for other diagnoses.

The warrant also alleges that Parker billed Medicaid on numerous instances for services that were not provided at all, including purported psychotherapy sessions on 21 Sundays when he was actually conducting religious services as associate pastor at Memorial Baptist Church on Fairfield Avenue.

Medicaid is a federal and state funded program that provides health care to low and no-income individuals.

Parker was released on a $75,000 non-surety bond and is scheduled to appear in Hartford Superior Court on Aug. 18.

He faces up to 20 years in prison.

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