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Hartford Council to Vote on Raising Minimum Age to Buy Cigarettes

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford City Council on Monday will vote on whether to raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes.

Currently the minimum age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco is 18. The American Lung Association is pushing to change that age to 21.

The goal is the change the law first in Hartford and hope it spreads to other towns in the state.

After a rally at city hall on Monday, the nine-member council heard overwhelming support for the idea of raising the age for tobacco purchase in an effort to prevent nicotine addiction.

Advocates said that about 95 percent of smokers begin smoking before the age of 21 and become addicted as adults. By delaying the age when people begin using tobacco, it reduces the chance that they become lifelong tobacco users.

So far, six states and more than 350 cities have raised the age requirement to 21.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 4,900 Connecticut residents will die from smoking-related causes this year. And more than 1,000 children are expected to become new daily smokers under the current law.

Earlier this year, advocates for raising the minimum age testified before a committee in the General Assembly, saying the annual health care costs directly caused by smoking are $2.03 billion and Medicaid costs are $520.8 million.

Raising the age to 21 has been proposed before the General Assembly several times but the measure has always failed.

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U.S. News Report: Hartford Among Top 100 Places to Retire

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

Hartford is among the nation’s top 100 best places to retire, according to a U.S. News and World Report released Wednesday.

Hartford ranked 73 on the list with an overall score of 6.35. Among New England cities, Boston and Springfield scored higher. The place ranked number one is Lancaster, Pennsylvania with an overall score of 7.5.

U.S. News evaluated the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas based on how well they meet Americans’ retirement needs and expectations, which includes six factors: housing affordability, desirability, retiree taxes, the happiness index, job market and health care quality. The happiness index quantifies how content residents were based on Gallup Healthways State of American Well-Being: 2017 Community Well-Being Rankings report published in March.

The U.S. News report noted that the historic architecture of Hartford and said: “Don’t let the historic architecture fool you—even as one of the oldest metro areas in America, Hartford, Connecticut, has a lot to offer, both old and new.” Located in the Connecticut River Valley, Hartford has many cultural gems hidden amidst rolling hills and wooded neighborhoods. It’s home to a number of historic attractions and entertainment venues, nearby vineyards, state parks and ski slopes provide plenty of recreational opportunities throughout the year.

Hartford scored 5.3 in Housing Affordability and 8.5 in Healthcare, the two components of the overall score.

The top ranked New England city was Boston ranked at 25, Springfield, MA ranked 69, Worcester ranked at 77 and Providence ranked at 85. The top 10 places to retire according to the report are Lancaster; Fort Myers; Sarasota; Austin, Pittsburgh, Grand Rapids; Nashville; San Antonio; Dallas-Fort Worth; and Lakeland, Florida.

The rankings offer a comprehensive evaluation of the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas based on how well they meet Americans’ expectations for retirement, with measures including housing affordability, desirability, health care and overall happiness,” according to U.S. News.

Data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as U.S. News rankings of the Best Hospitals.

“Deciding where to retire is a big decision,” Senior Editor for Retirement at U.S. News Emily Brandon said in a statement accompanying the results. “The Best Places to Retire offers a way for future retirees to make a more informed decision based on what matters the most to them. Whether that be housing affordability, access to quality hospitals or the desirability of a place in general, the rankings offer a comprehensive list that can point people in the best direction for their needs.”

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Colleges Promised to Hire More Black Professors, but So Far It’s Been Nothing But Talk

By Matt Krupnick

Robert Palmer knows how uncomfortable it can feel to be a black professor at a predominantly white college.

He recalls speaking with a white student he was advising at the public Binghamton University in upstate New York, where just 4 percent of tenure-track instructors in 2016 were black, according to federal figures.

“He comes out of nowhere and says he used to be a bouncer and would keep his friends from saying … he actually said the word,” said Palmer, still taken aback by the memory. “He didn’t say ‘the n-word.’ He actually said the word.”

The awkwardness of that encounter and others like it helped push Palmer to Howard University, a historically black institution in Washington, D.C., where he’s now an associate professor of education and on a faculty that is 58 percent black.

There he joined the disproportionate number of black, tenure-track college and university instructors—one out of every five—who are clustered at 72 historically black four-year institutions that report the race of their employees. This despite the fact that those schools account for just 1.7 percent of all faculty nationwide.

Meanwhile, many predominantly white four-year public and nonprofit colleges and universities that have been promising for years to improve the diversity of their teaching ranks have made almost no progress in doing so.

In fact, the proportion of annual faculty hires who are black did not increase in the 10 years ending in 2016, the most recent period for which the figures are available; it fell slightly, from 7 percent to 6.6 percent, according to additional federal data analyzed by The Hechinger Report. (A small number of these hires were non-faculty employees, which were not broken out.)

While black students comprise about 12 percent of college and university enrollment, fewer than half that proportion of faculty is black. And fewer than 5 percent of faculty are Hispanic, compared to 16 percent of students.

At the University of Washington, federal data show 1.8 percent of tenure-track instructors in 2016 were black, while 2.7 percent were black at Arizona State University.

At Brigham Young University? One-tenth of 1 percent.

After racially charged demonstrations at the University of Missouri in 2015, students and professors there as well as at Yale, Claremont McKenna and other colleges demanded administrators improve diversity.

But diversity has remained elusive, despite self-congratulatory comments from some college leaders. Shaun Harper, head of the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, told a group of education journalists that one president of a large university—Harper wouldn’t say which one—bragged to him that the school had nearly doubled its number of black professors but the actual figure had merely gone from one extremely small number to a slightly larger one.

At the University of Missouri, 3.5 percent of tenure-track faculty were black, according to the figures for 2016; at Claremont McKenna, 1.5 percent. At Yale, which promised in 2015 to invest $50 million to propel the diversification of its faculty, 3.5 percent were black. Last fall at Dartmouth, which also promised to boost minority hiring, 2.2 percent of the faculty was black, the university reported.

Arizona State leaders declined to answer questions about faculty diversity, and Brigham Young officials did not respond to interview requests.

At the University of Washington, students and professors occupied the president’s office a half-century ago to protest the lack of diversity. The university now is trying to improve its hiring and retention of black professors, said Chadwick Allen, associate vice provost for faculty advancement. Like many institutions intent on boosting those numbers, it has tried to hire groups of black instructors to build a community.

It can be difficult for a public university to vie for those candidates against better-funded private schools, Allen said. “If we are in a bidding war with Stanford or Johns Hopkins, that can be a challenge,” he said.

But diversity scholars said schools with small percentages of black professors should be embarrassed and small improvements shouldn’t be celebrated as if they symbolize systemic change.

“Getting black faculty in the door is such a minor first step,” said Ebony McGee, a Vanderbilt University associate professor of education who studies diversity in education.

They also questioned the oft-cited argument by higher-education leaders that too few nonwhite potential future faculty are in the pipeline to get doctorates. Most community colleges require instructors to have only master’s degrees, said Estela Bensimon, director of USC’s Center for Urban Education, yet she said only 15 percent of faculty at California’s community colleges are Hispanic, while 44 percent of students are.

Researchers have shown nonwhite students are more likely to succeed in college when they are taught by nonwhite professors.

Yet black academics repeatedly encounter the same stumbling blocks when competing for teaching jobs.

White professors tend to look for people like them, and lean on “proxies for excellence,” such as which school a candidate attended, rather than judging them on their accomplishments, said Abigail Stewart, a University of Michigan professor of psychology and women’s studies who co-wrote the book, An Inclusive Academy: Achieving Diversity and Excellence.

If a black candidate attended a southern university other than Duke or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example, he or she is going to have trouble getting through the door at a predominantly white school elsewhere, Stewart said.

“It’s actually not that easy for faculty to get past hiring people from prestige universities,” she said. “They are very accustomed to being able to size up people who went to those institutions. It creates an artificially small labor market.”

At Oregon State University, where the 2016 federal figures analyzed by Hechinger recorded 1 percent of tenure-track instructors as being black, school leaders are working with the nonprofit Southern Regional Education Board to find black professors from southern universities, said Charlene Alexander, the university’s vice president and chief diversity officer.

But then there’s the challenge of getting a nonwhite candidate to accept a job offer. The interview process can tell a candidate a lot about a school: Was the candidate the only nonwhite person in the room? Were the walls full of photographs of white people?

“It does take proactive steps,” Stewart said, noting that a black candidate may want to speak to other black professors about issues as minor as where to get a haircut or as serious about what it’s like raising a black son in the community.

Hiring is just part of the problem. Black instructors often feel uncomfortable at predominantly white schools when they manage to get hired by them. Black professors say they can feel invisible or hypervisible at predominantly white schools. Often hired as “eye candy,” they’re then either overlooked or scrutinized intensely, both of which push them to look for jobs elsewhere, Vanderbilt’s McGee said.

“They don’t want to stay in that toxic environment, so they leave,” said McGee, who moved to Nashville herself about seven years ago, in part because she was worried about her black son’s safety in Chicago, where she lived while working as a researcher at Northwestern University.

Black professors often get called by the wrong names even after they’ve been working on a campus for a few years, said Marybeth Gasman, a University of Pennsylvania education professor who directs the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. They’re asked constantly to serve on committees and to mentor black students.

Then there are the “microaggressions,” as Gasman and others describe them, such as frequent comments about their appearance or their work hours.

“In any work environment, if you bring someone in and they’re not treated well, they’re going to leave,” said Gasman.

It wasn’t a toxic environment that led Kimberly Griffin, a black associate education professor at the University of Maryland, to leave Pennsylvania State University six years ago, even though just 4.3 percent of tenure-track instructors there are black, federal data show. It was the school’s relative isolation in a rural part of the state.

“I think it was more the desire to live a more full and complete life,” said Griffin, who studies, among other subjects, retention of black professors.

But she said universities such as Penn State could do more to make black professors feel welcome. As one of the few black teachers on campus, Griffin said she was constantly asked to do extra work on hiring committees, which made her feel like a token rather than a valued member of the faculty.

Those kinds of burdens are why schools have so much trouble keeping African-American professors, she said.

“It always seems like places are hiring scholars of color, but they’re hiring people to replace people who just left,” she said. “It will continue to happen because the environment doesn’t change. They look at candidates and say, ‘What can we do to make this person stay?’ But they don’t look at themselves and what they can do.”

Black professors shouldn’t be treated as window dressing or mentors, said McGee.

“I’m not hired to be anybody’s mentor,” she said. “The mentoring is the icing on the cake, but don’t forget about the cake.”

Data analysis by Peter D’Amato. This story about university faculty diversity was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about higher education.

Featured Photo: Istock.

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CRT Awarded Grant to Address Opioid Addiction

HARTFORD — Of the five major cities in Connecticut, Hartford has the highest rate of Opioid-related deaths.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services agency awarded a three-year federal grant to Community Renewal Team to help those addicted to Opioid.

The $1.6 million grant will help expand access to CRT’s Behavioral Health Services to provide medication assisted treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.

The grant will serve individuals in Greater Hartford and will prioritize recently released offenders, said CRT’s Vice President of Clinical Support Services Heidi Lubetkin.

The overall goals include increasing the number of individuals receiving integrated care and decreasing the number of Opioid use at a six-month follow-up care.

CRT will be working with the University of Connecticut to evaluate the program and follow-up with clients.

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CAIR: Spike in Hate Crimes Against Muslims

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has reported that there’s a spike in hate crime against Muslims and is calling for stepped up security measures.

The call comes after an envelope containing white powder and hate mail with derogatory comments about Islam were sent to a mosque in Groton.

A 43-year-old man was exposed to the powder after he opened the envelope at the Islamic Center of New London at 16 Fort St, according to police.

The Groton Police Department and the FBI are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

“We are in contact with mosque officials and law enforcement authorities and will continue to monitor the situation,” said CAIR-Connecticut Executive Director Alicia Strong. “We advise all Connecticut mosques and other Islamic institutions to remain alert for any suspicious letters or packages. If you do receive anything suspicious notify authorities immediately and report the incident to CAIR-Connecticut.”

Strong is also urging Islamic institutions to take extra security precautions using its “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety” booklet. The advice in CAIR’s security publication is applicable to religious institutions of all faiths.

The booklet may be viewed here or at:

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights organization recently released an update on anti-Muslim incidents nationwide between April and June of 2018 indicating that anti-Muslim bias incidents and hate crimes are up 83 and 21 percent respectively, as compared to the first quarter of 2018.

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Connecticut’s Unemployment Rate Dips

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

Connecticut’s unemployment rate dipped slightly in August, according to the state Department of Labor’s report released on Thursday.

Employers added 1,100 jobs in August, helping its unemployment rate drop from 4.4 percent to 4.3 percent, according to the report. This is the fourth straight monthly gain in jobs.

Last year,  the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate in August was 3.9 percent, down from 4.4 percent in the previous year. Connecticut has the highest unemployment rate in New England, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. New Hampshire has the lowest rate of 2.7 percent.

Connecticut has now recovered 86 percent (105,400 jobs) of the 119,100 seasonally adjusted jobs lost in the “Great Recession.”

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Many Nurses Lack Knowledge of Health Risks for New Mothers, Study Finds

By Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne, NPR News 

In recent months, mothers who nearly died in the hours and days after giving birth have repeatedly told ProPublica and NPR that their doctors and nurses were often slow to recognize the warning signs that their bodies weren’t healing properly. Now, an eye-opening new study substantiates some of these concerns.

The nationwide survey of 372 postpartum nurses, published Tuesday in the MCN/American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, found that many of them were ill-informed about the dangers new mothers face. Needing more education themselves, they were unable to fulfill their critical role of educating moms about symptoms like painful swelling, headaches, heavy bleeding and breathing problems that could indicate potentially life-threatening complications.

By failing to alert new mothers to such risks, the peer-reviewed study found, nurses may be missing an opportunity to help reduce the maternal mortality rate in the U.S., the highest among affluent nations. An estimated 700 to 900 women die in the U.S. every year from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes and 65,000 nearly die, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The rates are highest for black mothers and women in rural areas. In a recent CDC Foundation analysis of data from four states, nearly 60 percent of maternal deaths were preventable.

Forty-six percent of nurses who responded to the survey were unaware that maternal mortality has risen in the U.S. in recent years, and 19 percent thought maternal deaths had actually declined. “If [nurses] aren’t aware that there’s been a rise in maternal mortality, then it makes it less urgent to explain to women what the warning signs are,” said study co-author Debra Bingham, who heads the Institute for Perinatal Quality Improvement and teaches at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

Only 12 percent of the respondents knew that the majority of maternal deaths occur in the days and weeks after delivery. Only 24 percent correctly identified heart-related problems as the leading cause of maternal death in the U.S. In fact, cardiovascular disease and heart failure — which, according to recent data, account for more than a quarter of maternal deaths in this country — were “the area that the nurses felt the least confident in teaching about,” says Patricia Suplee, an associate professor at the Rutgers University School of Nursing in Camden, New Jersey, and the lead researcher on the study.

Nurses also said they spent very little time instructing new moms about worrisome symptoms — usually 10 minutes or less. Many of the nurses said they were only likely to discuss warning signs of such life-threatening conditions aspreeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure), blood clots in the lungs, or heart problems “if relevant” — even though, as the study noted, “it is impossible to accurately predict which women will suffer from a post-birth complication.”

The post-delivery education provided by nurses is particularly important because, once a mother leaves the hospital, she typically doesn’t see her own doctor for another four to six weeks. Up to 40 percent of new moms — overwhelmed with caring for an infant, and often lacking in maternity leave, child care, transportation and other kinds of support — never go back for their follow-up appointments at all.

Figuring out the best way to instruct new mothers is all the more crucial, the survey noted, because the first days after giving birth are “exhausting, emotionally charged, and physiologically draining” — hardly an ideal learning environment. But like so many other important aspects of maternal health care, postpartum education has been poorly studied, Bingham said.

The respondents, of whom nearly one-third had master’s or doctorate degrees, were members of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the leading professional organization for nurses specializing in maternal and infant care. AWHONN began looking at the education issue in 2014, when Bingham was the association’s vice president of nursing research and education. “We had to start really from the ground up, because we didn’t know exactly what women were being taught,” she said.

In focus groups conducted in New Jersey and Georgia, two states with especially high rates of maternal mortality,researchers discovered that postpartum nurses spent most of their time educating moms about how to care for their new babies, not themselves. The information mothers did receive about their own health risks was wildly inconsistent, and sometimes incorrect, Bingham said. The written materials women took home often weren’t much better.

Some nurses were uncomfortable discussing the possibility that complications could be life-threatening. “We had some nurses come out and say, ‘Well you know what, I don’t want to scare the woman. This is supposed to be a happy time. I don’t want to seem like all I want to talk about is death,’” Bingham said.

But the researchers also found that nurses could be quickly educated with short, targeted information. Using insights from the focus groups, an expert panel developed two standardized tools — a checklist and script that nurses could follow when instructing new mothers and a one-page handout of post-birth warning signs that mothers could refer to after they returned home, with clear-cut instructions for when to see a doctor or call 911. Those tools were tested in four hospitals in 2015. “Very quickly we started hearing from the nurses that women were coming back to the hospital with the handout, saying, ‘I have this symptom,’” Bingham said.

One of them was a Georgia mom named Sarah Duckett, who had just given birth to her second child. A week later, she recognized the warning signs of what turned out to be a blood clot in her lung — an often fatal postpartum complication. “Those were anecdotes, but they were very powerful anecdotes,” Bingham said. “I’ve led multiple projects over the years and rarely do I get such immediate feedback that something is working.”

The shortcomings documented by the national survey could foster wider use of these tools, suggested Mary-Ann Etiebet, executive director of Merck for Mothers, which funded the study as part of a 10-year, $500 million initiative to improve maternal health around the world. “Something as simple as creating educational and training programs for nurses … can have a real impact,” she said.

This story was co-published with NPR. Photo courtesy of Propublica.

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Hartford Soccer Team Names First Head Coach

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford’s soccer team has its first head coach: Jimmy Nielsen.

Nielsen was coach of the Oklahoma Energy FC from 2014 to 2017. During his tenure there, the team made the playoffs three out of four seasons. Nielsen was also a finalist for the 2015 United Soccer League Coach of the Year Award.

Neilsen joins the team immediately to prepare for the franchise’s inaugural season next year.

“I am honored and excited to be named the first head coach of Hartford Athletic,” Nielsen said. “We are here to win titles and make our community proud. Our promise to our fans is to leave everything out there on the field, every match. We have a lot to do to prepare for 2019, and I cannot wait to lead our Club onto the field for our first match.”

Prior to his coaching career, Nielsen competed for 19 years as a professional player in Denmark, England, and with the Major League Soccer franchise Sporting Kansas City. At Kansas City, Nielsen was captain, a two-time MLS All-Star, Goalkeeper of the Year  in 2012 and winner of the U.S. Open Cup  and the MLS Cup.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jimmy to Hartford Athletic,” said Bruce Mandell, Chairman & CEO of Hartford Athletic. “Jimmy’s passion, vision, and leadership make him the perfect fit for our Club. We look forward to building a championship tradition with Jimmy at the helm.”

Nielsen will be introduced to the fans at an upcoming event in Hartford.

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Line of Immigrants Seeking Citizenship Grows as Feds Grapple With Backlog

By Ana Radelat

HARTFORD — More immigrants in Connecticut are applying for citizenship, creating a backlog that has led the federal government to send some applicants to New York to process their cases.

The application process for new citizens has stretched from a median of about six months to more than a year as the line of applicants has grown.

Advocates and attorneys representing immigrants say the backlog, which is also occurring nationally, is due to a combination of factors  — an increase in more people filing for citizenship, and a deliberate slowdown aimed at discouraging new citizens from joining the ranks of fellow Americans.

“In my world, people are frantic about it,” said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the progressivePartnership for New Americans, a national immigrant rights organization.

Nationally, there are 753,000 immigrants whose citizenship applications were pending at the end of March, about double what there were in 2014.

In Connecticut, there were 7,652 pending applications in Hartford at the end of March, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, or USCIS. That total did not include an unknown number of Connecticut applicants who live in Fairfield County and have had their applications transferred to Albany, N.Y., where 1,267 applications were pending.

In the same time period three years ago in Hartford, 5,617 applications were pending.

“It’s just getting more delayed, more delayed, and more delayed,” said Justin Conlon, an immigration attorney in Hartford.

In the first two quarters of fiscal year 2018, there were 4,757 applications for citizenship filed in the Hartford office, according to the USCIS, as compared to 4,625 applications during the same period in 2015.

While an increase of 132 applications is modest, it does not include those cases that have been transferred by USCIS from Connecticut to New York. USCIS could not provide that number Wednesday.

Until April, USCIS processed all applications for citizenship in Connecticut in its Hartford office.

“Earlier this year we assessed application processing times and individual office resources in an effort to improve naturalization processing across the (Hartford) district,” a USCIS official said. “Consequently, the temporary measure was implemented.”

“It’s a hassle for people,” said Aleksandr Troyb, an immigration lawyer in Stamford and past president of the Connecticut chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

He said immigrants who have early morning interviews had had to secure hotel rooms to spend the night before their hearings in Albany. Immigration lawyers have also raised their fees to represent Connecticut clients in proceedings in New York.

Whether they are processed in Hartford or Albany, all new citizens take the Pledge of Allegiance in a naturalization ceremony in Hartford. The next one is scheduled for Sept. 17 at the Hartford Public Library.

Despite the hardship, which includes filling out lengthy applications, paying a $725 filing fee (which includes $85 for a background check),  a medical exam, lengthy interviews — and for many, legal fees — advocates say immigrants are rushing to become U.S. citizens.

Troyb said immigrants are filing for citizenship as soon as they can, instead of putting off the process, because people are worried qualifications will tighten under the Trump administration.

“A lot of them are filing as soon as they become eligible,” Troyb said.

Most immigrants are eligible for citizenship if they have held legal residency, or a “green card,” for five years, although legal immigrants who are married to a U.S. citizen can apply after only three years.

But the Trump administration is expected to issue an executive order in the  coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including the Affordable Care Act.

“They see things like that on the news and they are very worried their applications will be denied,” Troyb said. “There’s a perception immigration laws are changing weekly.”

Hoyt, of the Partnership for New Americans, said “the surge in applications is driven in part by fear.”

As of now, most applications for citizenship are approved, even as the process has lengthened.

For example, the Hartford USCIS office approved 2,217 applications in the first quarter of this year and denied 254.

At the  Hartford  office Wednesday, a neatly dressed man from Yemen was attempting to navigate the complex application process. Saleh, who declined to give his first name, emigrated to Connecticut 11 years ago with his wife, but only recently decided to apply for citizenship.

Saleh, who lives in Bridgeport with his wife and five children, brought his oldest son, who is 12, to translate during his interview because he was worried about his English proficiency.

“I have wanted to apply for citizenship for a long time but I wanted to speak better English,” said Saleh. “I’m still very nervous about my English, but decided to go for it now. It (the process) has taken a very long time.”

Immigrants who become U.S. citizens can vote, serve on juries and obtain security clearance. Denaturalization — the process of removing that citizenship — is very rare.

But the Trump administration in July hired dozens of attorneys to form a task force to review the records of people who have become U.S. citizens since 1990, in order to identify people who deliberately lied on their citizenship applications.

“We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place,” USCIS Director Francis Cissna said.

Conlon said he noticed the citizenship process had become more “rigorous” about a year ago, with federal agents asking more questions about an immigrant’s background.

“There is definitely more scrutiny,” said Wayne Chapple, an immigration lawyer whose office is near the Hartford USCIS center.

He said things slowed down a bit during President Obama’s second term, “but nothing like it is now.”

Immigration lawyers and advocates say there’s nothing stopping the USCIS from hiring more personnel to deal with its backlog. That’s because the agency is funded by the filing fees immigrant pay, and not by Congress or the taxpayer, and can simply raise fees to cover additional expenses.

To Hoyt the delays are simply a way to discourage people from becoming new citizens – and new voters.

“The effect is voter suppression, that’s why we say the Trump administration has built a second wall,” he said.

Julia Werth contributed to this story. This article was first published by

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Restaurant Serves Drink Called ‘The Tuskegee Experiment,’ the Evilest, Most Racist Cocktail Ever

Photo: Eric A Amour (Facebook)

By Michael Harriot

A Westport, Conn., establishment is under fire after patrons discovered the restaurant’s drink menu featured some of the most racist names for beverages you can imagine, reigniting the age-old question:

Why are white people like this?

Apparently the owners and management at 323 Restaurant and Bar, which advertises itself as a “friendly neighborhood restaurant,” believe that joking about a secret, government-sponsored plan to infect black people with a disease for decades goes perfectly with a nice, thick cheeseburger and hand-cut fries.

Facebook user Eric Amour posted a photo of the specialty cocktail menu at 323. While the “Capetown Transfusion” contains a questionable reference to blood transfusions in sub-Saharan Africa, it is the concoction containing rum, pineapple juice, lime, pineapple and jalapeno mash and tobacco that has ignited an uproar.

Named the “Tuskegee Experiment,” the owners obviously assumed that the restaurant boasting the “largest flat screen in Westport” (yes, that is actually on the website) was not enough to lure casual racists into “Westport’s neighborhood bar.”

But why, though?

Wait, please don’t rack your brain trying to come up with an answer. That was a rhetorical question. We already know why.

Whoever did this is evil.

Not mean, not nasty, but evil. Mean people trip you and laugh when you fall. Nasty people take dumps in public toilets, use three-quarters of the roll of toilet tissue and then don’t flush. Mean people laugh at racist jokes. Nasty people laugh at pedophile jokes. Evil people concoct a four-decade conspiracy to secretly experiment on black people.

If you’re not aware of the Tuskegee Experiment, here’s a quick primer:

In 1932 the U.S. Health Service began a research experiment called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” to examine syphilis in a group of black sharecroppers for 6 to 9 months. They coordinated with a Chicago-based charity funded by white liberal millionaires called The Rosenwald Fund (who had done this before to poor black workers in Mississippi) to find 399 black men infected with syphilis and another 201 who were healthy.

They used a black nurse, Eunice Rivers to convince some of the men to participate and sent out letters that said: “Last chance for free health care.” They told many of the men they were being treated but gave them a placebo instead. They refused to offer the participants funeral benefits unless they agreed to an autopsy.

But that wasn’t even the worst part.

By the 1940s, doctors across the country had determined that penicillin could cure syphilis, but the government prevented the participants from getting treatment! In fact, 250 of the men would eventually register for the draft, but the US Health Service secretly contacted the Army in an attempt to stop them from being treated.

Of the original 399 men, 128 died of syphilis or syphilis-related complications. 40 wives had been infected. 19 children were born with congenital syphilis. No one knows exactly how many others were infected, died or lost children during the 40 years of the study

And even though doctors had the cure for syphilis long before the experiment was terminated in 1972, the U.S. Health Service had not treated a single syphilitic person in the Tuskegee Experiment. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Now that is evil.

But you know what would be eviler than that?

To laugh at that.

Even the evil people who conducted the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments didn’t talk about it publicly. They didn’t joke about it. They may have been evil, but not that evil.

Like the good people at 323, Westport’s friendly neighborhood restaurant.

This article was first published by The Root.

Related: Westport Restaurant Removes Racially Insensitive Drink from Menu

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