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Gov. Malloy and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Relationship Subject of FBI Probe


By Rose Mendes, Staff Writer

First Lady Michelle Obama was one of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton‘s most powerful surrogates on the 2016 campaign. Before that, she was a surrogate for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2014 re-election campaign, the subject of another Federal Bureau of Investigation probe.

This recent FBI investigation into the financing of Malloy’s 2014 campaign coincides with a separate FBI investigation into the business dealings of Malloy’s contractor friend Al Barbarotta of Bridgeport based contracting firm AFB Construction.

Before then, the First Lady was a surrogate only for her husband –as is customary in many presidential elections.

But when she decided to be a surrogate for Malloy, who in November made a post-election White House visit, at least one  Connecticut reporter took note of the First Lady’s unusual move to get close to Malloy.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy faces corruption probe and low approval ratings

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy faces corruption probe and low approval ratings.

That’s because the woman, who inspired the main character of the ABC television show, Scandal, lives in Connecticut. And she was sabotaged in 2014, the second year in President Barack Obama’s second term.

According to sources who want to remain anonymous, the First Lady was reportedly asked to resign, so that President Obama could marry his second wife –a soul mate, who is God’s Omen and tied to the faith of the country.

When the woman was sabotaged allegedly by the Malloy’s administration and others, the result was the devastating lost of the White House, the Senate, the House—supposedly the karmic three for the DNC since 2014. The phenomenon has been investigated and confirmed by top officials in the Obama administration.

Sources said the DNC and other Democrats in Connecticut rejected God, so God rejected the Democrats in a nation that pledges to be “one nation under God.”

This nugget of information is linked to the attempted murder of that woman and is now the subject of an FBI probe into  Medicaid fraud, consumer fraud, and Malloy’s administration, Hilary Clinton 2016 election campaign and the Democratic National Committee political operatives.

The unusual partnership between the First Lady and Malloy, some political experts said, could be because the governor, who is also the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, faces challenges back home, including a federal criminal investigation into misappropriation of $278,000 from the Connecticut Democratic Party for his 2014 re-election campaign and low public approval numbers.

Other notable coupling with the First Lady includes Malloy’s billing as a notable guest who sat next to Michelle her at President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union speech. That followed the First Lady’s radio spot supporting Malloy’s candidacy for the 2014 election.

Sources said the woman who is “the real Olivia Pope,” is also a former model and actress, who became a media executive in the 1990s. She has been associated with politicos and other dignitaries since then and has accused the Obamas and Malloy’s camp of malfeasance.

Malloy’s spokesman and the woman declined to comment.

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Aetna-Humana antitrust Trial to Have a Different Twist


WASHINGTON —  As the first part of the antitrust trial on a proposed merger of health insurers Anthem and Cigna is wrapping up, a similar challenge to Aetna’s plan to merge with Humana is about to begin.

While both are the result of lawsuits to block the mergers filed by the U.S. Justice Department on the same day in July, the trials will be much different.

The first phase of the Anthem-Cigna trial, expected to wrap up Friday, centers on whether the $54 billion merger of those two insurers would dramatically decrease competition for “national accounts,” or plans for large, multi-state corporations.

The Justice Department also argues the merger would fail because there is friction between the companies’ CEOs and because Cigna in July stopped cooperating with Anthem on various deal-related issues.

“How do you work on integration without talking to the person you’re integrating with?” asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the trial.

If Jackson does not rule in favor of the Justice Department, the second phase of the Anthem-Cigna trial is scheduled for Dec. 12 and will focus on whether the merger will decrease competition in dozens of local markets.

In another room in the same federal courthouse, the $37 billion Aetna-Humana merger trial is set to begin on Monday.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates will preside over that trial. The Justice Department will argue that Aetna’s merger with Humana will dry up competition across the nation in the Medicare Advantage market.

The Justice Department says the combined companies would cover 980,000 of the 1.6 million seniors in the nation covered under Medicare Advantage plans. Aetna and Humana will argue that traditional Medicare will provide plenty of competition to their policies.

“The two cases are very different,“ said Deep Banerjee, an insurance analyst with Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings.

Banerjee said Aetna and Humana may have an edge over the other insurers. He agrees with Aetna and Humana that “the Medicare market should be looked at as a whole,” and traditional Medicare considered as competition to Medicare Advantage.

The insurers also have another card they can play, one that Anthem and Cigna do not: They have offered to divest themselves of Medicare Advantage plans in areas of high concentration.

“The divestiture may be a valuable and attractive issue for the judge to use to rule for the insurers,” said Professor Tim Greaney, co-director of the Center for Health Law Studies at Saint Louis University School of Law.

Cigna headquarters in Bloomfield

Cigna Corp.

Cigna headquarters in Bloomfield

Aetna said it has an agreement to sell Medicare Advantage business covering 290,000 people to rival insurer Molina if its planned merger is allowed to be completed.

But Molina specializes in Medicaid, the government insurance for the poor, instead of Medicare Advantage, a type of health plan offered by private companies that contract with Medicare to provide coverage for the elderly.

The Justice Department is expected to argue that it would be difficult for Aetna and Humana to divest themselves of enough Medicare Advantage customers to keep that market competitive, especially in 364 counties across the nation where a merger would result in what it says is an acute lack of competition.

Aetna, meanwhile, is expected to try to knock down another Justice Department complaint – that a merger would hurt competition in Affordable Care Act exchanges – by saying it is quitting most exchanges and leaving many counties in states where it still has a presence in the exchanges.

Failed remedies

The Justice Department argued in the Anthem-Cigna case that a merger would result in higher prices, lower quality, reduced consumer choice and less innovation. It’s expected to make a similar argument in the Aetna-Humana case next week.

“Because of the offer of divestiture, the Aetna-Humana merger may have a better chance,” Greaney said. “But I think the Justice Department has a very strong argument on the merits in both cases.”

Meanwhile, David Balto, a former attorney with the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division who opposes both mergers, said the Aetna-Humana tie-up will result in more concentration than an Anthem-Cigna marriage.

“I think the competitive concerns are even greater,” Balto said. “I think the Justice Department has an even stronger case against Aetna and Humana.”

The reason, Balto said, is that the Justice Department can point to previous cases where insurers made divestitures but premiums rose sharply anyway.

He said divestitures were made in  1999 when Aetna and Prudential merged and in 2008 when United and Sierra merged and prices increased by 7 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively.

Balto said the biggest failure was the 2012 Humana-Arcadian merger, where one of the three companies that acquired business divested as part of the merger “exited the market, another company partially exited the market, and premiums increased by 44 percent.”

First reported in CTMirror, our media partner.

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Sandy Hook Families Ask Court to Reconsider


HARTFORD – The families of nine Sandy Hook victims and one of the survivors today asked the Connecticut Supreme Court to hear their appeal after the case was struck down last month by a Superior Court judge in Bridgeport.

Describing the Newtown shooting as a “singular event in Connecticut history,” the families’ appeal argues that the state’s highest court should decide whether the sellers of the weapon used in the shooting can be held accountable under Connecticut law.

As the appeal says, “the loss of twenty first-graders and six educators would shake any community to its core,” the appeal papers state.  “Ours had to grapple with the manner in which those lives were lost,” the appeals says. “… It is only appropriate that Connecticut’s highest court decide whether these families have the right to proceed.”

The families’ appeal asks the Supreme Court to consider the scope of the common law of negligent entrustment in Connecticut – which has not been discussed in the state’s appellate courts in nearly a century – and its application to circumstances and technology that could not have been contemplated when the cause of action was first recognized.

When Judge Barbara Bellis dismissed the case last month, her opinion stated that she was bound by two appellate court rulings from 2005 and 2006 that require plaintiffs to establish a business relationship with the defendants in order to bring a CUTPA claim.

“Nothing will ever bring back my son, Dylan, or the other lives stolen from us on that awful day,” said Nicole Hockley, whose son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.  “Our only goal in bringing this appeal is to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening and we have faith that Connecticut’s Supreme Court will take up what is literally a matter of life and death.”

“As a father who lost a bright and shining child, all we ask is for our day in court to address the negligence of these companies,” said David Wheeler, whose son, Benjamin, was also killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.

As the families’ case makes clear, the AR-15 is a killing machine designed as a military weapon to inflict mass carnage. It can unleash 30 rounds in under 10 seconds and can penetrate body armor.  It has exceptional muzzle velocity, making each hit lethal, and its large capacity magazines allow for rapid-fire, prolonged assaults.

It was built for warfare and has been the military’s weapon of choice for 50 years because of its efficiency as a mass casualty weapon.  When entrusted to the military, the AR-15 requires more than 100 hours of training and is subject to strict protocols on safety and storage.

Still, the weapons’ sellers, including Remington, made a calculated decision to aggressively market and sell the AR-15 to the public, knowing that the necessary structure and oversight found in the military was utterly lacking.  That carefully executed marketing campaign, which continues today, has made the AR-15 the weapon of choice for mass murderers. Indeed, it has been used in massacres at San Bernardino, Aurora and several other preventable tragedies.

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Connecticut State Troopers Investigate KKK Video


EAST WINDSOR — The Ku Klux Klan has emerged waving flags, lighting bon fires, and disrupting residents in East Windsor, police said early Monday.

According to State Police investigating the incident, a video recently  surfaced on Facebook showing someone dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit at a bonfire with Trump signs.

News reports say the video may have stemmed from a bonfire in Stafford Springs.

This is not the first time Connecticut has seen symbols of hate. In 1986,  the Ku Klux Klan held a national convention and burned a cross on an isolated farm in East Windsor.

It was also happening around the country. Most recently, the KKK rallied in Nevada in support of Donald Trump.

The video, posted on social media, shows an individual wearing a robe and a hood waving a Trump flag.

Stafford’s first selectman, Anthony Frassinelli, said he met with law enforcement Monday morning as the video was circulating online. He said they won’t let the actions of “a few ignorant people embarrass our town and its residents.”

Police said these individuals could face trespassing charges because they were rallying on someone else’s property.

East Windsor First Selectman Bob Maynard tells News 8 he believes the video was filmed in gravel pits in the southern part of town.  News 8 also reports that this is an area accessible only by off road vehicles.

Also on Monday, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton posted on Facebook that recently spray painted swastikas in the city.

“Rest assured that the city of Danbury will not tolerate acts of hate. When the person or persons are apprehended they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Boughton wrote.

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What Immigrant Communities Can Do to Prepare for Trump


SAN FRANCISCO — Two days after Donald Trump’s victory, immigration experts told reporters to keep a close eye on the president-elect’s transition team and his appointments to key government positions, for clues as to what to expect from his administration once he is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017.

“We’re hearing a lot of questions and, honestly, a little bit of panic,” said Sally Kinoshita, deputy director of Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

But, she said, it’s important to put the election in context.

“When you look at the popular vote [which Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won], “the majority of Americans did not vote for Trump and his anti-immigrant rhetoric,” Kinoshita said on a national press call organized by New America Media and Ready California, a coalition of nonprofits that serve immigrant communities.

“This election,” she cautioned, “is not a reflection of Americans in general and their views of immigrants.”

What the polls got wrong

The election of Donald Trump came as a surprise to pollsters, who had estimated Clinton’s chances of winning at 70 percent and up.

“From a historical standpoint, the polling was wrong for the following reasons: Turnout in urban centers [that traditionally vote Democratic] was slightly lighter than expected; and turnout in rural areas was higher than expected,” explained Anthony Williams, special project director of the Miami-based public opinion research firm Bendixen & Amandi International.

This had the effect of “flipping three states that nobody thought were in play: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and, to a certain extent, Florida,” he said.

But a look at the total numbers shows that Trump prevailed in the Electoral College, not because of a swell of enthusiasm for the Republican candidate, but because of a lack of enthusiasm for Clinton.

Trump’s vote total was roughly equal to GOP candidate John McCain’s total in 2008, and he got fewer votes than GOP candidate Mitt Romney got in 2012.

Clinton, meanwhile, got about 60 million votes – six million fewer than Barack Obama got in 2012, and 10 million fewer than Obama got in 2008.

While there was “very little evidence” of an insidious effort at voter suppression in this election, said Williams, there were “other forms of voter suppression, not the least of which was the overwhelming sense that it was over.

“You could make the argument,” he said, “that the perception of [Clinton’s] victory suppressed turnout [in urban areas that would have voted for Clinton].”

An increase in Hispanic, Asian voters and Senators

“The notion that there was a Hispanic wave was real,” noted Williams. “In Nevada, the increase in Hispanic turnout was the difference in the election.”

But Williams said that in other states, such as Florida, there were not enough Latino voters to overcome the increase in the rural, white voter turnout.

Christine Chen, executive director APIAVote, also saw an increased level of voter participation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), over two-thirds of whom are first-generation immigrants.

Based on early voter turnout, she said, the AAPI vote doubled in Florida, Arizona, Virginia and North Carolina, and tripled in Georgia.

Two Asian American women were elected to the U.S. Senate, joining Mazie Hirono of Hawaii: Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who is Thai Chinese, and Kamala Harris of California, who is African American and Indian.

In Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

A challenging time ahead

The election of Trump, a candidate who made fear and xenophobia a central part of his campaign, has spurred advocates to pledge to fight for the dignity of all families.

“There’s no doubt we are entering a challenging period. The election was divisive and damaging. We saw hate crimes, hateful rhetoric,” said Kamal Essaheb, national director of policy and advocacy for National Immigration Law Center.

“President-Elect Trump has called for unity in his election night speech, but obviously his actions are going to have to speak louder,” Essaheb said.

The most important thing to do now, he said, is to make sure immigrants are prepared and know their rights.

One thing to keep in mind, he said, are the limits of presidential power.

“The Constitution protects everyone,” Essaheb said. “Law enforcement has to show you [a warrant to enter your house]. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to call an attorney.”

“There are things he can do that will be harmful,” said Essaheb. But, he said, “Trump cannot take away the Constitution. He cannot take away the people’s rights.”

Another thing he can’t take away are state and local laws, such as California’s AB 60, which allows undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license. “State and city-level policies did not change on Tuesday night,” Essaheb said. “The same opportunities are there; the imperative to act is higher.”

Trump has said that he would repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the executive action taken by President Obama in 2012 that gives certain undocumented immigrants who came here as children access to a work permit.

He has said that he would eliminate federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” whose policies limit cooperation between local police and federal immigration authorities.

He has talked about stepping up deportations, with “zero tolerance for criminal aliens.”

He has also talked about building a wall, something that experts say is neither practical nor feasible.

He has even hinted at a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, Essaheb noted, saying that once we enforce our laws, we can start to have a conversation about the people who are already here.

What families can do now

Although it is hard to know exactly what to expect under a Trump administration, there are some steps families can take now to stay safe and plan for their future.

Sally Kinoshita of Immigrant Legal Resource Center noted that Trump is not president until Jan. 20, 2016. Until then, the DACA program remains in effect.

It takes several months for DACA applications to be processed, Kinoshita said, so if people have not applied for DACA, it might be too late.

Trump has said he would get rid of the program; the earliest this would happen is his first day in office.

Renewals, which take eight weeks to be processed, would be much less of a risk, said Kinoshita. Some people are renewing their DACA now while Obama is in office, in order to get a two-year work permit.

Anyone planning to renew DACA now should know that the price for DACA increases to $495 on Dec. 23, 2016. Loans are available through the Mission Asset Fund, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, the Mexican Consulate or local service providers.

Because there is expected to be an increase in enforcement, prioritizing those with criminal records, she said, people should avoid brushes with the law.

“Something like a DUI or a drug conviction can have permanent immigration consequences,” Kinoshita said.

Those who live in California can get certain felonies reduced to misdemeanors under Prop 47.

Kinoshita encouraged all immigrants to go to a qualified legal services provider to be screened for other forms of immigration relief.

To find free or low-cost nonprofit legal services providers near you, go to the Immigration Advocates Network’s national directory.

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President Obama Meets with President-Elect Donald Trump at the White House


AP- US President-elect Donald Trump has said it was a “great honor” to meet President Barack Obama for transition talks at the White House.

Mr Obama said he was “encouraged” by their “excellent” and “wide-ranging” conversation, which lasted for more than an hour.

Mr Trump has questioned Mr Obama’s US citizenship and vowed to dismantle his legacy in the past.

During the campaign, Mr Obama called Mr Trump “uniquely unqualified”.

However, Mr Obama said he was “rooting” for him after his shock defeat of Hillary Clinton.

After their behind-closed-doors meeting in the White House, Mr Obama said: “My number one priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful.”

He said they had discussed domestic and foreign policy and he had been “very encouraged” by Mr Trump’s interest in working with President Obama’s team on issues facing the US.

Mr Trump said he would “very much look forward” to dealing with President Obama in future.

Photo: President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval office.

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Health Care Should Not be Political


Judy Tabar, Contributor

Planned Parenthood has been here for 100 years, and one thing is clear: we will never back down and we will never stop fighting to ensure that Planned Parenthood patients have access to the health care they need. All people, including immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community, people of faith, and more, are entitled to and deserve high-quality health care without barriers. Every morning, Planned Parenthood health center staff across the country wake up and open their doors, as they have this morning, to care for anyone who needs them, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, income, or country of origin. They will do so today, they will do so tomorrow, and they will do so every day as they have for 100 years.

 

Judy Tabar, CEO of Planned Parenthood

Judy Tabar, CEO of Planned Parenthood

Health care should not be political. Millions of people rely on Planned Parenthood for health care every year – including 64,000 in Connecticut. When someone comes to our health centers, they are seeking our health care services, resources and information. People from all backgrounds, zip codes and political affiliations need and are entitled to affordable, high-quality reproductive care. The majority of Americans – including those who supported President-elect Trump – support access to the vital services provided by Planned Parenthood health centers every day across the country.

 

However, much of the rhetoric used in the last several months has created a frighteningly more dangerous America for people of color: one where unlawful stop-and-frisk policies, that have been found unconstitutional, are enforced; where immigrants are at risk of facing immediate deportation; where Muslims may be banned from entering the country; and where discrimination against LGBTQ communities and disabled people is deemed acceptable. This cannot be what it means to live in America in 2016.

 

We know that many of the people we serve and work in partnership with may be concerned about their safety, and the safety of their families and friends. Together, we are immigrants, Muslims, Black, Latinx*, white, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and everyone else who deserves access to health care in a safe and welcoming place. No matter how great the threat, nothing will ever overcome our commitment to providing high-quality, affordable health care and information to all people.

 

We will never stop fighting for our patients and all people. For 100 years, Planned Parenthood has faced many challenges and attacks from those opposed to our mission. Through every attack, we have come out stronger. We are going to use that strength in partnership with our allies across progressive movements to lead in the coming days, months and years for those who rely on us. The doors of Planned Parenthood stay open – no matter what.

 Judy Tabar is President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.

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Catcalling Is Not a Compliment


Ed. Note: Video tape of GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump boasting of sexual assault on women has sparked a national conversation around the issue. For 15-year-old Juliana Taboada, catcalling by male classmates in and around school is an extension of the often demeaning treatment of women in our society. 

MECCA, Calif. — I’d always wondered if my school was as safe as I thought it was. At 15, I’m still growing up and pretty innocent. I know there are many things wrong with our schools, but there’s one issue that needs to be addressed now. That issue is catcalling and the over-sexualization of young women.

Earlier this month, I was verbally harassed by 3-4 boys at school. I was walking to my fifth period class, and as I was walking I saw these boys in a group pointing and staring at me. I knew what was going to happen. I’ve been catcalled once before, but this time it was different. No one was there to help me, to tell them they’re disgusting. I was alone.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionIt felt like these boys took complete ownership of my body and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Now, since it happened so recently, I’m still terrified of just walking to class. It’s a sad thing knowing that I’m not even safe in my own school, in a place that’s supposed to work for me, to benefit me.

I never thought such horrible behavior would be within the borders of schools, but I guess I’m wrong. Even freshman boys know how to objectify young women. They don’t realize the amount of damage they do by just whistling at me or commenting on my body. It’s a harsh reality women have to deal with and can’t escape. In all honesty, even though it pains me to say this, catcalling is inevitable for women.

It’s even worse to to know that I’m only 15 years old and I’ve experienced the over-sexualization of women.

catcalling_500x279But it’s sadly not new, I was taught at a young age that I need to cover up my body and always be attentive of my surroundings, even at school. My schools have told me to dress a certain way, with lists of clothing I could not wear but only a couple things boys couldn’t wear. I knew the playing field was uneven but it was never a big deal before. I always thought if I wore something too “risky” I would call unwanted attention upon myself and it was my fault, not theirs.

But I was wrong.

I now know that regardless of what I’m wearing, you should have the decency and respect to leave me alone. I’m not your property. Catcallers have absolutely no right to yell at me from the sidelines and expect me to acknowledge them.

I’m a young woman, I’m a person. And it’s about time I start getting treated like one.

About the author:

Juliana Taboada is a local Xicana poet and community activist from Mecca, Calif. She currently attends Desert Mirage High School and recently joined Coachella Unincorporated as a youth reporter.

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English Language Learners And Special Education Students Will Pay The Price For Hartford Mayor’s Bankruptcy Strategy


By David Medina

Welcome to the Hartford where everything is designed to shield Mayor Luke Bronin from the consequences of his own decisions.

Hartford Public Schools, for example, made two interrelated announcements back-to-back during the week of October 10th, to persuade city residents that their children will receive a better education if certain neighborhood schools are shut down.

In the first instance, the Board of Education unveiled the first draft of Equity 2020, the plan to close four low-performing underutilized neighborhood schools and shove their 3,500 students into the rest of the low-performing neighborhood schools.

The better funded Sheff magnet schools that are focused on luring white students from the suburbs will remain untouched.

The school board, under the direction of chairman Richard Wareing, is expected to approve Equity 2020  in December, so that the targeted schools are eliminated from the budget for the school year that begins in August of 2017.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionIn the second instance, the board appointed a search committee to find a qualified educator to replace outgoing Superintendent Beth Schiavino Narvaez, and be the henchman who implements Equity 2020.

Despite its name, there is no equity in Equity 2020. It is simply a brutal, slash-and-burn blueprint for rapidly shutting down the Martin Luther King, Burns Latino Studies, Thirman Milner and the Simpson-Waverly neighborhood schools.

The plan offers three scenarios under which the four doomed schools would close. The only real difference between them is the pattern for redistributing the displaced students throughout the school system.

Equity 2020 also calls for terminating the leases on schools that operate in rented spaces and doubling them up with schools that are located in city-owned buildings. As such, High School, Inc. and the Kinsella high school students would join the Journalism and Media Academy in the renovated Weaver High School building.

The plan makes no provisions for meeting the educational needs of the displaced students or for such things as after-school programs, transportation services, dental and health clinics, security, custodial services and school meals. That ugly task would have to be completed by whoever replaces Schiavino-Narvaez and the central office staff well before the first day of school in August.

The basic objective of the plan is to use the money saved from closing the schools to help Mayor Bronin eliminate the city’s enormous budget deficit and allegedly avoid bankruptcy without alienating Bronin’s political base. Neighborhood schools, including the ones targeted for closure, have increasingly become a dumping ground for Special Education students and the largely Latino population of English-language learners. Equity 2020 would make them even more of a dumping ground. Latino voters did not support Bronin in 2015. So he owes them nothing.

The city’s deficit for this year stands at $22 million and next year’s deficit is projected to be about $40 million. Meanwhile, Standard & Poor’s has downgraded Hartford’s bond rating near junk levels, based on what it said were Bronin’s unrealistic budget projections. Earlier this year, Bronin tried and failed to have the state legislature grant him the authority to unilaterally cut pensions and nullify labor contracts — a power that even the President of the United States doesn’t have. Lately, he has advocated for lowering expenditures in Hartford and other cities by regionalizing services and tax rates with neighboring towns, grand ideas that have fallen flat before.

That leaves Hartford Public Schools, and, more specifically, the neighborhood schools, as the only service that Bronin can freely disembowel to make it look as though he’s doing everything possible to keep the city from going bankrupt. All he needs is a compliant superintendent who will implement Equity 2020 and take the heat when raging parents demand to know how the city can justify opening an expensive new baseball stadium and closing schools at the same time.

Over the coming weeks, the search committee will interview candidates, check their backgrounds and perhaps hear testimony from parents and community leaders on the type of educator they want to see as superintendent. The committee will recommend a nominee and the Hartford Board of Education will then vote to offer the nominee a three-year contract with a salary of roughly $250,000 a year.

Everything will appear honest and above board, although many suspect that the selection process has already been rigged to favor Dr. Jose Colon-Rivas. Dr. Colon-Rivas became the district’s chief operating officer in July, after more than 30 years of service in both City Hall and Hartford Public Schools. He has been a teacher, principal of Hartford Public High School and a central office administrator. As chief operating officer, Dr. Colon-Rivas is already second in command at Hartford Public Schools and has done much of the day-to-day decision making there while Schiavino-Narvaez transitions to her new job as chief of instructional leadership in the Pacific Ocean for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Dr. Colon-Rivas is also invested in Equity 2020. He sits on the Equity 2020 Committee that will present the final draft of the plan for Board of Education approval in December. He even facilitated the unveiling of the first draft on Oct. 13. The more he fronts for Equity 2020, the better he looks. He has the added advantage of having served as a mayoral appointee to Hartford Board of Education, right up until the day he accepted his current job of chief operating officer. So, he clearly has Bronin’s confidence and is well-known to the board members who would appoint him superintendent.

The only potential candidate who poses a serious threat to Colon-Rivas is Dr. James Thompson. Dr. Thompson, who was educated in Hartford Public Schools, is already superintendent of  Bloomfield Public Schools, widely acclaimed as the most improved district in Connecticut every year since he took it over in 2011. Like Colon-Rivas, he spent most of his career as an educator in Hartford, where he became famous for his data-driven work in transforming low-performing schools, including an amazing turnaround of the Simpson-Waverly Elementary School that led to a coveted national Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education in 2003. Thompson, moreover, would be an attractive choice for Luke Bronin to present to the city’s African-American community that strongly supported him for mayor in 2015.

Dr. Thompson, however, would probably have little incentive to come to Hartford without a free hand to run the district as he saw fit. Being a hand puppet to Board Chairman Richard Wareing is not his style. Dr. Thompson also signed a three-year contract extension with Bloomfield recently, where he supervises 2,500 students instead of 21,000 for a salary comparable to what he would earn in Hartford. Furthermore, Thompson made his reputation as an educational leader who improves schools, not one who closes them.

The search process for Hartford superintendent may attract additional candidates. Some will take it seriously and others will throw their hats in the ring with no expectation of getting the job, thereby legitimizing the process. The urgency to pass Equity 2020 and the short timeline to fill the superintendent’s position makes it hard to imagine any of those candidates matching the experience, credentials, and the value of Jose Colon-Rivas or James Thompson.

That being the case, Mayor Bronin should simply skip the dog-and-pony show and choose the candidate that he has already decided can best satisfy his political and economic needs. Even the shoe-shine boys in Hartford know that Equity 2020’s role in Bronin’s bankruptcy gambit will determine who gets the job. So, be transparent. Don’t insult the public’s intelligence with a charade.

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Wells Fargo Wrestles with Fraudulent Charges


As Wells Fargo fights to come out from under a fake-account scandal that has forced its former CEO and chairman to retire, there is talk that branch closures may be in the near future.

Over the last few years, the Wells Fargo network has held strong, with only 2 percent of its branches closing, compared with 9 percent for JPMorgan Chase and 15 percent for Bank of America, WSOC reports.

The bank currently maintains 6,000 branches across 39 states, which is 1,000 branches more than any other bank in America, according to CNN Money.

As previously reported on The Root, last month the banking giant agreed to pay $185 million in fines and penalties after it was revealed that branch employees had created nearly 2 million fraudulent accounts in the names of unsuspecting current customers. The scandal launched several congressional hearings and forced the retirement of CEO and Chairman John Stumpf.

While Wells Fargo has not announced any branch closures, its need to find ways to pay for the mounting legal and compliance costs related to the fraud issue, topped with the loss of credibility in the consumer market, may cripple its ability to make money.

“Whether Wells Fargo realizes it or not, they’re going to be closing 1,000 branches,” analyst Mike Mayo of investment banking company CLSA told CNN Money. “It’s a matter of when, not if.”

Mayo also said that the pressure to make money to keep branches open may have been a contributing factor in the creation of the fraudulent accounts.

During a presentation for analysts last week, Wells Fargo hinted at branch closures. The bank said that a renewed focus on mobile and online banking would allow it to review its “branch footprint for consolidation opportunities.”

Wells Fargo is still contending with ongoing investigations, including an internal review of the fraudulent-account scandal and a California investigation into whether or not the bank committed identity theft when making the fake accounts.

Analyst Paul Miller of investment bank FBR & Co. said that Wells Fargo senior management is in crisis mode right now.

“They’ve still got to figure out how to get back on everyone’s Christmas list,” Miller said, according to CNN Money.

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