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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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Hartford Police Seize Marijuana Plants


HARTFORD — Police on Thursday arrested owners of a marijuana factory on Ansonia Street in the North End.

Jaleel Wooley, 24, and Jamie Grant, 36,  of Hartford, were charged with growing 92 marijuana plants at 39 Ansonia St., police said.

Detectives from the Vice and Narcotics Division received a tip on Tuesday night and arrested the two suspects on Thursday after they visited the home and sawtall plants growing outside.

Police also seized packaged marijuana package for sale.

 

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Hartford Police Arrest Local Man for Illegal Firearm


HARTFORD — Hartford police on Monday arrested a local man for allegedly possessing a gun illegally and resisting arrest.

Amauris Flores, 21, of Hartford, was charged with criminal possession of a firearm, violating his probation from a protective order and interfering with police.

Flores, a convicted felon was taken into custody after police interrogated him at his Main Street apartment on Monday. Police found him in possession of a loaded .22 caliber revolver, which is a violation of his probation, police said.

Officers said Flores  “forcefully pulled away” from officers when they tried to apprehend him. He was handcuffed after police chased him, police said.

Flores is being held on a $350,000 bond.

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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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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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GOP Senate Leader: Malloy, Unions Ducked Legislature on Pensions


HARTFORD — The top Republican in the state Senate charged Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state employee unions Friday with making an end run around the legislature to resolve a disability pension controversy that the state auditors said may have cost Connecticut millions of dollars in improper payments.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, also called upon Democratic legislative leaders to insist Malloy submit the agreement reached with unions – which endorses a more lenient standard for awarding disability pensions – to the General Assembly for consideration. The auditors also recommended the legislature consider the issue.

“Untold millions of taxpayer dollars have already flown out the door in unwarranted disability benefits for ineligible state government retirees,” Fasano said. “Now, Governor Malloy has handed over rule-making authority to state employee unions and said, ‘OK, go ahead and write your own eligibility standards.’

“Can you say ‘conflict of interest’?”

Fasano’s objections concern a memorandum of understanding signed by Malloy’s administration and ratified Thursday by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.

Both sides effectively agreed on how the state would implement Connecticut law regarding disability pensions. And because the parties don’t consider it to be a new contract or a contract amendment, it will not be submitted to the legislature for action, the Democratic governor’s budget office confirmed Thursday.

Spokesmen for the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate declined to comment.

But the process Malloy and the unions took runs counter to the recommendation of the state auditors of public accounts, Robert M. Ward and John C. Geragosian.

In a special June 17 report to the governor, the auditors detailed a problem that also was highlighted in a lawsuit filed this summer by state whistleblower Virginia Brown, a former attorney with the retirement services division in the comptroller’s office.

According to state law, an employee is disabled for up to 24 months if unable to perform the duties for which he or she was hired because of job conditions. After that, the employee may continue on disability retirement only if certain other conditions are met. In particular, that employee must not be able to perform some other “suitable or comparable” state occupation.

Both the auditors and Brown assert that, at times, workers have been allowed to maintain disability pay as long as their injury prevented them from returning to their original job.

“Democrats will likely not want to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, but it is not something that is going away,” Fasano said, adding that Senate Republicans would introduce legislation next year to reform the disability pension system. “… Republicans will not allow Connecticut taxpayers to be disrespected as their money gets wasted time and time again in our one-party-rule state.”

“Isn’t it pretty hypocritical for the minority leader to advocate for this for his friends on one day, but send out statements (of opposition) the next?” Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia responded.

Puglia was referring to Fasano’s advocacy for a publicly financed pension for East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo.

“Seems like he has one standard for his friends and then another standard for everyone else,” Puglia said.

The state retirement commission, which also administers the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System, determined Maturo, a Republican, could not collect a disability pension – related to his work as a firefighter – while also collecting his salary as mayor.

Fasano argued this was unfair given that the state commission also determined it was OK for longtime Democratic activist Marilynn Cruz-Aponte to collect a regular pension for her work in New Britain government while also receiving a salary as assistant to the public works director in Hartford.

Hartford attorney Daniel Livingston said the memorandum on disability pensions basically returns the state to an interpretation it has followed for most of the past three decades: If a disabled worker cannot return to his or her original job within 24 months, they are entitled to an ongoing disability pension. Livingston could not be reached for comment Friday.

Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo also questioned whether this was the correct interpretation of the law after he took office in 2011. And while Brown asserts that Lembo and his staff pressured her not to raise concerns about how pensions were awarded, the comptroller – who insists Brown was not coerced in any way – directed the state’s Medical Examining Board to impose the more stringent disability pension standard in the fall of 2013.

But after this resulted in a significant increase in disability pension denials – and complaints from the unions – Lembo suspended all 24-month reviews and asked the administration and the unions to negotiate a solution.

Ward and Geragosian, who warned in June that millions of dollars in pension payments likely were improperly issued, either because of an incorrect standard or because of the suspension of medical reviews, urged the legislature to clarify the matter.

“This is a matter of state statute and legislative and regulatory authority,” Fasano said, adding that the legislature enacted a statute creating disability pensions and establishing the State Employees Retirement Commission to administer it, working with the comptroller. “SEBAC has no authority to draft or approve administrative rules or interpret state statutes. … This is another secret deal negotiated in the dark and is a bad joke on Connecticut taxpayers.”

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Scam Artists Target CT Businesses


HARTFORD – Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner is warning businesses across Connecticut about bogus forms being sent by an agency called the “Division of Corporate Services.”

The bogus company is asking for payment for an “Annual Records Statement,” alleging that payment is required by Connecticut law.

Officials said that this scam attempts to collect money from companies that need to comply with a state reporting requirement and there is no value in responding to this fake mailing. They are urging people to ignore these forms.

“Businesses registered with the state of Connecticut are required by law to file only Annual Reports with our office, which are very minimal in nature,” said Secretary Merrill, Connecticut’s chief business registrar.  “There is no legal requirement for any business to file the minutes or bylaws that this company is offering to file, in exchange for payment. Those are internal business documents and I urge any Connecticut company that has received this solicitation to ignore it and not pay for services they do not need.”

Attorney General Jepsen said his office has received about a dozen complaints from businesses in Connecticut that have received this fraudulent mailing.

“While our agencies are investigating this, I urge businesses and consumers to stay vigilant and to make very sure that any unsolicited requests for payments – whether they are suspicious-looking invoices or forms such as this that appear to reference legal requirements – are truly official before sending payment,” he said.

This deceptive solicitation has an “official” appearance and references a Connecticut state law. Scams like this direct the recipient to send a fee, usually much higher than the true fee, for services that are not needed.

Officials said businesses and other organizations should always scrutinize mailings to be sure they are legitimate before issuing payment. To avoid being defrauded by bogus mailings, Commissioner Johnathan Harris and Secretary of the State Merrill.

Secretary Merrill said if you are ever unsure about the legitimacy of a business filing notice you receive, please check with my office at 860-509-6003 or go online at www.concord-sots.ct.gov if you need information on corporate filings.”

I encourage anyone who receives an “invoice” or other request for payment for unordered, undelivered or unsolicited services to notify the Department of Consumer Protection at dcp.frauds@ct.gov or call 1-800-842-2649.

 

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West Indian Club Among Six Cited for Violations


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The West Indian Social Club was among six nightclubs cited or closed after police  did a surprised inspections.

After conducting a series of inspections within the last month, the Hartford Police Department and the Department of Consumer Protection’s liquor control and labor divisions cited these clubs on Wednesday:  Blu Print Bar and Grill; Sunset Café; United Banquet Hall; Kabbalah House; Pastry Dynamics.

Six nightclubs were cited for violations and three were closed as part of a surprise inspection conducted by police and other agencies of local bars and clubs Wednesday.

Only the West Indian Social Club, which was closed for labor violations, agreed to pay a $1,000 fine per day to remain open.

Police, along with members of the Department of Consumer Protection’s liquor control and labor divisions, conducted the surprise inspections Wednesday at 10 locations in the north part of the city.

Two businesses were closed and not able to be inspected.

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Dirt Salon to Present Pop Show: SODALICIOUS


HARTFORD — The Dirt Salon will present the premier of SODALICIOUS! – a  Pop Art Show featuring a vast exhibit of photography by artist Beth Phillips who has photographed numerous works by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, both of whom have been major influences on her own art.

“I knew artists Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat from 1983-1988,” says Phillips, who worked with the artists during exciting periods of their careers, but also unfortunately near the end. ”

June Bisantz to perform at the Dirt Salon in Hartford

June Bisantz to perform at the Dirt Salon in Hartford

Andy Warhol passed away February 22, 1987. His Estate called me to photograph thousands of paintings at the new “Factory” at 22 East 33rd. The following year, when Jean Michel Basquiat passed away on August 12, 1988, his father, Gerald Basquiat, called me to photograph hundreds of his paintings and drawings.”

Years later, her own photographic work would hearken back to both Basquiat’s hip hop street life and Warhol’s repetitive collection of Campbell soup cans. On long walks around New York City, Ms. Phillips began noticing crushed soda cans. Ms. Phillips began collecting and photographing crushed soda cans and educating herself about recycling. People began sending her crushed soda cans from around the world. The resulting work draws attention to the need for recycling and recyclable packaging while commenting on the art of the soda industry.

SODALICIOUS! features nearly two hundred photographic prints.

As part of the Pop Art tribute, there will be exhibits by two emerging Connecticut artists: Thomas Radovich and Katie Fogg. Radovich’s work began as an exploration of nostalgia but has expanded into a nearly compulsive need to document every action figure, stuffed animal, and toy in his ever-growing collection.

Katie Fogg’s paintings have been displayed in numerous group exhibitions throughout NYC and Connecticut, and have been acquired by private collectors. Fogg’s KFOGG Studio is located in her hometown of New London and she also keeps a studio in Brooklyn, NY.

Phillips, an artist and photographer, attended the Hartford Art School and the Rhode Island School of Design. She lived in New York City for about 30 years and ran a business photographing fine art.

SODALICIOUS! will also include a musical treasure not to be missed – June Bisantz Jazz.
Tickets are $15 in advance (go to: thedirtsalon.com), $20 at the door.

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