Archive | May, 2009

Summit Focus: Improved Options for Urban Students

NEW BRITAIN — Students, teachers, administrators and parents from Connecticut’s urban centers will meet to focus on improving opportunities for student success, including greater interest in and access to higher education.

Urban Gifted Showcase, designed to celebrate middle and high school students’ accomplishments and to raise awareness about the many high-achieving young people who reside in the state’s urban schools, is a special event that will unfold June 1 and 2 at Central Connecticut State University.

It is sponsored by four Connecticut organizations: Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents (CAUS), The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), the Connecticut Association for the Gifted (CAG), and ING.

Each of the two days will feature workshops presented by educators, specialists, artists, musicians, writers; people from the private sector, the government, local business and industry and those with unique talents.

Throughout the day, students will have the opportunity to experience a variety of unique workshops based on their interests. In addition, the day will include guest speakers who will inspire and serve as role models for some of our state’s most deserving young people. Both of these day-long expositions are open to other students, parents, interested adults, invited guests, and legislators.

OnJune 2 Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul and Mary will perform for students and speak to the attendees in the morning. Following his keynote, he and two urban superintendents, Dr. Doris Kurtz from New Britain and Dr. Reggie Mayo from New Haven, will lead a special Summit for teams of urban school leaders and teachers.

The purpose of the Summit will be to generate a working paper on practical strategies, K-12, that school district leaders can implement to create college-going cultures in Connecticut’s urban schools.

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Weekend Movie Review: ‘Drag Me To Hell’

By Jonathan Smalls, Film Critic

Imagine that you are Sam Raimi. The year is 2009. Spiderman 3 was a critical disappointment. You want to make a horror film, but have not made one in twenty-two years. What is the solution here? You make a horror film with all of the standard elements without taking it too seriously. Let it be shocking and funny simultaneously without sweating the small stuff like believable acting or character development.

If you think that that sounds like a recipe for disaster, you will be pleasantly surprised. No, no one will win any awards for this film. Yes, it will probably have a very short run in theatres, but for what it is, Drag Me to Hell is what movies are all about.

Sam Raimi returns to the horror genre with the same style and attitude with which he left it. The film has all of his signatures: witty one liners from the leading male, use of characters and setting to send a message and shocking, over the top imagery to keep audience attention.

The imagery is certainly not gory by any means, but it is still extremely graphic and elicits reactions from the audience at every turn. This unabashed display will either send a viewer out of the theatre in the first, few minutes or else firmly in their seat, focused on the screen and wondering what will happen next for the whole duration.

Alison Lohman as a lead actress is questionable. Raimi was clearly more focused on the overall production of the film as he well should be, so he let Lohman stiffly portray Christine Brown, delivering wooden line after wooden line. This in no way detracts from the film. Some members of the audience may even be delighted to see a character with whom they have no connection suffer and struggle as Christine Brown does in this story.

Justin Long as Clay Dalton has a much smaller role, but it suits his style of acting much better. The progression of the story sets him up for punchy retorts in the dialogue, but that is just type casting for him. It does no thing for his versatility as an actor.

The rest of the cast is actually performs very well. Lorna Raver as Mrs Ganush holds no thing back from her character as a psychotic and desperate, old woman. Chelcie Ross works the family dinner scene beautifully.

One of the best parts of the movie though has no thing to do with any of the characters at all. It is just a well placed “Hang In There, Baby” poster.

To enjoy Drag Me to Hell you need to enter the theatre with an open mind and a willingness to enjoy your self. It is just a series of entertaining events, at times hilarious, other times revolting and still other times frightening.

As I said before, the film will not win any awards, but watching Drag Me to Hell is not a passive activity. From the invention of moving pictures all of the way to modern CGI though that is what going to the movies is all about.

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First Latina Nominated for Supreme Court

HARTFORD — Many Latinos in Hartford beamed with joy yesterday when President Barak Obama appointed the first Latina to the Supreme Court.

Hartford comprises of about 41 percent Latinos, mostly Puerto Ricans. This includes the mayor of Hartford Eddie Perez, who sent out a press release yesterday emphasizing his pride in Obama’s selection of Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina and second third woman to sit on the US Supreme Court. Sotomayor, if confirmed, would replace Justice David Souter.

Perez issued a congratulatory statement regarding Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court selection:

“Sotomayor embodies the ‘common touch’ and ‘real world’ perspective that President Obama is calling on to bring a new and diverse voice to the U.S. Supreme Court. By being the first Hispanic named to the High Court— and only the third woman to be seated— Sotomayor would represent history, top-caliber jurist credentials, and the ‘up-by-her-bootstraps’ vision that are needed in the 21st Century.”

Others agree.

“I’m feel proud seeing a Latina nominated for the Supreme Court. It feels good, really really good,” Maria Ortiz, 23, said.

President Obama in yesterday’s press conference described Sotomayor, 54, as a woman “who has not forgotten her roots and offers the wisdom of a lifetime of experiences.”

Judge Sotomayor, of Puerto Rican descent and raised in the Bronx in New York, was initially nominated by former president George HW Bush as District Court Judge for Southern New York, and former president Bill Clinton appointed her to the Second District Federal Court of Appeals.

She will next go before the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation.

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Mayor Vetoes Council’s Budget Cuts

HARTFORD — Citing the city council’s cuts to the budget as an act that would “harm neighborhoods,” Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez vetoed several of the coucil’s resolutions to the proposed 2009-10 budget, according to a press release before the long holiday weekend.

In a letter to Council President Calixto Torres, the Perez claim that the cuts would “harm our neighborhoods by slashing job creation programs, removing as many as 70 police officers from our streets, eliminating needed foreclosure assistance, and jeopardizing our ‘A’ bond rating.”

According to the release Perez has reduced his proposed budget by $6.1 million.  In the letter, the mayor said the council’s cuts  “defies logic … in these difficult times.”

Some of the vetoed include $3 million from the board of education budget, reducing the police department’s budget by $500,000 and eliminating home foreclosure assistance program.

Several council members, however, believe the mayor has failed to consider taxpayers.

The council will meet next Tuesday to deliberate the mayor’s vetoes.

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State Kicks Off Summer Staycation

HARTFORD — This summer about 70 percent of Connecticut residents plan to vacation close to home and 86 percent said they would seek out discounts, according to a recent survey conducted by the state Commission on Culture and Tourism.

So in advanced of Memorial Day weekend, which usually launches the summer and vacation season nationwide, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced today that the state is launching the second year of “Connecticut – Your Staycation Destination,” a tourism campaign that offers discounts and special deals for state residents at a variety of attractions, hotels and restaurants around the state.
“With gas prices climbing again and the economy still ailing, families will find, as they did last year, that staying close to home can stretch their travel budget and while treating them to the world-class attractions we have in our own back yard,” Rell said during the Staycation kick-off at the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester.

The Lutz Museum, founded in 1953, is one of more than 140 attractions and businesses offering discounted prices and lodging, complimentary gifts and other deals to Connecticut residents available from Memorial Day, May 25 through Labor Day, Sept. 7.

State tourism officials say more Staycation Destination venues are being added every day. For a list of attractions and businesses participating in this year’s campaign go to:

“Our state businesses and attractions hear them loud and clear and have put together wonderful Staycation deals and discounts for a summer of endless possibilities,” Rell said.

Last summer, Connecticut residents took advantage of savings by visiting Staycation attractions that included amusement parks, museums, restaurants, hotels, vineyards, golf courses, sporting venues, galleries and more.

For more information:

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CT Driver’s License Gets New Look

HARTFORD — Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced today that the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin testing a newly designed driver’s license and non-driver identification card that has state-of-the-art security features to further prevent fraud.

A phase-in of the new credentials will start May 20 with the Wethersfield DMV office followed by other DMV offices offering them by June 30. Drivers’ licenses and identification cards with the previous design will remain valid until their expiration date.

“This is truly a 21st century identification document,” Rell said. “The enhanced design assures greater security and gives Connecticut citizens another layer of protection against fraud and identity theft.”

The new license features a salmon-colored banner across the top and the non-driver identification cards have a green banner. Those changes are among several modifications DMV is making as part of its routine upgrade of the credentials and to keep in step with new technologies.

“We are always trying to improve our licensing process,” DMV Commissioner Robert Ward said. “This takes us several more steps in that direction. By issuing this new credential, Connecticut continues to meet high standards in driver’s license security in America.”

The enhanced security features include:

* An embedded graphic of the Charter Oak tree within the center of the card that is only visible when held up to a bright light.

* An image of a lighthouse that will appear as a hologram when the credential is held under ultra-violet light.

* A special laminate with security features that will cover both sides of the card.

* A second bar code and unique serial number located on the back of each card. The serial number, which is also contained within the bar code, will be connected to the customer’s identity record.

* Other hidden security elements.

The new card will also feature more prominently the license or identification number, date of birth, and expiration date in bold letters. The date when 16 and 17-year-old card holders will turn 18 will appear in a yellow box adjacent to the person’s photo so that young drivers transitioning from teen driving laws can be spotted more easily.

The current fee for a driver’s license is $66 and is valid for six years.

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Ten Haitians Dead After Boat Capsizes

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. — At least ten Haitians are now dead after a boat capsized at sea on this week, according to US Coast Guards officials.

Rescuers searched an expanding stretch of the Atlantic Ocean off Florida late yesterday for survivors a day after an overloaded boat capsized and sank with about 30 people aboard, mainly Haitian immigrants fleeing their country’s crushing poverty.

At least nine people were known to have died, including an infant, US coast guard officials said. Sixteen more people were pulled out of rough waters after the first survivors were discovered yesterday.

The rescue operation expanded this morning to follow currents farther north, coast guard spokesman James Harless said. The search, which has covered more than 2,500 square miles (6,475 square kilometres), now stretches from off Palm Beach county to just east of Cape Canaveral.

The search started around midday yesterday when a boater first discovered survivors in the ocean and continued through the night, using helicopters, cutters, a jet and a handful of small boats. No new victims were found in the pre-dawn hours, US coast guard Petty Officer Nick Ameen said.

“A lot of those people were out there treading water for a long time,” Ameen said. “Our main goal is everyone’s health right now and safety.”

Although the coast guard hadn’t figured out exactly how many people were aboard or how many might still be missing at sea, it appeared most of the passengers were from Haiti and the trip fit the profile of migrant smuggling.

“The boat was obviously overloaded,” coast guard Captain James Fitton said. “It’s a tragedy that someone would be so callous with human life.”

Illegal migrants from Haiti are almost always deported, a sore point for Miami’s Haitian-American community because Cuban migrants who reach US shores are allowed to stay under federal government policy. Cubans interdicted at sea are usually returned to the communist island.

The ship’s sinking came as Haitian-American leaders met in Washington yesterday to lobby for temporary protective status for those from the country who make it to the US.

It would be an emergency measure to keep people from being deported to their homeland while it recovers from a natural disaster or major political upheaval. It has been granted to countries including El Salvador and Nicaragua but never to Haiti.

Since October, the US coast guard has stopped 1,377 Haitians from trying to get to the US, an increase from 972 during the same seven-month period last year. Four tropical storms and hurricanes battered the western hemisphere’s poorest country during last year’s harvest season, killing 793 people, crippling agriculture and causing $1bn (£660m) in damage to irrigation, bridges and roads.

In January, UN-sponsored groups said more aid was urgently needed to stave off famine in several areas of the country. For those familiar with the plight of Haitians, the escape attempt was no surprise.

“The economic conditions in Haiti are deplorable, and I don’t see them getting any better any time soon,” said Andy Gomez, a University of Miami expert on Caribbean migration. “And the Haitian-American community has developed a pretty good network here in the last five or 10 years, just as the Cuban-Americans have done, so there’s more of a reason to come.”

The boat apparently left Bimini in the Bahamas on Tuesday night and was believed to have capsized or collided with something at about 2am yesterday, the coast guard said. Many Caribbean migrants who try to reach the US arrange trips leaving from the Bahamas.

Officials didn’t learn about the accident until another boater who spotted swimmers called more than 10 hours later about 15 miles off the shore of Boynton Beach, around 60 miles north of Miami. Water temperatures by the afternoon were around 77F.

The boat has not been found, and rescuers believed it sank because it hasn’t been spotted from the air. Besides children, women also were aboard, including a pregnant woman.

Several of the bodies recovered were taken from coast guard boats onto land in Riviera Beach, where dozens of emergency vehicles were waiting. Three of the survivors were taken to hospitals. The Palm Beach Post reported that one woman was in critical condition, but the coast guard said all the rescued people were expected to survive.

Tony Mead, operations manager at the Palm Beach county medical examiner’s office, said autopsies were under way this morning and would likely be completed by the end of the day. In a similar incident in May 2007, an overcrowded boat sailing toward the US capsized near Turks and Caicos islands, killing 54 people.


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State Holds Meeting on Education Funding

The Connecticut State Department of Education  will  hold a meeting on how the stimulus plan will affect funding in connecticut schools.

The community meeting, officials said, will provide parents and community members with information on how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will affect education funding next year.

The meeting will be held at  Hamden High School May 19 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

ARRA, or the federal stimulus package, provides more than $780 million in new education funding to Connecticut’s school districts over the next 18 months, state officials said.

People should be aware that while the funding will help stabilize local education budgets, the law governing these funds calls for very specific uses and there is limited flexibility in spending in many cases,” said state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan. “However, there are opportunities to enhance programs and services, particularly for those students most in need.”

This presentation is geared for the community and advocacy groups and parent organizations.  This session will include presentations by the Department’s Bureau of Special Education on the ARRA funds specific to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  or IDEA and the Department’s Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction on the ARRA funds specific to Title I.

No advanced registration is necessary.   For more information or other assistance at the meeting, please contact the CSDE at 860-713-6912.

Directions to Hamden High School are attached

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Mayor, Officals Fete Jamaican Senator

HARTFORD — Mayor Eddie Perez and other city officials took time out to meet and greet Jamaica’s Senator, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Ronald Robinson.

Robinson was feted in April and given an entire day, which the mayor proclaimed in his honor. The city also pledged to partner on a number of trade and investment initiatives, including a gift of a fire truck to the government of Jamaica through the Caribbean Trade Council.

Robinson’s trip was a part of trip planned by the Jamaican government to reach out to Jamaicans in the United States. Trips were planned for New York, New Jersey, Miami and Hartford. Hartford purportedly has the largest number of Jamicans in the U.S.

Connecticut’s capital city is also home to the third largest West Indian population in the nation.

Robinson was the speaker at lunch ceremony held at the West Indian Social Club of Hartford, which was attended by, among others, Andrew Lawrence, President of the Caribbean Trade Council of Hartford; Daryl K. Roberts, Chief of Hartford Police Department; Veronica Airy-Wilson, Councilwoman of City of Hartford; Geneive Brown Metzger, Consul General of Jamaica in New York; RJo Winch, Councilwoman of Hartford; Charles Teale, Sr., Chief of Hartford Fire Department.

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Sojourner Truth’s Bust Graces Capitol

By Ann-Marie Adams

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressional staffer Trinita Brown has walked the halls of the United States Congress for 18 years, passing through the Emancipation Hall in the visitor’s center. Over the years, though, she has adjusted to one thing—that the faces on all the “suffragists” statues were of white women.

“I actually wasn’t surprised,” Brown said in a matter-of-fact way after taking notice. “Pictures of people of color, in general, are missing from the Capitol.”

Until now.

A chocolate, bronze bust of a black woman has added a splash of color to a 20,000 ft. room enclosed by white granite walls and dotted with white marbled sculptures.

Last Tuesday, Brown was joined by other staffers, hollywood celebrities and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Emancipation Hall Capital Visitor Center to witness the unveiling of a sculptured bust of Sojourner Truth, the first memorial to a black woman. There, in the center of the hall, was a beautifully craved bust of Truth, which was omitted because of the racism of her time and years later.

sojurnertruth_2_twSojourner Truth was an enslaved Black Woman, born Isabella Baumfree in 1797. She worked to abolish slavery and fought for women’s right to vote. The separate memorial to Sojourner came about when it was discovered that Sojourner had been left off the Portrait Monument that commemorates the right of women to vote. Agreeing to a stand-alone memorial of  Sojourner Truth finally corrects the injustice of leaving her off the original monument, organizers said.

“[Delores Tucker] felt it was an injustice that Sojourner was left out. That’s why she spent her life trying to correct that injustice,” said Bill Tucker, husband of the late C. Delores Tucker who chaired the National Congress for Black Women, Inc.

The bust was donated by the NCBW, now chaired by  E. Faye Williams. But it was the former chair, C. DeLores Tucker, whose decade-long struggle to shepherd in the new face lift to the Capitol, community activists praised at a recent gathering in D.C. Tucker died in 2005 before her effort resulted in the passage of a Bill on Dec. 6, 2006 to memorialize the work of Sojourner Truth. The final effort was later led in the House by Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee and in the Senate by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Arlen Specter, among others.

c-dolores-tuckerAt the official unveiling, NCBW members and friends came to Washington from all over the country to see First Lady Michelle Obama do the unveiling honors. Celebrities were spotted in D.C from the day before, attending a reception in honor of the sculptor, Artis Lane. Dawn Lewis of It’s a Different World Fame, Radio One’s Cathy Hughes and movie actress Alfre Woodard were spotted mingling with the VIP audience at the lavishly adorned FedEx Corporate House.

In the Capitol’s rotunda, actress Cicely Tyson performed Sojourner’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech, which was first delivered at a Women’s Conference in Akron, Ohio. It was a speech was “so powerful that it is credited with igniting the Women’s Suffrage Movement.”

Many onlookers agreed it was a historic and spine-tingling occasion to be treasured.

“We hope that in the years to come, families will make it a point to find the Sojourner Truth memorial, and pause to honor her sacrifices for all of us. Just as she struggled to correct injustices to women and to Black people, the members of NCBW struggled to bring Truth to the Capitol.”

Below is Sojourner Truth’s poem “Ain’t I A Woman”

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter.

I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

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