Archive | October, 2010

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Poverty of Ideas: Despite Economy, Right Still Blames Poor for Being Poor

By Marjorie Valbrun, America’s Wire News Analysis

When the U.S. Census Bureau recently released its annual report on the economic status of American households, few people were surprised that black and Hispanic households showed the highest increase in poverty rates. The two groups were hit harder by the economic recession and had higher rates of unemployment than white and Asian households, so news that poverty rates for them surpassed 25 percent in 2009, though troubling, was not entirely unexpected.

A surprise was that political conservatives continued to blame poor African-Americans and Hispanics for the very act of being poor even as 43.6 million Americans of all racial stripes, 12.3 percent of them white, are living in poverty and collectively struggling to survive the fallout of an economic downturn—widespread layoffs, massive home foreclosures and loss of retirement savings and other assets.

The new poverty figures are the largest recorded by the Census Bureau in 51 years and reflect a consecutive increase in U.S. poverty over the past three years. They are an indication of the powerful economic, political and structural forces that play a role in the financial well-being of American households and that tend to have a more significant and negative impact on already poor and struggling families.

President Barack Obama acknowledged as much during a recent speech at the annual legislative conference of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“This historic recession, the worst since the Great Depression, has taken a devastating toll on all sectors of our economy,” Obama said. “It’s hit Americans of all races and all regions and all walks of life. But as has been true often in our history and as has been true in other recessions, this one came down with a particular vengeance on the African-American community.”

He reminded the audience, though he probably didn’t have to, that African-Americans were at an economic disadvantage before the economic downturn.

“Long before this recession, there were black men and women throughout our cities and towns who’d given up looking for a job, kids standing around on the corners without any prospects for the future,” he said. “Long before this recession, there were blocks full of shuttered stores that hadn’t been open in generations. So, yes, this recession made matters much worse, but the African-American community has been struggling for quite some time.”

Yet almost as soon as the census numbers were released, conservative politicians, commentators and researchers at public policy think thanks were commenting on the role of behavior and personal responsibility, or lack thereof, as factors contributing to the high poverty rate. They also cited the purportedly pernicious affects of government-funded anti-poverty programs, the very ones that kept more people from falling below the poverty line.

A report by the conservative Heritage Foundation on the same day as the census report cited millions of children living in poverty in single-parent households and asserted that the “principal cause is the absence of married fathers in the home.” The foundation report contends that government entitlement programs such as welfare, food stamps and income tax credits that mostly benefit unwed mothers and their children, keep families—especially those with black and Hispanic children—in poverty and are “disincentives to marriage because benefits are reduced as a family’s income rises.”

The foundation also separately asserts that the average poor American is not as bad off as liberal activists, media and some politicians would have the public believe.

According to the census report, about 15.5 million children under 18, the majority of them black, were living in poverty in 2009 compared with 14.1 million in 2008. The poverty rate increased across all types of families. For married-couple families, it grew to 5.8 percent from 5.5 percent and for female-headed families to 29.9 percent from 28.7 percent.

Not all poor families qualify for all of the various assistance programs, and amounts they receive are relatively modest, enough to keep some from falling below the official poverty line of $21,954 for a family of four but not enough to move them far above it.

The foundation report concludes that government intervention could reduce childhood poverty by promoting and supporting policies that encourage marriage among low-income couples. The Urban Institute and other nonpartisan research organizations offer other practical approaches that rely less on value judgments and more on proven government interventions and increased support for struggling two-parent homes. They also call for larger tax subsidies for poor families similar to those that help middle-income families buy a home, save for retirement and pay for their children’s education.

The overly simplistic theory of “marriage as an antidote to poverty” overlooks many important factors that contribute to poverty, and poverty experts do not unanimously accept it. While children raised in two-parent families tend to have better life outcomes, marriage by unwed parents does not guarantee lifting families out of poverty. That’s true especially if couples are not compatible or in love, or committed to making a marriage work; if husband, wife or both lack necessary education or professional skills to secure a well-paying job and enhance the household’s income; and if financial or other stress in the marriage leads to domestic discord or violence.

Marriage would not automatically improve the dismal unemployment rate among black men, some of it the result of racial discrimination in hiring practices, or erase other structural barriers to economic well-being, nor would it suddenly end negative behaviors that conservatives say inhibit economic advancement.

“Certainly there some individuals for whom behavior is an important issue, but the bigger problems are a series of factors that affect African-Americans more than they do other groups,” said Margaret Simms, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and an expert on the economic well-being of African-Americans.

The conservative commentary conveniently overlooks many of these contributing factors, among them that African-Americans, and to a lesser extent Hispanics, are more racially and geographically segregated than other groups and less likely to live in areas with ample economic opportunities. They often have no access to good public schools that are economically and racially diverse and adequately prepare them for college, selective training programs or skilled jobs. They also generally have no access to good health care, which can mean health problems prevent them from getting and keeping good jobs and seriously drain limited incomes.

“They are also less likely to be in social networks where they have access to the jobs out there,” Simms said. “Most people don’t find jobs through want-ads but through friends, family or neighbors who know about a job opening at their workplace or know about a place that is hiring.”

If they live in large urban areas, as many do, and don’t own cars, as many don’t, they have difficulty getting to jobs in outer suburbs.

“Geographic isolation in neighborhoods where there are few job opportunities make it difficult to have access to where the jobs are and to get to them,” Simms said. “Low-income African-Americans are farther away from the jobs they would be qualified for. Transportation systems are not typically set up to move people from cities to residential suburbs where jobs are.”

Conservatives say the Obama administration should spend less on public assistance programs even though they have proven to be an important safety net for struggling families. Many also oppose extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed and a temporary program that created 250,000 mostly private-sector jobs for low-income parents and youth.

Robert Greenstein, executive director of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and an expert on anti-poverty, said cutting back such programs would be a mistake.

“If Congress fails to extend these measures and unemployment remains high, poverty and hardship almost certainly will climb still higher next year,” he said in a statement.

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City Police Searching For Wachovia Bank Robber

HARTFORD — City police is asking for help to locate a bank robber who on Tuesday stole an undisclosed amount of money from a Wachovia Bank on Main Street in downtown, police said.

Police  are looking for a white male a white male described as being approximately 5’9” tall, 180 lbs, with a white ball cap, sun glasses,and a black t-shirt.

The suspect was caught on camera during the Oct. 26 robbery at 866 Main Street on an active bank robbery (See photos below).

According to a police statement, the suspect entered the bank at about 2:50 p.m. and demanded money from one of the tellers, police said. The suspect then warned the teller that he was armed with a firearm.  After robbing the teller of an undisclosed amount of money, the suspect walked out the bank through the mall entrance.

Below are three surveillance photos of the suspect.

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State Receives $1.7 Settlement For Defected Drugs

HARTFORD — Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced Thursday that GlaxoSmithKline will pay Connecticut $1.72 million to settle allegations it sold tainted and defective drugs to the state Medicaid program.

The payment is part of a nationwide $750 million settlement.

GlaxoSmithKline allegedly sold Medicaid, whose cost is shared by the federal government and the states, four drugs that were defective or contaminated because of poor manufacturing practices at the company’s Cidra, Puerto Rico plant.

“GlaxoSmithKline’s dumping of defective drugs on Connecticut Medicaid recipients is shocking and shameful,” Blumenthal said. “Such massive failure to follow formulation and sanitation standards is unacceptable and inexplicable. The company endangered patient health — and pumped up profits — by providing tainted tablets.”

The four tainted drugs were:

Paxil CR: A controlled-release antidepressant improperly formulated so recipients received no active ingredient or only the active ingredient without the controlled-release mechanism;

Avandamet: A diabetes medication containing higher or lower amounts of the active ingredient than specified;

Kytril: An anti-nausea drug labeled as sterile, but with some vials containing impurities;

Bactroban: Antibiotic ointments and creams that, in some packages, were contaminated with microorganisms.

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City Begins Destruction of Blighted Building

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The Claw. Aaargh. Who-ooh! Yeaah.

Those were the audible sounds heard as city officials gathered Thursday to say goodbye to the H.B. Davis building, a symbol of Hartford’s stagnant and scandalous past.

The now infamous building, otherwise known as the “Butt Ugly Building,” is one of the many blighted buildings that will soon be banished from sight and–what city officials hope–memory.

Flanked by city Councilmembers, staff and other interested parties, Mayor Pedro Segarra’s opening statements pronounced the claw crunching ceremony part of an ongoing effort to prepare for Hartford’s future.

“By demolishing this dilapidated building” Segarra said. “We connect the progress of our downtown to our neighborhoods, enhance our arts and heritages venues, and provide better scenery for our residents and visitors.  This will be very inviting for future developers.”

One city developer agreed.

“This is yet another important step in the economic development of Hartford and in enhancing the beauty of the City,” said Mark Wolman, Principal of Waterford Group. Wolman is one of the chief developers in championing development in downtown Hartford, including the Six Pillars development that includes the Convention Center and the Sheraton Hotel.

City officials plan to have the building demolished by Nov. 15.

Segarra said his preference for the now vacant 100 acres of land on prime real estate acquired by the city is to see it filled with mixed-use buildings with apartments, shopping centers and businesses.

Mayor Pedro Segarra is flanked by citycouncil members and city staff

The former department store building at 1161-63 Main St., now with a decrepit façade and cracked windows, was built in the 1920s. About 10 years ago, Chapel Equities, LLC and Edwards Development, LLC bought the building and has been “sitting on it” for years, officials said.

But recently, the city negotiated a price and the owner apparently agreed to release his grip.

But why now?

Well, the building is the centerpiece in the corruption trial of former Mayor Eddie Perez. In the summer, city developer Joseph Citino testified for the state prosecutors that Perez asked him to “take care” of North End politico, former state Rep. Abraham Giles. The deal, according to Citino, was for Giles to get a $100,000 payment from him to vacate the parking lot adjoining the building, so he could begin a commercial and residential complex. That plan faltered.

After a jury in June found Perez guilty of five felony corruption charges, including extortion and coercion, he resigned. Prosecutors charged Giles with first-degree attempted larceny and first-degree conspiracy to commit larceny.

The city’s redevelopment in August secured a deal with Chapel Equities and Edwards Development for $625, 000, officials said. It cost another $312,000 to demolish it.

The city has been trying to negotiate with the owner for about 10 years, said project developer Mark Swiatowitec.

It’s unclear why the owner agreed to sell the property. But if he didn’t agree, the city was prepared to move to the next phase: eminent domain.

That’s because the building is sitting on prime real estate, the gateway to downtown Hartford and right next to I-84. And it was blocking progress on the city’s plan for the “Downtown North Project,” officials said. The project includes development in the Clay Arsenal neighborhood that abuts the north side of downtown.

Indeed, it was a joyous moment for many who were present on a gray and drizzly day in Hartford, said one onlooker as she watched the orange Manafort claw clutched the mangled steel frames that held dilapidated walls together. The sound of the iron creaking above traffic zooming by was the culmination of a “monumental task.”

Segarra basked in that moment.

“There’s a lot of pessimism in the city,” Segarra said. “This is a way to move toward optimism.”

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National Geographic Comes To Hartford

HARTFORD — Hartford Public School students are in for an exciting morning assembly today when National Geographic team join them to be one of the first across the nation to get a sneak peek of the documentary, The Great Migration.

Comcast and National Geographic Channel (NGC) are partnering to provide students at Mary M. Hooker Environmental Science Magnet School in Hartford with the unique opportunity to interact in a virtual live assembly with an NGC filmmaker that was involved in the filming of Great Migrations, NGC’s most ambitious television event to date.

Great Migrations, a seven-part HD event, which will premiere on NGC on Sunday,

Nov. 7 takes viewers around the world on the arduous journeys millions of animals undertake to ensure survival of their species.

The Great Migrations education initiative will personally connect students via a LIVE online assembly with Andy B. Casagrande, a National Geographic Channel filmmaker who was key to the making of Great Migrations, which took three years to make across every continent. Casagrande will be live from the Shark Encounter exhibit at SeaWorld Orlando (great whites are among the animals whose odysseys are included in the film).

The online assembly will also provide an opportunity for the students to interact with each other as they expand their knowledge of wildlife, science and filmmaking.

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Library Offers Job Hunting Workshop

GREATER HARTFORD — The Simsbury Public Library will offer two free workshops for job seekers in November.

“Your Hired! How to Land the Perfect Job in Any Economy” will be held on  Thursday, Nov. 4 from 2 p,m. – 4 p.m .

Pete Winiarski, Results Coach and Consultant will discuss how job seekers can get clear about their perfect job and how to employ the three types of action and why goals are reached faster when these three are employed.

He’ll also discuss the power of environments and how they can create desired results and be critical for identifying a ‘perfect job’.“Breaking Through the Employment Barriers: The Inside Scoop” will be held on Tuesday, Nov.  16 from 2:00 – 3:30 pm.

Marcia LaReau PhD of Forward Motion has spent over two years working with job seekers, recruiters, and HR professionals. She will present key findings regarding the barriers that slow the road to employment success. In addition, attendees will learn how to make friends with the ‘black hole’ – partnering with technology, how to appeal to recruiters, human resource professionals, and hiring managers, job seekers’ self perceptions, interviewing strategies that work, and how to stay motivated.

The programs are free of charge, open to the public and will be held in the Program Room of the Simsbury Public Library at 725 Hopmeadow Street (Rte. 10). To register or for more information, visit the Library’s web site at or contact Jennifer Keohane, Business Outreach Librarian at (860) 658-7663 x 2107.

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Hartford Resident ‘Loaned’ To United Way

HARTFORD — A local woman was tapped to work with United Way as one of several corporate sponsored executives in the area.

Shari Fiveash is one of twelve executives loaned or sponsored by a local corporation to assist with the 2010 United Way Community Campaign through the end of November.

Fiveash is sponsored by Pratt & Whitney.

As a Loaned Executive, Fiveash meets with local businesses and their employees on behalf of the Community Campaign. All 12 Loaned Executives are sponsored or loaned by local corporations, which helps United Way to reduce staffing costs and overhead so that more than 85 cents of every dollar raised through the campaign can benefit programs and services that help people improve their lives.

Fiveash has nearly 30 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. She runs a consulting firm, Fiveash Consulting, and recently developed a community strategic tourism plan for Rose City Renaissance in Norwich. She volunteers with the Hartford Rescue Mission and Center Point Community Church. Fiveash holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Missouri.

A joint effort of United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut and Community Health Charities of New England, the United Way Community Campaign is the largest annual health and human service fund-raising effort in Connecticut and the second largest in New England. The campaign raises resources to help ensure that everyone in central and northeastern Connecticut has access to the building blocks for a good life: education, income and health.

The 2010 campaign goal is $25.8 million.

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Police Paint Picture Of Week’s Work: Guns, Drugs, Murders

Fran Morgan, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — City police has been busy this past week, ridding the streets of guns, drugs and murderers.

Since last week, Hartford Police have issued a search warrant, arrested a man of homicide crack down on illegal liquor licenses among other crime busting activities, according to police reports.

The Smith and Wesson .22 caliber revolver seized from 67 Edgewood Street

This week, police show a photo of a Smith and Wesson (see photo inset). But there’s no word of how the gun made its way into the hands of three twenty-something young, black men.

On Thursday, detectives from the Hartford Police Department’s Vice and Narcotics Division with assistance from the Hartford Police Department’s Emergency Response Team and the Northeast Conditions unit, served a search and seizure warrant at 67 Edgewood St.

The search warrant was the result of a narcotics investigation at that location, police said.  As a result of the search warrant a half of pound of marijuana, packaging materials, scales and a loaded Smith and Wesson .22 caliber revolver were seized.

Four men were arrested:

  • Jerrell Strickland, 22, of 88 Warrenton AveHartford was charged with criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit.
  • Marvin Parker, 30, of 166 Collins St., Hartford was charged with criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit.
  • Carlvin Duncan, 29, of 67 Edgewood St;, Hartford was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell controlled substance, possession with intent to sell within 15,00 yards of a school and risk of injury to a minor.
  • A fourth party identified as Eric Duncan, 21, of 67 Edgewood St., Hartford was arrested on a violation of probation warrant.

On the next day, Friday, Oct. 22,  police conducted a liquor permit compliance inspection at the following four Hartford bars:

  • The Mama Juana at 624-626 Franklin Ave. was found to have liquor violations. 
  • The Sanctuary at 81-83 Asylum St. was found to have liquor violations.
  • The Franklin Bar and Grille, at 453 Franklin Ave. does not have a valid liquor permit and is prohibited from serving alcohol. There were no violations at this establishment.
  • The New Nutmeg Lodge at 171 Bellevue St. had no violations.

The businesses found in violation were referred to the Liquor Control Division for follow-up, police said.

Setectives from the Hartford Police Department’s Major Crimes Division identified the Hazel Street homicide victim on Saturday, Oct. 23.

The victim, police said, was Bruno Lugo, 32,  of Hartford.

On Saturday  at 2:21 a.m., Hartford Police officers responded to the vicinity of 21 Hazel Street on reports of shots fired.  Subsequent calls for service led officers to 59 Orange Street where Lugo was found suffering from gunshot wounds.

Lugo was transported to St. Francis Hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 2:46 a.m.

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Markell Campaigns With Malloy, Tour Local Business

HARTFORD — One week before the fall election, Democratic nominee Dan Malloy and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell visited a Hartford small business and its green building site.

Gov. Jack Markell

Markell, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, praised Malloy for his “laser focus on creating more green jobs and his strong record of bringing new jobs to Stamford.”

The business, Crosskey Architects, is known for its net zero energy efficient affordable housing, according to a release from Malloy’s campaign.

And its one of the many small businesses across the country that are among Democrats and Republican’s watch list of crucial constituents this campaign season. Both political parties are hoping they won’t vent thier frustrations on them on election day.

Last month, House Democrats approved a bill to loosen credit and axe taxes for struggling small businesses.

Despite that, a recent study shows that most small businesses are leaning Republican. According to he Discover Small Business Watch for October, 51 percent of small employers across the nation said a Republican-controlled Congress would be better for the economy, compared to 37 percent who leaned Democrat and 12 percent who said they were unsure.

In addition, the study asked which party best represented their interests. The responses then were as follows: 43 percent Republican, 40 percent Democrat. The other 17 percent were either unsure or chose another party.

Rasmussen Reports conducted the study, which polled 750 small-business owners with fewer than five employees between Oct. 10-12.

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Hartford Bajan-Americans Mourn Death of Barbados Prime Minister

HARTFORD — Hartford-area Bajan-Americans have joined in the mourning of the Prime Minister of Barbados, David Thompson.

Thompson died Saturday at age 48 of pancreatic cancer. He is reportedly the third prime minister of Barbados who has died while in office.

Denzil Douglas, the prime minister of another Caribbean country named St. Kitts and Nevis, told the BBC that Thompson’s death was a loss to “not only the people of Barbados, but also the people of the Caribbean.”

Deputy Prime Minister Freundel Stewart was sworn in as Thompson’s successor hours after his death, according to the state-run Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

According to government officials, Thompson had served in government since 1991, and his main priorities were decentralizing government, strengthening social services and empowering the Barbadian economy.

“Barbados has lost its loyal son and faithful servant before he had the time to realize his lifetime dreams. … We enjoyed and endured his public service experiences. He was always indebted to the people and the party for affording him the opportunity to see the mountain top,” Thompson’s wife, Marie-Josephine Mara said in a statement to the CBC.

Born on Christmas Day in 1961 in London and one of seven siblings, Thompson grew up in Barbados. He is survived by his wife and three daughters.

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