Archive | May, 2011


Foodbank Conference To Tackle Meal Gap

NATION — Recent research conducted by Feeding America reveals an average gap of 3 meals per week for more than 130,000 food insecure residents in greater Hartford. This gap exists despite all efforts by local food banks and government assistance programs, leaving an estimated 12.8 percent of the region’s population struggling with hunger.

On June 13 The Greater Boston Food Bank and the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Northeast Region, will be hosting a Food Bank Conference, to discuss possible long-term solutions to close the meal gap through organized collaborative efforts.

Gloria McAdam, Foodshare’s President & CEO, will be sharing the successes of Mobile Foodshare, a rapid food distribution program delivering fresh produce into the hands of those most in need. Krista Ostaszewski, Foodshare’s SNAP Outreach Coordinator, will also be present to discuss the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Foodshare’s efforts to improve participation rates in greater Hartford.

When asked about the opportunity, McAdam said, “We look forward to sharing our work with fellow food bankers, in the hopes that our collaboration will help to close this hunger gap. When people have to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine, something is very wrong. No one should have to struggle when it comes to the basic necessities.”

Several food banks from the northeast will be in attendance, including Long Island Cares, Vermont Food Bank, Connecticut Food Bank, Food Bank for New York City, Food Bank of Western New York, and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

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Oprah’s Conflicted, Empowering, Shaming Bond With Women Like Me

By Julianne Hing, Colorlines Contributor

After 25 years on the air, Oprah’s very last episode of her daily talk show aired yesterday. It is the end of an era for a show that’s redefined media and transformed television. And I for one am not going to miss Oprah Winfrey at all.

First of all, she is not going anywhere. Did any of you really take Jay-Z seriously when he announced he was retiring from the studio a few years ago? It’s the same thing for me now. And while the end of her daily show marks the end of a cultural era, not only is Oprah not retiring, she is not even retreating from the massive platform she’s built for herself over the past few decades.

Oprah will move on to her eponymous cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network, which creates a deliciously appropriate acronym. Instead of just one hour of television a day, she will help program 24 hours of it. It will never be the same as her daily talk show, I know. But she will continue to publish her magazine, the covers of which she graces every month. Her daytime talk show may be over, but she will continue to be an omnipotent cultural presence. She will continue to make headlines every time she exhales, and every other time she’s seen cavorting with her best friend Gayle King.

Oprah is so firmly enmeshed in the cultural firmament that I don’t know how anyone could miss her. I myself was raised on a steady diet of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in a family of Oprah devotees, and even though I stopped watching the show regularly years ago, I find it impossible to escape her reach.

I can rattle off the most obscure Oprah trivia, details that have nothing to do with her show or the broad themes of her life’s work. How often do Oprah and Gayle talk on the phone? Who designed the hand stitched gold dress Oprah wore on the cover of O Magazine’s fifth anniversary issue? What’s Oprah’s favorite color? Who was Oprah’s teen crush? Answers: At least an hour every day, Narciso Rodriguez, sage green and Jackie Jackson of the Jackson 5.

I remember being on a date and unselfconsciously talking about Oprah like she and I were well-acquainted friends, and being a little surprised that not everyone knew Oprah the way I did. I’ve often mistaken my familiarity with Oprah for affection. But in truth I am both drawn to and ambivalent about her, and that is probably the real reason why I will not miss her talk show.

I’ve been disappointed plenty—I consider my ability to feel let down by Oprah (as well as the fact that it feels unnatural to call her anything but her first name) further proof of the intimacy she’s cultivated with her audience. I remember the “Diabetes: America’s Silent Killer” episode she did last year with Dr. Mehmet Oz, about how the disease plays out in the black community. The show was so irresponsible it felt offensive.

“Diabetes is a ticking time bomb,” Oprah said gravely during the introduction. “It’s a silent killer. It’s annihilating the African-American community. Literally, killing almost 100 of us every single day, in the African-American community.”

“It’s time to get out of denial.”

All true: Diabetes does indeed impact a disproportionate number of black Americans, who are both more likely to contract it and more likely to die from it. But in Oprah’s telling, the solution wasn’t fixing food deserts or increasing access to preventive health care or building parks in urban neighborhoods or any of those boring things. Rather, the epidemic calls for a healthy dose of shaming.

So After Dr. Oz led the audience through a thorough introduction on the ravages of diabetes, Oprah took viewers to Dayton, Ohio, to meet some black church ladies. Viewers watched as the women served up one of their typical post-service meals of fried chicken and meatloaf, and a table of heavy sides. They’d written to the show about their collective weight issues, Oprah said.

Oprah then staged an intervention and sent the women to a boot camp of sorts to get them motivated about changing their lifestyle. When the video segment was over, Oprah turned to the women, now seated in her studio audience, some dressed in their Sunday finery, and clucked her tongue at them, scolding them for being lazy about exercise and stubborn about their diet. It made me so angry to see these women brought from their homes to be shamed on national television.

It felt especially unfair to see Oprah lay into these women with a simplistic cultural criticism without discussing the structural disparities that shape people of color’s lives. One conversation is not complete without the other.

But hadn’t Oprah detailed her own long struggle with her weight and diet and with taking charge of her health? Hadn’t she partaken in her own game of public self-flagellation, and then redemption through self-acceptance? It’s a story line to which she has returned frequently, an endless recurring cycle that was as irresistible as it was exhausting.

I wince now as I remember the January 2009 cover of O Magazine, when two Oprahs stood side by side, a lean and beaming Oprah from 2005, resting an elbow on a chubbier and disappointed Oprah of 2009. The headline, “How did I let this happen again?” stung. The teaser, “Oprah on her battle with weight: a must-read for anyone who’s fallen off the wagon,” hurt to read.

I felt sad for her, and I felt sad for all the women who look up to her as they struggle to accept themselves in a culture that teaches women to hate themselves. So I felt sad for myself, too. Didn’t Oprah, a brave, powerful woman of color who revolutionized 20th century media, deserve to treat herself with more dignity than that? But then, another question: How much of Oprah’s appeal comes from the fact that she embodies women’s worst insecurities about themselves even as she exhorts women to get over it already? Does that make her human, or does it make her cynically depraved? I skipped straight to the book reviews in that issue and looked at little else.

My mom owns DVDs of Oprah’s shows, and my sister pounces every time Oprah’s magazine shows up in the mailbox. Save for a couple niche sewing magazines, my mother has subscribed to Oprah’s magazine longer than any other—and it’s still one of the only mainstream titles that consistently runs decent journalism by and about women.

I’ve peeked at a few shows on Oprah’s new network, and sat rapt during the one episode I saw with Maya Angelou on “Master Class,” an hour-long documentary style interview with an accomplished public figure. I also took a voyeuristic interest in “Season 25,” the riveting behind-the-scenes reality show of the making of Oprah’s finale season. If any of you saw that Yosemite camping episode, you know what I’m talking about. After an exhausting day of shooting mishaps out in the woods, Oprah looked at the camera and said something we didn’t see in the actual episode: “I love the outdoors. But black people don’t want to pretend they’re homeless.”

Oprah’s magnetism is difficult to pinpoint; she’s got charisma that always feels genuine even though it’s well-practiced. Still, some things we’ve become accustomed to we may never get to see again. Over the years, Oprah’s set has become a destination for celebrities’ big public statements (Ellen DeGeneres and Ricky Martin both came out on Oprah’s show, separated by a stretch of more than 10 years); public shaming and repentance (James Frey and Jonathan Plummer did both); awkward confession (Tom Cruise, all the time), and stoic shows of strength in the face of personal devastation (Maria Shriver, this week). I love seeing Oprah turn her guests to mush. I love seeing the elaborate surprises Oprah plans for everyday people, the way she orchestrates tearful reunions and 24-hour makeovers and swoops in like an actual angel to make people’s dreams come true. It is crazy making entertainment.

I believe, even on my meanest days, that Oprah’s quest for global dominance is fueled at least in part by a desire to do some good. And I do believe that she is committed to empowering women and girls, that she wants to give people hope and encourage folks to wake up to the power we all have to make change in the world. So I consume the media she creates even when I’m uncertain if I can stomach more of her self-absorption and moralizing. I am electrified and enraged by Oprah.

I could not turn away from her even if I bothered to try.

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Hartford Announces Teacher of the Year

HARTFORD — The Hartford Public Schools has announced its 2011 teacher of the year winner.

After several months of interviews, school visits and essays reviews, the district chose Marilyn M. Jack-Ortique, a veteran Mathematics teacher at the University High School of Science and Engineering,

Hartford officials announced the winner last week at the annual Hartford Public Schools Teacher of the Year dinner banquet held at The Bond Ballroom on Asylum Street in Hartford.

Jack-Ortique was one of 38 nominees and three finalists that were considered by a special school district committee, which comprised of curriculum directors from Hartford Public Schools, two former Teacher-of the-Year winners and representatives of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

When asked what motivated her to become a teacher, Ms. Jack-Ortique said: “I believe that teaching is one of the most important careers in today’s world. Everyone has the ability to educate and enhance the lives of others in some way, shape or form. We allhave a responsibility to share our knowledge and gifts with the next generation.”


Born in Hartford, Ms. Jack-Ortique received primary education in Baton Rouge, La., and added middle and high school in Windsor, Conn. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and her Master’s Degree in Education from St. Joseph College in West Hartford. She earned her second Master’s Degree in Mathematics from St. John’s University in New York City.

A Hartford teacher for more than 14 years, Ms. Jack-Ortique has been described by colleagues as person who is passionate about learning and who works collaboratively with her peers. “She’s both firm and loving with her students,” a fellow teacher said. Ms. Jack-Ortique, a Hartford resident and the mother of two teenage children, is a member of the Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church and the Epsilon Omicron Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

The two other finalists for Teacher of the Year were: Jerry Barry, an Art teacher at the Environmental Sciences Magnet School at Mary M. Hooker; and Lisa Verderame, a Special Education teacher at the Breakthrough II Elementary School.

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Obama in Ireland: Uplifting—and Shrewd

By Michael H. Cottman, Contributor

Say this about President Barack Obama: He’s a shrewd politician who is making the most of his multi-cultural heritage and perhaps even solidifying early support among white voters heading into the 2012 presidential campaign.

Take Obama’s trip to Ireland, for example, where this week the president celebrated his Irish roots and visited the tiny village of Moneygall – the home of his great, great, great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1850.

One writer called Obama America’s first black-Irish president.

“My name is Barack Obama – of the Moneygall Obamas,” Obama told a crowd in Dublin, “and I’ve come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way.”

Obama, ever the skilled political strategist, never misses an opportunity to court voters, no matter how far away from the United States he travels.

But in Moneygall, population 300, while shaking hands with his Irish ancestors, Obama and his political team were probably thinking about the millions of Iris- American voters here in the United States, many of whom are still trying to decide if Obama deserves a second term in the White House.

It was the pre-campaign portion of Obama’s trip to Ireland, reminding Irish voters in America that he has an ancestral connection to their country and build on the good will when he returns home.

This week, Obama embraced the white side of his family. His mother was white and his father Kenyan. As a multi-cultural president, Obama can claim he’s the president for all Americans because, in fact, he embodies a multi-cultural society.

“It was nice to see the president welcomed so warmly by the Irish in Ireland,” Joan Walsh wrote for “Obama also referenced the ‘unlikely friendship’ between Ireland’s ‘Great Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell and American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave.”

Obama didn’t forget his black roots. In fact, the president made a point of putting his visit to Ireland into historical and racial perspective by evoking the name of his hero, Douglass, who Obama greatly admired. In a speech to a crowd in Dublin, the president connected Ireland with Douglass and the slave trade.

“When we strove to blot out the stain of slavery and advance the rights of man, we found common cause with your struggles against oppression,” Obama said. “Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and our great abolitionist, forged an unlikely friendship right here in Dublin with your great liberator, Daniel O’Connell. His time here, Frederick Douglass said, defined him not as a color but as a man. And it strengthened the non-violent campaign he would return home to wage.”

The Irish Times reported that Nettie Douglass, great-great-granddaughter of Douglass, recently laid a wreath at O’Connell’s crypt in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery with her son at her side. Frederick Douglass had travelled to Ireland and England in order to publicize the release of his autobiography, “Narrative of a Life of an American Slave.”

Obama publicly revered Douglass, who became the face of the abolitionist movement in the years leading up to the Civil War. Douglass, like Obama, was a man born of mixed heritage. His mother was an African-American slave and his father was white – perhaps a slave owner. Douglass, like Obama, was a gifted orator, offered a voice for those who were underserved, had a vision for a post-racial America and spoke passionately about social justice.

When Obama steps back on American soil next week, he’ll return to a country where the black unemployment rate is soaring toward 16 percent and his most vocal black critic, Princeton University professor Cornel West, will probably be lying in wait to continue his verbal assault on Obama in an attempt to discredit America’s first black president.

Leading the nation from the Oval Office, Obama will experience a myriad of challenges in the months ahead and confront many political foes – even those who are black. But while Obama faces adversity, it’s refreshing to know he will likely draw on the wisdom of Frederick Douglass, a black freedom fighter, like Obama, who understood the power of uplifting people

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Fire Department Provides Memorial Day Holiday Treat

HARTFORD — This weekend , the Hartford Fire Department  and the Science Center teamed up to present a treat for veterans and thier families.

The Hartford Fire Department Special Services Unit  will be at the Connecticut Science Center from May 28 to May 30 to celebrate and honor members of the uniformed services. The SSU will have their Hazard House on display.

City officials said the Department Hazard House is an innovative and riveting teaching aid that allows the audience to participate in transforming the house from hazardous to safe through the use of 3D parts, flips, tokens and stick-on illustrations.

The Special Services Unit uses the Hazard House to educate kids and adults how to convert their homes into safe homes. A life safety checklist with 10 rooms and 50 check points is provided to each person at the end of the presentations to be utilized in their own homes.

For additional information on the Hazard house please contact the Special Services Unit at 860-757-4520

FREE Admission to the CT Science Center for those who served in the US armed forces.




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Black Immigrants Join the Debate

By The Root‘s Cynthia Gordy, Washington Reporter

WASHINGTON, D.C.—This spring, at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Tolu Olubunmi came out publicly as an undocumented immigrant for the first time.

“It’s been nerve-racking because it puts me at a risk,” the 30-year-old said of her speech supporting Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) reintroduction of the DREAM Act. The bill, which passed in the House last year but failed to clear the Senate, would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youths like her, brought to the United States as children. “But I think you have to focus on the individuals to get away from the politics of an issue that’s so divisive. Once you know that there are real people attached to the statistics, then you have to start working on real solutions.”

Olubunmi, who was born in Nigeria, is also one of 3 million black immigrants in this country. Despite moving from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America at a remarkable rate — and despite an estimated 400,000 having undocumented status — they are barely footnotes in an immigration-reform conversation that is usually framed as a Mexican-border issue. But in light of newer, smaller-but-growing communities, as well as recently granted protected status for Haitians in particular, black immigrants are becoming stronger voices, advocating for reform from their diverse perspectives.

Black Sojourners

According to a Population Reference Bureau report, about two-thirds of black immigrants to the U.S. are from the Caribbean and Latin America — mostly Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad — with families that largely began settling in the United States from the 1960s through the ’80s. More recently there’s been a wave of African immigrants, with more arriving between 2000 and 2005 than in the previous decade. The top three countries from that continent are Nigeria, Ethiopia and Ghana.

Most black immigrants enter the United States legally, seeking education and job opportunities, either by joining immediate relatives who are U.S. citizens or by presenting student or tourist visas with an expiration date. Those who are undocumented often fall out of status by overstaying these visas.

Caribbean- and African-born blacks tend to be wealthier and more educated than other immigrants, a class difference that has kept many from joining Latinos in the immigration-reform movement. But in recent years, with more African and Caribbean people coming to the United States to flee political strife, civil violence and natural disasters, new groups are entering as refugees or asylum seekers. While only 3 percent of immigrants from Caribbean countries, mostly from Haiti, were admitted under the refugee category, nearly 30 percent of sub-Saharan Africans granted legal residence between 2000 and 2006 entered as refugees.

As these flows of people have come from countries like Somalia, Congo, Liberia and Haiti — without the same educational resources allowing them to flourish — many have run into trouble navigating a slow-moving and restrictive immigration system.

Who Gets In

Although immigration from Africa and the Caribbean has grown rapidly over the past decade, having contributed to at least one-fifth of America’s black population growth between 2000 and 2005 alone, there are anecdotal arguments that the process is infused with racism and works less efficiently for black people.

Sheryl Winarick, an immigration attorney in Washington, D.C., suggests that the largest hurdles for blacks in the immigration system, particularly those fleeing poverty or civil strife, usually arise from the economic situation in their countries. She explained that most visas require proof that an individual plans to return home after a temporary visit to the U.S.

“Anyone that’s coming from a developing country has a harder time demonstrating their intent to just visit instead of staying permanently,” she told The Root. “If you don’t own a home or have a steady flow of income to go back to, then the government assumes you’re more likely to want to stay here permanently and find work.”

On the other hand, Phil Hutchings, an organizer with Oakland, Calif.’s Black Alliance for Just Immigration, which lobbies for immigrants’ rights, believes that race is always in play. “It factors into whether you get through speedily or whether there’s a lot of circumspection,” he says.

“People who go against the norm of what Americans are ‘supposed to look like’ — and that generally includes black people — have more difficulty,” he continues. “Also, a fair number of African immigrants are Muslim, putting them in a suspect category that makes it harder for them to come here.”

An African Dreamer

For her part, Olubunmi says her challenges stemmed from a rigid policy that makes it impossible for undocumented immigrants to rectify their situation once they fall out of legal status. When she was 14, her mother brought her to Maryland from Nigeria to escape political instabilities. The plan was for her aunt, a U.S. citizen, to adopt her.

“The plan was never to be undocumented,” she says, but the process hit a snag when her papers were filed late. It’s a common mishap. “When you file your paperwork, officials could say that you missed a deadline by a week or two, but they don’t actually respond to you for two or three years because of the backlog. People who are committed to doing the right thing get caught up, unbeknownst to them, in these basic flaws in the system. It’s pretty easy to fall through the cracks.”

Olubunmi graduated from high school at the top of her class and then from college, earning a chemical engineering degree. She anticipated filing her papers with a company that would hire her as an engineer, only to learn that she couldn’t legally get a job. “The law says that if you’re undocumented, you cannot adjust your status while living in the U.S.,” she says. “I’d have to go to Nigeria to sort out the conflict; then, once I got there, it would trigger a three-to-10-year bar from returning to this country. But this is my home.”

Since 2008, Olubunmi has volunteered with various advocacy organizations, working behind the scenes for comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act in particular. “We’re not asking for a free pass,” she says, explaining that many would-be beneficiaries were brought over as babies or toddlers.

“People always say, ‘Get in line.’ Well, the DREAM Act creates a line,” she says. “These students are saying that they will do whatever they have to, if it’s going to college or serving in the military. They are just asking for an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of the country they love.”

A Rising Haitian Voice

David Faustin, 45, says he had a smooth process coming to the United States from Haiti 22 years ago. He acquired his green card upon marrying his wife, who already had permanent residency, and became a citizen after 10 years of marriage. But as the pastor of a Washington, D.C. church with largely Haitian congregants, he has helped many of them through a far more difficult course.

When a devastating earthquake plunged the island into further despair in 2010, he was relieved by the Obama administration’s decision to grant Temporary Protected Status for Haitians who had already been living in the U.S., allowing them to stay here legally and suspending deportations.

“The church brought in lawyers like Ms. Winarick to help people who were scared of applying for TPS because they were of unlawful status,” he tells The Root. “They thought it was a way for immigration officials to know where they live.”

This month, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would extend TPS for Haitians, which was scheduled to expire in July, for another 18 months. The department also expanded it to include Haitians who came here up to one year after the 2010 earthquake. “Having protected status is helping a lot of Haitian people to not only make it here and contribute to the American economy, but also to send money to other people back home and help them survive,” says Faustin.

Furthermore, it has empowered more Haitians to organize around immigration reform, partnering with immigrant-rights groups to build a powerful lobby. “In the past it was just the Hispanic community, but the Haitian community has become involved to advocate for what they would like to see happening for them,” says Faustin, citing, for example, amnesty for immigrants who once had legal status but are now unable to resolve their position. “As soon as the government gave them TPS, Haitians decided to take advantage of the momentum.”

Beyond the Border

Hutchings, of the 10-year-old Black Alliance, concurs that he’s seen other black-immigrant organizations mobilize in recent years, including San Francisco’s African Advocacy Network and Chicago’s Pan African Association. “In different parts of the country, black immigrants have developed enclosed communities just to themselves,” he says. “But at a certain point, a community realizes that it needs to reach out to develop allies and meet political officials. Their participation is really about people beginning to take responsibility for their own development in the United States.”

Olubunmi is heartened to see more people from African and Caribbean countries speaking out. “The majority of undocumented immigrants are Latino, but it’s important to recognize that there are different groups involved in this debate,” she says. “I remember once watching Bush talk about creating a path for folks who ‘come across the border.’ Well, if a bill is written from that perspective, it wouldn’t work for everybody.”

Ultimately, she knows that a system that works for everyone will require action from Washington. “I’m a huge supporter of President Obama, but I am very disappointed that we haven’t been able to get comprehensive immigration reform done,” she says.

While she understands that Congress must act, as the president demanded in his recent immigration-policy speech, she maintains that he has executive authority to make some changes himself — changes like stopping the deportation of undocumented “Dreamers.”

Until then, Olubunmi is committed to lending her voice to the struggle, even if it now means going public with her own status. “If it will help to raise consciousness, if it will help make life easier for other people,” she says with a quick, nervous laugh, “then I will lay myself at the altar.”

Cynthia Gordy is The Root’s Washington reporter.

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Hartford Offers Park-filled Events For Memorial Day Weekend

HARTFORD — Hartford on Friday rolled out plans for the last week of celebrating its celebrated and historic parks.

This weekend is as follows:

Saturday, May 28

7:00 a.m. — Golf @ Goodwin and Keney Parks

8:30 a.m. — Community Clean-up on Park Street. The Spanish American Merchants Association team up with the City, Knox Parks, the Greater Hartford Arts Council, and Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA) for “The Great American Clean Up” at 95 Park Street in the South Green neighborhood.

10: 00 a.m. — Boy Scout Troop 105 will be at Northwood Cemetery to put an American Flag on every Veteran’s Gravestone. This is a 25-year tradition.  Northwood Cemetery is located on Bina Avenue (part of Keney Park).

10:00 a.m. — Opening Day at Batterson Park. You can swim, have a picnic, play volleyball or go fishing.  This is family fun away from Hartford, but still in Hartford.  Batterson Park is on Batterson Road in Farmington but is owned and maintained by the City of Hartford (the land used to be owned by the Hartford Water Company).

10: 00 A.M. — Hartford Dance-Off Finals @ Bushnell Park.

10:00 a.m. — Cricket League @ Keney Barbour.

10:30 a.m. — Vintage Base Ball Invitation @ Colt Park.

11:00 a.m. — Backyard Games @ Bushnell Park in celebration of National Backyard Games Week.

11:00 a.m. — Carousel @ Bushnell Park

5:00 p.m. — Little League @ Hyland, Columbus, Rocky Ridge, Pope, Keney Waverly, and Elizabeth Parks

Sunday, May 29

7:00 a.m. — Golf @ Goodwin & Keney Parks

10:00 a.m.  Batterson Park is open.

10:30 a.m. — Vintage Base Ball Invitational @ Colt Park.

11:00 a.m. — Carousel @ Bushnell Park

Monday, May 30

11:00 a.m. — Spring Grove Cemetery Memorial Day Ceremony. Council President rJo Winch, Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts, and Fire Chief Edward Casares, Jr. are invited to speak at this historic Hartford cemetery where hundreds of veterans are buried and flags are planted at gravesites.  The cemetery is located at 2035 North Main Street.  This is the final Celebrating Our Parks event.



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FDA To Parents: Avoid Using “SimplyThick”

HARTFORD —  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending that parents, caregivers, and health care providers should not feed the thickening product called SimplyThick to infants born before 37 weeks gestation because it may cause what is called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening condition characterized by inflammation and death of intestinal tissue.

SimplyThick is a brand of thickening agent—available to consumers and medical centers—to help manage swallowing difficulties. It is sold in packets of individual servings and in 64-ounce dispenser bottles. The product can be purchased from distributors and local pharmacies throughout the United States.

FDA first learned of adverse events possibly linked to SimplyThick on May 13, 2011. At least four different medical centers around the United States have reported NEC in infants who became sick over the past six months. To date, the agency is aware of 17 reports of NEC, including five deaths, involving premature infants born before 37 weeks who were fed SimplyThick mixed with mothers’ breast milk or infant formula products.

The mixture was fed to infants for varying amounts of time.

This situation is unusual because NEC most often occurs in infants while they are in the hospital early in their premature course. However, some of the ill infants of which FDA is aware became ill after they had been discharged from the hospital and sent home on a feeding regimen that included SimplyThick.

At this time, the mechanism by which SimplyThick might contribute to the development of NEC in premature infants is not known, nor is it known whether other thickening agents in addition to SimplyThick might also contribute to the development of NEC.

FDA is actively investigating the possible link between SimplyThick and these illnesses and deaths and is attempting to determine whether other thickening agents in addition to SimplyThick could elevate the risk of development of late onset NEC in premature infants.

Recommendations for Parents and Caregivers

• Do not feed SimplyThick to premature infants (born before 37 weeks gestation), including those in the hospital and those sent home from the hospital within the past 30 days.

• Contact your health care professional if your baby has symptoms of bloating, greenish-tinged vomit, or bloody stools, or if you have other concerns related to using SimplyThick.

• You or your health care professional can report side effects related to using SimplyThick or other thickening agents to FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program by:

o Completing and submitting the report online:

o Downloading the pre-addressed, postage-paid FDA Form 3500 (or calling 1-800-332-1088 to request the form), completing it, and faxing it to 1-800-FDA-0178;

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Economy Worries New College Grads

By New America Media, Vincent Smith

The poor state of the nation’s economy, which has significantly affected the state of the job market over the past several years, is giving chills to new college graduates as thousands face the real world this spring.

Fresh out of school, a new pool of people plan to enter the work force. But, is the work force ready and willing to add even more people to the already large group of Americans looking for jobs? Should students be worried that they will not be able to find adequate employment or any employment at all?
Carol Dudley, director of career development at Howard University feels that worry should play a part in the minds of graduating seniors.

“Students should always be worried about getting jobs regardless of what the economy is like,” she said. “Should … students be especially concerned right now? Yes … I don’t feel that they understand totally … how bad the economy is.”

This statement, however, differs from findings of a recent survey released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. According to the survey, employers have recently grown to be more adamant about hiring new graduates of the class of 2011.

The survey also indicated an increase in projected hiring numbers from Sept. 2010 to April 2011. In September, employers anticipated hiring 13.5 percent more graduates coming from the class of 2011 than the graduates of 2010. Now, the number has jumped to 19.3 percent.

But regardless of what numbers say, anxiety and nervousness still play a role in some graduating seniors’ lives. Katie Derhim, a senior at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., is one of those seniors. “I know not a lot of people are hiring right now so I’m nervous there will not be anything available,” Derhim said.

Derhim’s classmate, Jenna Ferlise, shares some of the same concerns. “I’m nervous about getting a job [after] graduation. There [are] just not really a lot of jobs. I feel like you … [only] get one if you know somebody,” said Ferlise.

According to the Department of Labor, the jobless rate for new graduates averaged 9.3 percent in 2010. For older graduates, this doubles.

Where have all these jobs gone? Simply blaming the economy is not enough for people like Illinois Democrat Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Speaking on the House floor, he recently offered his reasoning about why the job market is so bad. According to Jackson, new gadgets like the Apple iPad and Amazon’s Kindle have destroyed the book industry by putting major chain stores like Borders out of business; thus, adding to the number of lost jobs in the nation.

According to the U.S Commerce Department, shipping jobs oversees has led to a huge decrease in jobs here in America. Records say American multinational companies, that employ one-fifth of total Americans employed, have decreased the number of American workers in recent years. During the 2000s 2.9 million American workers were let go, while 2.4 million workers were hired overseas.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, after hitting an all-time low during the recession, the amount of new college students being hired is expected increase this year. This could be the reason why Georgetown senior Chris Kelley is not worried about his post-graduation plans. He already has them set in stone.

“I am going to be working on a training floor at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Stanford, Conn.,” said Kelley.

He then gave this advice: “Be assertive. Be yourself. Don’t sell out. Do something you want to do.”
Advice for college seniors does not seem to be hard to come by. Howard’s Carol Dudley said, “Begin first making the intellectual shift. Begin to think: ‘I am a professional person, I’m no longer a just a student … I am a student transforming into a professional.’ So when that individual begins the job search … the type of cover letter that’s being submitted to HR professionals … becomes that of a person who is … bringing a set of skills to a professional team working on a common goal of the organization.”

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GE Unveils Solar Car Port In CT

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

PLAINVILLE, CT  — Electric cars have been around since the days of Thomas Edison. But only General Electric and its employees think they have the secret to make these cars safe and efficient for consumers.

Gov. Dannel Malloyn on Thursday joined GE Energy Industrial Solutions CEO Luis Ramirez and other GE employees to showcase their Solar EV Carport at GE’s headquarters on Woodford Road in Plainville.

The carport is one of the largest in the country and one of the company’s most expansive undertakings of it type in North America, GE officials said. About 300 GE employees are expected to use this carport for electric cars that can only go about 30 miles. It costs $4 to charge a dead battery for four to eight hours.

“We see anywhere you park your electric vehicle as a great opportunity for charging infrastructure,” says Ramirez. “Now we also lead the future of electrification for electric vehicles with supplies power from the sun.”

Hartford Courant Photo

The towering white infrastructure with flat kite shape roof is the GE carport that provides clean energy alternatives to oil and bio-fuels by capturing the electric power from the sun.  The carport gets its electric energy from the solar grid. From there, the energy is transported when it is plugged into the car. After a car is fully charged, it can travel for up to 30 miles.

“Consumers want the convenience and peace of mind knowing they can get from point A to point B without running out of energy,” Ramirez said. “GE is working with a number of utilities and municipalities in the U.S. and abroad to address this issue.”

When that issue is addressed, the company is expected to focus on planting more electric charging stations across the country and the world. The goal is to make consumers more comfortable about using the vehicle if they see charging stations sprinkled throughout the state and elsewhere, officials said.

That means more jobs.

G.E. Connecticut’s headquarters is primarily engineers, GE officials said.

That’s why there is a local and nationwide push to encourage students to tackle science and math, so the U.S. can compete in technology.

Malloy also explained the reason for his presence at Thursday’s unveiling ceremony.

“I want Connecticut to be a leader in this,” Malloy said. “This country is going to see a reindustrialization and Connecticut has to adapt to that. We need to make sure we are educating people in math, technology and engineering.”

Malloy began the show by turning on one of the six charging stations. He plugged it into the Chevrolet Volt (pictured in featured photo).

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