Friday, September 21, 2012

Suzio to hold press conference on early release program

State Sen. Len Suzio (R-Meriden) will be holding a press conference on the state's somewhat controversial early release credit program today at 4 p.m. outside the Middletown Police Department. 

Suzio said in a release that the press conference is related to the arrest of a Middletown man, a convicted sex offender, on charges he was caught on tape masturbating in front of a 14-year-old girl on a city bus. 

“How much more evidence do we need?” Suzio asked in the release. “Dangerous criminals who have not been rehabilitated in any way are being released from prison early and recommitting serious crimes. This program is a failure; it puts our public safety at risk; and it must be suspended immediately. We cannot wait until the next legislative session. We shouldn’t wait another day. We must stop this program before another Connecticut resident becomes the victim of a violent offender let out of jail early.”

According to police and newspaper reports, and the release issued by Suzio, "Joseph Mayberry, a registered sex offender with 28 prior criminal convictions, was riding the Middletown Area Transit Bus when he started masturbating in front of a 14 year old girl. The incident was recorded by the bus’s security camera and police have arrested Mayberry."

Suzio said State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz confirmed that Mayberry was awarded time off his latest prison sentence due to the new inmate early release program, formally called the Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program (RREC).

Senate Republicans voted against the risk reduction program when it became law in 2011. It was later objected to in a 2012 amendment presented by state senator and congressional candidate Andrew Roraback. 

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Report: Occupational disease down in Connecticut, but state rates still higher than average

A recent University of Connecticut report shows that incidents of occupational disease in Connecticut are down, but remain higher than the rest of the country.

The report focuses on incidents of occupational disease from 2010, not occupational accidents, which are, as the rport says, a completely different ball of wax.

"Occupational diseases are typically harder to detect than injuries, since they often occur over longer periods of time, and can have multiple (including non-occupational) risks," the report says.

Statewide, the rate of occupational disease (23.1 cases per 10,000 workers) was 9.5 percent higher than the average national rate.

In Connecticut, education and health workers reported the highest rates of occupational disease, which overall saw a 10 percent decrease from 2009. Manufacturing sectors saw an even more significant decrease, the rate of occupational disease dropping 23 percent. It's still the second highest rate among the labor sectors.

Interestingly, local government was listed as having the third-highest rate of occupational disease, though the rate had dropped 28 percent from 2009.

"State government had the highest rate of respiratory conditions among all sectors, second-highest skin conditions rate, and fourth highest overall rate, the report says.

The most common workplace disease? Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which increased from 2.2 cases per 10,000 workers in 2009 to 2.5 in 2010.

The full report, developed for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission under the Occupational Illnesses and Injury, is below.


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Delauro to legislate the arsenic in rice

Third District congressperson Rosa DeLauro said in a release today that she was planning to legislate rice. Or, well, the arsenic contained in rice.

Yes, there is arsenic in rice (and old lace), at least according to a recent Consumer Reports investigation.

“The idea that high levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, are present in rice, cereal and other common, everyday foods is absolutely outrageous,” DeLauro said Friday in a release. “The federal government has an obligation to every American family to ensure that the food they consume is safe and should not make them sick. This is not the first time we have been alerted to the dangers of arsenic, and quite simply we must do more to ensure that our food supply is safe. This bill is a step in that direction.” 

DeLauro will introduce the RICE Act with Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Nita Lowey (D-NY).

“The recent Consumer Reports investigation finding of measurable amounts of arsenic in a range of rice products is cause for concern for consumers, and parents in particular,” Pallone said. “The health risks associated with inorganic arsenic as a carcinogen are widely known and there absolutely should be a federal arsenic standard for rice products similar to those for bottled water.”

“Ensuring the safety of our food supply is among the most important responsibilities of the federal government,” Lowey said. “It is inexcusable that no standards exist to keep arsenic, a known carcinogen, out of rice and rice-based products like cereal. This legislation will help protect families from this unacceptable risk.”

As the release says, "The R.I.C.E Act (Reducing food-based Inorganic and organic Compounds Exposure Act) requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set a maximum permissible level of arsenic in rice and food containing rice. FDA currently has standards for bottled water, but nothing else."

The Consumer Reports investigation found arsenic in more than 200 samples of rice and rice-based products. Arsenic is known to contribute to the likelihood of developing multiple cancers and other serious health problems.

This isn't the first time that DeLauro has attempted to limit the consumption of arsenic found in common food items.

In February, the three legislators introduced the Arsenic Prevention and Protection from Lead Exposure in Juice Act of 2012 or “APPLE Juice Act” which would require the FDA to establish standards for arsenic and lead in fruit juices.

Initiatives no one could vote against, particularly with those spiffy acronyms.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Poverty on the rise in Connecticut

Data released by the U.S. Census Department indicates that poverty is on the rise in Connecticut, and particularly among children.

The annual American Community Survey found that in 2011, 10.9 percent of Connecticut residents (377,856) had incomes under the Federal Poverty Level, up from 10.1 percent in 2010.

Connecticut can boast (if such a thing is worth boasting over) of the 5th highest rise in children's poverty in the nation. Almost 15 percent of Connecticut children under age 18 (118,809 children) lived in families with incomes under the Federal Poverty Level in 2011, an increase from 12.8 percent in 2010, according to the data, released by Connecticut Voices for Children.

That's a further increase from the 1.4 percent hike in poverty seen in the state between 2007 (7.9 percent) and 2008 (9.3 percent). In 2001, the poverty rate was 7.3 percent (10.2 percent for children), growing to 10.9 in 2011 (14.9 percent for children).

Statewide, the uninsured rate for Hispanics (20.4 percent) and African Americans (12.1 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for White, non-Hispanic residents (5.9 percent), according to the release.
“It's still early, but the numbers in these historically underserved communities appear to be moving in the right direction, when compared to last year’s numbers of 21.7 percent and 13.8 percent. Access to quality, affordable health care for everyone regardless of income, ethnicity and race should be the goal in Connecticut,” said Frances G. Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut.

A fact sheet provided by Connecticut Voices for Children is below.

Census Fact Sheet

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Report: Department of Children and Families doing well, could be better

The latest Children's Rights report on Connecticut's Department of Children and Families shows some improvement, but still room for more.

The quarterly reports are the result of a Supreme Court case, Juan F. v. Rell, that found DCF to be underfunded and understaffed, and, as a result, providing inadequate care to the children in its care.

This latest report found that DCF has made some improvements, particularly regarding the number of case management reviews, the number of planned exits from "congregate care settings," the use of relative care and special study homes and a "strong overall performance."

But the news wasn't all good. 

The rport also found a necessity for improvement in "The need for proactive and consistent case management and communication with families," better documentation, "the unavailability or wait-listing for core services including the need for additional foster care options," the "variance in the proficiency and skill-set amongst Social Work Supervisors" and a "continued pattern of overstays" in temporary group homes.

The full report is below. 

 9 20 2012 2nd Quarter 2012 Report Final %283%29

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Should Connecticut ballot order be a Supreme Court Issue? Here are arguments by Republicans and Democrats

After the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the GOP's ballot order case, justices asked the attorneys to provide supplemental briefs arguing for or against the contention that the issue should have been resolved administratively and, since it was not, lower courts were denied the ability to weigh in.

Below are the briefs that were submitted to the court on Monday.

Gop v Sots Supp Brf of Def Appellee

Sc19010 - Gop Brief

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Friday, September 14, 2012

How many degrees are candidates away from Kevin Bacon?

Which candidates have low Bacon numbers? You might be surprised to find out.

First a bit of explanation. A few years ago, a couple of college kids came up with a game called “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon.” It’s simple — take any random celebrity, say Abe Vigoda, and connect the dots to actor Kevin Bacon.

Vigoda worked with Ariana Richards in “Prancer.” Richards and Bacon appeared together in “Tremors,” so Abe Vigoda’s “Bacon number” is two. Get it?

For some unknown reason, search engine titan Google put a Bacon number calculator in its search function. Try it — Google “Bacon number Betty White,”  or any celebrity, and see how they’re connected to Bacon.

Movie fans will find it addictive, but writers and watchers of politics may feel it doesn’t go quite far enough. You might be interested to learn that Barack Obama has a Bacon number of two (he and Tom Hanks appeared in “The Road We've Traveled,” Hanks and Bacon were both in “Apollo 13”) but Mitt Romney has no Bacon number. Just a fact. No editorial comment there at all.

Ronald Reagan, an actor before he was a politician, has a Bacon number of three (connected to Bette Davis, who is connected to John Laughlin who was in “Footloose” with Bacon) but how do our local candidates stack up, Bacon number-wise?

So here, for entertainment’s sake, is the extended Bacon number for some candidates in Connecticut. None were actors, so we’ve had to make some logical connections through political donations. Oh, and if you can logically lower any candidate’s Bacon number, send an email to

Linda McMahon: Bacon number 3
McMahon got a donation from Regis Philbin (Bacon number two), who appeared in “The Bad News Bears Go to Japan” with William Devane, who was in “Hollow Man” with Bacon.

Chris Murphy: Bacon number 3
Actress Jane Curtin (Bacon number two) donated to Murphy’s campaign. Curtin and Noah Wyle were both in “The Librarian: Quest for the Spear” and Wyle was in “A Few Good Men” with Bacon. (Note: Chris Donovan, former 5th District candidate also has a Bacon number of three through Curtin.)

Elizabeth Esty: Bacon number 4
Ann Lembeck, wife of comedian Denis Leary (Bacon number two), donated to Esty’s campaign. Leary and Emma Stone appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man,” and Stone and Bacon appeared in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”

Andrew Roraback: Bacon number 4
This one’s a bit of a stretch. Actor Rip Torn made a contribution to Nancy Johnson’s 5th District campaign in 2002. Johnson endorsed Roraback in his own bid for the 5th District this year, Torn (Bacon number two) worked with Josh Brolin in “Men in Black 3,” and Brolin worked with Bacon in “Hollow Man.”

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Supreme Court orders opinions on necessity of GOP lawsuit

The Supreme Court Thursday issued an order requesting answers to a few questions.

Republicans are seeking judgment from the court on if, according to law, Republican candidates should have top billing on November’s Election Day ballot, and if Secretary of the State Denise Merrill overstepped her authority by denying that request.

Democrats counter, among other arguments, that the case should never have made it to the Supreme Court, and that’s exactly what justices asked attorneys to weigh in on.

The order reads: “Did the plaintiff, the Republican Party of Connecticut, have an available administrative remedy in the present case? If so, did the plaintiff’s failure to exhaust that administrative remedy deprive the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s declaratory judgment?”

The court asked counsel to prepare briefs answering that question, no longer than 15 pages, on or before Sept. 17, which suggests it may not rule until after those briefs are submitted.

If so, according to the spokesman for Merrill, the Secretary of the State’s office may violate state law.

Av Harris, Merrill’s spokesman said after oral arguments wednesday that there is a statutory requirement for the state to provide towns with the order of the ballot by Sept. 15, two days before the court’s deadline.

Harris said that, theoretically, a town could sue the state for violating that law.

Republican Party

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

State GOP chair: A "unified" Republican Party is a "force to be reckoned with"

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. admits that there are many different kinds of conservatives in the state — moderate conservatives, social conservatives, libertarian conservatives, Constitutional conservatives — and said all brands of Republican need to unify this election year.

“It’s never been more important that all elements of our great, broad-based, big tent Republican Party pull together,” he said. “The stakes have never been higher.”

Though Democrats currently dominate the state, holding both positions in the U.S. Senate, all five seats in the U.S. Congress, the governor’s office and both houses of the state legislature, Labriola and other Republicans believe that may change this year.

Polls in the Senate race have put Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy, both seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Joe Lieberman, on about equal footing — even giving McMahon a slight lead.

Polls in the 5th Congressional District race have been split, a Democratic-paid poll putting Elizabeth Esty up by nine points while a Republican-paid poll has Andrew Roraback ahead by seven. Statistically, that’s a dead heat.

“We need to close ranks as a party behind our nominees,” Labriola said. “We will be unified behind Mitt Romney, Andrew Roraback, Linda McMahon.”

Being courted are  the state’s unaffiliated voters, which continue to outnumber Democrats and Republicans statewide. Labriola said there’s a unifying message among Republicans, and it’s one that resonates with those unaffiliated voters, he said.

“What I think binds us together and puts us on common ground with a majority of unaffiliated voters is our strong penchant for fiscal responsibility in government,” he said. “As a unified Republican party we will be a force to be reckoned with.”

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Slossberg, Morin to rally troops for overturn of Citizens United

The leaders of the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee will be pushing repeal of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling during a press conference tomorrow.

State Sen. Gayle S. Slossberg, D-Milford and Rep. Russ Morin, D-Wethersfield, co-chairs of the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee, will hold a press conference with Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut and other activists tomorrow to “showcase local support for a reversal of the 2010 Citizens United ruling ending restrictions on corporate political expenditures,” a release said.

The Citizens United decision is credited with the creation of so-called “super PACs,” political committees that do not not have to report donors and have no limits on how much money they can raise and spend to influence an election.

According to the release, Slossberg and Morin prepared a letter, which was signed by a majority of their legislative colleagues, to Connecticut’s Congressional delegation urging them to support a Constitutional amendment to overturn that Supreme Court of the United States decision.

“The letter spells out the widely held opinion that money contributed to political campaigns is not the same as free speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are entitled to Constitutional rights,” the release says.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Cafero to be keynote speaker at Barkhamsted event

The State House minority leader Larry Cafero, will be the keynote speaker at a Republican event in Barkhamsted later this month.

Also being featured is Sen. Kevin Witkos, 1st District candidate John Henry Decker, state Rep. William Simanski and Phil Prelli,  former state representative and agricultural commissioner, at whose home the event will take place.

Cafero might be in celebratory mode that night — the GOP goes to the State Supreme Court on the subject of ballot order Wednesday. If the court hands down a ruling in favor of Republicans, Cafero, who played a key role in the argument, will have at least one talking point.

According to an invitation sent by the Barkhamsted Republican Town Committee, the event will cost $20 to attend, and “media will be on hand.”

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mouse wreaks havoc at meeting of Board of Selectmen (with video of havoc)

The Valley Independent Sentinel posted a video of a Seymour Board of Selectman meeting. It wasn't an intense discussion of education costs, it wasn't a ceremony honoring police officers, nor was it a partisan debate that caused reporter Eugene Driscoll to whip out the camera (though he might have taken video for all of those reasons, we are sure).

No, it was a mouse.

Driscoll grabbed, on video, one of those rare occurrences when politics is interrupted by the unforeseen. It's not a commentary on the nature of political discourse, the way priorities are preempted by whatever small, scurrying distraction pulls our attention at that moment.

It's just really funny.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Breaking news: Bob Denver is still dead

It's not politics, but ...

Today, the Twitterverse was all atwitter about the death of Bob Denver, aka Gilligan, Maynard G. Krebs.

Problem — Bob Denver died in 2005.

Folks were tweeting old New York Times articles, and old AP stories but apparently never bothered to read the time stamp.

And we're not the only ones to notice the trend.

Here's a selection of tweets erroneously reporting the news of Bob Denver's passing.