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Posts Tagged ‘connecticut’

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Some reasons: required minimum sentences, for-profit prisons that lobby officials to get more business, lack of programs to treat addictions. Most US prisons don’t help people who commit crimes to learn better behaviors, and it’s hard for ex-offenders to find jobs when they get out.

According to the Sentencing Project, “In the last forty years, incarceration has increased with rates upwards of 500% despite crime rates decreasing nationally.”

The good news is that here and there, local sheriffs are experimenting with techniques to reduce recidivism, as are individual states. Whether the new programs are motivated by the wish to save public money, by compassion, or for any other reason, the trend is promising.

Mikaela Porter writes at the Hartford Courant about an initiative in Connecticut.

“For years John Pittman was known as a lifer in the state prison here. But now, he’s taken on a new identity: mentor. …

” ‘My philosophy is this: no one is going to save us but us,’ Pittman said in an interview. ‘I’m older than these guys – grandfather age – and if they can learn something from me without being in my situation with a life sentence then I felt I did my job.’

“The pilot program, called T.R.U.E. (Truthfulness to oneself and others, Respect toward the community, Understanding ourselves and what brought us here, Elevating into success) was set up [early this year] for about 70 18- to 25-year-old offenders at the prison. …

“The pilot program started with a visit to Germany, when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Correction Commissioner Scott Semple, Vera Institute of Justice President Nicholas Turner toured prisons there.

” ‘We saw people behind bars who had keys to their own cells, cells [they] decorated themselves,’ Turner said. ‘They wore their own street clothes and they cooked their own meals and they worked in the community. People who were there left better off than they had come in.’ …

” ‘This population of 18- to 25-year-olds is responsible for 25 percent of the incidents that we respond to within our correctional institutions,’ Cheshire Warden Scott Erfe said.

“Erfe said approximately 100 correction staff over three shifts will work in the unit, and that workers have taken three weeks of training on human development and behavioral impact, motivational interviewing, mediation and conflict resolution for young offenders, trauma-informed interventions for young adult offenders and family engagement.

“The program includes work on life skills, educational assistance, team-building exercises and family assistance.

” ‘Although this unit is still in its infancy, it is clear that this has a chance to be something truly special,’ Erfe said.” More here.

I particularly like the “U” of T.R.U.E. I believe a lack of self-knowledge probably underlies most of the world’s problems, not just incarceration rates.

Photo: Lauren Schneiderman / Hartford Courant
Inmates talk to Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy about a rehabilitation program at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. Mentors work with offenders between the ages 18-25 to both make facilities safer and prevent young adults from returning to prison.

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Photo: Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe

For the latest in ridiculous luxury, make sure you get a box of chocolates from the milk of only one cow.

At the Boston Globe, Ellen Albanese has the story:   “You may have heard of single-malt scotch (which must be made from malted barley and distilled at a single distillery), but how about single-cow-origin chocolates?

“At Milk House Chocolates at Thorncrest Farm, Kimberly Thorn crafts certain flavors of chocolates with the milk from individual cows. Karissma, for example, provides the milk for the cabernet sauvignon truffles, while Daydream owns the sea salt caramels. Thorn says that when a pail of milk is delivered to the creamery, she can tell by the smell which cow it’s from.

“Thorn says she discovered the technique by accident. She had been making chocolates with combined milk from the farm’s cows, but one day she forgot to bring home the milk to make the candies. She went back to the barn and milked one cow. The chocolates made from that milk, she said, ‘came out so much better than anything I had ever made before.’…

“Single-cow-origin flavors have become so successful that Thorncrest breeds cows for specific milk/chocolate flavors. The other element is what they eat, said Thorn’s husband, Clint, who oversees genetics and feeding. The farm uses six different types of hay, as well as natural products that influence flavor.” More at the Boston Globe  and at the Hartford Courant.

KerryCan? You make amazing chocolates. Have you ever heard of the one-cow angle?

Photo: Patrick Raycraft/ Hartford Courant
Thorncrest Farm in Goshen, Connecticut, makes chocolates with milk from one cow at a time.

 

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There are so many interesting cultures in the world! For example, when I was editor of a magazine about lower-income issues in New England, I heard for the first time about the Karen from Burma (Myanmar). Who? Soon after, I managed to acquire an article on Karen refugees in Waterbury, Connecticut, so I was able to learn something along with my readers.

Recently, I heard of another new-to-me minority, members of which are being resettled in Massachusetts. They are called Mandeans, and their pacifist religious beliefs had subjected them to persecution in Iraq and Iran for millennia.

Here is what Brian MacQuarrie writes about them at the Boston Globe.

“The Mandaeans have found safety and acceptance since they began arriving [in Worcester] in 2008, freely practicing a monotheistic religion that predates Christianity and Islam. But they still do not have a temple — a ‘mandi’ for baptisms, marriages, and birth and death rituals — and whether one is built could determine if they continue to call Worcester home.

” ‘Work is not the anchor, living in an apartment is not an anchor, the mandi is the anchor,’ said Wisam Breegi, a leader of the Mandaean community. …

” ‘It really is a culture that is in danger of disappearing,’ said Marianne Sarkis, an anthropology professor at Clark University. ‘If you don’t have a way of preserving the culture and traditions and even the language’ of Aramaic — what a temple helps provide — ‘it is not going to survive very long.’ …

“ ‘We really don’t have the expertise, the know-how, the connections,’ said Breegi, who also has founded a scientific firm that is developing a low-cost, disposable, neonatal incubator for use in developing countries.

“To help forge the religious connections, Breegi and Sarkis are preparing an application for a nonprofit organization to help raise money for the temple. Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty said in an interview he is willing to help the project where he can.

“ ‘They’re all doing what everyone else is trying to do — working hard and getting their kids a good education.’ …

” ‘It’ll just help make Worcester stronger in the long run,’ Petty said of his city’s embrace of Mandaeans and other immigrants. ‘You can’t build walls between people.’ ”

Worcester held a ceremony of welcome in April that “represented the first time — anywhere, at any time — that Mandaeans had been recognized as a valued, important minority group, Sarkis said.” Wow.

More here.

Photo: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
The Kalmashy family (left to right) Lilo, and her husband Mahdi and their daughters and Sura and Sahar, shared lunch at their home in Worcester.

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My husband’s spring visit to the Arnold Arboretum and a guided tour by Andrew Gapinski, manager of horticulture, got us looking up information on witch hazel.

Steve Kemper at Yankee Magazine had this to say: “Witch hazel grows from southern Canada to Florida and from Minnesota to Texas, but it flourishes most densely in the eastern half of Connecticut. Not quite a tree but more than a shrub, witch hazel has speckled gray bark, a slim trunk typically just a few inches in diameter, and a bushy top that ends well shy of 20 feet. For three seasons of the year, it’s inconspicuous in the understory.

“But after all the leaves have fallen and the last aster has succumbed to frost, witch hazel displays its exuberant eccentricity, bursting into festive yellow blossoms that Thoreau compared to ‘furies’ hair, or small ribbon streamers.’ At the same time, the previous year’s blossoms have ripened into hard fruits, which now explode, propelling the small seeds up to 30 feet. …

“The Native Americans called this strange plant ‘winterbloom’ and ascribed special powers to it. They used it as a cure-all, steeping the bark and branches to make a tea … which they put on cuts, bruises, insect bites, pinkeye, hemorrhoids, and sore muscles — maladies for which witch hazel is still used. “

At the Boston Globe, David Filipov adds, “Native Americans used witch hazel as a cure-all. So did the early European settlers. … Because of that, Dickinson Brands Inc., the world’s largest producer of witch hazel, has quietly prospered here, in what is arguably the witch hazel capital of the world.

“Owners and employees say they have avoided the layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts that have benighted so many companies. And in this season of shrinking sales and mounting losses, the privately owned company says it has experienced double-digit growth. …

“Sometimes the product’s rich history as an all-round remedy intrudes upon the company’s attempt to place the Witch Hazel brand as a gentle skin-care product for the modern woman.

“ ‘Back in the day, they used to use it a lot on the animals’ who had cuts and scrapes,’’ [an employer] recalled. ‘As a matter of fact, most of the race horses of today use it. After they work out, they wipe the horses with it. Yep, cools the horses down.’ ”

Read all about this built-to-last Connecticut industry at Yankee Magazine and the Boston Globe.

(Witch Hazel was a character in the Little Lulu comics of my childhood. Different witch.)

Image: Franz Eugen Köhler

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Photo: The Library of Congress
Gustave Whitehead and his daughter beside the contraption he called Plane No. 22.

Connecticut wants you to know that it is First in Flight. Not Ohio, not North Carolina. And not because of the Wright brothers. Nope, the state contends, Gustav Whitehead was first — on Aug. 14, 1901.

As Kristin Hussey writes in the NY Times, Connecticut legislators argue about many things, but there is one topic on which everyone is in agreement — where the first airplane was flown.

“In 2013,” writes Hussey, “a well-regarded aviation publication surprised historians by declaring that Mr. Whitehead, a Bridgeport resident, had flown two years before Orville and Wilbur Wright skimmed the dunes of Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina in 1903.

“ ‘Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied,’ read the headline in the publication, IHS Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. ‘Whitehead has been shabbily treated by history,’ it said.

“Mr. Whitehead, a German immigrant, flew his own aircraft above Bridgeport and nearby Fairfield on Aug. 14, 1901, climbing 50 feet into the air and traveling more than a mile, according to the article, which was written by Paul Jackson, the editor of Jane’s. …

“Within months, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, had signed a measure changing the honorees of a state holiday called Powered Flight Day from the Wright brothers to Mr. Whitehead. Last spring, lawmakers passed a resolution that formally recognized Connecticut as first in flight.”

Needless to say, fans of the Wright brothers are not taking this lying down. Read about the controversy here.

Photo: Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times
Andy Kosch, a high school teacher from Connecticut, led a group that built a replica of Mr. Whitehead’s plane and flew it successfully. 

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With increasing numbers of Americans experiencing food insecurity, it seems like an appropriate time of year to be grateful that at least there are many goodhearted people managing food banks and community meals and doing what they can.

If you know of anyone in New England who could use the help just now, or if you want to volunteer or donate, this partial list may be a good starting place.

Rhode Island

http://www.rifoodbank.org
“The Rhode Island Community Food Bank works to end hunger in our state by providing food to people in need. We envision a day when all Rhode Islanders have access to nutritious food and a healthy lifestyle.

Massachusetts

East
http://Gbfb.org
“The Greater Boston Food Bank’s mission is to End Hunger Here. Our objective is to distribute enough food to provide at least one meal a day to those in need.”

West
https://www.foodbankwma.org/
“We are fortunate to live in such a special part of the country, allowing for the growth and harvest of a multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables. As this harvest season comes to an end, we have received more than 266,800 pounds of fresh produce — including potatoes, lettuce, carrots, apples and squash — donated by local farms this year.”

Vermont

http://www.vtfoodbank.org/FindFoodShelf.aspx
“If you are looking for a place to have a Thanksgiving meal or to volunteer to help cook, serve or clean-up, download our list of Thanksgiving meals.”

New Hampshire

http://www.nhfoodbank.org/
“Need Food? We Can Help. If you are in need of assistance, use our search to locate the nearest food pantry or soup kitchen to you. Search by your town or county, or view all of our partner agencies.”

Maine

http://www.foodpantries.org/st/maine
“There are several food pantries and food banks in the Maine. With help from users like you we have compiled a list of some. If you know of a listing that is not included here please submit new food pantries to our database.”

Connecticut

http://www.ctfoodbank.org/
“The mission of Connecticut Food Bank is to provide nutritious food to people in need. We distribute food and other resources to nearly 700 local emergency food assistance programs in six of Connecticut’s eight counties: Fairfield, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London and Windham.”

harvest

 

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I remember my mother’s story about driving home to Boston with a friend and trying to cross the Connecticut River on September 21, 1938. I wish I remembered the details: where they were coming from, who was driving, whether they got across or the bridge was closed, where they spent the night.

But I will never forget the awe with which people of a previous generation spoke about the Hurricane of ’38, its unexpectedness, its devastation — and little Edrie Dodge crawling on hands and knee across her yard as the winds destroyed the farming and fishing industries of her island.

That hurricane has always held a kind of fascination for me. I was riveted reading A Wind to Shake the World, an excellent book describing places I knew and emphasizing that lack of good communication in 1938. While people in Long Island were fighting the storm, people in Rhode Island had no idea they were next.

Nevertheless, good things came of tragedy, lessons were learned. Forecasting and communication improved exponentially.

The Globe had a retrospective on the 75th anniversary.

Jeremy C. Fox wrote, “On that September afternoon 75 years ago today, the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 tore into New York’s Long Island and then Milford, Conn., and raged through Massachusetts and Vermont, leaving a path of flooded towns, flattened homes, and fires caused by downed power lines. …

“Coming before televisions, computers, or weather satellites, the storm’s speed and fury took both meteorologists and residents by surprise, according to forecasters.

“Meteorology professor Lourdes B. Avilés said the storm remains “the one to which all other New England hurricanes are sooner or later compared.”

More here.

Photo: The Boston Globe
”This enormous tree in our backyard came completely uprooted and came crashing down,” said Irene Goodwin Kane, who was 14 when the storm hit. “That was when I realized that this was really bad.”

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