January 27, 2015

Former Governor Lowell Weicker Lauds President Obama’s New Openness to Cuba      

Former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker at his home in Old Lyme, Thursday.

Former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker at his home in Old Lyme, Thursday.

Lowell Weicker, a former Governor and Senator of Connecticut, has expressed his support for the Obama’s administration new policy of normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba. In taking this position, Weicker noted in an interview at his home in Old Lyme with ValleyNewsNow yesterday that current polls show that 60 percent of Americans support diplomatic recognition of Cuba.

In adopting a new U.S. relationship with Cuba, Weicker said, “Finally, we are catching up with the times.” He continued, “The U.S. embargo has lasted for 50 years, yet country after country has recognized Cuba with only the United States in not doing so.”  Weicker also expressed criticism of those who oppose the Obama Administration new policy of recognizing Cuba, such as U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Positive Aspects of Today’s Cuba

According to Weicker, “The most positive aspects of the present Castro regime in Cuba are in the areas of health care and good public education. Ninety nine percent of Cubans have free health care and good public education, a complete turnaround from the days of Battista.” At the same time, Weicker faulted the present Cuban government, “for its lack of human rights and democratic elections.”

As for his personal relationship with Cuba, the former Connecticut Governor said, “My family owned a large business in Cuba, which was expropriated by the Castro government, after Battista fled the island. No one, especially myself, is going to extol Castro’s confiscation of private property.”

Weicker also noted his, “deep personal distaste for the dictatorship of Flugencio Battista, who preceded Fidel Castro. Early on,” he said, “most of the Cuban immigrants to the United States were allied with Battista. Indeed in my losing the 1988 Senate campaign, the Florida Cuban community poured late money into Senator Joe Lieberman’s campaign.”

Weicker’s Two Trips to Castro’s Cuba

File photo from the 1980s of then U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker shaking hands with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Photo from the 1980s of then U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker shaking hands with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Weicker also stated, “When I was a U.S. Senator, I made two trips to Cuba in the early 1980s. The first was to organize a joint American-Cuban marine science mission. The second was to secure the release of six American women imprisoned in Cuba.” According to Weicker, he, “convinced Castro, personally, to release the women who were in jail on drug charges. Two of the six were from Connecticut.”

Weicker described how, while in Cuba, he and Castro went diving together and spent many hours discussing Cuban-American relations. When Castro inquired whether there was anything he could do for Weicker, the Senator jokingly responded by requesting the Major League Baseball franchise for Havana. Castro’s response was, ‘No, we keep that.’”

In Weicker’s account, “When I announced to the Senate that I was to go to Cuba to retrieve the six women, U.S. Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina tried to block the trip.” Failing that endeavor, Helms asked Weicker, confidentially, if he could bring back some cigars for him.

Weicker also makes the point that the wrapper leaf for Cuban cigars are traditionally grown in Connecticut, so Connecticut would directly benefit from the lifting of U.S. restrictions on the importation of Cuban cigars.

In conclusion, Weicker said, “Cuban dictator Battista was bad news, and I agree that the Castro brothers have had their own failings.” However, Weicker does not want the U.S. to live in the past as regards Cuba. He states, “It is only a question of time … Cuba will become more and more democratic. It is a new world, and one that should see two old friends reconcile.”

‘EagleWatch’ Opens at CT River Museum with Exhibit, Boat Tours, Programs, Friday

Connecticut River Museum environmental educator, Bill Yule, leads the boat tours and helps participants spot Bald Eagles, wintering hawks and water fowl and other wildlife from the deck of Enviro-Lab III. Photo: Connecticut River Museum.

Connecticut River Museum environmental educator, Bill Yule, leads the boat tours and helps participants spot Bald Eagles, wintering hawks and water fowl and other wildlife from the deck of Enviro-Lab III. Photo: Connecticut River Museum.

ESSEX – Winter has arrived and the ice is starting to freeze across the Connecticut River. Bald Eagles and other winter birds are moving to the southern reaches of the river in search of open water and food. The eagles are primarily fish eaters and, as the lakes and rivers freeze to the north, the big birds begin to drift south looking for open water where they can catch fish and survive winter.

One of the best places to survive the hardships of a New England winter is Essex and the lower 12 miles of the Connecticut River. The combination of river-flow, tides and proximity to the coast creates a micro-climate that keeps the lower river from freezing solid and is perfect for winter fishing.

The arrival of the eagles signals the beginning of another season of the return of the majestic Bald Eagle to the lower Connecticut River and the Museum’s annual EagleWatch programs.

EagleWatch & Winter Wildlife Cruises include more than just big birds! Passengers often site beautiful winter ducks and even harbor seals. Photo by: Bill Yule.

EagleWatch & Winter Wildlife Cruises include more than just big birds! Passengers often site beautiful winter ducks and even harbor seals. Photo by: Bill Yule.

EagleWatch officially begins Jan. 30 this year and will run through March 15. As a part of this winter celebration of wildlife along the River, the Connecticut River Museum will offer an exhibit, boat tours, public programs and workshops.

Opening on Jan. 31, and running through March 15, the ‘Eagles of Essex’ exhibit tells the story of Bald Eagles along the Connecticut River, why they winter here and how they came back from near-extinction to becoming one of the greatest environmental come-back stories in history. In addition to an interactive eagle nest, the exhibit illustrates how to identify birds of prey and where the best land-viewing spots are located. An eagle sighting scoreboard and a digital photography display is also featured. Along with the exhibit, an Eagle Driving Tour is available in print and as an app to help birdwatchers discover key viewing sites along the lower River Valley.

A Community Photography section is also part of the exhibit. Amateur photographers who capture a great image of an eagle or other wintering bird along the Connecticut River are invited to submit their digital entry to curator Amy Trout. Your image will be on view in the exhibit as a part of the digital display. For more information or submit an image, contact Amy at atrout@ctrivermuseum.org

The Bald Eagles are here along the lower Connecticut River and boat tours in February and March can help you get a great look at them! Photo: Connecticut River Museum.

The Bald Eagles are here along the lower Connecticut River and boat tours in February and March can help you get a great look at them! Photo: Connecticut River Museum.

Boat Tours

Through a partnership with Project Oceanology, a Groton-based marine science and environmental education organization, the Connecticut River Museum will once again provide a dynamic, on-water, eagle-viewing experience.

Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting on Jan. 30 and running through March 15, Project Oceanology’s Enviro-lab III, a 65-foot modern research vessel, will depart from the Museum’s docks for an up-close view of winter wildlife, Bald Eagles, and other big birds of prey.

Educators from the Museum and Project Oceanology will provide narration while passengers can enjoy viewing from the heated cabin or outside deck area. Boat tours are $40 per person and include free admission to the Museum. Advance boat tour reservations are strongly suggested.

Public Programs

Throughout the season, the Connecticut River Museum offers a variety of public programs.
Feb. 14 and March 7 at 1:15 p.m.: noted photographer Stanley Kolber will be at the museum for his popular Nature Photography Workshops.
Feb. 15 at 3:30p.m.: ‘A Place Called Hope’ will present their Live Birds of Prey program at Essex Town Hall.
Feb. 19 at 5:30 p.m.: Author Richard King will talk about his book, ‘Devil’s Cormorant: A Natural History.’
Feb. 22: Wood carver Al Moncovich will demonstrate eagle carving in the Eagles of Essex exhibit.

For more information or to make reservations, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269. The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street and is open Tuesday – Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Connecticut River Museum environmental educator, Bill Yule, leads the boat tours and helps participants spot Bald Eagles, wintering hawks and water fowl and other wildlife from the deck of Enviro-Lab III. Photo: Connecticut River Museum.

EagleWatch & Winter Wildlife Cruises include more than just big birds! Passengers often site beautiful winter ducks and even harbor seals. Photo by: Bill Yule.

Chester Library’s Winter Book Sale Continues for Next Two Weeks

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CHESTER – The Friends of Chester Library opeed the doors on the Winter Book Sale today, Friday, Jan. 23.
  Be sure you have a stockpile of reading for the long winter months ahead!  Drop in for a great selection of hardcover and paperback books and movies for children and adults at rock-bottom prices.
All proceeds from the sale help the Friends fund children’s programs and adult discussion groups, and purchase movies and museum passes for the library. The Book Sale is open for two weeks during regular library hours.

For more information, call 860-526-0018 or visit www.chesterct.org.

Local Lawmakers Meet With Old Saybrook Chamber 

Gathering for a photo are, from left to right, Angus McDonald of Angus McDonald/Gary Sharpe & Associates; Leigh-Bette Maynard of Liberty Bank;  Kristen Roberts of Comcast; Leland McKenna of Middlesex Hospital Primary Care; Kenneth Gribbon of Saybrook Point Inn & Spa; Lori Woll of the Octagon @ Mystic Marriott;  Judy Sullivan - Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce Executive Director; Linda Brophy of Edward Jones and Suzie Beckman Executive Director of the Old Saybrook Economic Development Commission.

Gathering for a photo at the legislative forum are, from left to right, Angus McDonald of Angus McDonald/Gary Sharpe & Associates; Leigh-Bette Maynard of Liberty Bank; Kristen Roberts of Comcast; Leland McKenna of Middlesex Hospital Primary Care; Kenneth Gribbon of Saybrook Point Inn & Spa; Lori Woll of the Octagon @ Mystic Marriott; Judy Sullivan – Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce Executive Director; Linda Brophy of Edward Jones and Suzie Beckman  – Executive Director of the Old Saybrook Economic Development Commission.

State Sen. Art Linares (R-33) and State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23) on Jan. 15 met with the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce to discuss issues facing the state legislature and their efforts to improve the state’s business climate.

“This type of discussion and transparency amongst elected officials and constituents is essential,” Rep. Carney said. “We have to understand the concerns held by the people of our towns, along with the input from the business community, and be their voice in the Capitol.”

“We can make Connecticut a Top 20 state for business,” Sen. Linares said. “To get there, we must pass policies which reduce tax and regulatory burdens on businesses. We must pass pro-growth policies which unlock our potential as a state, address our weaknesses, and capitalize on our strengths. We need to listen to what Connecticut businesses here in Old Saybrook and across the state are telling us.”

Attendees at the legislative forum discussed a variety of issues, including state taxes, funding for transportation infrastructure, and the need to eliminate burdensome unfunded state mandates.

Essex Savings Bank Announces 2015 Community Investment Program Ballot

AREAWIDE: Gregory R. Shook, President & Chief Executive Officer of Essex Savings Bank announced today, “We are extremely proud of the contribution milestone we are reaching in support of our Community Investment Program in our 164th year.”

The Bank annually commits 10 percent of its after tax net income to qualifying organizations within the immediate market area consisting of  Chester, Deep River, Essex, Lyme, Madison, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook.  This program provides financial support to over 200 non-profit organizations who offer outstanding services to the ever-increasing needs of our communities.

By the end of the year, a total of $4,000,000 will have been distributed since inception in 1996.  Essex Savings Bank customers determine 30 percent of the fund allocations each year by voting directly for three of their favorite causes, charities or organizations who have submitted applications to participate.  Ballots will be available at all Essex Savings Bank Offices between Feb. 2 and March 2 to determine the allocation of funds.

The Bank’s Directors, Senior Officers, Branch Managers and Essex Financial Services, Inc., the Bank’s subsidiary, will distribute the remaining 70%.

Organizations (90) qualifying to appear on the 2015 ballot include:

Act II Thrift Shop, Inc.
Bikes for Kids, Inc.
Brazilian and American Youth Cultural Exchange (BRAYCE)
Bushy Hill Nature Center
Camp Hazen YMCA
Cappella Cantorum, Inc.
CDE (Chester, Deep River, Essex) Cooperative Nursery School
Chester Elementary School-Parent Teacher Organization (PTO)
Chester Historical Society
Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, Inc.
The Children’s Tree Montessori School
Common Good Gardens, Inc.
Community Music School
Con Brio Choral Society, Inc.
Connecticut Audubon Society Eco Travel
The Country School, Inc.
Deacon John Grave Foundation, Inc.
Deep River Ambulance Association, Inc.
Deep River Elementary PTO, Inc.
Deep River Fire Department
Deep River Historical Society, Inc.
Deep River Junior Ancient Fife & Drum Corps, Inc.
Dog Days Adoption Events, Inc.
Essex Community Fund, Inc.
Essex Elementary School Foundation, Inc.
Essex Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, Inc.
Essex Fire Engine Company #1
Essex Historical Society, Inc.
Essex Land Trust, Inc.
Essex Library Association
Essex Winter Series, Inc.
Florence Griswold Museum
Forgotten Felines, Inc.
Friends In Service Here (F.I.S.H.)
Friends of Hammonasset, Inc.
Friends of Madison Youth
Friends of the Acton Public Library
Friends of the Chester Public Library, Inc.
Friends of the Lyme Public Library, Inc.
Friends of the Lymes’ Senior Center, Inc.
Graduation Night, Inc. – Old Saybrook
High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc.
Hope Partnership, Inc.
Ivoryton Library Association
Ivoryton Playhouse Foundation, Inc.
Literacy Volunteers – Valley Shore, CT, Inc.
Lyme Ambulance Association, Inc.
Lyme Art Association, Inc.
Lyme Consolidated School Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO)
Lyme Land Conservation Trust, Inc.
Lyme-Old Lyme Education Foundation
Lyme/Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club (LOLJWC)
Lyme Public Hall Association, Inc.
Lyme Public Library Foundation
Lymes’ Elderly Housing, Inc. (Lymewood)
Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau
Madison Historical Society, Inc.
Maritime Education Network, Inc.
Musical Masterworks, Inc.
Old Lyme Children’s Learning Center, Inc.
Old Lyme Fire Department
Old Lyme Historical Society, Inc.
Old Lyme Land Trust, Inc.
Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library Association
Old Lyme Rowing Association, Inc.
Old Lyme South End Volunteer Ambulance Association, Inc.
Old Lyme Visiting Nurse Association, Inc.
Old Saybrook Education Foundation
Old Saybrook Fire Company Number One, Inc.
Old Saybrook Historical Society
Old Saybrook Land Trust, Inc.
Pay Forward, Inc. (aka Pay4ward.org)
Pet Connections, Inc.
Potapaug Audubon Society
The Region 4 Education Foundation, Inc. (R4EF)
Ruth Ann Heller Music Foundation
Scranton Library, Madison (aka E.C. Scranton Memorial Library)
The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries
Simply Sharing, Inc.
Sister Cities Essex Haiti, Inc.
Tait’s Every Animal Matters (TEAM)
Tracy Art Center, Inc.
Tri-Town Youth Services Bureau, Inc.
Valley Baseball-Softball Booster Club, Inc.
Valley-Shore YMCA
Visiting Nurses of the Lower Valley, Inc. (VNLV)
Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center, Inc.
Westbrook Project Graduation, Inc.
Westbrook Youth and Family Services, Inc.
The Woman’s Exchange of Old Lyme, Inc.

Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851.  The Bank serves the Lower Connecticut River Valley with six offices in Chester, Essex (2), Madison, Old Lyme, and Old Saybrook.  Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary, Essex Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC.  Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value, are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

21st Annual Poetry Contest Announced by Acton Library

The Acton Public Library, 60 Old Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook, announces its 21st Annual Poetry Competition. Submissions will be accepted through March 14 at the Library.

The rules for participants are as follows:

  • Poems must be original and unpublished, one poem per letter size page, no more than 40 lines per poem, and all poems to have a title.
  • Author’s name, address, and phone number should appear on the back (not submitted to judges), students please add grade level.
  • Author must be a resident of Connecticut.
  • No more than three entries per person.
  • Open to all ages First Grade through adult.
  • The divisions are: Grades 1-3, Grades 4-6, Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, and Adult.

Winning poets will read their poems and receive their awards during the Library’s annual Poetry Night, Wednesday, April 22. The public is invited to attend.

Following Poetry Night, all entries will be on display in the Library through May.

Pick up an entry form at the Library or visit www.actonlibrary.org, or call for more information.

The Library is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

Letter from Paris: Ten Days Later

US Secretary of State John Kerry pays his respects at the makeshift memorial in Paris to the Charlie Hebdo victims.

US Secretary of State John Kerry pays his respects at the makeshift memorial in Paris to the Charlie Hebdo victims.

Ten days after the assassination at the Charlie Hebdo office including the magazine’s editor and leading cartoonists, France is on high alert. Threats against persons and acts of vandalism are multiplying. The Jewish community is scared, the Muslims feel stigmatized, the Catholics are worried. It would be exaggerated however to describe – the way a Fox News journalist claimed – that certain areas of Paris, such as the 11th arrondissement, are dangerous and should be avoided. Incidentally, the journalist quickly withdrew his remark.

Prime minister Manuel Valls and minister of the Interior Bernard Caseneuve have launched maximum security measures: the Vigipirate alert system (at first created by president Giscard d’Estaing in 1978) now includes 10,000 troops from the Foreign Legion, the army and the police. They are positioned throughout France to protect monuments, schools and places of worship, as well as strategic points like airports or railroad stations. On Thursday, Francois Hollande was on the air force carrier Charles de Gaulle in Toulon to review the 2,000 troops before their departure for manoeuvers in the Indian Ocean. France has currently nine Rafales in Jordan and two Mirages in Saudi Arabia.

The criminal investigation has been fast and efficient. In lightning speed, they uncovered more ramifications of the jihadists’ organization, extended to their families, friends and acquaintances, with the “Buttes-Chaumont connection” at the center. The Belhoucine brothers are on the list of suspects. A large number of individuals have been taken for questioning and nine are currently in police custody . In the Paris region, five caches of weapons have been located and searched.

Reinforcement of the legal system to control the jihadists’ travels and activities is being studied by the government. Measures such as the creation of special files on terrorists similar to the ones kept on sexual offenders and withdrawing the French nationality of returning jihadists are being considered. Voting on a new law should take place as early as the beginning of February. Control of internet has become a priority. The social networks constitute a counter culture expressed in simple manichean terms to be accessible to the largest possible numbers. Calls for violence and hatred never stop.

The recent events have marked the French. On Wednesday, January 14, after a powerful speech by the prime minister at the National Assembly, all the deputies stood up to observe a minute of silence. Then one voice started singing the Marseillaise and soon everybody followed in unison. The last time this happened was on November 11, 1918! At the Institut du Monde Arabe and during all the official ceremonies, the president and the prime minister reiterated their basic point: the French government is not against Islam nor the Muslim population. Around the world, French diplomatic representations and economic interests are under attack. The TV news shows the fury of violent mobs shouting their hatred in the streets of Niger — quite a contrast from the calm of the people in the streets of Paris on January 11.

Laicite (secularism) is a specificity of France, and the outcome of a tumultuous history, starting with the 16th century wars of religions, opposing monarch and church. It took a whole century for the Catholic Church to accept the separation of church and state in 1904. That principle was enshrined in the first article of the 1958 constitution at the outset of the fifth Republic. It is alien to most of the other countries and should be “formatted” (to use a computer science term) in order to be understood beyond our borders.

US Secretary of State John Kerry paid a visit to Paris, saw the places where the violent attacks took place on January 7 and used warm words (in French) to express his support of France.

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

Anne Penniman LLC Receives 2015 CT Landscape Architects Professional Award

The Connecticut Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (CTASLA) announced the winners of its annual Connecticut Professional Awards competition at the chapter’s annual meeting in December.

Anne Penniman Associates, LLC  of Essex won two awards.  The first was in the  Landscape Architectural Design – Residential category and was an Honor Award for Blast Site Restoration (Private Residence, Essex).  The second was in the Landscape Planning & Analysis category and was a Merit Award for Vegetation/Habitat Mapping and Management Plan for Haversham Property (Private Residence, Westerly, RI)

CTASLA conducts the awards competition each year to recognize excellence in landscape architectural design, planning and analysis, communication, and research. To be eligible, an applicant must be a landscape architect or designer in the state of Connecticut, and the entrant or project location must be based in Connecticut.

“These award-winning projects exemplify Connecticut landscape architects’ skills in designing beautiful spaces that add value to the land, encouraging people to get outside and explore their surroundings while protecting habitat and natural resources,” said Barbara Yaeger, president of CTASLA and principal of B.Yaeger, LLC, of Madison, Conn.

Nautilus Architects of Lyme Receives ‘Best Of Houzz 2015′ Award

Pool house on Cove Rd. designed by Nautilus Architects

Pool house on Cove Rd. designed by Nautilus Architects

Nautilus Architects of Lyme, Conn., has been awarded “Best Of Houzz” for Design & Customer Satisfaction by Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. This modern design studio was chosen by the more than 25 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than 500,000 active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Design and Customer Satisfaction. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 25 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers.” Customer Satisfaction honors are determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2014.

Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2015” badge on their profiles, helping Houzz users around the world who discover and love a professional’s work to learn even more about that business’ popularity and satisfaction rating among their peers in the Houzz community.

Christopher Arelt of Nautilus Architects, says, “I encourage my clients and those considering any building/renovation project to use Houzz as a way to discover design ideas that work.”

Liza Hausman, vice president of industry marketing for Houzz, comments, “Houzz provides homeowners with a 360 degree view of home building, remodeling and design industry professionals, empowering them to engage the right people and products for their project.”  She comments, “We’re delighted to recognize Christopher Arelt of Nautilus Architects, among our “Best Of” professionals as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”

Follow Nautilus Architects and Chris Arelt at this link.