January 15, 2021

Essex Savings Bank Announces New President & CEO

ESSEX— The Board of Directors of Essex Savings Bank is pleased to announce that Diane Arnold, Senior Vice President and Chief Lending Officer of Essex Savings Bank, will be assuming the role of President and CEO in July 2021, upon the retirement of current President and CEO Gregory Shook.

Mr. Shook has served in his role for 21 years overseeing steady growth in deposits and loans, geographic expansion, the development of the Trust Department with over $600 million in assets, and integration with Essex Financial Services, its wholly-owned wealth management subsidiary with over $2.8 billion of managed assets. In addition to inheriting Mr. Shook’s role, Ms. Arnold will also serve on the Board of Essex Savings Bank, and on the Board of Essex Financial Services, Inc. 

Douglas Paul, Chairman of the Essex Savings Bank Board of Directors, stated, “Greg Shook has been an exemplary leader, and our Board engaged in a very extensive and comprehensive process to select his successor. Ms. Arnold is an outstanding choice with the attributes and qualities necessary to propel Essex Savings Bank into the next era of banking as a leading community bank.” 

Ms. Arnold began her banking career in 1983 and she worked in a variety of departments at two different banks before joining Essex Savings Bank in 2002, where she ultimately rose to her current position.

During her 19 years at the bank, she has been particularly influential in developing the commercial loan portfolio and in mentoring many individuals. She has been involved in a number of community organizations for many years, and in 2017 she received a Women of Fire Award, recognizing key female leaders in the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate sectors.

Ms. Arnold earned a B.S. degree in Economics from Quinnipiac College and is also a graduate of the Connecticut School of Finance and Management.

“I am honored to have been selected by the Board to assume the role of President and CEO upon Greg Shook’s retirement,” said Ms. Arnold. “I look forward to building upon our solid foundation of serving the local community and continuing to flourish in an ever-changing banking environment.”

Mr. Shook stated: “I am so pleased the Board has selected Diane Arnold as the next President and CEO and the first woman to serve in this role at our institution. I have known Diane for many years and look forward to working with her to insure a smooth and successful transition.”  

Editor’s Note: Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851. The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and shoreline with six offices in Essex (2), Chester, Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook providing a full complement of personal and business banking. Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Division, Essex Trust and wholly-owned subsidiary, Essex Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC.

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Death Announced of Rev. David Galen Johnson, Former Minister of Visitation at Deep River Congregational Church

Reverend David Galen Johnson

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Reverend David Galen Johnson, 79 and United Church of Christ minister, died at home in Portsmouth, NH of late-stage cancer on Monday, January 11, 2021.

He was born on June 5, 1941, in Philippi, WV, the first son of Glen Galen Johnson and Clarice Louise (Gainer) Johnson, and moved to Little Rock, AR, at age 10. A high school senior the year that Little Rock schools were closed in the wake of Brown vs Board of Education, David (like many of his classmates) graduated from a high school away from home. He married one of those classmates, Lyla Gibb, on September 8, 1960.

David earned a BS in Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and began his professional life at Westinghouse as a manufacturing engineer and production foreman. Taking leave from that role, he fulfilled his Army Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) commitment, and was stationed in Heilbronn, Germany.

After earning an MBA from Ball State University, David enjoyed early career success with TempRite, a division of Aladdin Industries. From a base near London, England, he built the European business by engaging sales managers in key countries. Together, they became the “Big 5” and life-long friends. Subsequently, he held a variety of sales & marketing leadership roles before launching his own executive search business called Galen Giles Group. He brought his professional talents and passion for international understanding to his position on the Board of Directors of the American Field Service (AFS).

Yet it was not until later in life that David heard his true calling to spread God’s word as a minister. With the unfailing support of his wife Lyla, he earned his Master of Divinity from Andover-Newton Seminary at the age of 68. He pursued his formal calling as the Minister of Visitation at Deep River Congregational Church (CT) while also living his purpose as a hospice spiritual counselor for Masonicare. Later, he served as the Interim Minister at Epping Community Church (NH) — a role he described as his favorite job ever.

Away from work, David pursued hobbies such as virtual game playing back when “virtual” meant mailing monthly paper “orders” for the strategy board game Diplomacy. One of his great joys in life was playing poker with the same group of friends for almost 40 years, as well as playing (and winning)  just about any card or board game with family. Additionally, he dedicated himself to community theater, was part of a Murder Mystery troupe, and most recently was a role player at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth.

Yet David would have described his greatest passion and achievements as his 60-year marriage to the only love of his life, Lyla, and the raising of their four children. Together, he and Lyla sought to give them “roots and wings,” and recently David articulated that in this, they had been successful.

David is survived by his wife, Lyla G. Johnson; his children Glen R. Johnson and wife N. Gaye Johnson of East Point, GA, Katherine Johnson Armstrong and husband Robert A. Armstrong II of Charlotte, NC, E. William (Bill) Johnson, MD and wife Reiko K. Johnson, MD of Newfields, NH, Elizabeth Johnson Levine and wife Adele A. Levine of Silver Spring, MD; 10 grandchildren and two great-grand children; and brothers Mark A. Johnson and G. Douglas Johnson, both of Heber Springs, AR.

A Virtual Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, January 24th at 1:00 p.m. (this event will be online only, details will follow on here soon, if you know you would like to attend please email info@kentandpelczarfh.com to receive details when they become available.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to maintain the historic North Church in Portsmouth, NH or The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. To sign an online condolences book, and for updates and more information, please contact  Kent & Pelczar Funeral Home & Crematory at https://www.kentandpelczarfh.com/ or +1 603-659-3344.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

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Dr. Alicia Farrell Announces Free Online Parenting Webinars Series in February 2021

AREAWIDE — Cognitive psychologist and national keynote speaker, Dr. Alicia Farrell, has announced a four-session webinar series to address common challenges that parents face in raising children in today’s environment.

Titled, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted, Confident, Self-Reliant and Civil Adult in a Crazy Mixed-Up World, the free webinar series, being held in February, goes beyond the challenges of the pandemic to address four main areas of parenting concerns including:

  • Stress, anxiety and perfectionism
  • How to recognize it in your children and what to do about it
  • Technology: how it is affecting our children and what to do about it
  • Parenting: how to communicate, set boundaries, place age-appropriate expectations and allow for natural consequences at any age
  • Drugs and alcohol with a focus on marijuana: how to talk to your kids about the facts, the fiction and their future.

“Life has been coming at us for quite some time– pre-COVID, COVID and likely, post-COVID – for you, me, everybody. But you know who is suffering most? Our children. It’s breaking my heart. We have to sort this out.” says Dr. Farrell in her blogpost announcing the series.

She continues, “Time is precious so I want everyone who is interested to know that each of the four webinars will be packed full of essential knowledge and practical tools that can be applied right away.  They are designed to stand alone so you can choose to attend one, two, three or all four webinars depending on your needs.”

Asking, “Doesn’t everyone want to survive this challenging time with children who have more grit, resilience and are better equipped to handle their future adult lives?” Dr. Farrell adds, “I felt compelled to offer this free four-part series online to reach a larger audience than I do on my couch every day and, with the global adaptation to services like Zoom, I hope to inspire a greater number of people to influence positive change in our children’s lives.”

Registration is required for each of the free sessions and is available on Farrell’s website at aliciafarrellphd.com  The four sessions are offered Wednesdays, Feb. 3, 10, 17 and 24 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Alicia Farrell is an accomplished Cognitive Psychologist, former University Professor, National Keynote Speaker and Founder of Clearview Consulting. For over 20 years, Dr. Farrell has counseled hundreds of clients on how to get back to basics to achieve their life goals and personal well-being. Her clients have ranged in age from 13 to 98. She has worked with individuals, couples, parents, families and professionals.

She also brings 10 years of corporate experience to her work.  In 2019 Dr. Farrell was recognized with a ‘Women of Excellence Award’ by the Shoreline Chambers of Commerce in Connecticut.  For more information visit: www.aliciafarrellphd.com

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Happy New Year 2021!

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash.

We wish all our readers, advertisers and friends a very Happy New Year 2021.

We hope it brings you and yours peace, good health and happiness.

We thank you sincerely for your support through the challenging year of 2020 and look forward to continuing to serve you in what we hope is a far better 2021!

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Letter From Paris: After 47 Years, UK Leaves EU with ‘Thin’ Post-Brexit Deal

Nicole Prévost Logan

After 47 years of co-habitation, the UK has left the European Union (EU) with a “thin” post-Brexit deal.

An end-of-year need for holiday food delicacies, such as caviar, lobster or foie gras, a panic to run short of fresh produce like lettuce, combined with the Covid-19 procedure slowing down the traffic, caused spectacular chaos with thousands of trucks lining up on highways or parked in Kent’s makeshift areas.  It was a sort of a preview of what a no-deal Brexit would bring.

The atmosphere in the country was unreal.

On Christmas Eve at four in the afternoon, the news broke: The UK and the European Union (EU) have reached an agreement on a narrow trade deal.  There will not be a “hard Brexit” as everybody had feared, with a brutal departure of the British Isles from the continent.  The two sides will remain friends and look forward to building up a commercial partnership and intensifying cooperation in transport, security, police, nuclear power, research and many other areas.

An 11th hour agreement

Reaching an agreement was quite an accomplishment. As late as Dec. 20, the mood was grim on both sides of the English Channel. On that date I wrote an article, entitled: “Betting on a “thin” Brexit deal”.

As follows, is part of my article:

Time is running out.  The transition period, which followed the departure of the UK from the EU on Jan. 31, 2020, is ending on Dec. 31.  If the two sides – UK and EU – do not reach an agreement by then, the “hard Brexit” will feel like falling off a cliff. The alternative is a “soft” Brexit.

On Dec. 13, 2019 , Boris Johnson led a successful campaign, the problem is that he based that campaign on three fateful words: “Get Brexit done”  He locked himself in an impasse,  making it hard for him to negotiate further.  He is under pressure from all sides to satisfy the hard-Brexiter Tories, the business circles rejecting Brexit for fear of a tariff war and  public opinion increasingly against a departure from the EU.   

The impossibility to bridge the positions from both sides of the Channel is clear:  the differences are more than deep. They are existential.  

For the British, sovereignty is paramount and the constraints of the Single Market unacceptable. The EU lies on the principles of the “Schengen Space”, consisting of free movement of people, capital, goods and services. Those principles constitute the main asset of the Single Market and are sacred, declared Christine Okrent, a French seasoned journalist and an authority on foreign affairs.

One should not forget that the UK has never been part of the Schengen “Space” nor of the Eurozone.

“Zanny” Minton  Beddoes, editor-in-chief of the Economist describes the negotiators as “playing on their voters’ audiences”.  It may be true in England, but definitely not in the EU. The EU is not budging from its core proposals, and its 27 members remain totally united. It would be miscalculation on Johnson’s part to count on the EU backing down.  

A hard Brexit would be a lose-lose proposition, but the UK would be more affected. Half its trading activities are with Europe, its economy is intertwined with Europe’s, as Beddoes pointed out. In contrast, Brexit has ceased to be a priority for the EU, commented Christine Okrent

In an interview, Michel Barnier, chief negotiator of the EU, declared that a nine month transition was too short. Most trading agreements take at least five years. He said: “Two prerequisites are needed: a free and fair competition (no “Singapore on the Thames”) and a reciprocal access to markets and waters.” 

I predict – and am going out on a limb now – that enough concessions will take place on both sides to reach a “thin” deal (to use Beddoes’ words ) allowing  the negotiations to continue after Dec. 31.  More time is needed to create a tailor-made arrangement to satisfy the UK and help it access the Customs Union or the European Economic Area (EEA), like Norway.  

Those were my predictions on Dec. 20.

Back to Dec. 24, when the post-Brexit “deal'” was reached. What was fascinating on that historical day, was to hear, in real time, the comments coming from all sides of the political spectrum as well as the reactions from the general public.

Boris Johnson was exulting, raising his arms in a victory gesture. The trilingual Ursula von der Leyen , president of the European Commission was the one to announce (in excellent French) that, “a good, fair, and well balanced” deal has been reached.  Towering over her Michel  Barnier added his voice to the official announcement.  It was thanks to his fairness and persistence, that he made the deal happen.

Boris Johnson declared: “We have kept our promise. We have taken back the control of our economy. Freed from the EU Single Market bureaucracy, we can act very fast. The rapid vaccination program is an illustration of this. Our relationship with the EU will be comparable to the one between Canada and the EU (CETA).”

This is not exactly accurate however because CETA makes it easier to export both and goods and services, whereas the post-Brexit deal does not include the suppression of tariffs on services. The most important thing for Johnson was to say, “I have done it”.  He did succeed unlike other prime ministers – Thatcher, Major, Cameron, May – who failed in their attempts.

Denis MacShane, member of parliament  (MP), minister of State for Europe under Tony Blair,  and former part of the Labor party said, the population had had enough and wanted to turn the page of the Brexit.

A professor of the French School of Political Sciences, was lukewarm about the deal.  The accord does not warrant taking the champagne out to celebrate, he said.  To lose one member of the EU is a loss, a form of “disintegration”

Reuters press agency announced that the British Parliament was expected to approve the deal. Both Houses will be recalled to sit on the decision on Dec. 30.  Johnson has a comfortable majority of 364 out of 650 in the House of Commons.  Many of the 200 Labor party, will vote in favor of the agreement since they supported the post-Brexit trade deal  from the beginning.

The European Parliament will make its decision known in 2021 . The agreement text will have to be translated into 23 languages before being  approved by the 27 EU member states.

A 1,246-page agreement

It will take a while to fully comprehend the complex and lengthy text.

Professor Anand Menon,  director of “the UK in a changing world” Think Tank, commented that the lifting of tariffs and quotas will favor the EU since it is where it has a surplus. France has a surplus of 12 billion in her trade balance with the UK. The biggest amount is food products. 150,00 French companies export them to the UK.  Furthermore 80 percent of food and wine transit through France to reach Great Britain.

Quotas and tariffs will not be imposed on products. However, custom and various administrative formalities and procedures at the borders might become cumbersome for both sides. Times will be difficult in the short term for British companies and a cost of 4 percent of the GDP  is expected.

However, from now on the UK will be free to reach bilateral agreements with outside countries, such as New Zealand for the import of meat.

Tariffs will remain on the services . With the post-Brexit deal, the UK becomes a third country in regards to the EU,  80 percent of its economy is immaterial and tied to services and therefore not part of this post-Brexit deal. In order to exercise its financial activities  and access to the Single Market or the Customs Union, the  “passporting” (meaning selling financial services freely) will no longer be an option unless the UK joins the EEA, as Norway has done.

The main sticky point will be to preserve the level playing field and guarantee fair competition on both sides of the Channel.. This will be resolved by the principle of “managed divergence” the parties reserving the right to retaliate.  In other words any hope of creating a “Singapore on Tames “will be under strict scrutiny by the EU.

Dominic Raab, cabinet minister and conservative MP declared  that the provisions included in the agreement  are not the end of the story. The “deal” is a living document that will need to be revisited in the future. The rules will  evolve. As an example, a system is put in place to settle litigations and will be re-examined in four years.  Next February there will be more rules. Raab added that for the next five or six years the UK will be working on re-establishing new ties with Europe.

On a positive note for Boris Johnson: the UK will not be bound by judgments made by the European Court of Justice

The Irish border

The Irish premier Micheal Martin approved the fact that a hard border between the two Irelands was avoided ; The Common Travel Area with Great Britain will be maintained ; the deal preserves Ireland’s position in the Single Market, he said, it will avoid quotas and tariffs imposed on farmers, businesses and exporters.  Varadkar, another Irish politician seems also satisfied with the deal.  Northern Ireland will remain effectively in the EU ingle Market.   Custom checks will take place in the Irish Sea instead of on land. Sea.

Still unknown but likely to emerge soon  is the question of Scotland.  Premier Nicola Sturgeon lashed out at the agreement within minutes.  In 2016 62% of  the Scots voted to remain in Europe.  The Flag of Scotland still flew above the Parliament.  Scotland will probably not wait for the spring to organize another referendum.

Fishing rights

Johnson declared: we have regained the control of our waters.  Although it represents a minute part of the GDP of both sides , this issue occupied a major place in the negotiations because it is essentially the symbol of the British sovereignty.  Barnier knows a lot of about fishing rights.  He was minister of Agriculture and Fishing from 2007 to 2009.

There will be “fishing committees” implementing a control.  BJ demanded that 80 percent of the proceeds from the fishing industry be return to the UK.  He got 25 percent, during a transition period of five and a half years.  He will grant 100 millions of British pounds to help the fishermen.

The fish catch by the European last year was worth 650  euros last year.  The British waters are richer in fish population than the European waters. The Brits don’t eat much fish. They sell back most of their catch to the EU.   During his speech BJ was wearing a tie covered with fish.

The devil is in the details and annoying changes are going to take place. There will be no more mutual recognition of professional qualifications.  British doctors, architects, veterinarians, engineers will have to seek new certification.

The freedom of movement will disappear, and a visa will have to be obtained for a stay longer than 90 days.  An EU pet passport will cease to be valid.

The Erasmus student exchange program will not include the UK any more.  Instead of a fee of 170 they pay in European universities, foreign students studying in the UK will be charged tens of thousands pounds.  To work in England, a permit will be required. In other words a post-Brexit deal will not be “business as usual”.  There will be many changes.

On the last day of 2020, Sky News announced that Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson, was asking for the French nationality.  He is French on his wife’s side and very much of a Europhile.  In a book coming out later in January, author Christian de Bourbon-Parme has written a biography of Johnson.

Surprisingly, we learn that his name was not Boris but Alexander,  that he lived in Belgium when his father was working for the European Commission in 1973.  In the book Johnson is depicted as a person full of humanity.  He always loved Europe, was very attached to it, but not the EU.

In spite of of the enthusiastic attitude of the British prime minister, the mood was rather somber on both sides of the Channel.

Michel Barnier commented ” There was no winner in this deal. We all lost”.  And Ursula von der Leyen added a lyrical note: “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of 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.

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King to Stay as Valley/Lyme-Old Lyme Football Team Coach, Resignation Request Rescinded by Region #4

AREAWIDE — Region #4, which comprises the middle and high school-age students of Chester, Deep River and Essex, has rescinded its request for football coach and gym teacher Tom King to submit his resignation.

A joint statement issued just before 7 p.m. Monday evening and signed by both King and Region #4 Superintendent Brian J. White says, “As the Superintendent and Head Football Coach, we recognize that during the time of the Covid19 pandemic our communities and schools have put in place measures as recommended by the Department of Public Health to protect the health and safety of our students, staff and community members.”

It continues, “Through discussion, we have come to an understanding about the extent of the coach’s involvement in an independent team of Region 4 football players. Coach King does understand as a role model, the concerns about community perception regarding his involvement with this team.”

The statement then notes, “We both understand and accept that as educators and professionals we have a special responsibility to our students, staff and community during a pandemic and that we must place safety above all else. It is in this spirit, that the request for Coach King to resign from the position of head football coach has been rescinded.”

In conclusion, the statement looks to the future, saying, “Moving forward we will collaborate to provide the ongoing leadership necessary to support our students, staff and communities and the importance of the values of respect, kindness and concern for each other. We are committed to working together to build a bridge within our
community in a manner that serves the best interest of Valley Regional High School and the towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex.”

Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS) students play football on the VRHS ‘Warriors’ team in a formalized co-operative arrangement, which has been in place for some 10 years. Lyme-Old Lyme (LOL) Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser explained, however, that the co-op arrangement did not mean LOL Schools had any involvement in the recent actions of the Region #4 Superintendent.

Neviaser said by email on Sunday, “In our current cooperative football agreement with Valley Regional, Region #4 employs the head coach. Therefore, any action or proposed action is independent of the Region #18 [Lyme-Old Lyme Schools] Board of Education.”

According to news reports, the issue that had prompted White to ask for King’s resignation was King’s presence at an Independent Football League practice held in Lyme, which included players from both VRHS and LOLHS. The League was formed in response to the cancellation of the high school football season by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

Since he is the VRHS/LOLHS football coach, King was not permitted by Region #4 to coach in the Independent Football League. According to numerous reports, King submitted he complied with that ruling and many witnesses have substantiated that statement. King has been head football coach at Valley Regional High School since 1997/

A petition started by the captain of the VRHS/LOLHS co-op football team Jack Cox on change.org, requesting that King should retain his positions at Valley Regional High School garnered 2,885 signatures.

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Region 4 Asks Valley-Old Lyme Co-op Football Coach to Resign

Action from a Warriors game against Old Saybrook played on the Lyme-Old Lyme Varsity Field in 2016. File photo,

AREAWIDE — The press and social media are currently swirling with articles*, opinion pieces* and comments relating to the requested resignation of the extremely popular Valley Regional High School (VRHS) football coach and gym teacher Tim King by the Region #4 Superintendent Brian White.

Region 4 comprises the middle and high school-age students of Chester, Deep River and Essex; each of the three towns operates their own elementary schools.

Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS) students play football on the VRHS ‘Warriors’ team in a formalized co-operative arrangement, which has been in place for some 10 years. Lyme-Old Lyme (LOL) Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser explained, however, that the co-op arrangement does not mean LOL Schools had any involvement in the recent actions of the Region #4 Superintendent.

Neiaser said by email, “In our current cooperative football agreement with Valley Regional, Region #4 employs the head coach. Therefore, any action or proposed action is independent of the Region #18 [Lyme-Old Lyme Schools] Board of Education.”

According to news reports, the issue that prompted White to ask for King’s resignation was King’s presence at an Independent Football League practice held in Lyme, which included players from both VRHS and LOLHS. The League was formed in response to the cancellation of the high school football season by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

Since he is the VRHS/LOLHS football coach, King was not permitted by Region #4 to coach in the Independent Football League. According to numerous reports, King submits he complied with that ruling and many witnesses have substantiated that statement.

Neviaser noted in his email, “Region #18 has no involvement in any independent sports programs that are not a part of our annual budget.”

The captain of the VRHS/LOLHS co-op football team Jack Cox started a petition on change.org, requesting that Tim King should retain his positions at Valley Regional High School. As at 12 a.m., Nov. 23, more than 2,760 people had signed the petition.

Editor’s Note: *Articles and opinions referenced for this article include:
Three local teams to compete in 11-on-11 Independent Football League by Ned Griffen, published Oct. 23, by The Day.

Players, parents upset that Valley/Old Lyme coach King being forced to resign by Ned Griffen, published Nov. 21, by The Day.

Coach asked to resign for involvement in independent football league by Sean Patrick Bowley, published Nov. 21, in the New Haven Register.

Tim King has the community — and the truth — on his side by Mike DiMauro, published Nov. 23, by The Day.

Valley Regional high school coach asked to resign by school district for involvement in independent football league formed during the pandemic in The Courant.

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Region 4 Moves to Distance Learning Through Nov. 30

TRI-TOWN — Region 4 Superintendent Brian J. White sent out the following message to the Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Region 4 School Community this afternoon (Nov. 9):

Due to multiple positive cases of Covid-19 currently impacting our schools, we have made the decision, in consultation with Connecticut River Area Health District and the Town of Essex Health Department, to transition all schools to full, remote e-learning until November 30, 2020.

At the time of this communication, our school system has 23 staff members and 123 students PreK-12 required to quarantine with various return dates. We are also actively investigating multiple, new cases in partnership with our local health departments.  In addition to concerns about spread within the schools and the need for further contact tracing and quarantine requirements, we are experiencing staff shortages related to these cases that impact our in-person operations. 

Students and staff are asked to participate in remote learning until Monday, November 30th.  All non-instructional and essential staff are to await further instructions from their building principal or department supervisor.  Grab and Go meals will be available for pick up outside the school on Friday and Monday 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Staff and community members who encouraged to take advantage of free Covid-19 testing available in Old Saybrook. For additional details please see this flyer: FREE Coronavirus Testing.  Testing is also now available at the Old Saybrook location for free Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

We will communicate further updates as they become available.  Our buildings will be closed to the public until further notice, however, our front main office staff in each school will be available if you need to call or communicate with the schools.

Thank you for continued patience and understanding during these uncertain times.

 

Sincerely,

 

Superintendent of Schools

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Election 2020: State Results & Interactive Visuals

STATEWIDE — Our Local Independent Online News (LION) colleagues at CTNewsJunkie.com have prepared a couple of interactive maps of the State Senate and House results for readers to explore. Use the toolbox to group and sort Senate/House districts by political party and demographic characteristics.

Here is the State Senate map.

Here is the CT House of Representatives map.

Related articles at CTNewsJunkie.com can be found at:

Dems Post Gains In Legislative Seats While Some Key Republicans Hang On
By CTNewsJunkie Published Nov. 4, 2020 12:48am

Senate Democrats Strengthen Majority
By Hugh McQuaid Published Nov 4, 2020 1:47pm

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Win a Subaru! High Hopes Hosts a ‘Raffle for a Cause’

A 2020 Subaru Forester 2.5i is the first prize in this year’s Raffle for a Cause sponsored by High Hopes of Old Lyme, CT and Reynolds Subaru of Lyme, CT.

OLD LYME — High Hopes Therapeutic Riding is holding a raffle in which the first prize is a 2020 Subaru Forester 2.5i. The second prize is an Apple i-Pad Mini and the third an Amazon Echo Show. Reynolds Subaru of Lyme is High Hopes’ raffle partner for this event.

All proceeds from the raffle benefit the programs at High Hopes.

Tickets are $50 each, two for $90, four for $180 or five for $225.

The raffle will be drawn during a live feed at noon on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Winners will be notified immediately following the drawing. Ticket holders need not be present to win.

All federal, state and local taxes on prizes are the winner’s responsibility.

Visit this link for full details of the raffle.

Buy your tickets at this link!

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Local State Senate, House Candidates Respond to our Questions

  1. What do you believe are currently the three most pressing issues in the state of Connecticut?
  2. From the three issues you cite in your response to Question1, identify the one that you think is the most pressing and explain your choice. Then expand on steps you believe should be taken to resolve it and how you could contribute to that resolution process?
  3. What personal characteristics do you embody that justify why people should vote for you?

We gave a 350-word limit for the response to each question to which each candidate strictly adhered: we are most appreciative of that.

We are delighted that all the candidates responded to our questions in a timely manner. We thank them sincerely and are pleased to publish their responses today accompanied by their respective biographies and photos.

We should also state that, again in keeping with our long-held policy, we will not be making any candidate endorsements.

Click on the links below to read each candidate’s responses:

CT State Senate, 33rd District 

Norm Needleman (D – incumbent)

Brendan Saunders (R)

CT House of Representatives, 23rd District 

Devin Carney (R- incumbent)

David Rubino (D)

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The Country School Hosts Virtual Open House Tonight, Register for Link

Fifth grade lessons at The Country School continue outdoors with teachers Kerri Kelly and Dan Kollmer. The school hosts a Virtual Open House, Oct. 26.

MADISON, CTThe Country School (TCS) is hosting a Virtual Open House on Monday, Oct. 26, at 6:30 p.m.

Register to meet engaged students and dynamic teachers. Learn about the school’s rigorous academic program;  Signature Programs of STEAM, Elmore Leadership, Global Citizenship, Outdoor Education, and Public Speaking; rich offerings in the arts and athletics; and TCS’s $15,000 65th Anniversary Merit Scholarship opportunity for students entering Grades 4-8.

Founded in 1955, The Country School serves students in Pre-School through Grade 8 on its 23-acre campus in Madison, Conn.

The Country School honors students’ creativity, sense of wonder, and intellectual curiosity. The school’s integrated curriculum aligns rigorous academics with a commitment to character and leadership development.

Learn more and register for the Oct. 26 Virtual Open House at www.thecountryschool.org.

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Letter to the Editor: Palm is Best Choice for 36th District Due To Her Traits, Skills, Issues for Which She Stands ; She’s In It For Us, Not Herself

To the Editor:

Christine Palm is the best choice for the 36th District because of her traits, skills and the issues she stands for. She is a powerfully effective speaker and writer. She actively reaches out to constituents for our opinions and to offer assistance. Before Covid she arranged many gatherings in our towns to listen to us, answer questions and propose solutions. Since Covid she has tried to reach us with phone calls and email to keep us informed and make herself available to help.

On the issues, she has stood up for insurance to cover pre-existing conditions, for lower prescription drug costs, for sensible gun safety, for expanding services to veterans, improving education opportunities, womens’ rights and more. I have known her to challenge leadership to get things right. She is in this for us, not for herself.

Sincerely,

Kate Wessling,
Higganum.

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Letter to the Editor: Saunders in 33rd Embodies ‘Compassion, Wisdom, and Joy’

To the Editor:

Abraham Lincoln said, “before the age of forty, God is responsible for our face, and after the age of forty, we are responsible for our face.” Just looking at Brendan Saunders’ face, the gentleman running for senate in the 33rd district, you will understand what Lincoln meant. Saunders’ face radiates compassion, wisdom, and Joy.

Saunders’ wisdom presents itself with his laser focus and deep understanding of the difficulties of balancing one’s budget in the over-taxed, Democrat-run State of Connecticut. He has pledged to work diligently to cut wasteful spending and cutting Connecticut’s obscene taxes. Deep reforms of energy companies are high on his” fix-the problems” agenda.

Probably the most crucial issue is his devotion to our First Responders. He has pledged to oppose any policies aimed at defunding the police. It takes wisdom to think beyond the emotional and understand the dire ramifications of any such short-sighted legislation or tyrannical edict by a Governor.

Joy. Unlike so many “seasoned elected officials,” Saunders is a joyful human being. What could be better for the 33rd district than a happy warrior fighting for us while armed with acute wisdom and deep compassion? Same old, same old endorsement of the policies that have driven Connecticut into a fiscal mess makes no sense.

Sincerely,

Alison Nichols, M.Div.,
Essex.

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Essex Steam Train Issues Cautionary Reminder on Safety at Railroad Crossings

Photo by Essex Steam Train & Riverboat.

ESSEX — The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat has issued a reminder to friends and neighbors in the Lower Connecticut River Valley that train frequency will be increasing during October through December on their tracks in Essex, Deep River, Chester, and Haddam.

In particular, daytime train activity will be increasing on tracks between Chester and Goodspeed Station in Haddam. 

When approaching STOP signs, motorists and pedestrians are legally required to come to a complete stop at the white stop line, and yield to any approaching rail traffic.

When facing flashing lights and/or gates, crossing users must STOP and wait for trains to pass/lights and gates to shut off.

Additionally, pedestrians, bicycles, and motorized vehicles are never allowed on railroad tracks except at a legal crossing location. Emergency contact phone numbers are located at all railroad crossings in the event of problems. The railroad is working with local law enforcement on issues of motorist compliance at crossings throughout the valley.

For further information, contact Rob Bradway, Vice President of Track and Property, at 860-964-3422.

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A la Carte: Mushrooms by the Million? Soup is the Solution!

Lee White

This weekend, friends from Lyme offered a pound of freshly picked shiitake mushrooms for eight dollars a pound. I asked if I could get two.

So this is a very short paragraph … I am going to give you two mushroom soup recipes, both of which are incredible. You can use shiitake mushrooms (whose woody stems should be discarded), cremini, or other varieties.

One is easy; one takes a little longer. With the easy one, once cool. puree it, if you like. You may double both recipes and they freezes beautifully.

Mushroom soup is always delicious. Photo by Dose Juice on Unsplash

Easy Mushroom Soup

Yield: 6 Servings

2 tablespoons butter
½ pound sliced mushrooms
¼ chopped onions
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ freshly ground black pepper
2 cans low-salt chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half cream

Cook on medium-heat mushrooms and onions until tender, about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix flour, salt, pepper and 1 can broth; stir until smooth and add to the mushroom mixture. Stir into until smooth. Add the other can of broth and bring to a boil. Cook until thick, 2 minutes. Reduce heat, add cream and stir until flavors are blended, 15 minutes.

Potage Crème de Champignons

From Charles Virion’s French Country Cookbook (Hawthorn Books Inc., New York, 1972)

Yield: serves 8

5 cups canned chicken consommé or stock
1 small bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 sprig thyme
1 ½ cup fresh mushrooms
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small onions, chopped fine
3 tablespoons flour
3 egg yolks*
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Madeira wine (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (for garnish)

Simmer stock with bay leaf, parsley and thyme for 10 minutes. Remove herbs. Set aside.

Slice mushrooms (I buy them sliced and they are already cleaned). Saute mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter until mushroom liquid evaporate. Do not scorch the mushrooms or the taste will be bitter. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Clean skillet with a paper towel; over medium high heat, saute the onions in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter.

When onions are tender and transparent, add flour and stir constantly s that the butter is well blender with the flour.

Cook mixture slowly for 3 or 4 minutes, then start adding the stock, a little at a time, until you have a smooth white sauce. Add mushrooms and cool (I keep a few mushrooms aside to garnish the soup.) If you think the mixture is too thick, add a little bit more of the stock.

After the mixture is cooled enough, put the entire mixture through the blender until smooth. (Only pour enough of the mixture into the blender until is it one-half full; if necessary, do this in batches.)

Beat together the cream and the egg yolks. When soup is ready to be served, reheat it gently. When very hot, but not boiling, add the egg yolk-cream mixture, stirring until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. 

You can now add the optional Madeira, if you wish. Pour soup into bowls and garnish with parsley and reserved mushrooms.

*I mixed the cream with the whole eggs, forgetting to use only the egg yolks. It didn’t seem to make a difference.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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Needleman Endorsed by Independent Party in Re-Election Bid to State Senate

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE — State Senator Norm Needleman has accepted the endorsement of the Independent Party as he continues his quest for re-election to the Connecticut State Senate.

Sen. Needleman, who announced his candidacy last winter, was unanimously renominated by the Democratic Party to run in the 33rd Senate District. First elected in 2018, Sen. Needleman represents the towns of Colchester, Chester, Clinton, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

“I’m proud and excited by the Independent Party’s endorsement of my campaign,” said Sen. Needleman. “The Independent Party represents an electoral system that encourages different points of view. As someone who is results-oriented and who believes in common-sense solutions, I believe that listening to different points of view works in the best interests of my constituents That’s the mindset I will take back to Hartford if I’m re-elected in November.”

Sen. Needleman serves as Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, and has recently taken the lead in developing the “Take Back Our Grid Act” which will hold utilities more accountable to ratepayers in Connecticut.

In addition, Sen. Needleman is Vice Chair of the Planning and Development Committee and a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding, Transportation and Commerce Committees.

Sen. Needleman founded and runs a manufacturing company, Tower Laboratories in Centerbrook, and is currently serving his sixth term as First Selectman of Essex.

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Join Essex Land Trust for an Outdoor Hike This Morning at Johnson Farm

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust is starting up its outdoor hikes, with the first to Johnson Farm, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m. Hikers will discover the new pollinators’ meadow at Johnson Farm, a 49-acre property of fields and forest in Ivoryton.

There is new field of goldenrod, which with any luck, will be resplendent yellow, providing a natural resource for many bees, butterflies, moths and dragonflies, members said in a statement.

The trail system includes a woodland trail through the deciduous forest located on the east side of the property. An intermittent stream runs through the northern boundary of the property which also includes a vernal pool. The farm is a wonderful reminder of Connecticut’s farming heritage.

The property’s elevation ranges from 90 ft to 250 ft., which provides spectacular views northeast to the Connecticut River Valley, members said.

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Valley Regional High School Graduates 11 Eagle Scouts

The Valley Regional High School Class of 2020 graduating Eagle Scouts gather for a photo. Front row (from left to right) Edward Lenz, Sean Davis, Jared Hart, Anthony Joia. Middle row (from left to right) Michael Raymond, Gavin Hauswirth, Ryan Shasha. Back row (left to right) Joseph Thomas, Sam Rutty, Carl Neubert III, and Gehrig Beighau. Photo by Michael Rutty.

TRI-TOWN — Belated congratulations to the 11 members of the Valley Regional High School Class of 2020 for earning the Eagle Scout rank!

Having 11 Eagle Scouts in this year’s graduating class is over double the national average for youth earning the highest rank in Scouting. Earning the Eagle Scout rank is an outstanding and prestigious achievement that takes many years of work to complete.

The Eagle Scouts are members of Troop 12-Essex, Troop 13-Chester/Deep River, and Troop 38-Westbrook.

Valley Regional High School Class of 2020 Eagle Scouts, their service project and the year they earned the Eagle Rank:
Gehrig Beighau – Troop 12 – WWII Lego Diorama at American Heritage Museum – 2019,
Sean Davis – Troop 13 – Bushy Hill Nature Center Amphitheater Improvements – 2020,
Jared Hart – Troop 13 – United Church of Chester Sign Roof & Lighting Improvements – 2020,
Gavin Hauswirth – Troop 13 – McKinney Nature Center Observation Platform – 2020,
Anthony Joia – Troop 13 – Plattwood Park Walking Trail – 2019,
Edward Lenz – Troop 13 – John Winthrop Middle School Farm Classroom Arbor with Benches – 2019,
Carl Neubert III – Troop 13 – Hamburg Fairgrounds Directional Signs – 2020,
Michael Raymond – Troop 13 – CT State Police K-9 Obstacle & Training Course – 2020,
Samuel Rutty – Troop 13 – Haddam Neck Fairgrounds Memorial Benches – 2017,
Ryan Shasha – Troop 12 – Essex Veterans Memorial Hall Step Replacement – 2020,
Joseph Thomas – Troop 38 – Westbrook Town Green Conduits – 2019.

To become an Eagle Scout, a Scout must earn twenty one merit badges and advance through the seven Scout ranks by learning Scout and Life skills while simultaneously providing leadership to their Troop and service to their community. One of the final requirements for the Eagle Rank is to show leadership in and complete a service project that benefits the Scout’s community, school, or religious institution; all work must be completed prior to the Scout’s eighteenth birthday.

Boy Scouts of America serves the youth ages 11-18. The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to help youth to develop their character and life skills all while having fun. There is much emphasis placed on assisting the Scouts to develop into strong healthy citizens who will lead our communities and country in the years ahead.

The Boy Scout of America methods help to promote these ideals through the challenge of putting them into practice with the Troop Program. This is done in a way that is both challenging and fun.

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Letter From Paris: Back to Normal in France? Not Quite …

Nicole Prévost Logan

A Cannes Film Festival turned virtual,  the Roland Garros tennis tournament and Tour de France bicycle race both postponed until September?  France will definitely not be the same this  summer!

Tourism and culture are two of the main sectors of French economy and the pandemic has inflicted a direct blow on both of them.  Hundreds of festivals, sport events, art shows, plays, and concerts or activities linked to historical monuments had to be drastically reduced, presented behind closed doors, or totally cancelled, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work .

But you would not think there is a virus going around when you see the way the French behave.

In Paris, restaurants and bistros spread their terraces across the sidewalks and into the streets.  They mark their space with bushes and flower beds.  Beach umbrellas add color to the scene.  Taking advantage of the warm weather, Parisians hang out outside.

Away from the cities, the French have been seeking  the calm of the countryside, enjoying family gatherings and organizing barbecues with  friends .

Young people could barely wait for the end of the lockdown to have fun in Paris … to huddle on the banks of the Seine or the Canal St Martin, to congregate in open spaces and dance into the night, or to flock to discotheques.  Meanwhile, St Tropez, down on the Riviera coast in the far south of the country, became a particularly hot spot.

People were reluctant to take the subways and, as a result, car traffic has surged.  Bicycles have taken over Paris.  It is likely that this trend will persist, virus or not.

Barely out of the lockdown, one thing was on everybody’s mind … the next vacation.  Every day the media tempted the viewers with sights of clear waters, beaches, and cool mountain trails.  This year the French seem to have rediscovered their own country and become the only tourists there.

It was to be expected that such behavior would have an impact on the evolution of the pandemic.  Clusters have multiplied throughout the country, which led to the specialists warning that the virus was still active.

But the present situation is quite different from what it was at the height of the crisis back in March and April.  The number of  deaths, or severe cases, being treated in the hospitals remains very low.  A general lockdown appears to be out of the question today.

Hospitals are better prepared and treatments made easier for the patients.  Masks and testing are more available.  Central government and local authorities adjust their policies to manage the pandemic in a more flexible way.  For instance, as of this week , Paris and several other large cities require masks to be worn outside in crowded areas.

From this overview of the pandemic in France, let us now change scenery and take a look at some highlights of life in France and Europe over these past months …

Every six years in France, the people are riveted by municipal elections. There are 36,000 communes in France headed by a maire assisted by a conseil municipal. The wide spectrum goes from the highly political Paris town hall, employing 40,000 people — Jacques Chirac headed that institution before becoming president of France — to the tiniest mairie.

The small village on the Dordogne, where one of my daughters lives, had been dormant for the past four decades with an unopposed maire at the wheel. This year however, things were different. The ballot took place in a heated atmosphere.  Participation was high. The scene was like a microcosm of French politics … and the maire was defeated.

In early July, Edouard Philippe stepped down as prime minister. A growing feeling of insecurity and violence has damaged the authority of the French executive. President Macron decided that a major reshuffle was required to bring new faces and methods and thus energize the government prior to the next presidential election.

Even a new voice was welcome. Jean Castex comes from the Pyrenées region and has a southern accent, which the French usually associate with vacations on the Mediterranean. Castex nevertheless is a product of the élite schools, a graduate of Ecole Nationale  d’Administration (ENA). As a high-ranking official, he has held key positions at the very center of power at the Elysée Palace.  He is an old pro — although he does not sound like one.

Over in Poland, Ardrzej Duda, leader of the conservative party Droit et Justice (PIS), was reelected as president on July 12.  The very small margin of his victory – 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent – suggests that it is only a question of time until a liberal, pro-European movement, possibly headed by Rafal Trzaskowski, defeats the authoritarian executive.

In Italy, meanwhile, after 14 months of the disastrous government of populist Matteo Salvini, Giuseppe Conte brought  appeasement as a centrist prime minister, who works well with Brussels.

At 5.30 a.m. on July 22, the 27 members of the European Union (EU) met  in response to a Franco-German initiative.  It was the longest summit in EU history.  Arduous  negotiations produced a  stimulus of 390 billion Euros in subsidies and 360 billion in loans.

The recovery plan of the EU — labeled “Next Generation EU”– is ambitious.  At its core is  a  “Green Pact.”

The plan, which will be implemented gradually along with each year’s budget, includes support of the health system, innovation assistance to viable companies, aid to farmers and fishermen, and 100 billion to help pay for widespread partial unemployment.

Banking rules will be made more flexible to facilitate the borrowing by entrepreneurs.  Right now the European Central Bank (CBE) enjoys a high credit rating, which helps the borrowing process. Margrethe Verstager , Executive Vice President of the EU Commission, will promote a Digital Single Market.

Alstom — a French multinational company operating in rail  transport markets — bought the Canadian company Bombardier.  The merger will create a rival to the giant China Railway Construction  Corporation (CRCC). China is continuing to make inroads in Europe and just invested in Portugal’s trams.

Overall the numbers of the European economic recovery are impressive:  together Brussels plus the 27 EU national governments will inject 40,000 billion Euros into the economy — far more than the US or even China

The “frugals”– the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Finland — fought tooth and nail against transfers of funds from the richer North to the South.  Dutch prime minister Mark Rutt stressed that the 750 billion Euros were not a blank check to weaker economies like Italy’s  — whose vertiginous debt is 240 percent of its GDP — but an investment plan to be controlled by Brussels.

Concessions had to be made.  The “frugals” received a rebate in their annual contribution to the European budget.  But the real beneficiaries are Poland and Hungary, who keep receiving money in spite of their frequent violation of the rule of law.

Recent developments show how fragile — but also resilient — the EU is.  Even the “Eurosceptics” do not want to let go of  their profitable membership in the “club .” But the real strength of the EU is that it constitutes a huge market, the largest trading block of the world.  The richer EU economies need the tariff-free Single Market.  Germany relies particularly on Lombardy  for its exports.  Maybe the EU should learn from  Alexander Hamilton who advocated the “mutualization” of the sovereign debts of the States to make the federation stronger?

And finally … on Aug. 21, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel met at the medieval Fort de Brégançon, the summer residence of French presidents.  On this late summer day, they seemed to enjoy this picturesque spot on the Mediterranean  to meet for five working hours.  They reiterated the unity of their policy at this complicated time.

At unprecedented speed, France and Germany led the EU in its mediation to support the protests following the Belarus elections.  They also acted swiftly also in flying Alexei Novalny, who is in a coma, to a hospital in Germany for treatment of a possible poisoning by the Russian government.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of 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.

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Letter to the Editor: State Rep. Palm Displays “Enduring Commitment to Healthcare Issues”

To the Editor:

In State Representative Christine Palm, we in the 36th Assembly District have a strong leader active in our best interests. We are represented by someone who is consistently caring in thought, word, and deed.

In a recent Op-Ed (Seven Ways We Can Come Out of the Coronavirus Crisis Stronger, Hartford Courant, April 15, 2020), Representative Palm indicated that the Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated the inequities of access and quality of healthcare. She also alerted us to the needs of essential workers who have given so much and who need our support. Ms. Palm recommended how public policy can serve us collectively in this current public health crisis. Representative Palm truly listens to the needs of her constituents and builds effective legislative networks to achieve solutions.
Her contribution to passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act is another example of her advocacy for constituents and her leadership.

As a Family Physician, I appreciate her enduring commitment to healthcare issues and her efforts to secure a more equitable healthcare system for all.

Sincerely
,
Kate Wessling, M.D.
Higganum, CT 06441

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Richard Wyman Appointed Community Music School Executive Director, “Thrilled to Come Home”

Dr. Richard Wyman, the new Executive Director of the Community Music School based in Centerbrook.

CENTERBROOK — Dr. Richard Wyman has been appointed the new Executive Director of the Community Music School (CMS) located in Centerbrook. He took over the reins of the organization in the mid-May after serving for several years as Musical Masterworks General Director.

Wyman has a long history of involvement in both playing and conducting music professionally along with community-based music learning. He began his music studies at the prestigious Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., where he obtained his undergraduate degree in music education and then moved to the University of Illinois to pursue a masters degree in music.

Subsequently, he moved back East when he joined the US Coast Guard (CG) Band  as a baritone saxophonist in the late 1990s. Back then, Wyman also taught saxophone for a number of years at CMS but in 2004, he was appointed Assistant Director of the USCG band and opted to focus on his new position along with studying conducting at the University of Connecticut where he earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts.

In his role as USCG Band Assistant Director, Wyman led educational concerts for thousands of students.

After retiring from the SCG in 2018, Wyman first took the position with Musical Masterworks and now he has come full circle back to the CMS.  He is still continuing his music education, however, since he is currently studying arts administration at UConn.

Wyman says he is, “Thrilled to ‘come home’ to CMS,” and is looking forward to all the challenges and opportunities that the job offers. These latter involve continuing to run the school’s teaching program online and running the spring “Friends of Note” campaign, which is devoted to “COVID-19 Relief” for CMS through the summer. He points out that a gift to this $50K campaign will, “Provide payroll (for staff and instructors), mortgage payments, maintenance of our facilities, and … most importantly, support of the wonderful instruction and music-making,” by CMS faculty and students.

Asked to explain his passion for both music and music education, Wyman says, “Throughout my adult life, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with understanding music’s essential role in the living of a fulfilling life,” noting, “Whether it was through performing as saxophonist in amusement parks (which he did at both Disney World and Busch Gardens many years ago), conducting/hosting USCG Band educational performances, or witnessing the joy music brings to members of the CMS “New Horizons” Band.”

Wyman lives in Old Lyme with his clarinetist/pianist wife Erin and their three boys, the eldest of whom has just graduated from Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS). The younger two are respectively at LOLHS and Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School and all three, in Wyman’s words, “Study music as important parts of their educations and lives.”

Editor’s Note: Community Music School is located at 90 Main St., Building 4, Centerbrook, and also 179 Flanders Rd., Ste. 3 East Lyme. For more information on CMS, call 860-767-0026 or visit the school’s website. If you wish to donated to the “Friends of Note’ campaign, call Wyman at 860-767-0026 to discuss giving opportunities, or donate online at cmsct.org/support.

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Incumbent State Sen. Needleman Nominated Unanimously to Run Again for 33rd Senate District Seat

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE — (Based on a Press Release released by Sen. Needleman’s office) On May 22, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) was unanimously endorsed for re-election to the 33rd State Senate District by Democratic delegates.

First elected to the State Senate seat in 2018, Sen. Needleman represents the towns of  Colchester, Chester, Clinton, Essex, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Westbrook and Portland.

Needleman will be challenged by Republican Brendan Saunders, who is running for the Senate for the first time, although he has been involved in numerous Republican campaigns. Saunders received unanimous endorsement for his candidacy at the Republican District Convention, May 18,

“The need for strong, effective leadership in the State Senate has never been more important than now, due to the crisis created by COVID-19,” says Sen. Needleman in the press release announcing his endorsement, noting, “In my time at the General Assembly, I’ve worked in a bipartisan manner to tackle our most difficult challenges. More now than ever, I believe that inclusive, non-partisan dialogue is what’s needed to solve tough problems. This ‘makes sense perspective characterizes my approach to representing our district in the State Senate.”

He continues, “That’s why I’m anxious to continue my service at the Capitol to help our state recover from this once-in-a-century crisis.  Doing so requires knowledge of town operating procedures, experience in managing local resources and skill in business planning. As your State Senator, I’m utilizing my expertise in those areas to help constituents and small businesses navigate state and federal assistance programs, as well as connect people with the resources they need to sustain their livelihoods and support their health during the pandemic.”

Sen. Needleman serves as Deputy President Pro Tempore, Senate Chair of the Energy & Technology Committee, Vice-Chair of the Planning & Development Committee, and is a member of the Commerce, Finance Revenue & Bonding, and Transportation Committees.

He also serves as First Selectman of the Town of Essex.

Sen. Needleman has been instrumental in the passage of a bill bringing wind energy generation to Connecticut. This legislation enables up to 40 percent of future energy needs to come from carbon-free renewable energy and creates a new industry for Connecticut. Needleman states it could add as much as $2 billion to the state’s economy, bringing with it thousands of skilled, well-paying jobs.

Citing other successes benefiting the 33rd District that he has supported, Needleman mentions allowing first responders, police officers, and firefighters to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and assisting passage of a bill raising the age of access for tobacco products from 18 to 21, protecting youths from addiction.

Needleman also sponsored and enacted legislation holding energy companies accountable for prompt responses to power outages and formulated policy solutions to protect rivers and lakes from invasive species.

As founder and CEO of Connecticut-based Tower Laboratories, Needleman has created over 100 well-paying manufacturing jobs directly in the 33rd Senate District.

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Death of Michael G. Birner, Sr. Announced

Michael G. Birner, Sr.

Michael G. Birner, Sr.

ESSEX — Michael G. Birner Sr., 77, of Essex formerly of Moodus, husband of the late Judi (Priest) Birner, died Friday June 5, 2020 at Mid-State Medical Center.

Michael was born in Middletown, son of the late Michael and Bertha (Arndt) Birner. Michael was employed with the Town of Essex for 28 years.

Michael is survived by two sons, Michael Birner Jr, of East Hampton, Joseph Birner of Essex, a granddaughter, Brandy Birner, and a great-granddaughter Maddy, both of Palm Coast, Florida. Also, one brother, George Birner of Vermont, sister Greta O’Connell of Old Saybrook and (predeseased) sister Helen Windhom of North Carolina.

Funeral services will be held at a later date.

Those who wish may make memorial contributions to Essex Ambulance Assoc. 149 Dennison Rd, Essex, CT 06426. To share memories or express condolences online, please visit www.biegafuneralhome.com.

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Letter From Paris: Thoughts on Life Under Lockdown in Fontainebleau, How France Has Coped With COVID-19

Nicole Prévost Logan in Paris prior to the lockdown.

There have been many deadly pandemics in the history of the planet but this is the first time ever that one has affected so many people. COVID-19 forced half the world population – or more than three billion – into confinement. I guess this is the price one has to pay for living in a globalized world. Each country handled the coronavirus crisis in a different way.

How did Europe, and more particularly France, manage the virus outbreak, both during the stay-at-home period and after the relaxation of the rules?

Like many people, I escaped the approaching lockdown of large cities – in my case the French capital of Paris.

The famed Château de Fontainebleau. Published under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

On March 16, I left Paris on what I thought would be an extended weekend but turned out to be eight weeks, and was fortunate enough to stay with my daughter in Fontainebleau.  Only a 40-minute train ride south east from Paris, Fontainebleau is a lively town of 15,000 inhabitants, famous for its 12th century chateau restored and enlarged by generations of kings.

During the period of “confinement” – as the lockdown is called here – technology became quite helpful. People exchanged news and jokes across the globe, using WhatsApp; some did yoga or gym watching  YouTube; meetings took place via  Zoom;  people on Skype remained safely behind the screen while they urged other to stay home, and a French actor read La Fontaine fables on Instagram. In other words  globalization had not ended … it just had become virtual.

A feeling of anguish never went away. Week after week, one watched hospital scenes with medical staff and caregivers hovering over patients disappearing under respirators, ventilators, machines of all types connected by wires and tubes. We, the spectators, became numbed by so much suffering.

Every night the head of the health  department gave frightening, sometime confusing information. On TV all we saw were doctors, surgeons, epidemiologists, and doctors specialized in intensive care. Politics, economy, even social conflicts had been moved to the back burner.

In France, late March was the most frightening time. We were at the bottom of the curve showing an acceleration of the virus and feared a tsunami . It was on March 23 that the stock market fell to the lowest point, losing 40 percent from its high. The world was collapsing around us.

I attempted to read “The Plague” by Albert Camus, published  in 1947. Bad idea! The  description of the ghastly symptoms and of the panicked Oran population became unbearable. The story resonated too much with what we were going through.

The epidemic in France started in the Grand Est. A group of 2000 evangelists had gathered for a week of fasting in Mulhouse.  The area became the epicenter of the outbreak. Very soon it was joined by the heavily-populated Ile de France with Paris at its center.

France has been one of the countries hardest hit by the virus. Actually it ranks as fifth for the number of deaths, after the US, Russia, Italy and the UK.

The objective of the French government was to make sure that the medical facilities would be able to absorb the sudden surge of infected people. Chaos was avoided thanks to planning ahead. At the height of the crisis, transfers of patients were organized to areas less affected by the virus, and to other countries like Germany or Switzerland. Helicopters, fast trains, military planes, boats … all means of transports went into action.

French President Emmanuel Macron

The Macron government showed compassion during this difficult time, expressed gratitude toward the caregivers, and showed humility in its limited ability to cope with such an  unprecedented situation. In other words it appeared human … while also gaining a few points in the polls.

The government took unparalleled measures compared to most other countries. It gave temporary unemployment status – with up to 90 percent of a person’s salary covered – to one out of three wage earners – or 13 million people. Some taxes were cancelled, and bonuses distributed. The total of this largesse reached 120 billion Euros. The Maestrich Treaty rule of capping European Union (EU) members’ deficit at 3 percent is now forgotten. The French national debt, usually limited to 60 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, doubled.

The management of the coronavirus crisis did not go without a number of hiccups however. The main one was the shortage of masks. It has been a source of irritation throughout. On the advice of medical experts, the government kept saying that the masks were useless except when used in public  places. It stressed that priority should be given to the medical staff who are battling the disease on the front line.

The real reason for this policy soon exploded into a scandal; in reality, there were not enough masks. Frantic orders were placed in other countries, mainly China. At one point, one witnessed a real war of the masks. Some shipments were burglarized, other rerouted.  One shipment intended for Italy was confiscated on its arrival at Prague airport and, in another case, France took over a shipment on its way to Sweden. On the eve of the “deconfinement” masks were still hard to find.

Another criticism of  the crisis management has been the insufficient  number of testing facilities.

One does not want to be old at a time of pandemic because statistics do indeed show that older people are most vulnerable to the disease. At one point, a rumor started that “our fragile seniors” should remain locked up long after the rest of the population.

Fortunately for all the older people, Bernard Pivot, a most popular and entertaining moderator of a literary show on TV, rebelled one day. He was so funny and convincing that the government changed its policy and replaced age discrimination by health criteria.

It is a fact though that real carnage has taken place in nursing homes and retirement homes with assisted-living.

The stay-at-home rules were quite strict in France. Public gardens and forests (like the forest of Fontainebleau) were off-limit. Only a one-hour walk was allowed and no further than one kilometre from the person’s residence. A signed document and ID were required at all times. Dispensation was only granted for the imperative need to purchase food or medicine.

By mid-April, one began to see the light at the end of the tunnel when Macron gave May 11 as the date for the end of our, “deconfinement.”

The gradual opening up of society after that date was a cautious, arduous and very gradual process.  Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and his key ministers  spelled out the rules in a 60-page Protocol. A map showed France divided between red and green zones. The hardest task was to organize public transport in heavily populated areas as well as re-opening of the schools. Today there is a limit of 60 miles for travel from one’s residence. Cafés and restaurants remain closed in the red zones.

On June 3, the government will reassess the impact of loosening the rules. About 30 small “clusters” of contamination are popping out around France. Several of them are where people work in in slaughter-houses. But nothing to worry about (as yet).

At the outset of the COVID-19, France was just pulling out of months of strikes and social turmoil following the government’s structural reforms intended to modernize the country. The crucial retirement system was being debated in the Parliament. Overall, progress had been made under the Macron mandate: the economy was sound and unemployment at its lowest levels in years.

Then progress and turmoil came to a full stop almost overnight because of the pandemic.

Culture felt the brunt of the crisis. Cinemas, theaters, opera houses, concert halls, museums and festivals will stay closed until June.  The cancellation of the Cannes Festival was the worst blow.

Europe has been slow in tackling the coronavirus.  Ursula von der Leyden , president of the European Commission acknowledged that fact herself. A gigantic stimulus is being negotiated by the  EU members. Thierry Breton, European Minister of Internal Trade said, “Only solidarity can help the EU get back on its feet.”

But the “North countries” like The Netherlands and some Eastern European countries, including  Hungary, are balking at the idea of helping those hardest hit by the virus. On May 19, an accord between Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel was a real breakthrough with a proposal to create a bond of 500 billion to help the EU recovery.  The 27 members have still to agree to it.

How did the French accept the lockdown? Surprisingly well … at least at first. But as the anxiety diminished, the opposition found its voice again, public opinion resumed its usual pastime of scrutinizing and criticizing every move by the government.

Bruno Lemaire, the French Minister of the Economy declared, “The hard part is ahead of us.” The main priority will be to assist three sectors:  aeronautics, the car industry and tourism. It is a unique opportunity to redirect the economy to be carbon-free.

But the future looks like a black hole with the economy under perfusion.

Let’s end with good news though. Beaches have reopened and travel restrictions are set to disappear in July and August … just in time for vacation!

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of 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.

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Brendan Saunders Endorsed by Republicans to Run Against Incumbent Needleman in November

Brendan Saunders is the endorsed Republican candidate to challenge incumbent Norm Needleman for the 33rd State Senate seat.

AREAWIDE — At their district convention held Monday, May 18, Republicans confirmed first-time Senate candidate Brendan Saunders will challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Norm Needleman for the 33rd State Senate seat in November.

In his acceptance speech, Saunders said, “Ronald Reagan once said, ‘the greatness of our nation lies within its people.’ I believe that the greatness of this state lies within its residents. As your senator, I will fight to reverse the trend of raising taxes and fees. I will work to let you keep more of your hard-earned money. I will fight to make living and operating a business in this state less onerous. ”

“Saunders has the ‘get up and go’ and enthusiasm I love to see in a candidate,” said Ed Munster of Haddam’s Republican Town Committee (RTC). Munster, who nominated Saunders, said Monday, “He is a good speaker and someone who listens and is interested in what you have to say. Something voters want in people they elect to public office.”

Saunders and Munster have a history of campaigning together. He helped Munster run for Congress in 1992. While this is Saunders’ first time running for office, he has also helped Westbrook candidate State Representative Jesse MacLachlan, and State Senator Art Linares. Saunders “knows what he is getting into,” said Munster.

Carolyn Kane of Chester RTC, seconded Saunders’ nomination Monday. Kane proclaimed Saunders as both dynamic and grounded with a lifetime of ties to his community. She also said that Saunders has an “approachable demeanor and commanding confidence. He came out of the gate ready to share his plan, vision, and how he would work in Hartford to ensure the 33rd district would be his priority.”

Noting, “In the wake of COVID-19, Saunders retooled his campaign to include an active online presence, strategically using his District tour to highlight his technological savvy and command of communication avenues,” Kane added, “Brendan demonstrates new ways to connect on a personal level and proves his commitment to building lasting relationships with every interaction.”

She said, “His ability to build partnerships is one of the most important skills sets a State Senator must have.”

To support Saunders’ campaign with a donation and to learn more, visit Saunders4Senate.com.

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Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III Receives Endorsement of 36th District Republican Convention

Bob Siegrist III received the nomination to be the Republican candidate for the 33rd Congressional seat.

HADDAM – Former State Representative Bob Siegrist, III (R-36) received the unanimous endorsement at the virtual 36th District Republican convention held tonight throughout the district.

Siegrist thanked the delegates after securing the nomination to seek the 36th House district seat in November. “I will actually listen to the concerns of the residents in my district and fight for them when it comes to such critically important issues as taxes and state spending, unfunded state mandates and transportation and tolls to name a few.”

Siegrist continued his remarks, “I am greatly encouraged by the groundswell of support from residents across the four-town district who are willing to work on my campaign and support my return to the General Assembly on their behalf.”

Siegrist concluded by stating, “I will work hard in the coming months to earn your vote and bring back common sense policies that will improve the quality of life for the 36th District”.

Former State Representative Bob Siegrist, III, represented the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam from January 2017 to January 2019. He had served on the Public Safety and Security, Insurance and Real Estate, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

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Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III Announces His Candidacy for 36th House District Seat

Bob Siegrist III intends to seek the Republican nomination to be a candidate for State Representative for the 36th House District.

HADDAM – Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III (R-36) has announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for State Representative of the 36th House District, May 19.

“The 36th District residents sorely need a Representative who fights for them when it comes to such important issues as taxes and state spending, transportation and tolls, our kids’ education and veteran’s issues just to mention a few.”

Siegrist continued his remarks, “I will actually listen to the concerns of the residents in my district and always fight for common sense policies that will improve the quality of life for the 36th district”.

Siegrist concluded by stating, “I will work hard to earn your vote and would be honored to return to the General Assembly on your behalf”.

Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III, represented the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam from January 2017 to January 2019. He had served on the Public Safety and Security, Insurance and Real Estate, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

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Essex Land Trust Publishes ‘Thatchbed Island & its Ospreys’ Booklet

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust has announced that it has published Thatchbed Island & its Ospreys, a booklet commemorating the return of Ospreys to its Thatchbed Island property and the lower Connecticut River. The booklet celebrates the successful recovery of this iconic raptor, one that practically disappeared from Connecticut.

In March 2003, the land trust installed its first Osprey platform on Thatchbed Island, located in Essex’s South Cove. Since then, Ospreys have successfully raised numerous broods. A camera was installed in 2010 and it broadcast the annual breeding cycle through 2019. 

The 45-page, full-color booklet features a brief history of Thatchbed Island, the experience of building the platform and installing the camera, recounts the breeding season through pictures taken from the OspreyCam live stream and details the causes of its decline and eventual recovery.

Both the publishing of the booklet and the cost of installing the Osprey camera were facilitated by grants received from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.

The booklet was spearheaded by board member Jim Denham, who coordinated and edited the project. It is a lasting contribution and serves as a reminder of the land trust’s mission: Caring for our world here at home.

A downloadable version is available on the Essex Land Trust website or can be purchased for $7.50 (postage included) by sending an email to info@essexlandtrust.org.

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Connecticut River Museum Still Closed, but Online Programs Offered

The entrance of the Connecticut River Museum

ESSEX — The Connecticut River Museum has been closed to the public, effective this morning.  It is expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future, certainly to Easter Sunday (April 12) if not beyond.

The staff remain on the job, either at the Museum or from home, and plans for future events and programs continue to be made.
Visit the Museum’s website at CtRiverMuseum.org for the latest schedule updates and for more definitive information about its reopening.
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Estuary Regional Senior Center Closed, But Still Providing Critical Meals on Wheels Service

estuary councilOLD SAYBROOK/AREAWIDE — Following the State of Connecticut guidelines, the Estuary Council’s Senior Center building will be closed until March 31, but will continue providing Meals on Wheels uninterrupted. Staff will also be available, by phone only, to help answer questions. The Estuary Council’s phone message, website, and Facebook page will be updated as they continue to monitor this unprecedented situation.

Stan Mingione, Executive Director, says “We find ourselves in an unprecedented time in regards to the changing landscape of the COVID-19 virus. We respect the seriousness of the situation and have decided to close our Senior Center beginning March 17, until the end of the month. Our concern is for those in our organization, our staff, volunteers, clients and the communities in which they live. Our vital Meals on Wheels service will continue uninterrupted.”

He stresses, “Our phones will be open for anyone seeking information or a friendly voice. We appreciate your patience and we will keep you updated as to when we will be resuming operations. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns. I will be available by phone or email during this time so do not hesitate to reach out. Keep yourselves healthy and continue to be positive. We will get through this.”

The following changes in services have been announced:

Meals on Wheels
Meals are still being delivered to homebound clients. Be patient as the usual time of your delivery may change.

Café Lunches
A take-out option is being tried for café lunches. All lunch reservations made for dates after March 16 have been cancelled. Call 860-388-1611 and dial 216 to listen to take-out options and make new reservations.

Medical Transportation
Medical transportation service has been suspended at this time. No new medical reservations will be taken until it has been determined when this service will resume.

Thrift Shop
The Estuary Thrift Shop is closed at this time and donations are NOT being accepted until further notice. Please do not leave items outside the building.

Programs/Activities
All Estuary programs, activities, and clubs – including the gym and AARP Tax services, are suspended at this time. No appointments are being taken until it has been determined when these services will resume.

Call 860-388-1611 and listen closely to the message for updates as these services may continue to change daily.

Check the Estuary website and Facebook Page @ Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. for posted updates.

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Sustainable Essex Continues 2020 ‘SEED’ Series Tomorrow with Talk on Environmental Impact of Food we Throw Away

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

ESSEX — The Sustainable Essex Committee continues its 2020 Sustainable Essex Environmental Discussion (SEED) Series on Saturday, March 7.

The SEED series, is comprised of individual sessions grouped by common themes (waste reduction, sustainable management of water resources, etc.).

The overriding goals of the Series are to:

  • Create awareness, 
  • Provide guidance with ways individuals can modify their household behaviors to address climate change, and 
  • Gather suggestions for action at a community level.

The first group of sessions fall under the overarching title of The Solid Waste Crises in Essex and Connecticut and will be held at Essex Public Library on the following dates: Feb. 29, March 7 and May 2.

Session 2 Saturday, March 7
1 p.m.
Essex Library
What is the Environmental Impact of the Food We Throw Away?
What positive changes can we as a community make?
Facilitator: Georgia Male – Farm Manager and Program Director, The Incarnation Center Nature Center and Gardens 

 

Learn what this means:

 

 

40% / 11.1% / 12.4% / 9.9%

 

  • How food waste emits excessive levels of CO-2 emissions from our landfills that significantly contribute to global warming
  • How you can reduce the amount of food waste in your household
  • How our community can reduce the amount of food waste

 

This session will last approximately one hour. Light refreshments will be served.

Session 3 – Saturday, May 2 
1 p.m.
Essex Library
Climate Change Impacts of plastic and micro-plastic waste

Facilitator: Professor Evan Ward, Research Professor & Head of the Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, Avery Pointe

Additional sessions will be posted on ValleyNewsNow.com, and both the Sustainable Essex website and Facebook page.

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Essex Library Hosts Jeff Croyle to Introduce Essex Land Trust, Today

A free, illustrated talk on the Essex Land Trust properties will be presented by Jeff Croyle at 4 p.m., Feb. 29, at the Essex Library. Croyle will focus on the Essex Land Trust’s mission and accomplishments and highlighting its properties.

ESSEX — Essex Land Trust Board member and Steward of Windswept Ridge, Jeff Croyle, will present an illustrated introduction to the Essex Land Trust, its mission and accomplishments, highlighting its properties with a focus on its larger preserves on Saturday, Feb. 29 at 4 p.m. at the Essex Library. Jeff Croyle is Chair of the Essex Land Trust Nominating Committee.

This talk is free and open to the public. For more information or to register, call the library at 860-767-1560.

The Essex Library is located at 33 West Ave. in Essex.

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Essex Winter Series Presents LINÜ Guitar Duo, March 8

LINÜ Guitar Duo comprises Jiji (left in photo above) and Gulli Bjornsson.

DEEP RIVER/ESSEX Essex Winter Series (EWS) presents its Fenton Brown Emerging Artists Concert, featuring LINÜ, a vibrant and talented guitar duo comprised of Gulli Bjornsson and Jiji, on Sunday, March 8 at 3 p.m. at John Winthrop Middle School, Deep River. 

Gulli Bjornsson and Jiji are two aspiring young artists searching for new ways to promote classical music. Both virtuosic and versatile, they have received multiple accolades for their guitar playing and have backgrounds in composition, film, electronic music, visual arts and theater.

Their diverse backgrounds, classical training and contemporary influences all come to fruition as Bjornsson and Jiji present unique programs of classical music, improvisations, arrangements and new compositions on classical and electric guitars. In recital, they have performed in a wide array of venues, including: Le Poisson Rouge, National Sawdust, Dominican Guest Concert Series, Morse Recital Hall, Mengi, Hannesarholt, Yale British Art Gallery, East Meadow Public Library and Yale Cabaret.

Bjornsson and Jiji met at Yale School of Music in 2015 and have been performing together and creating music ever since. Their primary teacher was Benjamin Verdery.

The EWS season will continue on March 29 at Valley Regional High School with BeethovenFest, a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th with seven world-renowned artists: David Shiffrin, clarinet; William Purvis, horn; Marc Goldberg, bassoon; Ida Kavafian, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Peter Wiley, cello; and Timothy Cobb, double bass.

All concerts begin at 3 p.m. and are general admission. For tickets call 860-272-4572 or visit www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2020 season is generously sponsored by Masonicare at Chester Village with co-sponsors The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Tower Laboratories, and hospitality sponsors Guilford Savings Bank and BrandTech Scientific.

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Get Your Spring On! Free Yoga Workshop Offered by Essex Library Reawakens Joy, Vitality, Balance; March 14

ESSEX– Spring can stimulate the urge to start something new or to observe the ordinary with fresh eyes. Through asana (physical poses), pranayama (mindful breathing) and meditation, yoga teaches us how to still our bodies and minds and focus on present moment experience.

Ellen McNally

On Saturday, March 14, from 2 to 4 p.m.  Ellen McNally RYT500 will present a workshop that will include a brief talk about how yoga practice differs from other types of physical exercise; a series of gentle yoga poses and stretches; a simple meditation on the breath; and yoga nidra, a deep relaxation technique that will leave you relaxed and revitalized.

No previous yoga experience is required. 

Bring a yoga mat (one-quarter inch thickness preferred), a small blanket to support your knees, a cushion to sit on and a bottle of water.  Chairs are available for anyone who prefers a chair practice (indicate this preference when you register.) The class is limited to 15 people.

This workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is required. To register, or for more information, call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560.

The Essex Library is located at 33 West Ave. in Essex.

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Eversource Conducts Statewide Infrared Helicopter Inspections Through Feb. 28


TRI-TOWN & OLD SAYBROOK — Rights of way in Chester, Dep River, Essex and Old Saybrook are included on the list over which Eversource is currently conducting aerial inspections of high-voltage electrical equipment. This semiannual inspection, which takes place at locations throughout Connecticut, is an important part of the company’s ongoing commitment to providing reliable electric service.

The work involves the use of a helicopter (pictured above) equipped with heat-sensing, infrared scanning technology, which can detect potential equipment issues before they occur.

Inspecting images taken from the Eversource helicopter and looking for potential equipment issues.

The aerial inspections continue through Feb. 28. Weather permitting, flights will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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Essex Winter Series Continues with Concert by Classical Guitar Duo, LINÜ, March 8

ESSEX – The Essex Winter Series (EWS) continues its 2020 season Sunday, March 8, with the classical guitar duo, LINÜ, performing at John Winthrop Middle School, Deep River. The virtuosic and versatile Gulli Bjornsson and JIJI are aspiring young artists searching for new ways to promote classical music. They have received many accolades for their guitar playing and have backgrounds in composition, film, electronic music, visual arts and theater.

Essex Winter Series’ 43rd season concludes on March 29 at Valley Regional High School with BeethovenFest, a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th with seven world-renowned artists: David Shiffrin, clarinet; William Purvis, horn; Marc Goldberg, bassoon; Ida Kavafian, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Peter Wiley, cello; and Timothy Cobb, double bass.

All concerts begin at 3 p.m. and are general admission. For tickets call 860-272-4572 or visit www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2020 season is generously sponsored by Masonicare at Chester Village with co-sponsors The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Tower Laboratories, and hospitality sponsors Guilford Savings Bank and BrandTech Scientific.

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A View From My Porch: Remembering Connecticut Icon William Gillette

Gillette Castle, former home of the iconic movie star and playwright, Connecticut-born William Gillette, who died in 1937.

Editor’s Note: Feb. 12 is the 90th anniversary of William Gillette’s final performance as Sherlock Holmes, given Feb. 12, 1930 at the popular Parsons Theatre in downtown Hartford.

I am going a few miles upstream in this essay towards East Haddam and its medieval gothic castle to consider William Gillette’s impact on how Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed in movies and television. My goal in these essays is to cover the subject thoroughly enough to either satisfy your curiosity, or to pique your interest to pursue some additional research.

Assuming the editor’s forbearance, I will also review, in a subsequent essay, several of the actors who played Holmes or Watson to judge how true they were to either Gillette’s or Arthur Conan Doyle’s artistic vision.

Gillette was born to a progressive political family in Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood where authors Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, and Charles Dudley Warner each once resided. His mother was a Hooker, that is a direct descendant of Connecticut Colony co-founder Thomas Hooker. Gillette is most recognized for his on-stage interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. He may have been America’s first matinée idol or to put it another way, the era’s rock star.

The Sherlockian Literature

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. See below for photo credit.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories and four novels between the 1880s and the early 20th century that comprise the “canon” of Sherlock Holmes. The stories were first published in Strand Magazine and two of the novels were serialized in that same periodical. 

Holmes defined himself as the world’s first and only “consulting detective.” He shared rooms at 221B Baker Street in London with Dr. John H. Watson, who was a former army surgeon wounded in the Second Afghan War. 

Holmes referred to Watson as his “Boswell” because he chronicled his life and the investigations that they jointly pursued as did 18th century biographer, James Boswell, of Dr. Samuel Johnson.  Watson was described as a typical Victorian-era gentleman and also served as first-person narrator for nearly all of the stories.

Holmes was known for his incredible skills of observation and deduction, and forensic science and logic, all of which he used when investigating cases for his myriad clients, which often included Scotland Yard. He played the violin well and was an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman. He summarized his investigative skills for Watson this way, “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” and, “It is my business to know what other people don’t know.”

However, Holmes had shortcomings. He was a very heavy smoker of black shag pipe tobacco, which he kept in the toe of a Persian slipper on the fireplace mantel at 221B. He also smoked cigars and cigarettes. A very difficult problem was called a “three pipe problem.” 

He used cocaine and morphine to provide “stimulation for his overactive brain” during periods when he did not have an interesting case or as an escape from “the dull routine of existence.” This was not really unusual in that period because the sale of opium, laudanum, cocaine, and morphine was legal and often used to self-medicate or for recreation. This habit was worrisome for Dr. Watson, although he once said of Holmes, “He was the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.”

The Holmes stories were immensely popular and Doyle’s last publication in Strand, “The Final Problem,” elicited such public (and Royal Family) outrage, that there were mass subscriber cancellations bringing the magazine to the brink of failure.

William Gillette. See below for photo credit.

Doyle decided to write a stage play about Holmes, set earlier in the detective’s career. He was probably compelled to do so because there already were several Sherlock Holmes on-stage productions, which provided him no income, and were of such poor quality that he felt the need to both protect his character’s legacy and improve his own income stream. 

He drafted the play and shared it with his literary agent, who sent it on to Broadway producer and impresario, Charles Frohman. Frohman reviewed it and said it needed substantial work before anyone would consider production. He suggested that William Gillette be offered the rewriting task. 

At that time, Gillette was already well-known as a talented actor and a successful and prolific playwright. His approach was a significant change from the melodramatic standards in the American theater of the time. He stressed realism in sets, lighting, and sound effects. Holmes Scholar Susan Dahlinger described Gillette’s acting style this way, “He could be thrilling without bombast, or infinitely touching without descending to sentimentality.” 

So, Doyle agreed with Frohman, and Gillette began the project by reading the entire “canon” of Holmes stories and novels. He began drafting the new manuscript while touring in California with the stage production of “Secret Service,” which he had also written.  He exchanged frequent telegrams with Doyle during the process and, with Doyle’s blessing, borrowed some plots and detail from the canon in adapting Doyle’s original manuscript into a four-act play. 

Unfortunately, neither Gillette’s first draft nor Doyle’s original script ever reached stage production. A fire broke out at Gillette’s San Francisco hotel and both manuscripts were lost. So, Gillette began a complete redraft of his lost script, and Doyle was finally able to present a play before the century’s end that he deemed worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

It is worth noting that Frohman perished on the Lusitania in May, 1915, after it had been torpedoed by a German submarine.

In 1899, Gillette was “predictably” cast for the lead role in “Sherlock Holmes A Drama in Four Acts.” Initially presented in previews at the Star Theatre in Buffalo, NY, it opened that November at the Garrick Theatre in New York City, and ran there for more than 260 performances before beginning a tour of the United States and then on to a long run in London, where it received great critical and public acclaim.

He starred in that role for more than 30 years, and about 1,500 productions in the United States and Great Britain. He also starred in the 1916 silent film, “Sherlock Holmes,” which film-historians have called, “the most elaborate of the early movies.”

Playing a role for so many years was not unusual at that time in American Theater. For example, James O’Neill, father of playwright Eugene, played Edmond Dantès, The Count of Monte Cristo, more than 6000 times between 1875 and 1920.

Some Key Elements of Gillette’s Sherlock

Although William Gillette is really no longer a “household name” — except perhaps,here in Southeastern Connecticut, where much of how we imagine Holmes today is still due to his stage portrayal of the great consulting detective. 

Gillette actually bore some resemblance to the Holmes described by Dr. Watson in “A Study in Scarlet.” Watson notes, “His [Holmes’s] very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.” 

Gillette’s Holmes appeared in deerstalker cap and Inverness cape. He smoked a curve-stemmed briar pipe, and carried a magnifying glass.  He crafted a phrase that eventually evolved into one of the most recognized lines in popular culture: “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Gillette’s direct style was said to lend a bit of arrogance to Holmes beyond that which Doyle had depicted —  that arrogance has become a hallmark of Holmes’ portrayal in contemporary movies and television.

And finally, Gillette introduced the page, “Billie,” who had actually been played by a certain 13-year-old Charles Spencer Chaplin during the London engagement. At the end of the run, Chaplin began his career as a Vaudeville comedian, which ultimately took him to the United States and movie stardom as the incomparable Charlie Chaplin. 

Some Final Thoughts

I first learned of William Gillette a few summers ago when I visited his remarkable home, “Gillette Castle” built high above the eastern bank of the Connecticut River. I left that visit impressed with Gillette’s creativity in his design of the doors, light switches, and some of the furniture; wondering about his secret multi-mirror “spying” system, and with the assumption that he was just an eccentric artist who liked trains. 

However, I enjoy the Sherlock Holmes literature; and began reading the “canon” at age twelve. I have certainly re-read many of the stories a few more times. Over the past several years, I began to read several authors who write Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels “in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle.” Some of these “pastiches,” as they are called, are quite accurate in style and continuity of Doyle’s themes. 

In researching this essay, I was surprised with the breadth of scholarly work that is currently available regarding Sherlock and Gillette. There are several national and international literary organizations that have also developed around Doyle’s work.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth offers a “Study of Sherlock” course, wherein students engage in critical reading, thinking, and writing by studying the iconic detective.

Our local expert on Holmes is Danna Mancini of Niantic. He has lectured and conducted seminars on The World of “Sherlock Holmes.” He is active in at least two Holmes literary organizations: The Baker Street Irregulars (NYC) and the Speckled Band of Boston.

Of some note, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) tasked by Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze” during World War II, had its headquarters at 64 Baker Street and was often called, “The Baker Street Irregulars.”

So, the ‘consulting detective’ continues to inspire novels, movies, and television.

As noted above, I will review several of the actors who played Holmes or Watson in these media in my next essay, and judge how true they were to either Gillette’s or Arthur Conan Doyle’s artistic vision.

Photo credit for the photo of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is as follows: By Arnold Genthe – PD image from http://www.sru.edu/depts/cisba/compsci/dailey/217students/sgm8660/Final/They got it from: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/photodraw/portraits/,where the source was given as: Current History of the War v.I (December 1914 – March 1915). New York: New York Times Company., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=240887

Photo credit for the photo of William Gillette is as follows: Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. William Gillette Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47de-e15c-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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Letter From Paris: France is Embroiled in Pension Reform Crisis, But Seems to be Doing Fine … or is it?

Nicole Prévost Logan

Reform of the retirement system was at the core of French President Emmanuel Macron’s 2016 campaign. He wanted to simplify the system and make it universal. The reform is so highly sensitive – one might even say explosive – that several prime ministers have fallen in similar attempts (1986, 1995, 2008.) Although close to 60 percent of public opinion is favorable to the reforms, the opposition is orchestrated into an angry movement by the unions and the Left.  

In a nutshell, the objective of the reform is two-fold: first, to prevent the system from being in the red in the 2020s and second to achieve social justice. This latter aim is being sought by suppressing the 42 régimes spéciaux (special systems), which grant privileges to certain groups of the population, such as civil servants, train workers (SNCF) bus and subway employees (RATP), personnel of the Paris Opera, members of the two legislative assemblies, etc. Some of these benefits include calculating the amount of retirement after the last six months of employment rather than the last 25 years.  And not surprisingly, these régimes spéciaux cost the French government billions every year.

The pension system in France is based on “repartition,” meaning that the active population pays for the retired one.  The problem is that in 1950, there were four working people for each retiree. Demography will soon reduce the ratio to 1 to 1.  In the US, the retirement system is based on “capitalization,” that is, individuals are free to invest their accumulated capital in a pension fund or other types of investment as they wish.  The Scandinavian countries use both systems – “capitalization” and “repartition”- simultaneously. 

For an American reader, it must be hard to comprehend the over-regulated retirement system in France, which applies not only to the 5.6 million civil servants  but also to the private sector.  A special dispensation is even required for retirees to be allowed to work.

The Macron plan is based on a points system.  Throughout one’s professional life, each hour’s work is translated into “points.” Variables – such as the political or economic environment – may impact the points’ value.  Employers and unions will determine together the value of each point.  Hence the anxiety of the people regarding this unfamiliar system.

France has the most generous retirement pension in Europe but it’s costing the country dearly. Photo by Hans Ripa on Unsplash.

France is the ‘Etat-providence’ (Welfare State) par excellence and the most generous in Europe.  The retirement age is 62 in France as compared to 65 in the UK.  It can be as low as 52 as in the case of train conductors.  More than 13 percent of the Gross Domestic Product is devoted to funding pensions.

The French government announced its plan to reform pensions on Dec. 5, 2019.  The reaction was immediate:- a general strike of all public transport. That meant no subway in Paris, except for two lines (which are automated), no buses, and very few trains.  That ordeal lasted for weeks without even a respite during the Christmas and New Year vacations.  Life for working people, who had to commute from the suburbs, became a pure nightmare.  Videos showed stampede scenes at stations.

On Jan. 28, 2020  the Gare de Lyon was packed as usual with passengers waiting for TGVs and suburban trains.  Suddenly a deafening sound resonated under the glass and steel structure.  Several explosions followed and pink smoke filled the station.  It turned out that dozens of the men getting off the train, wearing black parkas with yellow stripes, were firefighters on their way to join a demonstration at the Bastille. They were just getting warmed up, using their talents with pyrotechnics to blast powerful fire-crackers. 

After 50 days, the strikes had partially stopped.  The street demonstrations continued and have become a way of life in the city.  The left-wing unions and radical groups keep the momentum going and direct their actions to strategic areas such as blocking the main ports or shutting down oil refineries .

Tens of thousands people in black robes marched near the Bastille on Feb. 3.  They were some of France’s 70,000 lawyers, who have been on strike for five weeks – an absolute first.  The atmosphere was peaceful.  Not a single policeman in sight, no police vans nor water guns. 

I went down to take pictures.  ‘Why are you on strike?’  I asked a young lawyer. ‘We have our own retirement system,’ she answered, ‘which is autonomous and, furthermore, has a surplus.  Now the government has announced that the contributions toward the pension fund will double from 14 to 28 percent.’ Actually, what she said is not entirely accurate — the increase will be gradual: it will not start until the late 2020s and will not apply to all equally. 

French President Emmanuel Macron.

The launching of this crucial pension reform is like stepping into an anthill.  Wherever the government goes, it cuts into well-entrenched benefits, provoking an outpouring of protests.  Every time the government helps one group financially, this assistance has to be paid for by depriving another group.  This in turn feeds the popular mistrust for the government . 

After consultation with all the unions at the Hotel Matignon (seat of the Executive Power), an agreement was reached with the CFDT (Confederation Française Democratique du Travail), the most reformist of the unions.  For Laurent Berger, the CFDT leader,  the “age pivot” (retirement age) of 64 was a “red line” not to be crossed.  The Prime Minister agreed to pull back from it and replace it with a “cocktail of measures” to generate 12 billion Euros in order to balance the pension system. 

A parliamentary commission  of 80 deputies from all parties from the RN (Rassemblement National of Marine LePen) to LFI (La France Insoumise of Jean-Luc Melanchon) was appointed.  The government’s proposal was met with a ridiculous number of 22,000 amendments, (19,000 by LFI alone.)  Their obvious strategy was total obstruction of the process.  A general debate in the Parliament will follow.  If time runs out because of the municipal elections in 36,000 towns on March 15, the Prime Minister may resort to Executive Orders. 

In this crisis, I believe both sides are to blame: the government’s project may not have been prepared well enough and appeared confusing.  The opposition consistently refuses to enter any dialogue.  It is a French cultural trait:- first you flex your muscles then – possibly – you may be willing to come to the negotiating table.  But keep in mind that compromise is a dirty word in France.

The proposed retirement reform has somehow triggered other requests.  Seeing an opportunity, demands for higher wages and benefits are snowballing.  Some teachers in public schools are striking for pay raises.  These school students take their cue from their teachers and march in the street, or block their classrooms to protect their future pension rights — an odd sight indeed for 12- or 13-year olds!

The unrest (accompanied by violence) is dragging on.  There does not seem to be an end to it.

France appears to be functioning on two different levels — on the one hand, there is a France of  angry people, who feel very sorry for themselves. On the other, there is a dynamic France doing rather well, which has become economically attractive to foreign investors thanks primarily to labor market reforms. 

At the same time, Macron has chosen to keep above the in-fighting and focus on his role as the president of the only nuclear power of Europe, strengthening its defense and security while seeking a more integrated European Union.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of 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.

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Tickets on Sale Now for Fourth Annual Festival of Women’s Plays at Ivoryton Playhouse, Feb. 22

Sharon Goulner’s play is Savior.

IVORYTON:  The Ivoryton Playhouse has announced the date of its Fourth Annual Women
Playwrights Initiative – 4 x 4 in 2020.

Over 170 plays from all over the country were submitted to the initiative and the four finalists will be traveling to Ivoryton from Washington State, California, Indiana and Maryland to have their work presented in a series of staged reading on Saturday, Feb. 22, with a snow date of Sunday, Feb. 23.

The Initiative includes the Ellie Award and a $500 stipend for each of the four women playwrights chosen and provides a safe, nurturing environment for the development of new, one-act plays with a director and actors.

The plays are by and about women and the issues that shape their lives, and the workshop culminates in a festival of staged readings, which will take place at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton, CT 06422.

Crystal V. Rhodes’s play is 1200 miles to Jerome.

At 2 p.m., there will be two readings presented.  Savior by Sharon Goldner finds two modern moms at a yoga class dealing with an absurd yet very familiar situation – what do you do when your five-year-old tells you he is the messiah?

1200 miles to Jerome by Crystal V. Rhodes relates the daunting experience of the Franklin family, who are traveling through the Deep South with a fugitive in tow in the 1940s. It is a journey in which “driving while black” could mean the difference between life and death.

At 7 p.m., the festival will continue witha  performance of Court by Holly Arsenault, which takes an intimate look at divorce and custody battles from a child’s unique, funny and raw perspective.

Deanna and Paul by Dagney Kerr concludes the event. In this play, Deanna is a quirky waitress with a strict no tipping policy and Paul a surly customer with a tight lid on his heart. Their lonely worlds collide one day in a small-town diner, where one cup of coffee can change everything.

To purchase tickets for the Women Playwrights Festival, call 860.767.7318 or visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Holly Arsenault’s play is Court.

Tickets are priced as follows: $20 — adult; $15 — senior; $10 — student for one performance.

Buy tickets for both performances at these special prices: $30 — adult; $25 — senior; $10 — student. Call the box office at 860.767.7318 to book two-performance packages.

Check the Playhouse website for additional workshops and special festival deals with local restaurants.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT  06442.

Dagney Kerr’s play is Deanna and Paul.

For more information about the Women Playwrights Initiative and to read biographies of the playwrights, visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

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State Sen. Needleman Announces Candidacy for Re-election in 33rd District

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

ESSEX — State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) announced his candidacy yesterday for re-election to the 33rd State Senate District. First elected to his seat in 2018, Senator Needleman represents the town of Lyme along with those of Colchester, Chester, Clinton, Essex, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Old Saybrook, Westbrook, and Portland.

“It is an honor to be able to represent the 33rd Senatorial District, and I’m excited to continue serving my constituents,” said Sen. Needleman. “My time in the General Assembly has been an incredible experience, and I truly enjoy fighting for my district to ensure we build a stronger future for them and all the citizens of Connecticut. I humbly ask my constituents for the opportunity to do so for another term.”

Needleman serves as Senate Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, Vice Chair of the Planning and Development Committee, and is a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding, Transportation, and Commerce Committees.

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Want to Know More About Mosquitoes? Potapaug Hosts Presentation Thursday, All Welcome

TRI-TOWN/OLD LYME — Worried about mosquitoes?

Potapaug Audubon hosts a presentation on Mosquitoes of Connecticut and the Viruses they may Transmit given by John Shepard from the Department of Environmental Sciences Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. at Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall, 52 Lyme St., Old Lyme.

Shepard has expertise in the identification of larval and adult mosquitoes in the northeastern U.S., mosquito biology, and the ecology/epidemiology of arboviruses in the northeastern U.S., particularly West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

Come early for cheese and crackers and cider and catch-up conversations. All are welcome.

Visit the Potapaug Audubon website for more information.

For more about
Shepard, visit this link. 

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Letter From Paris: Brexit Has Happened – An Historic Day Which Sparked Joy, Tears, and Innumerable Challenges

Editor’s Note: The United Kingdom finally left the European Union (EU) at 11 p.m. on Jan 31, 2020, after being a member of the EU for 47 years. Despite a referendum passing in 2016 by a very slim margin that requested the extraction of the UK from the EU, it has been a long three years of butter argument to reach this point. Even now, it is estimated that roughly half of the population are delighted with Brexit and the other half are devastated.  But what are thinking on the other side of the English Channel?  Nicole Prévost Logan is back to give her thoughts from Paris on how the French see the whole business and where we all go from here.

Nicole Prévost Logan

The historic day has finally come … applauded by some and mourned by others.

The United Kingdom has left the European Union (EU).  With emotional tears the deputies of the European Parliament sang Auld Lang Syne – a 1788 Scottish song with a traditional folk tune – and hugged each other.

Now the real work is starting.  The UK has only an 11-month transition period (starting Feb. 1) to negotiate the terms of Brexit.

The extent of the long, drawn-out discussions has been covered many times in the past four years (see my previous article in Letter from Paris dated 12/9/14;  3/2/164/6/1712/29/18;  4/12/19)

On both sides of the English Channel there is, at least for now, a feeling of relief that a decision has been reached.

An image of 10 Downing Street — the UK British Prime Minister’s official residence – taken from a BBC broadcast moments after the 11 p.m. deadline on Jan. 31, 2020 when the UK left the EU.

How did Boris Johnson win

The French have been very impressed by the dexterity with which Boris Johnson (BJ) was able out to turn around the majority in the House of Commons: the Tories won 364 seats, an increase of 48 seats while the Labour party took 262, representing a loss of 60.   “Salut l’Artiste” (congratulations to the artist), wrote Françoise Fressoz, Le Monde editorialist  on Jan. 8.  On a radio talk show, a commentator said that BJ has become a model for the French Right: a conservative with social projects. The French feel that BJ, because of his super majority, is going to negotiate from a position  of strength.

A brillant strategist, he put his focus on the less wealthy population of the North of England and the Midlands, who supported Brexit. He undercut the Labour party by proposing a number of social measures such as raising the minimum wage, encouraging apprenticeships, building 40 hospitals and schools, and investing in railroad tracks at the cost of 100s of billions pounds sterling.  How will these projects be carried out?  How they will be paid for?  Not a mention of that in his campaign.

The other part of his strategy was to put pressure on the EU.  It is not clear how he did this, possibly in making concessions.  In a populist fashion, he probably told the Europeans what they wanted to hear.  A French journalist-columnist for The Daily Telegraph said BJ bluffed his way through. His optimism is more appealing that May’s stubbornness.  The French like another trait of his: his culture.  On our TV screens here, we saw him recite The Iliad poem for two and a half hours in classical Greek.

With Brexit both sides will lose, but many feel the UK will lose more.  The UK exports 47 percent of its products to Europe whereas the EU exports only 20 percent.  Some have compared Donald Trump’s attitude toward the EU to Boris Johnson’s.  There is one big difference though: BJ is not trying to destroy Europe.

Immigration has been at the core of Brexit since the beginning.  In this area, there is an inner contradiction.  Although the UK was never part of the Schengen Area (which guarantees freedom of circulation of the people), it still took advantage of the accession of eight new states to the EU in 2004, and 2007, to welcome these new labor forces – particularly from Poland.  It is unknown at this point how this situation will be resolved under Brexit.

The transition period

What’s going to happen during the transition?  Concretely, very little except that the Union Jack will not fly any more at the entrance of the EU HQ.

In the immediate term, ferry boats will continue crossing The Channel and Eurostar will continue to carry passengers and goods.  There will be no custom duties, no tariffs, and no visas required.

However, some changes are going to be immediately painful for the UK. The 73 British deputies at the European Parliament packed their bags on Jan. 31.  The British Commissioners have been gone for a while.  This means that the UK will not participate in the decision-making process, while it will still have to contribute to the EU budget and abide by the decisions of the European Court of Justice.

Michel Barnier from France has been appointed again as chief negotiator.  This is good news for everybody because he is a consensus-making personality.  He will work with a group of deputies from the European Parliament in Strasbourg,  Barnier has always stressed that the EU is not out to punish the UK.  Its only objective is to protect the EU’s interests.  Barnier feels sorry for the British population that was misinformed prior to the 2016 referendum.

The task ahead

In the simplest of terms, it is Herculean.

The UK is party to more than 600 international agreements with around 100 other countries through its EU membership.  As it leaves the EU , the UK will be cut off from these agreements.  However, it can retain its place whenever the UK signed an agreement in its own right.  The undoing of all these agreements is called (delightfully) “detricotage” in French (tricoter is to knit.)

The country has already taken steps to secure continuity in its relationships with other countries.  Examples include a treaty maintaining the UK’s civil nuclear trade; bilateral aviation agreements with the US and Canada; citizens rights agreements with Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland; protection for Scotch and Irish Whiskey exports.

The Lancaster House Bilateral Treaty of 2010 between the UK and France is a good example. It was signed between then French President Sarkozy and then UK Prime Minister Cameron and concerns Defense and Security Cooperation. Nathalie Loiseau, former French minister for European Affairs is the president of  the Commission on Security and Defense of the European Parliament.

One of the greatest fears in Europe is the prospect of a “Singapore-on-Thames.”  This would mean a country disrespectful of social and environmental norms and regulations.  Fiscal dumping will not be tolerated, says Brussels.  “There will not be quotas nor tariff if the UK forgets about dumping” writes the newspaper La Croix.

The first issue to be tackled will be fishing.  The negotiators will sit down around the negotiating table as early as Feb. 3, 2020.  The French fishermen have for years been fishing in 60 percent of the time in British waters.  The problem is that the British fisherman need the huge Single Market of 500 million people to sell their catch … and they already complain about quotas, which are imposed in order to avoid the depletion of fish!

France is one of the closest commercial partners of the UK (its foreign trade with that country has a trade surplus  of 12 billion Euros), which mean that it is particularly exposed to the consequences of the Brexit.  The manufacturing sector, such as the automobile industry, is fully integrated with Europe and relies on spare parts coming from the continent.  Every day 1,100 trucks transport parts back and forth through the Channel.  Aeronautics is facing a huge logistics problems since Air Bus employs 13,500 people in Great Britain.

The pharmaceutical industry, such as Sanofi, prepared for the Brexit by accumulating huge quantities of drugs.  The Total energy company is relocating its treasury department from London to Paris.

The traders of BNP Paribas Paris – the largest European bank in the UK – will have to leave the City of London whenever dealing with European clients. HSBC – the largest bank in the EU – is relocating many of its units to Paris.  One thousand personnel have already moved. Bank of America is now located on Rue de la Boetie in Paris.  J.P. Morgan has also relocated here.

The complicated problem of the border  between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland seems to have been defused.  One hears now that, in the long term, the two Irelands may be reunited.  The border would then go under the Irish Channel and the North Sea.  The idea of a “backstop,” which we heard so much about under Theresa May’s watch, seems to have vanished today.

In a recent debate, Pascal Lamy, Honorary Director of the Jacques Delors Institute (Delors was one of the founding fathers of the EU. He created the Single Market in 1993) made a few remarks about

Prognosis for the future

The more the UK diverges from the EU’s norms, the thicker the wall between them will grow.  The 27 members of the EU are extremely attached to the Single Market, the largest in the world.  It seems likely that BJ will in the end up aligned with Europe.  If BJ carries out his proposed social policy, the public deficit risks will be enormous.  Will there be “Boris Bonds” ?

Recently the populist governments in Denmark and Italy have collapsed.  Johnson’s electoral base is a mismatch between the less wealthy Brexiteers of the North and the rich ones from London. Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland and Arlene Foster in Northern Ireland will have an important role to play in whether there is going to be a break-up of the United Kingdom or not.  The UK will likely remain closer to the EU than the US.

On Dec. 13, 2019, some European leaders stated their position toward Brexit in carefully selected words:

Charles Michel, president of the European Council said, “We are ready.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted, “This will be a challenge.”

French President Emanuel Macron stated: “We welcome a new partner who should be a fair competitor.”

And in a Jan. 30, 2020 interview on French radio, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to France, Baron Llewellyn of Steep, said in the most British of ways,”Let’s have a cup of tea and go to work!”

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of 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.

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Hear ‘Trout Quintet,’ Bluegrass-, Jazz-Inspired Duos at Musical Masterworks Concerts This Weekend

Doublis bassist Michael Thurber males his debut at Musical Masterworks, Feb. 8-9. Photo by Lauren Desberg.

TRI-TOWN/OLD LYME — Join Musical Masterworks at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 9, at 3 p.m. for a program celebrating the return of perennial favorite musicians, violinist Tessa Lark and pianist Jeewon Park, along with an encore appearance by violist Ettore Causa, and the much-anticipated Musical Masterworks debut of double bassist Michael Thurber.

Performing with artistic director and cellist Edward Arron, they will play Schubert’s beloved “Trout” Quintet.

Concert attendees will also hear a collection of original bluegrass- and jazz-inspired duos for violin and bass, composed and performed by Tessa Lark and Michael Thurber. The program also includes the Piano Quartet in A minor by the Spanish composer Joaquin Turina, and an arrangement for violin, cello and bass of the Viola da Gamba Sonata in G minor by J.S. Bach.

Join Edward Arron for an in depth pre-concert talk about the program at 4 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Musical Masterworks’ 29th season runs through May 2020 and includes a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary on March 13, 14 and 15, and on May 1, 2 and 3, 2020, when concert-goers will have the remarkable opportunity to hear the complete cycle of Beethoven’s String Quartets.

To purchase a mini subscription ($100 each), a subscription to the Beethoven concerts or individual tickets ($40 adult; $5 student), visit Musical Masterworks at www.musicalmasterworks.org or call 860.434.2252.

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Are You Eligible for Earned Income Tax Credit? Find Out With Free Tax Help From VITA

HARTFORD/ TRI-TOWN — Workers may get a larger tax refund this year because of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). But to get it, you must file a tax return and claim it.

Today, Jan. 31, 2020, marks the 14th anniversary of EITC Awareness Day, a nationwide effort to increase awareness about EITC and free tax preparation sites. This year, IRS is promoting EITC and providing information on other refundable tax credits for which you may be eligible. This includes the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), the Credit for Other Dependents (ODC) and the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). These differ for tax credit earned or reimbursed in the form of lender or borrower fees for parent and child type loan payments, especially in countries like Finland; speak to experts such as Sambla OY for more on the topic.

If your 2019 income is up to $56,000, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in Connecticut provides free tax preparation services, including filing for the EITC and other credits for individuals and families with 2019 incomes up to $56,000, persons with disabilities and limited-English-speaking taxpayers. Appointments at VITA locations across the state are now open.

The Village for Families & ChildrenUnited Way of Central and Northeastern ConnecticutHuman Resources Agency of New Britain and the Connecticut Association for Human Services have opened tax filing sites in Litchfield, Hartford, Tolland, Windham, Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex and New London Counties.

To schedule an appointment at a VITA location, visit 211CT.org and click on “Tax Help” or dial 2-1-1 and press 3 then 6.

Experienced VITA volunteers are ready to help you with tax preparation in numerous locations across Connecticut. File photo.

VITA volunteers – trained by the Internal Revenue Service – ask you the needed questions to find out if you qualify for EITC and other refundable tax credits. They also prepare and e-file (electronically file) your tax return at no cost to you.

“Our community volunteers help you get EITC and the maximum refund you’re due. Our goal is to help you get it and get it right. This is money you can save or use to pay off bills, buy that car to get to work or make a down payment on a home. Let us help make your life a little easier,“ said Laura O’Keefe, director of family financial stability at The Village for Families and Children.

EITC can mean up to a $6,431 refund when you file a return if you have qualifying children. Workers without a qualifying child could be eligible for a smaller credit up to $519. According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average amount credited for 2019 was $2,476.

In 2019, 25 million workers received more than $63 billion in EITC refunds. In Connecticut, 216,000 workers received $485 million in Earned Income Tax Credits, averaging $2,243 per person.

The IRS estimates four of five eligible taxpayers claim and get the EITC. EITC and other income tax credits lifted an estimated 9 million people out of poverty last year, including 5 million or more than half of them children. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Policy Basics: The Earned Income Tax Credit, June 21, 2019)

Bring the following to make sure VITA volunteers get you the right amount of credit you deserve:

  • A valid driver’s license or other photo id card
  • Social security cards, a social security number verification letter for all persons listed on the return
  • Birth dates for all persons listed on return
  • All income statements: Forms W-2 and 1099, Social Security, unemployment, and other statements, such as pensions, stocks, interest and any documents showing taxes withheld
  • All records of expenses, such as tuition, mortgage interest, or real estate taxes
  • Copies of last year’s state and federal tax returns, if you have
  • Bank routing numbers and account numbers to direct deposit any refund
  • Dependent child care information: name and address of who you paid and either the caretaker’s SSN or other tax identification number
  • If you purchased coverage through the Health Insurance MarketplaceForm 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement
  • Both spouses to sign forms to e-file a joint tax return

In addition to face-to-face tax assistance, free online self-preparation and tax help is available for people who make up to $66,000 at www.myfreetaxes.com.

For more than a decade, VITA coalitions have been helping working families become financially secure. Free tax preparation is one way for hard-working families to keep more money in their wallets by obtaining the tax refunds and credits they have earned.

Last year, volunteers at 175 VITA locations across Connecticut brought $73,222.366.00 in total refunds and credits to filers.

The 2019-2020 VITA and MyFreeTaxes program partners are: CT Association for Human Services; Human Resources Agency of New Britain; Internal Revenue Service; The Village for Families & Children; and Connecticut United Ways.

Editor’s Note: This article is taken from a Press Release. For further information, contact one of the following:
Laura O’Keefe, Director of Family Financial Stability, The Village for Families & Childrenlokeefe@thevillage.org, 860-236-4511 ext. 3836
Maura Cook, Director of Community Engagement and Marketing, United Way of Central and Northeastern CTmcook@unitedwayinc.org; 860-493-1131
Juan Berrios, Community and Financial Services Program Manager, HRA of New Britainjberrios@hranbct.org; 860-225-8601
Takima Robinson, VITA/Asset Building Program Manager, CT Association for Human Servicestrobinson@cahs.org, 860-951-2212 x229

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Essex Savings Bank Donates Over 700lbs of Food to Shoreline Soup Kitchen

Pictured in the photo (from left to right) are Greg Cassells, VP and Community Reinvestment Officer, Greg Shook, Essex Savings Bank President & CEO, and Diane Arnold, SVP and Chief Lending Officer.

ESSEX Each year all six branches and corporate office departments within Essex Savings Bank held a holiday contest designed to help those less fortunate in the local communities. After several years of helping other organizations, the Bank returned this year to support the Shoreline Soup Kitchen as well as the Chester and Madison food pantries.

This year’s goal was to collect non-perishable food from employees and donate to the three organizations while creating a display that invoked the spirit and joy of watching holiday movies. Although this contest adds to the fun of the season, the deeper goal for all of the Bank employees is to help those in need as that is the true spirit of the season.
All donations were at the employees’ expense and generated by their goodwill. As a result of everyone’s efforts, on Friday, December 20th, Essex Savings Bank employees delivered over 700 pounds of food to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen and several box loads to the Madison and Chester food pantries.
Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851. The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and shoreline with six offices in Essex (2), Chester, Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook providing a full complement of personal and business banking.
Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Division, Essex Trust and wholly-owned subsidiary, Essex Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC.
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‘The Country School’ Hosts Open House Today, All Welcome

MADISON — The Country School jn Madison is holding an Open House Sunday, Jan. 26, from 1 to 3:30 p.m.

This is an opportunity to meet engaged students and passionate teachers. Also, attendees can learn about the rigorous academic program and commitment to honoring the creativity, sense of wonder, and exuberance of childhood.

MADISON — Learn about the school’s signature programs – STEAM, Elmore Leadership, Outdoor Education, and Public Speaking – and their rich offerings in the arts and athletics.

Tour the transformed 23-acre campus and hear how alumni are thriving at top high schools and colleges across the country.

Founded in 1955, The Country School is a coeducational, independent day school serving students in PreSchool through Grade 8. To learn more and register, visit this link.

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Essex Library Offers Program This Morning on ‘How to Recognize, Avoid Scams’

ESSEX — Consumers are faced with increasingly complex scams and schemes used to defraud millions of people each year. How do you know if an email is real or a fraud? What do you do if someone calls and asks for your personal information?

This illustrated talk at the Essex Library on Friday, Jan. 24, at 11 a.m. will show you some common scams and share tips for spotting them. Connecticut Consumer Protection Department’s Catherine Blinder is the presenter. 

This program is free and open to the public.

For more information or to register, call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560. The Essex Library is located at 33 West Avenue in Essex.

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Needleman Appointed Senate Vice Chair of Planning & Development Committee

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

HARTFORD — State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex), whose District includes the Town of Lyme, has been appointed Senate Vice Chair of the Planning & Development Committee in the Connecticut General Assembly by Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). As a condition of this appointment,  which as announced Tuesday, Sen. Needleman will step down from his position as Senate Vice Chair of the Banking Committee.

Sen. Needleman’s appointment to this committee is in addition to his existing roles as Senate Chair of the Energy & Technology Committee and membership in the Commerce Committee, Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee and Transportation Committee.

“I look forward to starting work on the Planning & Development Committee, working to improve and streamline processes to assist our state’s municipalities and support further development in Connecticut,” said Sen. Needleman. “I would like to thank Senator Looney for his appointment and am excited to continue my work in the upcoming Legislative Session.”

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2020 Women’s March Sister Vigil Scheduled in East Haddam This Morning

EAST HADDAM — Together We Rise CT  – Building Bridges for Justice has announced that East Haddam, Conn., is again registered as an Official Sister Event location for the Lower  Connecticut River Valley for the Jan. 18, Women Rising 2020 – Women’s March, which is taking place in Washington DC.

Together We Rise will join sister events/marches throughout the world with an outdoor gathering and vigil from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House & Café, which is located at 374 Town St. in East Haddam, Conn., at the junction of Routes 82 and 151.

The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through trainings, outreach programs and events.

Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.

To help with planning, those interested in participating in the Together We Rise Jan. 18 Sister Event vigil should register at this link. All are welcome from all towns — including Lyme and Old Lyme — in the Lower Connecticut River Valley and beyond.

Participants are encouraged to arrive early. Parking Monitors will be on site to direct participants to parking venues near Two Wrasslin’ Cats.

Parking in Two Wrasslin’ Cats parking lot is available only to those with disabilities.

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