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Saturday, May 03, 2003

WestportNow Hears… ...that those unhappy

WestportNow Hears…
...that those unhappy with Schools Superintendent Elliott Landons management style are gearing up once again to lobby the Board of Education not to renew his contract҅

...that State Sen. Judith G. Freedman is telling friends that she will oppose a bill proposed by Westports State Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard, a fellow Republican, to rename the Post Road Bridge after Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen—this despite last monthҒs Representative Town Meeting 26-5 vote endorsing the proposal

...that supporters of more lenient rules for dogs at the beach will ask the Board of Selectmen and Representative Town Meeting to modify the rules adopted this week by the Parks and Recreation Commission. They want to allow dogs off leash on the beach before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. from Oct. 1 through March 31…

...that former Representative Town Meeting member Michael Gilbertie is trying to rally enough Westporters for a referendum to cut $6 million from WestportŒs 2003-2004 fiscal budget

Friday, May 02, 2003

Heavy Cardboard Carton Contains Plans

Heavy Cardboard Carton Contains Plans for $500 million Power Upgrade
Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell found a heavy cardboard carton awaiting her in the office today. It contained a plan for a $500 million upgrade of power lines in the region.

Copies of the eight-volume report on the plan were delivered to Farrell and chief executives of 23 other municipalities Thursday, according to the Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating Co.

Public hearings on the plan, which would triple the capacity of transmission lines over a 69-mile stretch in municipalities from Middletown to Norwalk, are scheduled for this spring and summer. The project will then go before the Connecticut Siting Council for approval.

About 24 miles of the line, from Milford to Norwalk, would be buried underground. The northern part of the line would be installed on overhead wires.

The utilities said they are proposing the upgrade because the power supply in southwestern Connecticut is strained during high demand. The region also lacks enough capacity on its own to meet its power needs.

The Siting Council is expected to rule in June on another CL&P proposal to install 345-kilovolt service along 20 miles from Bethel to Norwalk.

Rhode Island Family Points to

Rhode Island Family Points to Westport as Model for Dangerous Dog Law
Members of a Rhode Island family whose dog bit the ear of a prize-winning calf are calling for a change in that states vicious dog laws and are pointing to WestportҒs dangerous dog ordinance as a good model.

Todays Naragansett Times reported that the Winn family of South Kingston spent thousands of dollars and months fighting to keep possession of their Siberian husky Jenga after it bit the ear of the calf in February.

They suggested Rhode Island adopt a law similar to the one approved in Westport last year.

In an editorial, the newspaper adds its voice to a call for change, saying:

ғIt’s time to revisit the law. As an article in today’s Narragansett Times details, the town of Westport, Connecticut, has a far better regulation in place. It was crafted with input from animal experts, veterinarians, law enforcement, residents. It defines specifically what a dangerous (their term) dog is, in a way Rhode Island law does not.

Westport Firefighters Journey into the

Westport Firefighters Journey into the Past: He Once Was a Civil War General
When you meet Westport Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey J. Keene, you are meeting a man of the present and the past.

The way he tells it, the 1965 Staples grad and Air Force veteran is also someone else—John B. Gordon, Confederate General, Army of Northern Virginia, who died in 1904.

For years, Keene has been researching the Civil War fighter and now recounts his tale of reincarnation in a new book, ғSomeone Else’s Yesterday: The Confederate General and Connecticut Yankee, a Past Life Revealed (Blue Dolphin Pub. $17.95).

KeeneԒs publisher describes the book this way: Someone Else’s Yesterday is an amazing journey through the eyes of two people: one a Georgian, the other a Connecticut Yankee.

ӓSimilarities between the two go far beyond coincidence. They think alike, look alike, and even share facial scars. Their lives are so intertwined that they appear to be one.

The 55-year-old Trumbull resident has made no secret of his long journey into the past. His story has been featured on the Arts and Entertainment Network’s documentary “Beyond Death” and Uri Geller’s Talk America radio show, “Parascience and Beyond.”

For anyone skeptical of some of his claims, one look at some of the pictures he has on his computer at the firehouse quickly confirms at least physically Keene has an uncanny resemblance to Gen. Gordon.

But Keene says thereԒs much more. For instance, there was that trip to Norwalk Hospital’s emergency room on his 30th birthday with facial pain. Keene found that it mimicked the wound Gen. Gordon received at the battle of Antietam when he was 30 years of age.

How he made his discovery and how it has affected his life is told in the new book. Geller, the Israeli psychic, says of Keenes work: “Anyone who doubts life after death, or reincarnation, should read this book. I highly recommend it.”

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Westports State Sen. Judith Freedman

Westports State Sen. Judith Freedman Backs Smoking Ban Bill
WestportҒs State Sen. Judith G. Freedman (R-26) was among lawmakers who approved a bill late Wednesday to ban smoking in all restaurants and bars, as well as all work places with more than five employees.

The Senate passed the bill, 26-7, with bipartisan support, and it is expected to go before the House shortly.

Freedman was one of eight Senate Republicans who crossed party lines and voted for the bill while the seven others opposed it, including the Republican leader and deputy leader.

Democrats hold a 21-15 majority in the Senate. Three senators were absent—all Democrats.

Supporters said the ban would reduce the dangers of secondhand smoke for both workers and patrons of those establishments. The ban would not apply to private clubs such as those of current fraternal organizations.

Gov. John G. Rowland predicted today that the bill would easily pass the House and he said he would sign it.

The legislation, if approved by the House and once signed by Rowland, would go into effect Oct. 1. But the bar-ban would not begin until April 1, 2004.

California and Delaware currently have statewide bans on smoking in restaurants and bars, and a statewide ban in New York will start in July.

Numerous cities and towns in other states have enacted their own bans on smoking in restaurants, but Connecticut law prohibits individual municipalities from banning smoking in public places.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

States Plan to Open Up

States Plan to Open Up I-95 Breakdown Lanes Draws Critics
Connecticut transportation officials got an earful of criticism at a hearing in Westport to discuss a proposal to relieve I-95 traffic by opening breakdown lanes during rush hours, according to The Hour of Norwalk.

It reported that First Selectwoman Diane Farrell and Assistant Fire Chief Mark Gurrier were among those speaking out at Tuesday nightҒs meeting at Town Hall.

Stepford WivesԔ Remake to be

Stepford WivesԔ Remake to be Shot in Area
Todays Advocate of Stamford reports that Nicole Kidman has been signed to play the lead in a remake of the 1975 movie “The Stepford Wives” and is scheduled to begin filming in the area in July. Some of the original scenes were filmed in Westport.

The report said film scouts have been in New Canaan and Norwalk looking for locales, but the newspaper makes no mention of Westport.

The remake of “The Stepford Wives” has an all-star cast, including John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken and Faith Hill.

Martha Stewart Acknowledges the Obvious:

Martha Stewart Acknowledges the Obvious: Stock Probe Hurt Earnings
Westporter Martha Stewarts media company says it had a much wider net loss and 15 percent lower revenue for its first quarter and that it was hurt by the government’s insider trading investigation of her.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., which produces magazines, TV programs and merchandise, reported a loss of $4.51 million, or 9 cents per share, compared with a loss of $234,000, or break-even on a per share basis, in the year-ago period.

The 2002 first-quarter results include a charge of $3.14 million, or 6 cents a share, related to an accounting rule change.

Its operating loss was $7.5 million, or 9 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expected a loss of 6 cents per share. Revenues declined to $58 million from $68 million for the year-ago period.

“Our business results reflect considerable pressure associated with the continuing governmental investigations of my sale of noncompany stock,” Stewart said in a statement.

“In the face of these pressures, the company nonetheless remains focused on creating and producing the original how-to content and quality products that fuel our company and define our brand.”

Prosecutors have been investigating whether Stewart and a Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. broker violated insider-trading laws in the December 2001 sale of ImClone Systems Inc. stock. No charges have been filed against Stewart, and she has denied wrongdoing.

Stewart said the companyҒs recent ideas and products include the new digest-sized Everyday Food magazine and our recently launched Martha Stewart Signature furniture collection, both of which are experiencing early strong consumer response.Ӕ

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Elaine Steinbeck: the Westport Connection

Todays New York Times obit of Elaine Anderson Steinbeck, one of the first women to become a Broadway stage manager and who in later years kept bright the artistic torch of her late husband John Steinbeck, notes her Westport connection.

Steinbeck, who died on Sunday in Manhattan at the age 88, lived in Manhattan and Sag Harbor, N.Y.

She was active in the theater before her marriage to the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author in 1950 and remained so after his death in 1968, the newspaper said.

The Times said she studied drama at the University of Texas, where she met her first husband, Zachary Scott, the actor, when both were involved in theater there. They were married in 1934 and several years later came east.

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne had recommended the couple to Lawrence Langner of the Theater Guild (which the Times misspells as “Langer.”) The result was a summer job at the Westport Country Playhouse, which Langner, a Weston resident, founded in 1931 with his wife, Armina Marshall.

One of the plays the Langners produced in Westport was “Green Grow the Lilacs,” which later became in its musical incarnation “Oklahoma!”

The Times reported she was the stage manager of the Theater Guild’s production of “Oklahoma!,” becoming one of the first women to achieve that position on Broadway. It opened in 1943 and ran five years. (Playbill.com reported she was “a replacement assistant stage manager.” )

Another Westport connection—Westporter Max Wilk’s 1993 book (reissued in 2002) “Ok!: The Story of Oklahoma!,” documents the Guild’s undertaking of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical from conception to SRO box-office success and mentions Steinbeck’s role.

Wilk told WestportNow she worked as assistant stage manager at the age of 26 when “Green Grow the Lilacs” had its Westport revival in 1940 and then took the same job when it became “Oklahoma!” three years later on Broadway.

Soon after, she became one of the first women to take a show on the road, organizing and supervising the national tour of “Othello” with Paul Robeson, according to the Times.

Westports Playtex Reports 29 Percent

Westports Playtex Reports 29 Percent Profit Drop
One of WestportҒs highprofile corporate residents, Playtex Products Inc., says its first-quarter earnings fell 29 percent.

The company, with its corporate headquarters in the Nyala Farms office complex just off I-95, warned of lower 2003 earnings as it steps up promotions to stave off strong competition in the tampon market.

The maker of Playtex tampons, Mr. Bubble bath soap and other consumer products said first-quarter net income fell to $11.4 million, or 19 cents a share from $16.1 million, or 26 cents a share, a year ago.

While most Westporters may not know it, their hometown is also home to other Playtex products such as Wet Ones, Baby Magic, Diaper Genie, Banana Boat, Woolite rug and upholstery cleaning products, Playtex gloves, Binaca and Ogilvie.

Finally, in the interests of further educating WestportNow readers about some things they may not know, Westport֒s Playtex doesnt mean Playtex bras.

The explanation—in 1986, Playtex Holdings was comprised of two companies: Playtex Family Products Corp. (tampons, infant feeding and household products) and Playtex Apparel, Inc. (bras, girdles, hosiery and other apparel).

In 1991, the publicly traded Sara Lee Co. purchased Playtex Apparel and acquired a 25 percent interest in Playtex Family Products (which it later sold back). Playtex Family Products eventually became Playtex Products, Inc.

Update:
Playtex shares closed down 15 percent, or $1.33, at $7.45 today on the New York Stock Exchange. It was the largest percentage loser on the exchange.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Fire Officials Identify Woman Found Dead in House Fire

Fire officials today identified the victim of a house fire Sunday as Betty Strong, 75.

Strong was found on the second floor of the home at 187 Compo Road South, near the intersection of Greens Farms Road.

Flames heavily damaged the first and second floors of the two-story home before firefighters got it under control at about 12:30 p.m.

Fire officials gave no official cause of the blaze, but there was speculation it may have been caused by smoking. One source said Strong’s body was found in a bathroom where she may have sought refuge from the flames.

Firefighters responded to the house today to extinguish a small fire which rekindled in some furniture left charred on the front lawn.

It was the second death in a Westport house fire in less than two weeks. A 52-year-old man was found dead in a house fire April 14 at 2 Moss Ledge Road. Police said the victim died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Showtime to Air Westport Country Playhouse’s “Our Town” May 24

If you missed it in Westport and on Broadway, you can now see the Westport Country Playhouse production of Our TownӔ starring Paul Newman on cable. It will be broadcast on Saturday, May 24 at 8 p.m.

The Showtime and PBS ExxonMobil Masterpiece TheatreӔ presentation is directed by James Naughton, who also directed the stage presentation. The production is Newmans first appearance on Broadway in 38 years.

ғOur Town was produced by the Playhouse from June 5-22, 2002, before beginning a sold-out limited engagement on Dec. 4, 2002, at the Booth Theater on Broadway. Joanne Woodward is the artistic director of the Playhouse.

Showtime Networks’ production of ԓOur Town was shot over five days with four cameras in the Booth Theater. Following its May premiere on Showtime, ԓOur Town will air this fall on PBS.

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04/25/03 11:10 AM Comments () • Permalink

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Norwalk Hospital Officials Offer Differing Reports About Suspected SARs Cases

Almost two weeks after WestportNow first reported that the states first suspected SARS case involved a Westport resident, the head of the infectious disease department at Norwalk Hospital said the hospitalҒs emergency room treated two such patients.

But a colleague at the hospital later offered a conflicting report. (See below.)

Other than reporting the hospitals involvement with the patients, Dr. Ernest Atlas gave few details about the cases in an interview aired on CablevisionҒs News-12. He said both patients had a dry cough, an elevated fever, a headache, and were “aching all over.”

The states Department of Health has reported six cases in the state related to the severe acute respiratory illness Җ five listed as suspected and one as probable. It said two were in separate towns in Fairfield County but did not identify the communities.

The department said none has any relationship to the others and all are recovering and doing well.

On March 28, WestportNow reported that area medical officials had received word that a southwest Connecticut resident was a suspected SARS case and were asked to be especially vigilant about other suspected cases.

The patient had recently traveled to an Asian country where the illness had been reported.

On April 12, WestportNow reported it had subsequently confirmed that at least one of the suspected Fairfield County patients was a Westport resident who travels abroad frequently for business and has fully recovered.

Health officials have stressed that local residents should not be alarmed since the cases are suspected and not confirmed.

Update
: The head of Norwalk Hospitals emergency department, Dr. Michael Carius, speaking in a News-12 interview Friday (April 25), offered an account that conflicted with what his colleague, Dr. Atlas, said Thursday, according to the station.

It reported that Dr. Carius told them he did not have the information that Dr. Atlas had, and that as far as he knew, there had not been any suspected cases of SARS treated at Norwalk Hospital.

Additionally, News-12 reported that he said the hospital had made no notification about any suspected cases to the state Department of Health. The implication seemed to be that the two Fairfield County cases cited by the state were not the ones referred to by Dr. Atlas.

There was no explanation for the discrepancy in what the two hospital officials reported. But medical sources said it likely was due to the changing definitions, acknowledged by experts, of how to classify suspected SARS cases.

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04/24/03 08:33 PM Comments () • Permalink

Westport Soldier Injured in Iraq

Westport Soldier Injured in Iraq Returning to Home Base
Theres a sigh of relief around the home of Westporters Barbara and Joe Bilotta on Stoneboat Road. Their 24-year-old son Nicholas, with the ArmyҒs 101st Airborne, is returning to U.S. soil after being injured last week in a mine-clearing operation in Iraq.

According to todays Connecticut Post, Bilotta is due back this weekend at Fort Campbell, Ky., to recover from injuries suffered April 16 while clearing a building of mines south of Baghdad. Two Iraqis leading the platoon died in the incident.

The newspaper reported that the phone and doorbell have not stopped ringing at the Bilotta home since news of Nicholas BilottaҒs injuries spread. The soldier, a 2nd lieutenant, was airlifted first to Kuwait and then Germany for treatment.

The report said the parents have also received support from their sons former high school, Fairfield College Preparatory School, where he was captain of the lacrosse, basketball, and football teams.

Bilotta graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point last June.

Westports State Rep on Losing

Westports State Rep on Losing Side on Gaming Bill
WestportҒs State Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard was on the losing side in a House of Representatives vote that would reinstate some of the gaming outlawed when the state in January repealed the so-called “Las Vegas Nights” law. It passed 123-21.

The bill would reinstate to schools and not-for-profit organizations the rights to conduct certain games of chance where there is no betting of money and no monetary prizes.

The games are popular at many school functions, particularly non-alcohol, after-prom parties. Instead of money, prizes are usually awarded for tickets earned.

According to a report in today’s The Advocate of Stamford, Bernhard said, “Let’s not lose sight that we didn’t want the state to become the casino capital of the world.

“This amendment and the bill would repeal the obstacle we thought would be in place. I understand the Boy Scouts and others are losing money and my heart goes out to them. But we don’t want this to become a gambling mecca.”

According to the newspaper, the Westport Republican said that when the state repealed Las Vegas Night legislation, officials determined that only $275,000 in fund raising by not-for-profit groups would be affected out of about $17 million they raise annually.

Supporters of the amendment said they had participated in school gaming nights in the past and believed they were an important part of maintaining alcohol- and tragedy-free senior prom nights in many communities.

But opponents said they were concerned that allowing even limited, nonmonetary games of chance would open up the state to future legal challenges.

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