Diane Orson

Managing Editor/Host

Diane Orson is WNPR's local host for Morning Edition.  She's also a reporter and managing editor for WNPR, as well as a contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories are heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now.  Diane began at WBUR in Boston and came to Connecticut in 1988 as a co-producer for Open Air New England.  She shared a Peabody Award with Faith Middleton for their piece of radio nostalgia about New Haven's Shubert Theater.  Her reporting has  been recognized by the Connecticut Society for Professional Journalists and the Associated Press, including the Ellen Abrams Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism and the Walt Dibble Award for Overall Excellence.

Diane is also an active professional musician. She lives in Hamden with her husband and two children.

Diane Orson

Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. has announced it will move its headquarters to New Haven with up to $51 million in state aid. Governor Malloy announced the move on Tuesday as part of his "First Five" economic development initiative.

For years, New Haven’s Route 34 highway connector separated the Hill neighborhood and Medical district from the downtown area. Alexion Pharmaceuticals’ move is part of a project to knit New Haven back together.

Diane Orson

A highway that once divided a New Haven neighborhood is bringing neighbors back together.  We report on a public art project that’s transformed a barren underpass into a lively mural of familiar faces.

To get from downtown New Haven to upper State Street, you have to pass under Route 91.

Most people see rusty steel beams that stretch a couple hundred feet, grey cold walls and eerie lighting. But to Ben Berkowitz, the highway underpass is something different.  

"Huge blank canvases, the perfect place to turn New Haven Inside Out."

Fighting Urban Blight

Jun 12, 2012
Diane Orson

Urban blight can have an insidious impact on a local community - socially, economically and environmentally. New Haven has just acquired its first vacant property under an anti-blight ordinance.

"It's been a place for people to go and get high, a place for people who don’t have anywhere to live to sleep."

Joanne Kelly is walking back to her home, a few houses away from an abandoned property on Clay Street in the Fair Haven section of New Haven.

Former alderman Joe Rodriguez says city workers came here early this morning to clean the place up.

Diane Orson

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in Connecticut Tuesday to announce that eight states, including Connecticut, will be granted waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Duncan’s first stop was New Haven where he met with educators, advocates and lawmakers to talk about school reform. Much of the discussion centered on New Haven’s teachers’ contract, which has been hailed as a model for the nation.

Six education and business groups have released an analysis of Connecticut’s education reform legislation. The group includes the Connecticut Association of Schools, the CT Council for Education Reform, CBIA, CABE, CAPSS and ConnCAN. They say that the bill will jumpstart reforms, but stress -  there’s more to be done.

Hydronalix

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and a time when thousands of Connecticut sun-worshippers flock to the beach. Many will drive just over the border to enjoy Rhode Island’s coastline. And this year, they may meet EMILY, a new robotic lifeguard.

When there are powerful rip tides along the stretch of beaches at Misquamicut,  Lisa Konicki says even the strongest swimmers may panic.  

The lawyer who represented one of the men convicted in the Cheshire murder trials says he expects there will be legal challenges to Connecticut’s death penalty repeal. 

Lawyer Thomas Ullmann represented Steven Hayes, who was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the murders of Jennifer-Hawke Petit and her two daughters.

Ullmann calls the end of Connecticut’s death penalty a “momentous occasion.”  

Death At College

May 17, 2012

As colleges around the region wrap up for the year, we turn our attention to a surprising and disturbing fact. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. 

In April, a 19-year old Yale University freshman - Zachary Brunt of Alexandria, Virginia –  took his own life.  He was found dead in a physics lab. 

The following story is in two parts. We begin by hearing the voices of two friends of Zach’s. 

PART ONE

Connecticut’s House of Representatives has unanimously passed a wide-ranging education reform bill. Legislators describe the bill as an important step toward improving the state’s public schools and closing Connecticut’s achievement gap.

The chamber erupted in cheers after the 149 to zero vote, giving final legislative approval to a compromise education reform measure. 

Diane Orson

The valedictorian of a New Haven high school has won a Gates-Millenium scholarship to college. The student is a teen mother who will attend a college that supports single moms in higher education.

"My name is Shayla McQueen. I’m 17 years old. And I’m valedictorian of James Hillhouse High School."

Shayla McQueen is also a mother.  Her son, Arlander Folson, turns two in August. 

Diane Orson

Two men have been arrested and charged in a massive 2010 theft of pharmaceuticals from a warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut. Virtually all the drugs have been recovered.

Here’s how US Attorney David Fein characterizes the audacious heist: 

"As far as we know, this brazen crime was the biggest theft in Connecticut history and in the history of the pharmaceutical industry countrywide."

A recent report by the US Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General finds inadequate enforcement of a federal law aimed at preventing alcohol and drug abuse on college campuses.   The review was requested by two state lawmakers on behalf of a Connecticut resident.

Deans from 21 top business schools around the world will gather today in New Haven. Yale University will host the first meeting of a new global network for business education.

The international focus of the Global Network for Advanced Management is something totally new in the business school world, says Edward Snyder, Dean of the Yale School of Management.  

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has signed a repeal of the state’s death penalty into law. The signing ceremony took place Wednesday -  just hours after a new poll showed state voters split over an appropriate punishment for murder.

Governor Malloy signed the bill abolishing capital punishment in a private ceremony with lawmakers, clergy and family members of victims. 

Joan Marcus, with permission

Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre have received the largest financial gift in their history.  The funds will support the creation of new plays and musicals for the American stage.

The $18 million gift will permanently endow Yale’s ongoing new plays program, says Yale Rep Artistic Director James Bundy. 

"To our knowledge, it’s the largest gift in the history of the American Theatre specifically for programming, which is to say that funds from the endowment will go to the commissioning, development and production of new plays."

Unless Congress acts, interest rates on certain college loans are set to double this summer.  WNPR looks at what that would mean for Connecticut students.

More than 84 thousand college and university students in Connecticut had subsidized Stafford student loans last year.  Their interest rate was 3.4% thanks to the College Cost Reduction and Access Act which locked in a low rate for four years. 

Lawmakers continue to work on a compromise education reform bill that they hope Governor Malloy and the legislature can agree on.  One key lawmaker believes the two sides are not that far apart.   

Administration officials have been meeting behind closed doors with top leaders to craft the next version of Governor Malloy’s education reform package.  In March, lawmakers made significant changes to the original proposal, including a delay in overhauling teacher evaluation and tenure.

A former Transportation Security Administration officer pleaded guilty in federal court in New Haven Tuesday  to participating  in a prescription-drug trafficking scheme.  Several law enforcement officers have admitted their roles in the case.

30-year old Jonathan Best pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and to posses with intent to distribute the painkiller oxycodone.  

Diane Orson

Each month, about 100 people are released from prison and return to the city of New Haven. Many have a tough time finding work. Large employers often won’t hire ex-offenders. New Haven has passed a new ordinance that standardizes the procedure to get street vendor or food cart permits in the city.  

37-year old Harold Williams was discharged from prison in January after serving 2 ½ years for selling drugs.  

Diane Orson

Members of Connecticut’s House of Representatives are set to debate a bill to abolish the state’s death penalty.

Death penalty opponents, including families of murder victims, gathered at the Capitol this morning and urged lawmakers to pass the legislation.

Dawn Mancarella spoke on behalf of the more than 170 victims’ families in Connecticut who support a repeal of the state’s death penalty.

The European Court of Human Rights has cleared the way for a British terror suspect, wanted in Connecticut, to be extradited.  

37-year old Babar Ahmad is accused of raising funds for terrorists through an internet service provider based in Trumbull, Connecticut. 

He was arrested as part of a larger investigation that led to the 2008 conviction of former Navy sailor Hassan Abu-Jihaad.  Abu-Jihaad leaked classified information through a website that Ahmad allegedly operated. 

The state senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill to end Connecticut’s death penalty.

A bill aimed a reducing the numbers of Connecticut students arrested at school passed a legislative committee this week. Supporters of the measure say too many kids are being arrested for low-level, non-violent offenses.

Connecticut Judicial Branch data show that nearly 20% of the cases that ended up in juvenile court during the first six months of the current academic year began when kids were arrested at school.  

"41% of those were for breach of peace or disorderly conduct."

That’s Hannah Benton, staff attorney with the Center for Children’s Advocacy.

The legislature’s Education Committee has passed a revised version of Governor Malloy’s proposed school reform bill.  

Speaking before last night’s vote, co-chair Andrew Fleischmann said members of the education committee respect the Governor’s broad vision on school reform and sought to fine tune and improve the measure.

Diane Orson

Governor Malloy was in New Haven last night for a Yale conference on the future of education. In contrast to recent town hall meetings, this time the Governor was met by a receptive audience.

Governor Malloy outlined key proposals in his school reform package to nearly 200 people at the Yale School of Management’s Education Leadership Conference.

On the highly-charged issues of teacher evaluation and tenure, the Governor said there needs to be honest and frank discussion.  

The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that Scholastic Book Clubs, Inc. must pay the state millions of dollars in taxes and penalties. The court found that teachers in the classroom act as local salespeople for the out-of-state bookseller. 

The Connecticut Supreme Court unanimously reversed a trial court judge’s decision, and ruled that Scholastic Book Clubs, Inc should pay the state more than 3 million dollars in sales tax, interest and penalties. 

The Connecticut chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They want DHS to release records about an enormous, though little understood immigration enforcement program.

Cody Wofsy says there’s not a lot known about the Criminal Alien Program, known as CAP.

Uma Ramiah

School board members held their annual Day on the Hill in Hartford Wednesday. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed cautious support for the Governor’s education proposals.

Democratic Representative and Education Committee co-chair Andrew Fleischmann outlined areas of agreement, including expansion of preschools.

"I expect we will have expansion of early childhood education. Not just the 500 additional slots the Governor’s talking about. I’m hopeful that we may be able to do more this year."

Brunosan, Flickr Creative Commons

As the brain ages, it becomes harder to know when its time to move from one task to the next. That’s according to a new study by Yale University researchers, who say understanding how the brain ages may help an older workforce.

The study is called Lost in Transition. Mark Laubach, an associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine, came up with the title after waiting to buy a ticket at the Washington, DC train station. He was anxious to get back to Connecticut to see his son play in his first Little League game.  

Officials from UConn and the Board of Regents meet this week with legislators and advocates for victims of sexual assault to discuss a bill that would change the way college campuses respond to sexual violence.  

The federal Clery Act spells out how colleges and universities nationwide are expected to respond to sexual violence on campus. The Connecticut bill would make changes to the way schools hold internal disciplinary hearings, and would require prevention programming for students and faculty.

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