Out of bounds

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The story with the headline “The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League-Obsessed Parents” ran in the November issue of The Atlantic. It focused on the over-the-top methods of wealthy parents in Fairfield County pushing their children to compete in sports such as fencing to increase their chances of getting into Ivy League or other elite schools. The online version went viral and seemed to confirm a stereotype about our state: Connecticut is full of soccer moms and dads whose obsession with getting what’s best for their children is often Machiavellian. Except in this instance the story wasn’t true, or at least all of it wasn’t.

In November, The Atlantic took the unusual step of retracting the story in its entirety. Concerns first came to light after Erik Wemple, a Washington Post media critic, wrote that several aspects of the story were false or misleading, including a fencing injury described at the start of the story that appeared exaggerated. The story’s author, Ruth S. Barrett, had previously published under her maiden name Ruth Shalit and in 1999 left The New Republic after it was discovered she had plagiarized passages in previous articles and included other inaccuracies. When Atlantic fact-checkers re-examined her sports story they learned that one of the main sources identified only as “Sloane” had lied to the magazine, telling them she had a son when she did not, to make it harder for readers to identify her. Barrett knew of this and deceived fact-checkers about it, according to The Atlantic. An editor’s note The Atlantic posted about the piece says, “Our fact-checking department thoroughly checked this piece, speaking with more than 40 sources and independently corroborating information. But we now know that the author misled our fact-checkers, lied to our editors, and is accused of inducing at least one source to lie to our fact-checking department. We believe that these actions fatally undermined the effectiveness of the fact-checking process.” As a result, the magazine took the story offline, though a PDF is still available on the website for historical purposes. Following the retraction, Barrett wrote in an online post that her “article did contain several errors,” but maintains that the “story is true.” — EO

Don’t get caught in the net

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Comcast is instituting a data cap in March for residential internet customers in Connecticut who don’t have an unlimited plan. Thousands of residents could find themselves facing up to $1,200 a year in additional charges. The cap will be 1.2 terabytes of data per billing cycle, with $10 penalties for every extra 50 gigabytes used up to a maximum of $100. State Attorney General William Tong says it raises concern “about the impact these new caps could have on consumers working and studying from home during this pandemic.” 

According to Comcast officials, the cap is the equivalent of 21,600 hours of nonstop music, 500 hours of HD TV, 34,000 hours of gaming and video conferencing for 3,500 hours. That’s more than enough for one or two people, but for a family of five with two adults working from home and three children doing online learning? It could add up quickly. 

A Comcast spokesperson says customers may upgrade their data plans to unlimited for $25 per month. — MW

Election breakdown

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79.7% — That was Connecticut’s record voter turnout on Election Day, according to data released by state election officials.

1,861,086 people out of 2,334,979 registered voters cast their ballots in 2020.

The previous high-water mark for Connecticut turnout in a presidential election was 78.7% in 2004.

Joe Biden won the state, receiving 59% or 1,080,680 votes. Donald Trump received 39% or 715,291 votes

In a first due to the pandemic, all state residents could vote by absentee ballot, resulting in 659,370 such ballots — 35.4% of the total — being counted. — AY

A decade of defection

New statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that once again in 2019, just as in the previous nine years, more residents fled the state than new residents entered. It’s quite possible the trend finally hits a dead end when the numbers for a pandemic-affected 2020 come out; New Yorkers left the city for the suburbs en masse when COVID struck.

 
YearIncomingOutgoingNet loss
201990,044105,24315,199
201884,718114,23529,517
201783,32598,97115,646
201675,586112,91437,328
201576,997103,34326,346
201482,74695,50112,755
201388,35191,6003,249
201280,31187,0236,712
201171,50291,29519,783
201077,33389,36012,027
Totals810,913989,485178,572

 

The three states that see the most people moving both to and from Connecticut are New York, Florida and Massachusetts. More New Yorkers move to Connecticut each year than the other way around: Around 24,000 move here annually, compared to around 15,000 who move from here to the Empire State. But Massachusetts gets about 20% more residents annually from us than we do from them; and in the last 10 years twice as many Nutmeggers have moved to Florida (126,454) than have come from there (62,178).  — MW 

Family tree

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A family tours the landscape that Better Place Forests purchased in Falls Village for its memorials.

When people die, we often say they’ve gone to a better place. In Falls Village, that statement will soon take on a literal meaning. Resident Susan Kelsey recently sold 130 acres to Better Place Forests, a California-based company that provides trees instead of headstones to serve as a final resting place. It’s environmentally driven — ashes are spread in a protected conservation area — but also market driven. The company’s founder says 80 percent of baby boomers will go the cremation route, and the total cost is less than a traditional burial.

The site is called Better Place Forests Litchfield Hills and will be open for tours online and in person this year. People are already joining the Founders Circle with $95 refundable deposits, which allows them to pick a priority tree at a discount. Falls Village is the fifth location for the company, which already has two forests in California and one each in Arizona and Minnesota. — MW

Waste watchers

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In November, the Yale COVID-19 Wastewater Tracker went live, giving the public a more efficient way of noting COVID-19 trends in certain Connecticut communities. The site features results from research that measures daily concentrations of coronavirus RNA at wastewater treatment facilities in Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, New London and Norwich, and surrounding areas. Researchers have been testing samples in New Haven since March and other locations since August and are able to spot infection trends about five days earlier than those that emerge through testing. “Our intention is certainly for public health directors and people at the state to look at it, but we also want teachers, principals, church leaders and parents looking at it,” Yale professor and project leader Jordan Peccia said in a release.

Peccia added that wastewater monitoring is independent of the amount of tests given. “You can look at the case data and see an increase, and some people might say, ‘Well, maybe they’re just testing more people.’ But wastewater doesn’t care if you’re testing or not.” — EO

Feeding a need

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UConn coach Geno Auriemma at Rentschler Field, distributing food with his restaurant staff and Foodshare.

Foodshare, the regional food bank serving Hartford and Tolland counties, began distributing food to the needy at Rentschler Field in East Hartford in April. They haven’t stopped since. As of early December, Foodshare has distributed 70 million pounds of food at that site alone to over 200,000 cars, according to the charity. Foodshare reports that 75 percent of people receiving food aid say it’s the first time they have needed assistance. With the pandemic continuing this winter, that need won’t be going away anytime soon. — AY

This article appears in the January 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.

Erik Ofgang is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.