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Bill Toscano,  

Region Toys for Tots Assistant Coordinator Pat Lurenz joins volunteers in loading more than 13,000 toys into a tractor trailer Sunday at Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs as part of the Capital Region Toys for Tots Convoy.

Stoddard photos highlighted in new book by Chapman Historical Museum

GLENS FALLS — Chapman Historical Museum Executive Director Timothy Weidner is amazed with the quality of 19th-century photographer Seneca Ray Stoddard’s work, given he was photographing Lake George using the tools of the time period.

“When you’re photographing around water, you have to be really sensitive to the impact of the light in that setting. There’s a lot of reflected light. It’s a real challenging subject,” Weidner said. “Stoddard was working with equipment that was far less sophisticated than what people are working with now and he had mastered that technique.”

His skill in capturing the right light is reflected in the title of a book published by the museum containing 150 of his photographs: “Water & Light: S.R. Stoddard’s Lake George.”

Weidner said the idea really came to life following the museum’s strategic planning process.

“We wanted to improve the visibility of our Seneca Ray Stoddard collection,” he said.

The Stoddard collection is one of the museum’s most important assets, with about 3,000 images as well as maps and other archival material, according to Weidner. He said a book would gain Stoddard more visibility, not just locally but on a regional and national level.

The process took about a year. Weidner selected photographs that are representative of Stoddard’s work and Joseph Cutshall-King, former director of the museum, wrote the essay and accompanying copy in the book.

Weidner said he did digital scans of the original prints and worked to sharpen the images. They are very yellow, which happens with age and humidity.

“We wanted to try to recreate their original appearance,” he said.

Museum officials took out the yellow and added more contrast to the images, according to Weidner.

Weidner said museum staff members had several criteria used when selecting photographs. They wanted the entire length of Lake George and communities to be represented in the book.

The second factor was picking images that would showcase Stoddard’s abilities.

The book contains some biographical information about the photographer. Stoddard was born in Wilton and his family moved around in his youth. He began his artistic career in Troy, where he worked as a mural painter on railroad cars. He then established himself in the Glens Falls area as a sign painter and muralist. Eventually, that led to photography.

Stoddard was located in Glens Falls in the 1860s and set up his home and studio on Elm Street, according to Weidner. In the early 1870s, he started traveling through Lake George and the Adirondacks to make notes and take photographs for guidebooks.

Weidner said what makes Stoddard different from other photographers of the era is that he became a landscape photographer instead of focusing on portraiture. He also stayed tied to the Adirondacks, unlike some of the other great photographers.

“They tracked out West, where there was new vast landscapes that most people had never seen,” he said.

There is a chapter about Stoddard’s career and his artistic abilities and other endeavors, such as writing maps and guidebooks of the Adirondacks and Lake George.

The remainder of the book is organized geographically with photographs starting at the south end of the lake and working up to the north, according to Weidner.

Stoddard’s work had been forgotten about for much of the early 20th century before being rediscovered in the mid-1980s. Stoddard’s photos evoke a similar mood to that of a group of artists described as “luminists,” according to Weidner.

“A lot of Hudson River School painters were treating the atmosphere in a way that created a mood in their paintings,” he said.

In his later years, Stoddard traveled around the world and did travelogues. He took a 2,000-mile-water voyage from New York City to the Bay of Fundy in Canada in five increments, from 1883 to 1887. He photographed sites along the way.

Stoddard also took a rare nighttime picture of what was then called “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

“He had to rig a whole series of trays of flash powder on cable and then trigger them so they would, in sequence, light up the front of the Statue of Liberty, which he would photograph from a boat. It was quite an accomplishment for that period,” he said.

Stoddard was also an environmentalist who was a fervent advocate for creating the Adirondack Park and protecting it from threats from the paper industry.

Weidner said Stoddard first came to his attention when he was doing graduate work in history and found a collection of scrapbooks of the American Canoe Association. Stoddard was an early member and the organization’s official photographer.

“That collection included dozens of photographs that Stoddard had taken in 1880s of American Canoe Association meets. The first few were in Lake George,” he said.

Weidner said he was aware the Chapman museum had a large collection of Stoddard works and that was a selling point for him to apply for the executive director’s position.

“Over the almost 20 years since, it’s been an ongoing experience of discovering new things in the collection,” he said.

As other institutions have digitized their collections and posted them online, Weidner said there is more information available than ever before. For example, he found an article that Stoddard had submitted to a photography journal in which he described his process.

Stoddard’s wife and other assistants printed most of the photos using a process where the negatives were put in glass plates on photographic paper and left to sit out in the sun for a few minutes.

The book should be available in about two to three weeks, according to Weidner. Initially, the book will be sold exclusively at the Chapman Historical Museum. The softcover version will be $29.95 and the hardcover version will cost $49.95.

The museum plans to do a formal kickoff event in the coming weeks.

“What we really want people to do is look at his photography and enjoy the lake of that era,” Weidner said. “They can get a sense of how some things have remained the same and others have changed.”

Veterans are key as surge of states OK medical pot for PTSD

NEW YORK — It was a telling setting for a decision on whether post-traumatic stress disorder patients could use medical marijuana.

Against the backdrop of the nation’s largest Veterans Day parade, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this month he’d sign legislation making New York the latest in a fast-rising tide of states to OK therapeutic pot as a PTSD treatment, though it’s illegal under federal law and doesn’t boast extensive, conclusive medical research.

Twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia now include PTSD in their medical marijuana programs, a tally that has more than doubled in the last two years, according to data compiled by the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. A 29th state, Alaska, doesn’t incorporate PTSD in its medical marijuana program but allows everyone over 20 to buy pot legally.

The increase has come amid increasingly visible advocacy from veterans’ groups.

Retired Marine staff sergeant Mark DiPasquale says the drug freed him from the 17 opioids, anti-anxiety pills and other medications that were prescribed to him for migraines, post-traumatic stress and other injuries from service that included a hard helicopter landing in Iraq in 2005.

“I just felt like a zombie, and I wanted to hurt somebody,” says DiPasquale, a co-founder of the Rochester, New York-based Veterans Cannabis Collective Foundation. It aims to educate vets about the drug he pointedly calls by the scientific name cannabis.

DiPasquale pushed to extend New York’s nearly two-year-old medical marijuana program to include post-traumatic stress. He’d qualified because of other conditions but felt the drug ease his anxiety, sleeplessness and other PTSD symptoms and spur him to focus on wellness.

“Do I still have PTSD? Absolutely,” says DiPasquale, 42. But “I’m back to my old self. I love people again.”

In a sign of how much the issue has taken hold among veterans, the 2.2-million-member American Legion began pressing the federal government this summer to let Department of Veterans Affairs doctors recommend medical marijuana where it’s legal. The Legion started advocating last year for easing federal constraints on medical pot research, a departure into drug policy for the nearly century-old organization.

“People ask, ‘Aren’t you the law-and-order group?’ Why, yes, we are,” Executive Director Verna Jones said at a Legion-arranged news conference early this month at the U.S. Capitol. But “when veterans come to us and say a particular treatment is working for them, we owe it to them to listen and to do scientific research required.”

Even Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin recently said “there may be some evidence that this (medical marijuana) is beginning to be helpful,” while noting that his agency is barred from helping patients get the illegal drug. (A few prescription drugs containing a synthetic version of a key chemical in marijuana do have federal approval to treat chemotherapy-related nausea.)

Medical marijuana first became legal in 1996 in California for a wide range of conditions; New Mexico in 2009 became the first state specifically to include PTSD patients. States have signed on in growing numbers particularly since 2014.

“It’s quite a sea change,” says Michael Krawitz, a disabled Air Force veteran who now runs Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, an Elliston, Virginia-based group that’s pursued the issue in many states.

Still, there remain questions and qualms — some from veterans — about advocating for medical marijuana as a treatment for PTSD.

It was stripped out of legislation that added six other diseases and syndromes to Georgia’s law that allows certain medical cannabis oils. The chairman of the New York Senate veterans’ affairs committee voted against adding PTSD to the state’s program, suggesting the drug might just mask their symptoms.

“The sooner we allow them to live and experience the kind of emotions we do, in an abstinence-based paradigm, the sooner that they are returning home,” said Sen. Thomas Croci, a Republican, former Navy intelligence officer and current reservist who served in Afghanistan.

The American Psychiatric Association says there’s not enough evidence now to support using pot to treat PTSD. The 82,000-member Vietnam Veterans of America group agrees.

“You wouldn’t have cancer treatments that aren’t approved done to yourself or your family members,” and marijuana should be subjected to the same scrutiny, says Dr. Thomas Berger, who heads VVA’s Veterans Health Council.

A federal science advisory panel’s recent assessment of two decades’ worth of studies found limited evidence that a synthetic chemical cousin of marijuana might help relieve PTSD, but also some data suggesting pot use could worsen symptoms.

Medical marijuana advocates note it’s been tough to get evidence when testing is complicated by pot’s legal status in the U.S.

A federally approved clinical trial of marijuana as a PTSD treatment for veterans is now underway in Phoenix, and results from the current phase could be ready to submit for publication in a couple of years, says one of the researchers, Dr. Suzanne Sisley.

Master teachers bring knowledge, skills to STEM classrooms

No matter what he’s doing, Rob Livingston is constantly striving to get better at it.

When he’s out rock climbing with his father-in-law, who just happens to own RockSport, an indoor climbing gym, he’s pushing himself to go higher and harder.

In his environmental science and biology classroom at Hudson Falls High School, he is not only trying to learn everything about the subjects he teaches, but also about the best ways to teach those subjects.

So when the state unveiled its Master Teacher program for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math several years ago, he saw a new challenge.

Several weeks ago, this year’s state list of Master Teachers came out and included three new local educators — Livingston, Travis Birkholz of South Glens Falls High School and Granville Junior-Senior High’s Lisa Birchmore.

They join 16 other teachers in the region, including Colleen Hagadorn, Tammy Mandwelle, Mary Mann, Judy Moffitt and Susan Moore-Palumbo, all from South High.

“The biggest advantage is that they are a resource for their colleagues,” Hudson Falls Principal Jim Bennefield said. “They can answer a lot of questions for other teachers.”

Teachers who are chosen are strong classroom teachers with goals for further developing their breadth and depth in the three knowledge areas: knowledge of STEM content, of pedagogy and of their students’ families and communities.

Master Teachers must participate in 50 hours of professional development work in addition to their regular school responsibilities and meet regularly on evenings and weekends to participate in activities.

They receive a $15,000 yearly stipend for the work and the honor.

They also have to give back.

Master Teachers participate in leadership workshops to better contribute to departmental discussions and mentor others. They engage in peer mentoring and intensive content-oriented professional development opportunities, work closely with young teachers to foster a supportive environment for the next generation of STEM teachers and attend required regional cohort meetings, participate in and lead several professional development sessions each year.

“This is a great opportunity for personal and professional growth as well as expanding my professional network with other like-minded people,” Birkholz said. “I will be able to take what I learn as I improve my craft and bring it to the students in my classroom. This is an excellent opportunity for me to expand, grow and bring new ideas to our math department.”

It was Moffitt, who often sings the praises of the Master Teacher, who suggested Birkholz get involved. Moffitt is his partner teacher in the Math-Science-Technology course that he teaches.

To Principal Peter Mody, the number of Master Teachers in his building sets South High apart.

“It sets a culture in the building,” he said. “We can talk about the instruction itself and the way to do things, I think it really sets a tone.”

Of Birkholz, Mody said, “He has a real passion for pursuing an excellence in instruction. He’s got a wealth of knowledge about instruction and a fantastic knowledge of his subject matter.

Professional experience

Birchmore has been at Granville since 2003. She taught math for one year in Granville and then technology education for almost 12 years in Vermont before returning to Granville to teach technology courses, including digital electronics, design and drawing, principles of engineering and computer integrated manufacturing. Prior to teaching, She also worked as an engineer for 15 years in various manufacturing industries. She is the advisor of the Junior High VEX IQ Robotics team, where enjoys working with the students as they design and build robots to compete with other students across the state.

“I enjoy the hands-on learning that working in the technology education department provides,” she said in a press release announcing the award. “I think it is important for students to connect their learning with skills that they will need in the workforce and I am looking forward to collaborating with other Master Teachers and learning new ways of challenging my students with STEM learning.”

Conyers steps aside from Judiciary post amid sex allegations

WASHINGTON — Michigan Rep. John Conyers, under investigation over allegations he sexually harassed female staff members, said Sunday he will step aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while fiercely denying he acted inappropriately during his long tenure in Congress.

In a statement, the 88-year-old lawmaker made clear he would prefer to keep his leadership role on the committee, which has wide jurisdiction over U.S. law enforcement, from civil rights and impeachment of federal officials to sexual harassment protections.

But Conyers acknowledged maintaining the post would be a distraction “in light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me.”

“I have come to believe that my presence as ranking member on the committee would not serve these efforts while the Ethics Committee investigation is pending,” he said. “I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus, and my friends on both sides of the aisle in the Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives.”

Denying the allegations, Conyers, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who was first elected to the House in 1964, urged lawmakers to allow him “due process.”

“I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family,” Conyers said.

News website BuzzFeed reported last Monday that Conyers’ office paid a woman more than $27,000 under a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint in 2015 that she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances. BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately — rubbing their legs and backs — or requesting sexual favors.

Conyers says he will fully cooperate with the Ethics Committee, which said it will review the allegations of harassment and age discrimination as well as using “official resources for impermissible personal purposes.”

At least one House Democrat, Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York, has called on Conyers to step down from Congress. Two others, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., co-chairman of the largest group of congressional liberals, had said Conyers should at least step aside from his leadership role on the Judiciary committee.

In a statement Sunday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she welcomed Conyers’ decision to give up the committee leadership post.

“Zero tolerance means consequences,” Pelosi said. “Any credible accusation must be reviewed by the Ethics Committee expeditiously. We are at a watershed moment on this issue, and no matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a license for harassment. “

The California Democrat noted that the House in the coming week will vote on requiring anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all members and their staffs. She suggested that nondisclosure agreements like the one Conyers signed to settle the 2015 complaint should be made public.

The Senate already has approved a measure requiring all senators, staff and interns to be trained on preventing sexual harassment.

The flurry of activity Sunday comes as Congress prepares to return from its Thanksgiving break, amid increasing attention on the issue of sexual harassment with multiple men in entertainment, media and politics facing allegations of misconduct. On the congressional level, Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore also are the subject of accusations.

Earlier Sunday, Pelosi defended Conyers as an “icon” for women’s rights and told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he will do the “right thing.”

“This is about going forward,” she said. “We also have to address it for every person, every workplace in the country, not just in the Congress of the United States. And that’s very important. And a good deal of that would be done by the Judiciary Committee.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is the next most-senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee after Conyers, the only African-American to have held the position of chairman or ranking member on the panel.

“Even under these unfortunate circumstances, the important work of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee must move forward,” Nadler said. “I will do everything in my power to continue to press on the important issues facing our committee, including criminal justice reform, workplace equality, and holding the Trump administration accountable.”

“Ranking Member Conyers has a 50-year legacy of advancing the cause of justice, and my job moving forward is to continue that critical work,” he added.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who sponsored legislation to overhaul the system by which sexual complaints are made and settled on Capitol Hill, said Congress must show a greater commitment to addressing sexual misconduct. Last month, she shared her own story of being sexually assaulted by a high-level aide while she was a staffer.

“This is absolutely a priority that we must focus on in terms of fixing the system,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.” ‘’We say zero tolerance, but I don’t believe that we put our money where our mouths are.”