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Spectrum cable box requirement brings out the crowds

The line at the Spectrum cable office in Glens Falls was well into the parking lot on Friday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, it stretched out the door onto the sidewalk.

The office has regularly had long lines of people in recent weeks as customers try to find out what to do now that the company is discontinuing analog cable TV signals and encrypting its digital cable television signals.

While the company has said boxes are needed to receive channels going forward, some have questioned whether they are really needed, or whether the box requirement is a money grab by the company.

A cable box will be needed to decrypt the signal on television sets that aren’t equipped with a built-in “cable card” or hooked up to a Spectrum-endorsed streaming media player. Even with a streaming media player, a Spectrum subscription is required to receive the company’s channels and content.

Andrew Russell, a spokesman for Spectrum’s parent company, Charter Communications, said the programming changes will take effect in the Glens Falls region on Dec. 12.

“What’s happening is we’re upgrading the entire Spectrum footprint to a two-way, interactive digital network,” he said in an email. “The key reason for moving to 100 percent digital is because it frees up capacity on our network to deliver customers faster internet speeds, more HD and On Demand content and new features, a best-in-class voice experience and pave a path for future innovation.”

He said encryption is only part of the change.

“What this means from a technical standpoint is we are removing all analog TV signals from our lineups and delivering those channels exclusively in a digital format,” Russell added. “By adding capacity to our network, it enables the things our customers tell us they want, like faster broadband speeds, more HD and new features. Encryption is literally the last step of the process and is aimed at ensuring customers receive the services they pay for in their Spectrum packages.”

Despite some online grousing among customers, there did not appear to be much backlash locally. Michael Mender, assistant to Glens Falls Mayor Jack Diamond, said the mayor’s office had not received any complaints.

A reporter who visited Spectrum’s Dix Avenue, Glens Falls office to pick up a cable box found it jammed with customers shortly after opening Tuesday morning.

Most were not enthused about the new requirement, with one man saying he had six television sets around his house and he was trying to figure out whether cable boxes or HD antennae were his best option.

While the company’s literature indicates the office opens at 9 a.m., it is opening at 8 a.m. until the end of the year to deal with the influx of customers seeking cable boxes. The reporter who waited in line spent nearly 45 minutes to get to the counter and when leaving, counted 25 people waiting their turn.

A short time later, the line stretched out the door again, with customers standing under an awning to stay out of a cold drizzle.

Those who don’t want to visit the office or wait in line can order the required equipment at or by calling 1-844-278-3408.

Brew-cycle proposal for Lake George withdrawn

LAKE GEORGE — It is the end of the line for efforts to bring a “brew-cycle” tour to Lake George.

The proprietor of the business withdrew his proposal after hearing concerns from village officials about traffic safety and liability.

Lawyer Greg Teresi and business partner Anthony Ali, who launched the Tiki Tours boat rides last summer on the lake, wanted to bring in a 16-passenger pedal vehicle for tours of bars and restaurants in the village.

Riders sit across from each other, using their feet to turn pedals connected to the main shaft, which turns the wheels. A driver at the back steers the vehicle.

Mayor Robert Blais said feedback to the proposal Teresi had presented was negative.

“I had indicated that we had received several calls from mostly residents, not business people, and they were almost totally against such an operation in the village, mostly because of safety reasons and traffic concerns,” Blais said.

Teresi said he had been optimistic after his first meeting before village board members in October, but they said at the November meeting they thought it wasn’t the right fit for Lake George.

“I was hoping that they would see that it’s adding another activity for vacationers, adding another reason to try to bring people to the village,” he said.

People have a lot of misconceptions about the business, Teresi said. It’s not a bike rolling down the street, carrying drunken people, he said.

Teresi had offered to bring the bike up for a week as a trial run.

“It wasn’t something they were willing to take a risk on,” he said.

Teresi has the vehicles in Troy, Schenectady and Hudson. He said he is focusing on New Orleans for future expansion. He said people have also spoken to him about bringing the business to Glens Falls, especially with the breweries that are in the area.

“With everything going on in Glens Falls — all the development — I think it would really do well. I want to talk to the police chief. I want to talk to the mayor. I want to talk to the business owners before we make a formal proposal,” he said.

Blais said the trustees were concerned about adding to the heavy traffic that the village experiences in the evening. The tours were going to operate from noon to 11 p.m. and Blais estimated the bicycle could be stuck in traffic for a half-hour during busy nights such as the Thursday fireworks display.

Teresi’s route would have started at the Adirondack Brew Pub then travel onto Dieskau Street, which runs parallel to Canada Street. It would have briefly crossed over Canada when heading to Ottawa Street. The tour would have stopped at Moose Tooth Grill or the Courtyard Marriot, then gone south on Ottawa Street to Backstreet BBQ & Tap Room before ending up back at the start.

Blais suggested alternate routes, such as starting away from Canada Street and outside the village.

Board members were concerned about the interaction between pedestrians and people on the bicycle. Board members and village officials such as Code Enforcement Officer Doug Frost were concerned about intoxicated passengers.

“He was mostly concerned about the safety and liability and did not feel it was conducive to the family atmosphere,” Blais said.

Courtesy photo  

Greg Teresi has withdrawn a request to operate a ‘brew-cycle” vehicle in the village of Lake George that would take people on a tour of different restaurants. Village officials were against the idea, citing traffic safety and liability concerns.

Stefanik signs letter opposing wildlife refuge oil drilling

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik publicly opposed drilling for oil and gas in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Friday after advertisements from the Wilderness Society targeted her and 12 other Republican congresspeople, asking them to vote against the Senate’s GOP tax bill including a rider for Arctic drilling.

Though Stefanik voted against the bill, it passed through the House and the Senate on the shoulders of other Republicans voting along party lines. It will go through a conference period where the two bills will be dissected and combined before it can be finally voted on.

“We are grateful to Rep. Stefanik for standing up against this backdoor scheme to sell off a national treasure,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. “For nearly 40 years there has been bipartisan support for defending the Arctic Refuge, and it is bipartisanship that can save one of our last wild and untouched places for future generations of Americans.”

Stefanik has stated that drilling in ANWR should be debated separately from the tax bill, and has made a formal request with 11 fellow Republicans to separate it from the larger legislation.

The rider was added to the bill by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski to effectively repeal the state’s National Interest Lands Conservation Act, allowing for at least 800,000 acres in the 19 million-acre Arctic refuge to be drilled for oil and gas.

A letter from a dozen Republican congresspeople, including Stefanik, expresses concern over digging in the Alaskan Arctic reserve, stating that seismic testing — the practice of sending loud blasts from airguns through the ground at 10 second intervals, 24 hours a day to locate buried oil and gas — could threaten at-risk species and the Arctic’s fragile habitat.

They suggest oil and gas companies dig in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve to the west for less controversy, lawsuits and infrastructure development.

The letter points out, “Republicans, Democrats and independents alike have stood together to protect this unparalleled landscape. For decades, Congress has voted to prohibit oil and gas development in the Refuge, with the overwhelming support of the American people.”

Stefanik spokesman Tom Flanigan repeated a refrain the congresswoman has used many times before.

“She supports an all-of-the above approach to energy production in the United States that increases American-made energy, reduces our dependency on foreign oil, protects the environment and brings down energy costs for New Yorkers,” Flanigan wrote. “Additionally, she is a strong advocate for unleashing the power of renewable energy across the United States.”


Trump forges ahead on Jerusalem-as-capital despite warnings

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital today despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests.

Trump will instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, U.S. officials said Tuesday. It remains unclear, however, when he might take that physical step, which is required by U.S. law but has been waived on national security grounds for more than two decades.

The officials said numerous logistical and security details, as well as site determination and construction, will need to be finalized first. Because of those issues, the embassy is not likely to move for at least 3 or 4 years, presuming there is no future change in U.S. policy.

To that end, the officials said Trump will sign a waiver delaying the embassy move, which is required by U.S. law every six months. He will continue to sign the waiver until preparations for the embassy move are complete.

The officials said recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will be an acknowledgement of "historical and current reality" rather than a political statement and said the city's physical and political borders will not be compromised. They noted that almost all of Israel's government agencies and parliament are in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, where the U.S. and other countries maintain embassies.

The U.S. officials spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity Tuesday because they were not authorized to publicly preview Trump's Wednesday announcement. Their comments mirrored those of officials who spoke on the issue last week.

The declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is a rhetorical volley that could have its own dangerous consequences. The United States has never endorsed the Jewish state's claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and has insisted its status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

The mere consideration of Trump changing the status quo sparked a renewed U.S. security warning on Tuesday. America's consulate in Jerusalem ordered U.S. personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.

Trump, as a presidential candidate, repeatedly promised to move the U.S. embassy. However, U.S. leaders have routinely and unceremoniously delayed such a move since President Bill Clinton signed a law in 1995 stipulating that the United States must relocate its diplomatic presence to Jerusalem unless the commander in chief issues a waiver on national security grounds.

Key national security advisers — including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — have urged caution, according to the officials, who said Trump has been receptive to some of their concerns.

The concerns are real: Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital could be viewed as America discarding its longstanding neutrality and siding with Israel at a time that the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been trying to midwife a new peace process into existence. Trump, too, has spoken of his desire for a "deal of the century" that would end Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

U.S. officials, along with an outside adviser to the administration, said they expected a broad statement from Trump about Jerusalem's status as the "capital of Israel." The president isn't planning to use the phrase "undivided capital," according to the officials. Such terminology is favored by Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and would imply Israel's sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek for their own future capital.

Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism. But it's also home to Islam's third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and forms the combustible center of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered volatile protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the Muslim world.

Within the Trump administration, officials on Tuesday fielded a flood of warnings from allied governments.

The Jerusalem declaration notwithstanding, one official said Trump would insist that issues of sovereignty and borders must be negotiated by Israel and the Palestinians. The official said Trump would call for Jordan to maintain its role as the legal guardian of Jerusalem's Muslim holy places, and reflect Israel and Palestinian wishes for a two-state peace solution.

Still, any U.S. declaration on Jerusalem's status ahead of a peace deal "would harm peace negotiation process and escalate tension in the region," Saudi Arabia's King Salman told Trump Tuesday, according to a Saudi readout of their telephone conversation. Declaring Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the king said, "would constitute a flagrant provocation to all Muslims, all over the world."

In his calls to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah II, Trump delivered what appeared to be identical messages of intent. Both leaders warned Trump that moving the embassy would threaten Mideast peace efforts and security and stability in the Middle East and the world, according to statements from their offices.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Parliament such recognition was a "red line" and that Turkey could respond by cutting diplomatic ties with Israel.