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At Saratoga Comic Con, superheroes and villains bond

SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the Star Wars movies, Han Solo and Darth Vader would not pal around with each other.

However, this was Saratoga Comic Con, where anything is possible.

R.W. Martin and Tracey Parkhurst, both of Springfield, Vermont, were dressed up as Han Solo and Princess Leia. They ran into the father-and-daughter team of Paul and Holland Brumley, who were playing Darth Vader and Rey from the new trilogy, respectively.

“We all hooked up and said let’s walk around,” Martin said.

The group had a great time posing for pictures on Sunday on the second and final day of the event held at the Saratoga City Center.

“People say I look like Harrison Ford. I’m known as the man of a thousand faces,” Martin said, adding that he also portrays Indiana Jones.

Paul Brumley of Greenfield Center, who was dressed up like Darth Vader, said he enjoys playing “the most-well-loved villain in the galaxy, in the universe.”

Brumley enjoys coming to the convention every year.

“The smiles on the kids’ faces is what brings us back every year. We don’t get paid for this. We spend a lot of time and money to make these outfits. It’s all for the kids — and some adults,” he said.

Glens Falls resident and business owner Jon Little completed the group as Chewbacca.

“If you own a cosplay shop, you’ve got to have the ultimate costume,” he said.

The Saratoga City Center played host to a cornucopia of characters, including Supergirl, the Penguin, X-Men and even a Weird Al Yankovic impersonator, who donned a mustache and red jacket from Yankovic’s “Eat It” spoof of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video.

Dressing up seemed to be a family affair. The Logrippo family of Schodack Landing portrayed various incarnations of the Doctor from “Doctor Who.”

Domenick Logrippo, 5, said he likes the Doctor because “he time travels in space.”

His mother, Melissa Logrippo, said she likes Saratoga Comic Con because it is a more intimate setting.

“It’s better than the bigger ones like New York City because people are friendly. It’s a close community,” she said.

Moses Sistrunk of the Bronx participated on one of the panels showing proper lightsaber fighting technique. Sistrunk said it is important to remember that this is all choreography and the goal is to create the illusion that you are striking someone with the weapon without actually touching them.

Lynelle Kuhn of Schagticoke, who was dressed as Supergirl, was trying to pack a Superpunch at a boxing machine. She registered a 160, a decent score after hitting the bag.

Kuhn explained why she likes Supergirl.

“She’s just a small-town girl. She wants to do really good things. She’s really a great symbol for girls,” she said.

Her father, Walt Kuhn, elected to play a villain — the Penguin from the Batman comics and movies.

Kuhn said he was particularly fond of Burgess Meredith’s portrayal of the character in the TV series.

An interesting fact is that Meredith took the job after he quit smoking and the character is always seen with a long cigarette in his hand, according to Kuhn. The actor coughed on set, which is how the Penguin developed his distinctive cackle.

With March Madness over, Lady Bridget Cosplay was having her own tournament by asking people to cast votes for favorite characters and franchises. “Star Wars” was winning over “Star Trek” and Marvel Comics was besting D.C.

Lady Bridget Cosplay said she enjoys attending the event.

“I really like being able to geek out and nerd out with other people that have the same likes,” she said.

Comic book entrepreneur Asaad Loiseau, the chief executive officer of Loiseau Studios, said Superman and Iron Man are his favorite characters. He likes what Superman stands for (truth, justice and the American way), and as for Iron Man?

“He’s a guy that knows how to have fun,” he said.

That seemed to sum up the mood of the people at the event. Kim Remsen of Hudson Falls, who was a staff member at the event, said she likes to dress up as characters and meet new people.

“You get to play,” she said.

Photos: Saratoga Comic Con

Advocates: School gun clubs teach discipline, not violence

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Their classmates took to the streets to protest gun violence and to implore adults to restrict guns, seeming to forecast a generational shift in attitudes toward the Second Amendment. But at high school and college gun ranges around the country, these teens and young adults gather to practice shooting and talk about the positive influence firearms have had on their lives.

What do they say they learn? Discipline. Patience. Responsibility.

“I’ve never gone out onto a range and not learned something new,” said Lydia Odlin, a 21-year-old member of the Georgia Southern University rifle team.

There are an estimated 5,000 teams at high schools and universities around the country, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and their popularity hasn’t waned despite criticism after it emerged that the gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school had been a member of the JROTC rifle team. The youths who are involved, coaches and parents say there’s an enormous difference between someone bent on violence and school gun clubs that focus on safety and teach skills that make navigating life’s hardships easier.

The clubs use a variety of firearms — from air rifles that shoot pellets to 9 mm pistols that fire bullets. Its members invest hundreds of dollars in specialized stiff uniforms and shoes that provide stability and support for spending hours standing, kneeling or lying prone to fire at targets down range. Some have hopes of representing the U.S. in the Olympics. Some simply love the camaraderie and mental focus required.

On a recent weekend, close to a dozen high school and college gun team members gathered at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega to work with JP O’Connor, a coach affiliated with USA Shooting, the Olympic organization. For the first hour he only talks — not about techniques or scores, but about mental strategy.

“I want to encourage you to be self-aware and to be disciplined about what you’re doing,” he said. “If you are patient with yourself, life is a lot easier — or less difficult.”

Many of the students came with their parents. All of them say they have no qualms about putting a firearm in the hands of kids, many of whom are too young to drive a car, vote or buy alcohol.

“So many people have assumed — and I picked that word on purpose — that guns are bad,” O’Connor told The Associated Press. “Some people are, ‘I can’t believe you’re teaching kids to shoot.’ Well, I’m not teaching kids to shoot. I’m teaching kids life skills. And I’m teaching them about a topic that is very contentious ... and when we educate people about something and they’re not ignorant about it, then we’re actually safer.”

Emily Clegg from Monroe accompanied her 16-year-old daughter, Ashley, to O’Connor’s session. Clegg said that in the two years Ashley has been involved in the JROTC program, she’s seen “tremendous, positive things” happen to her, from motivation and leadership to learning to set goals.

Everyone is upset by gun violence, “but I don’t think what students are doing here will lead to that,” Clegg said.

Mike Lewis, who started the Carrollton High School team, recalled bringing his .22-caliber rifle to school in the 1980s. He might open up the trunk in the school parking lot to show it off to his classmates or one of the teachers. “Now there’s a whole knee-jerk reaction based on ignorance and misunderstanding,” he lamented.

It’s a unique sport that doesn’t attract typical jocks, he said. Rather than brawn, it’s a very brainy sport, and he’s proud that most of his team is made up of straight-A students.

Kevin Neuendorf, the director of marketing communications at USA Shooting, said views toward school gun clubs are part of the cultural divide in the country.

“There are a lot of misperceptions out there about the gun culture and all that, but for many it’s just a way of life. Most people who are shooters, respect the sport and respect the game and have a respect for the firearm they shoot and for the people around them,” he said. “I question anybody who can’t go out to a gun range and have fun. That’s the way our athletes see it and that’s the way our sport is built.

“It’s no different than playing basketball or soccer. ... For our athletes and for our club members and for our parents, that gun is no different than Serena’s tennis racket ... and through that gun and through that firearm, what comes? Unbelievable discipline, opportunity, showing them success. Not every kid can be successful at basketball or football.”

Odlin grew up in Maine, a microcosm of the country’s divisions over guns. In the northern, more rural parts of the state, hunting is more prevalent. But in the southern, more-populated part, she said, she wasn’t even allowed to wear her rifle team’s T-shirt in high school.

“Overall, it was something you just didn’t talk about. You just kind of avoided the topic of guns,” she said.

As soon as she moved to Georgia, she was greeted with more acceptance.

“You say you’re on a rifle team, there’s no negativity surrounded by it. It’s, ‘Oh cool. What do you shoot? How far do you shoot?’”

Few go on to compete at the college level. After spending time working at a range and honing her skills, Odlin made the team in her second year. What she learns on the range, she said, has helped her in untold ways.

“You can’t become a quality shooter without becoming a quality person off the range too. The amount of focus just blends right into schoolwork,” she said.

Amid trade fight, Trump says China will do the 'right thing' (copy)

WASHINGTON — Amid global fears of an escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China, President Donald Trump suggested that Beijing will ease trade barriers "because it is the right thing to do" and that the economic superpowers can settle the conflict that has rattled financial markets, consumers and businesses.

But fostering more uncertainty, the president's top economic advisers offered mixed messages Sunday as to the best approach with China, which has threatened to retaliate if Washington follows through with its proposed tariffs, even as Trump emphasized his bond with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade," Trump wrote. "China will take down its Trade Barriers because it is the right thing to do. Taxes will become Reciprocal & a deal will be made on Intellectual Property. Great future for both countries!"

But Trump did not explain why, amid a week of economic saber-rattling between the two countries that shook global markets, he felt confident a deal could be made.

The president made fixing the trade imbalance with China a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, where he frequently used incendiary language to describe how Beijing would "rape" the U.S. economically. But even as Trump cozied up to Xi and pressed China for help with derailing North Korea's nuclear ambitions, he has ratcheted up the economic pressure and threatened tariffs, a move opposed by many fellow Republicans.

The Trump administration has said it is taking action as a crackdown on China's theft of U.S. intellectual property. The U.S. bought more than $500 billion in goods from China last year and now is planning or considering penalties on some $150 billion of those imports. The U.S. sold about $130 billion in goods to China in 2017 and faces a potentially devastating hit to its market there if China responds in kind.

China has pledged to "counterattack with great strength" if Trump decides to follow through on his latest threat to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods — after an earlier announcement that targeted $50 billion. Beijing also declared that the current rhetoric made negotiations impossible, even as the White House suggested that the tariff talk was a way to spur China to the bargaining table.

The new White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said Sunday that a "coalition of the willing" — including Canada, much of Europe and Australia — was being formed to pressure China and that the U.S. would demand that the World Trade Organization, an arbiter of trade disputes, be stricter on Beijing. And he said that although the U.S. hoped to avoid taking action, Trump "was not bluffing."

"This is a problem caused by China, not a problem caused by President Trump," Kudlow said on "Fox News Sunday."

But he also downplayed the tariff threat as "part of the process,"  and suggested on CNN that the impact would be "benign" and said he was hopeful that China would enter negotiations. Kudlow, who started his job a week ago after his predecessor, Gary Cohn, quit over the tariff plan, brushed aside the possibility of economic repercussions.

"I don't think there's any trade war in sight," Kudlow told Fox.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he didn't expect the tariffs to have a "meaningful impact on the economy" even as he left the door open for disruption. He allowed that there "could be" a trade war but said he didn't anticipate one.

Another top White House economic adviser, Peter Navarro, took a tougher tack, declaring that China's behavior was "a wakeup call to Americans."

"They are in competition with us over economic prosperity and national defense," Navarro said on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''Every day of the week China comes into our homes, our business and our government agencies. ... This country is losing its strength even as China has grown its economy."

Trump's latest proposal intensified what already was shaping up to be the biggest trade battle in more than a half century.

Trump told advisers last week that he was unhappy with China's decision to tax $50 billion in American products, including soybeans and small aircraft, in response to a U.S. move to impose tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods. Rather than waiting weeks for the U.S. tariffs to be implemented, Trump backed a plan by Robert Lighthizer, his trade representative, to seek the enhanced tariffs.

The rising economic tensions pose a test to what has become Trump's frequent dual-track foreign policy strategy: to establish close personal ties with another head of state even as his administration takes a harder line. The president has long talked up his friendship with Xi, whom he has praised for consolidating power in China despite its limits on democratic reforms.

Further escalation could be in the offing. The U.S. Treasury Department is working on plans to restrict Chinese technology investments in the U.S. And there is talk that the U.S. also could put limits on visas for Chinese who want to visit or study in this country.

For Trump, the dispute runs the risk of blunting the economic benefits of his tax overhaul, which is at the center of congressional Republicans' case for voters to keep them in power in the 2018 elections. China's retaliation so far has targeted Midwest farmers, many of whom were bedrock Trump supporters.

Glens Falls school officials want police officer assigned to district

GLENS FALLS — Glens Falls school officials want a dedicated police officer assigned to the district to provide security and present programs about bullying and other issues.

Police Chief Tony Lydon told the Public Safety Committee on Wednesday that he met with Superintendent Paul Jenkins on March 28 to discuss what the district’s security needs are.

“He is asking for a lot more involvement in the day-to-day operations of the school,” Lydon said.

He added that this is different than what has been proposed in some other districts in Warren and Washington counties, which involves hiring retired officers who would work part time under the direction of the sheriff’s office.

“They want a Glens Falls uniformed police officer basically assigned to the school district on a daily basis,” Lydon said.

This officer would be primarily based at the middle and high schools, but would go to other buildings as needed to put on programs or deal with a situation, according to Lydon. He said most of the police calls are at the two buildings for the upper grades.

“We handle about 300 calls a year to the school district. That alone tells me that there is a need and that officer would be present to handle those things and we wouldn’t have to take somebody off the street,” he said.

Committee members had questions about how the program would be funded.

“They want the city to pay for this?” asked Chairman Robert Stedman.

Lydon said the cost sharing would have to be worked out.

Another question was how vacations and days off would be covered. Lydon said he used to be a school resource officer in Essex County 20 years ago and his hours followed the school schedule.

“You weren’t allowed to take vacation unless the school was off,” he said.

The Police Department is in the process of trying to convert to 12-hour shifts. However, Lydon said this position would not be affected. There would not have to be any negotiations with the union to add it.

“We have the ability to make shifts and assignments as we feel are necessary,” he said.

Stedman had written a letter to Jenkins back in 2015 detailing a proposal by then-Chief Michelle Arnold, Lydon and Detective Lt. Peter Casertino.

The proposal included hiring two current or retired law enforcement officers, who would work full time and rotate coverage of the buildings on a confidential schedule. They would be required to carry a concealed firearm and patrol the buildings and perimeters to prevent unauthorized visitors or property damage and provide overall building security. The officers would also assist in truancy investigations as directed by the school administrator, according to the document.

Stedman asked Lydon if Jenkins had mentioned this proposal.

“No, he did not,” Lydon respond.

Stedman was going to send copies of his proposal to the other committee members.

Stedman said the school security issue must be addressed.

“We need to do something,” he said.

Jenkins was out of the office Thursday because of the school vacation week and could not be reached for comment.