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Rep. Stefanik will not attend Moreau forum

MOREAU — Congressional challengers hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro in this year’s election, will convene in Moreau Sunday for a candidates’ forum aimed informing voters.

“A number of candidates have thrown their hat in the ring and that is reflection of the voter enthusiasm,” said Bob Lippman, CAT 21 spokesman about the forum the grassroots group is hosting at the Moreau Community Center on Jan. 7.

Lippman said they expect a large crowd because their previous forums held in 2017 were packed, standing room only.

“There is a groundswell of people concerned. We are feeling Rep. Stefanik is not listening to us and she is getting a great deal of money from hedge funds,” Lippman said. “She is in lockstep with the Republican caucus and is not focused on helping folks in NY 21 ... We want attention on healthcare, job creation and economic development locally.”

According to Lippman, the Congresswoman has been invited to all the previous candidates’ forums, but did not attend.

“Congresswoman Stefanik will run on keeping her promise of new ideas and new generation of leadership and her strong bipartisan record of delivering real results to New York’s 21st District,” said Lenny Alcivar, Stefanik campaign spokesman in an email on Thursday, when asked about her attendance at the Jan. 7 event and about the large number of challengers. “Congresswoman Stefanik won this district by over 35 points and our campaign continues to hear overwhelming support from Republicans, Conservatives, Independents and Democrats in her district.”

Alcivar continued.

“What is clear on the crowded Democratic side is that support has not coalesced around any single candidate. These Democratic candidates will continue to struggle to build strong campaigns in order to qualify for the ballot and will run further and further to the Left of the voters in this district.”

The congresswoman did not participate in candidate forums held in 2017 in the district, including one in August at SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury, another held Oct. 3 at Canton High School in Canton, and a third on Dec. 1 at Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh.

Lippman said the forums are important and they are hoping the field will begin to narrow. “A strong contender will emerge,” he said.

One challenger, Steve Krieg, who was running as an independent, announced in December 2017, on Facebook, that he was discontinuing his run for Congress. Still, Greenwich Democrat, Sara Idleman said last week that she will formally announce her candidacy on Jan. 6.

And Idleman joins a large pool of candidates challenging Stefanik, including Democrats Tanya Boone, Granville; Don Boyajian, Cambridge; Tedra Cobb, Canton; Emily Martz, Saranac Lake; Ronald Kim, Queensbury; Patrick Nelson, Stillwater; Katie Wilson, Keene; and Republican Russell Finley, Lisbon.

According to Federal Election Commission information, Republican Steve Schnibbe has also filed the required paperwork, but he has not responded to CAT 21’s invitation to participate in the Jan. 7 forum, Lippman said.

Because there were filing deadlines to participate in the Moreau forum, Idleman will not be able to participate.

“They had to file with the FEC by Dec. 12 (2017),” Lippman said. We had already planned the event and how we were going to give each candidate a chance to speak by the time Sara declared,” Lippman said.

The Congressional Candidate Forum will be on Sunday, Jan. 7, from 2:30 to 5 p.m., at the Moreau Community Center, 144 Main St., South Glens Falls.

UPDATED: New Year's Eve blaze rips through six Granville apartments

GRANVILLE — When firefighters arrived on the scene of an apartment building blaze early Sunday morning, temperatures were 10 degrees below zero and flames were tearing through one apartment and spreading to adjacent homes in the Mettowee Valley Apartments complex.

“When we pulled up, there was heavy fire in apartment seven, out the first-floor window and across the roof,” said Granville Fire Chief Ryan Pedone at about noon at the Franklin Avenue fire scene. “We began evacuating … we had to wake people up to get out.”

According to Pedone, the fire, which was called in at 6:42 a.m., spread from apartment seven, across five others, to apartment 12. It was unclear how many people lived in the homes, but the Northeastern New York Chapter of the American Red Cross said it was assisting 11 people later Sunday.

“We originally got the call for a structure fire in apartment seven,” he said, icicles visibly dripping from his helmet. “There was extensive damage, but no one was injured, and no firefighters were injured.”

But fighting a fire in below zero temperatures is challenging and Pedone said that initially they had some problems with getting hydrants opened in the cold. And the Department of Public Works was on scene to plow a path for a second ladder truck to get to the rear of the apartment building.

Additionally, they had to pump heat on the truck pumps to keep them from freezing. “Most of our trucks have pump heaters, but you also need something like a ‘salamander’ (heater) to keep pumping heat,” Pedone said.

After seven hours on scene in freezing temperatures, firefighters’ gear was iced over and some had helmets and coats completely encased in ice and icicles. The displaced residents were trying to salvage a lamp here or a small bucket of belongings there.

The Red Cross provided financial assistance for necessities such as shelter, food and clothing to eleven adults. Four of those affected by the fire will also be eligible for veterans’ services. Volunteers also offered emotional support and comfort kits containing personal care items, agency spokeswoman Mary Alice Molgard said in a news release.

Fire companies responding to the blaze were Granville Fire and firefighters from Middle Granville, North Granville, West Pawlet, Pawlet, Salem, Hartford, Poultney, Glens Falls and Whitehall. Granville and Fair Haven EMS were also on scene.

At noon, Pedone said they would be on scene for about another hour, to make sure the fire was fully extinguished.

The fire remained under investigation later Sunday, with no cause determined. Washington County fire investigators were called to the scene.

Often at odds, Trump and GOP relish tax win, court picks

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s unpredictable, pugnacious approach to the presidency often worked against him as Republicans navigated a tumultuous but ultimately productive year in Congress.

Trump’s major accomplishments, confirmation of conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and a major tax cut, actually came with relatively little drama. But Republicans often struggled to stay on the rails, particularly with a big pratfall on health care and repeated struggles to accomplish the very basics of governing.

Several shutdown deadlines came and went, and a default on the government’s debt was averted, thanks to a momentary rapprochement with top Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer. But a promised solution to the plight of young immigrants brought to the country illegally as infants or children was delayed, while a routine reauthorization of a program providing health care to 9 million low-income kids stalled as well.

Often it seemed as if Trump were more interested in picking fights on Twitter than the nuts and bolts of legislating.

A catchall spending deal in May got relatively little attention for what it accomplished, overshadowed by Trump’s threat to shut the government down if he didn’t get a better deal the next time. But there was no next time — and about $1.2 trillion in unfinished agency budgets got punted into the new year.

Still, there was no shortage of drama this year on Capitol Hill. Trump displayed a penchant for picking fights with fellow Republicans: Arizona’s two senators John McCain and Jeff Flake; Tennessee’s Bob Corker and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Onetime Republican rivals such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came firmly into Trump’s fold — even as Corker and Flake, both facing potentially difficult primary races, announced their retirements.

Several mass shootings around the country and the near-assassination of House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana failed to dislodge legislation on background checks or so-called bump stocks, though Scalise made an emotional return to the Capitol in the fall. McCain was diagnosed with a deadly form of brain cancer — and soon after cast a decisive vote against the Senate’s health care bill.

The nation’s debate on sexual misconduct swept over the Capitol as well, forcing the resignations of Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. Several other lawmakers announced premature retirements and the somnolent Ethics Committee launched a handful of investigations, too.

Retirements, often evidence that lawmakers think a wave election may be looming, came in bunches, with more likely after lawmakers spend time with their families over the holidays. Democrats eyed the districts of GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Frank Lobiondo of New Jersey, Dave Trott of Michigan, and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania as potential pickups.

Then there was the Alabama special election to fill the seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Establishment Republicans such as McConnell swung forcefully behind appointed Sen. Luther Strange, but firebrand conservative Roy Moore still took the nomination. Then, after several women said he’d molested or dated them as teenagers more than four decades ago, Moore lost the long-held GOP seat to Democrat Doug Jones. That evoked parallels to the 2010 Senate win of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which presaged the 2010 tidal wave, that time against Democrats.

The longstanding goal of repealing “Obamacare” consumed Republicans for months. The effort squeaked through the House — after being left for dead at least once — in a process that exposed fissures in GOP ranks and whipped Democrats and their political base into a frenzy. But in the Senate, it was clear from the start that the “repeal and replace” push faced a slog, and afterward it seemed as if several moderate Republicans simply didn’t want to get to “yes.”

After the GOP’s health care debacle, failure wasn’t an option on taxes.

The effort was far more focused and organized — and it paid off. Senate GOP leaders largely passed off the measure to worker bees such as Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, while in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., remained singularly devoted to it, along with Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

While Trump’s grasp of health care legislation was spotty at best, his cheerleading helped on taxes. It also helped, as Ryan said in an interview, that Republicans “are more or less wired the same” on taxes.

“Our DNA is similarly structured as Republicans,” he said. “We were more or less agreed on how to do it. We did not necessarily have that on health care.”

Still, taxes consumed most of the fall, and during the debate GOP leaders were reluctant to take any chances by angering Republicans on other topics such as the immigration and the budget. That meant talks with Democrats faltered — and left a huge pile of unfinished business until next year, including disaster aid, immigration, and budget increases for the Pentagon.

“We have big things that have to be done,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., a top leadership strategist and enforcer. With the tax overhaul done, he said, “the calendar opens up and we can actually start moving forward on a bunch of these different items.”

Fireworks, crystal ball help usher in 2018 around the world

From spectacular fireworks in Hong Kong and Australia to a huge LED lightshow at the world's tallest building in Dubai, a look at how revelers around the world are ringing in 2018:


The Golden State went green when the calendar turned to 2018.

Starting at midnight, California joined the growing list of states to legalize recreational marijuana. The moment is significant but will not be met with a non-stop pot party.

California has allowed medical marijuana for two decades, and the state is generally tolerant of the drug, so major changes are not expected as the laws are further eased. At least not on New Year's Day.

More than 90 outlets received licenses to sell in time for Jan. 1. None of those outlets is holding a midnight opening, but some in San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area will be open for business starting at 6 a.m. Monday.

Some cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, will have to wait at least until later in the week before licensed outlets start selling there.

Still, some Californians ushered in the new year with marijuana.

Johnny Hernandez was celebrating legalization — which he described as "something we've all been waiting for" — by smoking "Happy New Year blunts" with his cousins in Modesto.



Las Vegas police officers surrounded hundreds of thousands of tourists gathered to welcome the new year on the Strip, where just three months earlier 58 people died in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Police cruisers, dump trucks and other large vehicles blocked key intersections to try to prevent anyone from plowing into crowds filled with people wearing glittery hats, tiaras and other 2018-themed paraphernalia.

The Nevada National Guard activated about 350 soldiers and airmen, while federal authorities also deployed additional personnel.

A roughly eight-minute fireworks display at the top of seven of the city's world-famous casino-hotels started ten seconds before midnight Monday. Sprays of gold, red and green lightened the sky on time for 2018.

Tourism officials expected 330,000 people to come to Sin City for the festivities on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown's Fremont Street.

Rosy-cheeked visitors took selfies and livestreamed the celebration amid temperatures in the mid-40s (4 Celsius), much warmer than most of the U.S.



With a burst of confetti and fireworks, throngs of revelers ushered in 2018 in a frigid Times Square as the glittering crystal ball dropped.

It was the second-coldest on record, with the temperature only 10 degrees (minus 12 degrees Celsius) in New York at midnight.

Partygoers bundled up in extra layers, wearing warm hats and face masks, dancing and jogging in place to ward off the cold.

There was also tighter security than ever after two terrorist attacks and a rampaging SUV driver who plowed into a crowd on the very spot where the party takes place. The party went off with no major problems.

"Auld Lang Syne" and "New York, New York" played as the crowds cheered.

The coldest ball drop celebration was in 1917, when it was only 1 degree (minus 17 Celsius).



Rio de Janeiro's main party was celebrated with fireworks erupting on Copacabana beach after the clock struck midnight to usher in the new year.

After 17 minutes of a multicolored show in the skies, singer Anitta led the party on stage with her single "Vai Malandra," a song that scored 84 million views on YouTube in two weeks. Some of the city's most traditional Carnival samba schools performed later.

New Mayor Marcelo Crivella said he believed the celebrations would bring 3 million people to the iconic beach, which would mean nearly half of Rio's population. But locals said Brazil's economic crisis is still impacting one of the city's biggest parties. In 2017, 2 million people showed up at Copacabana beach, a number that hasn't changed much over the years.

Almost 2,000 policemen patrolled the Copacabana region after yet another violent year on the streets. Rio's hotel association said occupation is nearly total, but mostly by Brazilian tourists.



Germans rang in 2018 under tight security from police mindful of widespread sexual abuse of women in Cologne two years ago and of a terrorist attack on a Christmas market about a year ago.

Police in Berlin added 1,600 officers on duty and said that large bags and knapsacks would not be allowed on the Party Mile leading from Brandenburg Gate, where thousands of people celebrated at midnight. Police in Frankfurt imposed similar restrictions in the celebration area along the Main River in the country's financial capital.

Two people died from fireworks injuries, but the country avoided a repeat of the mass groping in Cologne from 2016.

Two years ago, New Year's in Cologne was marred by groping and theft committed against hundreds of women, in most cases by migrants. On Dec. 19, 2016, Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri drove a stolen truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people.



Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, has again served as the focal point of New Year's Eve celebrations — though this year authorities decided against fireworks and chose a massive LED lightshow on it.

That was in part due to safety in the city-state in the United Arab Emirates, which saw a massive skyscraper fire on New Year's Eve in 2015.

The display, running down the east side of the 828-meter-tall (2,716-foot-tall) tower, showed Arabic calligraphy, geometric designs and a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE's first president.

But a display of neighboring nations' flags didn't show Qatar's flag. The UAE joined Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in boycotting the tiny energy-rich nation in June over allegations Doha supports extremists and has too close ties to Iran. Qatar, which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, denies supporting extremists and shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran.



Bidding 2017 farewell, Pope Francis has decried wars, injustices and environmental decay which he says have "ruined" the year.

Francis on Sunday presided at a New Year's Eve prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica, a traditional occasion to say thanks in each year's last hours.

He says God gave to us a 2017 "whole and sound," but that "we humans in many ways ruined and hurt it with works of death, lies and injustices."

But, he added, "gratitude prevails" thanks to those "cooperating silently for the common good."

In keeping with past practice, the pope on New Year's Day will celebrate Mass dedicated to the theme of world peace.



Fireworks lit up the sky above Sydney Harbor, highlighting the city's New Year's celebrations.

The massive fireworks display included a rainbow waterfall cascade of lights and color flowing off the harbor's bridge to celebrate recently passed legislation legalizing gay marriage in Australia.

More than 1 million people were expected to gather to watch the festivities. Security was tight, but officials said there was no particular alert.

Sydney officials said the event would generate about $170 million for the city and "priceless publicity." Nearly half the revelers were tourists.



Tens of thousands of New Zealanders took to streets and beaches, becoming among the first in the world to usher in 2018.

As the new year dawned in this southern hemisphere nation, fireworks boomed and crackled above city centers and harbors, and party-goers sang, hugged, danced and kissed.

In Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, tens of thousands gathered around Sky Tower as five minutes of nonstop pyrotechnics exploded from the top of the structure.

But on nearby Waiheke Island, 30 kilometers (20 miles) away, authorities canceled the planned fireworks display because of drought conditions and low water supplies for firefighters.



Thousands of Ugandans gathered at churches across the country to mark the end of 2017.

The raucous events, during which some preachers are known to make dubious predictions, have become such a staple of New Year's Eve festivities that the country's longtime president, Yoweri Museveni, sometimes makes time to make an appearance at a church.

Still, many in this East African country prefer to celebrate at crowded beaches on the shores of Lake Victoria or in darkened halls listening to the music of pop stars who take turns offering crowd pleasers until midnight.

Police warned revelers not to burn car tires in celebration, citing safety reasons, to discourage a favorite activity of those, especially in the countryside, who cannot afford fireworks.



As Russians counted down the last moments before 2018 ticked over into each of the country's 11 time zones, President Vladimir Putin called on them to be considerate and conciliatory with each other in the new year.

"Say the most cherished words to each other, forgive mistakes and resentment, admit love, warm up with care and attention," Putin said in a televised message broadcast on Sunday just before midnight.

Moscow had fireworks and outdoor gatherings despite weather that was less than festive. Usually festooned with snow at New Year's Eve, the Russian capital slogged through a long spell of intermittent rain and constant gray skies.



Many Japanese celebrated the arrival of the Year of the Dog in the traditional way of praying for peace and good fortune at neighborhood Shinto shrines and eating New Year's food such as noodles, shrimp and sweet black beans.

Barbecued beef and octopus dumpling stalls were out at Tokyo's Zojoji Temple, where people took turns striking the giant bell 108 times at midnight, an annual practice repeated at other Buddhist temples throughout Japan.

North Korea's nuclear and missile programs cast a shadow over Japan's hopes for peace, said cab driver Masaru Eguchi, who was ready to be busy all night shuttling shrine visitors.

"The world situation has grown so complex," Eguchi said, adding that he also worried about possible terrorism targeting Japan. "I feel this very abstracted sense of uncertainty, although I really have no idea what might happen."



Security was tight in the southern Indian city of Bangalore to prevent a repeat of incidents of groping and molestation of several women during New Year's Eve celebrations a year ago.

Police Commissioner Sunil Kumar said at least 15,000 police officers were on duty and were being aided by drones and closed-circuit television cameras.

A year ago, police first denied that any sexual harassment had taken place during the celebrations in Bangalore, India's information technology hub. But later, police detained at least six men after several video clips of women being attacked by groups of men spread on social media.



Scores of people were injured by celebratory firecrackers in the Philippines, which has some of the most raucous New Year's celebrations in Asia.

Although the number of injuries has tapered off in recent years, largely due to hard economic times and government scare campaigns, the figures remain alarming. President Rodrigo Duterte signed an order confining the use of firecrackers to community-designated areas, such as near shopping malls and parks.

Many Filipinos, largely influenced by Chinese tradition, believe that noisy New Year's celebrations drive away evil and misfortune. But they have carried that superstition to extremes, exploding dangerously large firecrackers and firing guns to welcome the new year despite threats of arrest.



Security measures were ramped up across Turkey, which a year ago was hit by a New Year's attack that killed dozens of people.

In Istanbul, 37,000 officers were on duty, with multiple streets closed to traffic and large vehicles barred from entering certain districts. Several New Year's Eve street parties were canceled for security reasons.

Early on Jan. 1, 2017, an assailant shot his way into Istanbul's Reina nightclub, where hundreds of people were celebrating New Year's. Thirty-nine people, mostly foreigners, were killed, and 79 were wounded. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

On Sunday, about 100 people gathered outside the nightclub to remember the victims of the attack.



Tens of thousands of revelers will ring in the new year in Las Vegas under the close eye of law enforcement just three months after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Tourism officials expect about 330,000 people to visit Las Vegas for the festivities, which are anchored by a roughly eight-minute fireworks display at the top of seven casino-hotels.

Acts including Bruno Mars, Britney Spears, Celine Dion and the Foo Fighters will keep partiers entertained before and after midnight at properties across Sin City.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had every officer working Sunday, while the Nevada National Guard activated about 350 soldiers and airmen.

The federal government sent dozens of personnel to assist with intelligence and other efforts.