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Business
AP Explains: How NAFTA 2.0 will shake up business as usual

WASHINGTON — American dairy farmers get more access to the Canadian market. U.S. drug companies can fend off generic competition for a few more years. Automakers are under pressure to build more cars where workers earn decent wages.

The North American trade agreement hammered out late Sunday between the United States and Canada, following an earlier U.S.-Mexico deal, shakes up — but likely won’t revolutionize — the way businesses operate within the three-country trade bloc.

The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement replaces the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which tore down trade barriers between the three countries. But NAFTA encouraged factories to move to Mexico to take advantage of low-wage labor in what President Donald Trump called a job-killing “disaster” for the United States.

Sunday’s agreement is meant to bring manufacturing back to the United States. The president, never known for understatement, said the new deal would “transform North America back into a manufacturing powerhouse.”

But America had to make some concessions, too. For example, it agreed to retain a NAFTA dispute-resolution process that it wanted to jettison but Canada insisted on keeping.

Overall, financial markets were relieved the countries reached a deal. For a time, it had looked like Trump might pull out of a regional free trade pact altogether — or strike one without Canada, America’s No. 2 trading partner. At noon Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average was up more than 240 points.

Economists, trade attorneys and businesses are still parsing the agreement. But here’s an early look at what it means for different players.

Dairy farmers

Trump has raged about Canada’s tariffs on dairy imports, which can approach 300 percent. American dairy farmers have also complained about Canadian policies that priced the U.S. out of the market for some dairy powders and allowed Canada to flood world markets with its own versions.

The new agreement ends the discriminatory pricing and restricts Canadian exports of dairy powders.

It also expands U.S. access to up to 3.75 percent of the Canadian dairy market (versus 3.25 percent in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement the Obama administration negotiated but Trump nixed his first week in office). Above that level, U.S. dairy farmers will still face Canada’s punishing tariffs. And the “supply management” system Canada uses to protect its farmers is still largely in place.

Still, trade attorney Daniel Ujczo of the Dickinson Wright law firm said that “the U.S. dairy industry seems happy ... for now.”

Automakers

NAFTA remade the North American auto market. Automakers built complicated supply chains that straddled NAFTA borders. In doing so, they took advantage of each country’s strengths — cheap labor in Mexico, and skilled workers and proximity to customers in the United States and Canada.

The new agreement changes things up. For one thing, the percentage of a car’s content that must be built within the trade bloc to qualify for duty-free status rises to 75 percent from 62.5 percent. A bolder provision requires that 40 percent to 45 percent of a car’s content be built where workers earn $16 an hour. That is meant to bring production back to the United States or Canada and away from Mexico (and perhaps to put some upward pressure on Mexican wages).

The provisions could drive up car prices for consumers.

The new deal also provides some protection to Canada and Mexico if Trump goes ahead with his threat to slap 20 percent to 25 percent taxes on imported cars, trucks and auto parts. It would exclude from the proposed tariffs 2.6 million passenger vehicles from both Canada and Mexico.

Multinational companies

Like other U.S. trade agreements, NAFTA allowed multinational companies to go to private tribunals to challenge national laws they said discriminated against them and violated the terms of the trade agreement. Critics charged the process gave companies a way to get around environmental and labor laws and regulations they didn’t like, overruling democratically elected governments in the process.

U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer, who negotiated the new deal, had another complaint: The tribunals took some of the risk out of investing in unstable or corrupt countries such as Mexico. Why, Lighthizer argued, should the United States negotiate deals that encourage investment in other countries?

The new pact scales back provisions protecting foreign investment. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and a sharp critic of NAFTA, praised the new agreement for reining in what she called NAFTA’s “outrageous” tribunal system that had allowed big companies to launch “attacks on environmental and health policies.”

Drug companies

The new trade pact delivers a windfall to pharmaceutical companies that make biologics —ultra-expensive drugs produced in living cells. It gives them 10 years of protection from generic competition, up from eight the Obama administration had negotiated in the TPP.

But good news for the pharmaceutical industry could be bad news for users of the drugs and for government policymakers trying to hold down health-care costs.

“New monopoly privileges for pharmaceutical firms ... could undermine reforms needed to make medicine more affordable here and increase prices in Mexico and Canada, limiting access to lifesaving medicines,” Wallach said.

Retailers

The United States pressured Canada and Mexico to raise the dollar amount that shipments must reach before they become subject to import duties. Canada, for instance, will allow tax- and duty-free shipments worth up to 40 Canadian dollars (about $31), up from 20 Canadian dollars ($16) under NAFTA.

The change makes U.S. products more competitive in Canada because they will be subject to less tax at the border — and delivers savings to Canadians who shop online. However, trade attorney Ujczo notes, the higher threshold poses a threat to Canadian retailers.


Tatan Syuflana, Associated Press 

A man takes a photo Monday of a car that was lifted into the side of a building by a massive earthquake and tsunami at Talise beach in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. A mass burial of earthquake and tsunami victims was prepared Monday as the need for heavy equipment to dig for survivors of the disaster that struck three days ago grew desperate. Read more on PAGE A4.


Local
Officials wonder why 'Meals on Wheels' donations have dropped

QUEENSBURY — Donations from people who receive home-delivered meals have dropped steadily the last two years in Warren and Hamilton counties, and county officials are trying to figure out why.

The Warren-Hamilton Counties Office for the Aging operates the meal program in both counties, with volunteers delivering hot meals to elderly residents of both counties every weekday.

There is no fee for the service, but recipients are asked to donate what they can for meals that cost an average of $3 apiece. Most of the patrons who donate do so with cash when they receive their meals.

For reasons that aren’t clear, that revenue has been decreasing while meal numbers have not, according to Deanna Park, the agency’s director.

“We’re not sure why,” she said. “I don’t know if people are having a bad (financial) time.”

Revenue for 2018 appears to be about 10 percent down, on the heels of a decrease in 2017 as well, Park said. The revenue had averaged around $150,000 annually.

Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer and Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Brad Magowan questioned whether more oversight is needed for cash that drivers receive when bringing meals to homes, and Park said there was little that could be done but trust the drivers. The drivers are not paid and are typically retirees themselves.

“There are no real ways to control that,” she said.

Park said the office’s policies require two people at each meal site to oversee the handling of cash that drivers turn in.

The office already takes checks, and Park said she was looking into whether recipients could make credit card payments or bank account withdrawals. Glens Falls 5th Ward Supervisor Ben Driscoll suggested setting up a monthly payment plan for those who can pay.

“It will make it easier for them; they don’t have to remember it,” Park said.

The agency, which had looked to consolidate meal production earlier this year to save money, but backed off the proposal amid backlash from senior citizens, has left three meal site positions vacant in an effort to save money. One of them was a manager at The Cedars Senior Living Community in Queensbury, where meals are produced for the Glens Falls and Queensbury area.


National
Hikers break limbs, need rescue chasing 'likes'

LOS ANGELES — As Wilson Guarin watched the green helicopter roaring above, he wondered if the men being hoisted into the sky felt the risk had been worth it.

Moments earlier, Guarin and his children, Olivia, 11, and Brandon, 12, had hiked to Hermit Falls in Angeles National Forest, one of the most popular waterfalls in the Los Angeles area.

Soon after they arrived, they saw a man dislocate his shoulder when he jumped into the rock pool at the base of Hermit Falls. Less than a minute later, another man jumped and appeared to break both his legs.

Guarin, 40, of Long Beach said the cliff jumpers’ intentions were obvious: They wanted to get a video of themselves and post it to social media.

A thirst among hikers, often inexperienced and under-prepared, to gobble up “likes” and shares on Instagram and other social media sites has led to a significant increase in rescue missions by first responders.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Search and Rescue teams conducted 681 missions in 2017, the largest number in five years. It’s a 38 percent increase from the 491 rescues they did in 2013.

The team’s leaders say the single largest factor for that increase is people posting videos of extreme activities online. Then, without any thought about the difficulty, others try to re-create their own 15-second version of glory. Rescue teams in Santa Barbara and San Bernardino counties have seen similar increases.

“People will post videos of themselves jumping off of Hermit Falls or the Malibu rock pool, and they post it in the springtime when there’s a decent amount of water, but now, the water is a lot less, so what used to be a 10-foot pool is now a 5-foot pool,” said Michael Leum, who oversees the Sheriff Department’s Search and Rescue teams. “You don’t want to be a lawn dart going into that shallow pool.”

On Instagram, posts from visitors venturing to waterfalls and swimming holes in Angeles National Forest and other recreation areas show hikers morphing into models, striking seemingly the same poses in the same places. There’s the sexy pose on a rock. Sometimes it’s the contemplative one, where they gaze into the sky. The subject line is often a quote about nature, but sometimes it’s just a pun referencing “Waterfalls,” a hit by the ‘90s R&B group TLC.

Or maybe just someone bragging about how cool his friends are. A few visitors even dress up, either in suits and evening gowns for a photo shoot, or as mermaids. And then, sometimes, people just get naked — because YOLO (you only live once).

Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley, Robert Garcia remembers when Eaton Canyon and Monkey Canyon, a harder-to-reach swimming hole, were known only to locals. Today, it’s easy to find the routes online and videos on YouTube that explain just how much fun a person might have.

Garcia, the fire chief for Angeles National Forest, doesn’t discourage people from enjoying the outdoors. But he points out that many accidents are avoidable and happen either when people go off trail or ignore official warnings about an area being closed — such as the upper falls of Eaton Canyon — and go anyway.

“Beyond the safety element, there’s an element of resource damage,” Garcia said. “Trails are designed with mitigation and resource protection in mind, so user-created trails don’t have that level of planning.”

Three years ago, Daniel Sedha and his family wanted to visit Switzer Falls, a stunning 50-foot waterfall and rock pool in Angeles National Forest. But they ended up on the wrong path. Planning to end their hike at the base of the waterfall, they instead ended up trekking to the top of the falls.

The waterfall dry, Sedha walked to the ridge and decided to try to climb to a flat spot where the top of the waterfall usually cascades down. Within seconds, Sedha was sliding.

Sedha’s family heard him fall, a thud like a sack of potatoes hitting the ground, before they saw him. They thought he was dead.

Sedha broke his pelvis and tailbone. He smashed the right side of his face and still doesn’t have feeling above his eyebrow. His elbows still have scars from his attempt to stop himself from plummeting onto dry rock.

“I just remember feeling that sliding sensation, and then it was almost like a feeling of super bliss, like euphoria, that feeling of just lifting up,” said Sedha, 19, of La Mirada. “From the slope, I caught air, and that’s it. Boom! I fell 50 feet.”

Sedha is quick to admit he wasn’t prepared for his hike that day. For one, he was wearing sneakers that didn’t provide the same level of grip of hiking boots.

In the hiking world, “the 10 essentials” is a common phrase for an informal list of recommended items: a map, a compass, sunscreen, extra food, extra water, extra clothing, a flashlight or headlamp, a first aid kit, matches and a knife.

The lists vary, but officials agree that the majority of people they save don’t carry a fraction of the list. And sometimes, they hike in flip-flops.


Local
Police: Runaway girl is home, investigation continues

HUDSON FALLS — The 12-year-old girl whose decision to run away from home to New York City prompted a massive police investigation last week was home with her mother as of Monday, and police were looking into whether anyone else should face charges for her disappearance.

Malaya Johnson was found Friday afternoon in the apartment of someone she met online after a massive two-day police investigation that involved local, state and federal agencies. A Staten Island man who picked her up in Hudson Falls on Wednesday afternoon has been charged with kidnapping and endangering the welfare of a child.

Police: Hudson Falls girl found safe

Police said Friday afternoon that the 12-year-old girl who had been missing from Hudson Falls for two days was found unharmed in New York City, hours after a man who drove her there had been arrested for his alleged role in her disappearance.

While media reports from New York City on Friday indicated Malaya reached out to family members, police said that was not accurate. She did communicate with at least one friend via cellphone on Friday morning, but not any relatives, and even that contact did not reveal where she had gone, authorities said.

“She didn’t reach out to anyone and tell them where she was,” Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said. “We were able to use some technology to get a location for her.”

The Hudson Falls Middle School student had gone to the apartment of someone she met online in an unspecified part of the city.

Sheriff’s Capt. Tony LeClaire said New York Police Department officers are working to determine whether Malaya was the victim of any crime while in New York City.

“Their special victims unit is looking into that,” LeClaire said.

Malaya arranged through online social media to have George Torres, 19, of Staten Island pick her up after school in Hudson Falls on Wednesday afternoon, after having met Torres online through Facebook. Torres was charged with kidnapping, but his lawyer said Malaya told him she was 18, and that he shouldn’t be charged with kidnapping.

Children who run away from home can be prosecuted in family court and potentially be deemed a “person in need of supervision.” That could result in a probationary type of supervision.

But police said runaways aren’t typically brought to family court, unless they repeatedly flee their homes. Malaya did not have that history, officials said.

“CPS is involved, but I’m not sure what they are going to do,” LeClaire said, referring to the county Child Protective Services. “We’re just trying to do what’s best for her.”

Police said Malaya told a friend she planned to go to New York City to see “family,” but that she did not have any relatives down there.

Police said Torres picked Malaya up on Oak Street and dropped her off at the Staten Island Ferry, at her request.

He remained in Washington County Jail for lack of bail as of Monday afternoon and is due back in Kingsbury Town Court on Wednesday.


Johnson