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Don Lehman, dlehman@poststar.com 

A barn at Nettle Meadow Farm in Thurman, where the owners are planning to expand their cheese and butter production and sales, is seen.


Washington
Trump calls for end of resistance politics in State of Union

WASHINGTON — Face to face with emboldened Democrats, President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on Washington to cast aside "revenge, resistance and retribution" and end "ridiculous partisan investigations" in a State of the Union address delivered at a vulnerable moment for his presidency.

Trump appealed for bipartisanship but refused to yield on the hard-line immigration policies that have infuriated Democrats and forced the recent government shutdown. He renewed his call for a border wall and cast illegal immigration as a threat to Americans' safety and economic security.

Trump accepted no blame for his role in cultivating the rancorous atmosphere in the nation's capital, and he didn't outline a clear path for collaborating with Democrats who are eager to block his agenda. Their opposition was on vivid display as Democratic congresswomen in the audience formed a sea of white in a nod to early 20th-century suffragettes.

Trump is staring down a two-year stretch that will determine whether he is re-elected or leaves office in defeat. His speech sought to shore up Republican support that had eroded slightly during the recent government shutdown and previewed a fresh defense against Democrats as they ready a round of investigations into every aspect of his administration.

"If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation," he declared. Lawmakers in the cavernous House chamber sat largely silent.

Looming over the president's address was a fast-approaching Feb. 15 deadline to fund the government and avoid another shutdown. Democrats have refused to acquiesce to his demands for a border wall, and Republicans are increasingly unwilling to shut down the government to help him fulfill his signature campaign pledge. Nor does the GOP support the president's plan to declare a national emergency if Congress won't fund the wall.

Wary of publicly highlighting those intraparty divisions, Trump made no mention of an emergency declaration in his remarks. He did offer a lengthy defense of his call for a border wall, declaring: "I will build it." But he delivered no ultimatums about what it would take for him to sign legislation to keep the government open.

"I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country," he said, painting a dark and foreboding picture of the risks posed to Americans by illegal immigration.

The 72-year-old Trump harkened back to moments of American greatness, celebrating the moon landing as astronaut Buzz Aldrin looked on from the audience and heralding the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. 

"Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history. What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?" Trump said.

The president ticked through a litany of issues with crossover appeal, including boosting infrastructure, lowering prescription drug costs and combating childhood cancer. But he also appealed to his political base, both with his harsh rhetoric on immigration and a call for Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the "late-term abortion of children."

Trump devoted much of his speech to foreign policy, another area where Republicans have increasingly distanced themselves from the White House. He announced details of a second meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, outlining a Feb. 27-28 summit in Vietnam.

As he condemned political turmoil in Venezuela, Trump declared that "America will never be a socialist country" — a remark that may also have been targeted at high-profile Democrats who identify as socialists.  

The president was surrounded by symbols of his emboldened political opposition. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was praised by Democrats for her hard-line negotiating during the shutdown, sat behind Trump as he spoke. 

Stacey Abrams delivered the Democratic response to Trump. Abrams narrowly lost her bid in November to become America's first black female governor, and party leaders are aggressively recruiting her to run for U.S. Senate from Georgia.

Speaking from Atlanta, Abrams calls the shutdown a political stunt that "defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values."

Trump's address amounted to an opening argument for his re-election campaign. Polls show he has work to do, with his approval rating falling to just 34 percent after the shutdown, according to a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

One bright spot for the president has been the economy, which has added jobs for 100 straight months.

"The only thing that can stop it," he said, "are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations" — an apparent swipe at the special counsel investigation into ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign, as well as the upcoming congressional investigations.

The diverse Democratic caucus, which includes a bevy of women, sat silently for much of Trump's speech. But they leapt to their feet when he noted there are "more women in the workforce than ever before."

The increase is due to population growth — and not something Trump can credit to any of his policies.


Local
Concerned over air quality, citizens press expert for answers

GLENS FALLS — An air quality expert and consultant encouraged concerned local residents to form a coalition Friday at a public meeting held at The Queensbury Hotel.

Timothy McAuely, who runs an environmental consulting firm out of Queensbury, held a free talk about air pollution that took many twists and turns throughout the evening.

While the talk focused on the complexity of assessing a community’s air quality, several members of the public came, concerned about the large industries in the Glens Falls area and what they’re emitting.

McAuely works with a variety of local, national and international organizations as a consultant to clients ranging from industrial companies with stacks billowing flue gas into the air, to nonprofits, to concerned communities looking for help with an air quality assessment.

His message Friday night had some audience members scratching their heads, however, as he continued to hammer the point that industrial plants are not the only polluters. He pointed to traffic emissions, local businesses, road salt dust and even indoor air pollutants such as cleaning products and personal hygiene products as contributors to an air pollution assessment.

“It’s a very dynamic function,” McAuely said of assessing an airshed. “It’s not static.”

Audience comments started to pick up after McAuely talked about standing on a bridge in Glens Falls, looking out at Finch Paper, Lehigh Cement Company and the Hudson Falls Wheelabrator trash plant. He described a feeling of uncertainty over whether the pollution coming from those plants was actually hitting anyone standing on that bridge.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Tracy Frisch of Argyle.

“It does matter,” McAuely said.

“It’s hitting someone,” Frisch said. “It’s hitting the earth. It’s hitting animals. It really doesn’t matter.”

McAuely asked Frisch to tell him where the pollution was hitting. Another audience member asked why she should tell him, and Frisch said the pollution is still being emitted into our environment.

“OK, but so is a lot of other things,” McAuley continued. “You can’t just blame the industries.”

McAuely offered Frisch his card and suggested she hire him to do an air quality assessment.

After more exchanges, an audience member asked, “Why are we doing this tonight?”

McAuely said there had been a lot of discussion about air quality concerns, and he was putting out a free, public service as a company that does air monitoring on a much larger scale.

Claudia Braymer, a Warren County supervisor representing Ward 3 and an environmental attorney, thanked McAuely for the information and asked for more about how to pay for such an assessment.

McAuely recommended applying to community smart grants through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or applying to state funding opportunities. He also recommended writing the Attorney General’s Office and filing a formal complaint “that there are concerns over air quality and they can investigate.”

He said the companies in the area are not asking to hire him to complete an airshed study of all of Glens Falls, and that the companies are responsible for their own emissions.

Audience members asked who was paying for the talk, and McAuely said he was paying for it himself.

Braymer said she’d like to see better air permit standards.

“No one is saying they’re (the companies) doing anything illegal, but shouldn’t we know what the cumulative impacts are of all the industry, traffic, indoor air?” Braymer said.

McAuely said a group of about 350 residents from Pennsylvania had hired him after they discovered a large asphalt plant was going to be built nearby. After conducting an air quality study, his analysis showed the plant would cause a negative impact, and it was not approved.

“You guys, as concerned residents and community members, you’re right,” McAuley said. “Come together. Form a coalition, and do what you need to do and write up a whole plan on what you want to see. Submit it. Meet with the owners of the businesses. Sit down with the companies. Express your concerns, and work with them. ... Ten people in different homes talking isn’t going to solve any problems.”


Washington
FACT CHECK
Checking Trump's claims from address

WASHINGTON — The Associated Press is fact-checking remarks from President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. Here’s a look at some of the claims that were examined:

Trade

TRUMP: “Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — or USMCA — will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers: bringing back our manufacturing jobs, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with the four beautiful words: MADE IN THE USA.”

THE FACTS: It’s unlikely to do all those things, since the new agreement largely preserves the structure and substance of NAFTA.

In one new feature, the deal requires that 40 percent of cars’ contents eventually be made in countries that pay autoworkers at least $16 an hour — that is, in the United States, or Canada, but not in Mexico. It also requires Mexico to pursue an overhaul of labor law to encourage independent unions that will bargain for higher wages and better working conditions for Mexicans.

Still, just before the agreement was signed, General Motors announced that it would lay off 14,000 workers and close five plants in the United States and Canada.

Drug pricing

TRUMP: “Already, as a result of my administration’s efforts, in 2018 drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years.”

THE FACTS: Trump is selectively citing statistics to exaggerate what seems to be a slowdown in prices. A broader look at the data shows that drug prices are still rising, but more moderately. Some independent experts say criticism from Trump and congressional Democrats may be causing pharmaceutical companies to show restraint.

The Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs shows a 0.6 percent reduction in prices in December 2018 when compared with December 2017, the biggest drop in nearly 50 years. The government index tracks a set of medications including brand drugs and generics.

Wages

TRUMP: “Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades, and growing for blue collar workers, who I promised to fight for, they’re growing faster than anyone else thought possible.”

THE FACTS: This is an unsupported statement because the data on hourly wages for private workers only go back to 2006, not decades. But data on wages for production workers date back to 1939 — and Trump’s claim appears to be unfounded.

Average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers are up 3.4 percent over the past year, according to the Labor Department. Those wage gains were higher as recently as early 2009. And they were averaging roughly 4 percent before the start of the Great Recession in late 2007.

Minority unemployment

TRUMP: “African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.”

THE FACTS: What he’s not saying is that the unemployment rates for all three groups have gone up since reaching record low levels. Black unemployment reached a record low, 5.9 percent in May, but rose to 6.8 percent in January.

Latino unemployment fell to 4.4 percent, its lowest ever, last October, and Asian unemployment fell to a record low of 2.2 percent in May. But Latino and Asian unemployment also have increased, in part because of the government shutdown, which elevated unemployment last month. The African-American rate is still nearly double the jobless rate for whites, at 3.5 percent.

Human trafficking

TRUMP: “Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.”

THE FACTS: His administration has not supplied evidence that women and girls are smuggled by the “thousands” across remote areas of the border for these purposes. What has been established is nearly 80 percent of international trafficking victims cross through legal ports of entry, a flow that would not be stopped by a border wall.

Trump distorts how often trafficking victims come from the southern border, according the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, a global hub for trafficking statistics with data contributed by organizations from around the world.

Most of the labor trafficking victims were foreign, and most of the sex trafficking victims were U.S. citizens. Of foreign nationals, Mexico had the most frequently trafficked.

Economy

TRUMP: “In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before. There’s been nothing like it. ... An economic miracle is taking place in the United States.”

THE FACTS: The president is vastly exaggerating what has been a mild improvement in growth and hiring. The economy is healthy but not nearly one of the best in U.S. history.

The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.8 percent last spring and summer, a solid pace. But it was just the fastest in four years. In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, a level it has not yet reached under Trump. And growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.

Almost all independent economists expect slower growth this year as the effect of the Trump administration’s tax cuts fade, trade tensions and slower global growth hold back exports, and higher interest rates make it more expensive to borrow to buy cars and homes.

Women in workforce

TRUMP, in prepared excerpts: “All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.”

THE FACTS: Of course, there are more women working than ever before. But that’s due to population growth — and not something that Trump can credit to any his policies. The big question is whether a greater percentage of women is working or searching for a job than at any point in history. And on this count, women have enjoyed better times.


Local
Prosecutors weigh more charges in camp counselor case

Stolz

QUEENSBURY — A jury was seated Tuesday to hear the child sexual abuse case against a former local camp counselor, but the court action that occurred outside the jury’s presence may have a big impact on the defendant’s future legal troubles.

Warren County prosecutors revealed in court that one of the children who Dylan T. Stolz has been accused of molesting disclosed in recent days that Stolz sexually abused him five more times than he initially revealed to State Police.

Camp counselor sex abuse trial begins

QUEENSBURY — Testimony could begin late Tuesday in the case of the former children’s camp counselor who is accused of sexually abusing nine boys at the camp where he worked for more than three decades.

Warren County Assistant District Attorney Ben Smith advised acting county Judge Kelly McKeighan of the disclosure, as he sought a ruling on whether testimony about the uncharged incidents would be admissible when the child testifies at the ongoing trial. State law allows evidence of “uncharged crimes” to be admitted under some circumstances.

Defense lawyer James Knox objected, telling McKeighan the information would be “manifestly unfair” to the defendant at this stage of the case, and McKeighan agreed that the child can testify only about the incidents for which Stolz was indicted. That ruling, though, does not preclude prosecutors from seeking additional charges against Stolz, depending on how the trial goes.

Opening statements are scheduled Wednesday morning in the case of Stolz, 51, of Little Neck, Long Island, who was arrested last summer after children who spent their summers at Brant Lake Camp alleged he fondled them.

He faces 27 charges that he had sexual contact with nine campers as young as 8 years old at the exclusive summer camp in the town of Horicon.

He had worked at the camp for 33 years, supervising counselors for much of the time, until the first child came forward. At least nine others came forward in the weeks that followed with similar allegations of fondling that occurred in Stolz’s room, a shower or bunkrooms.

Fourteen of the charges are felonies, including counts of first-degree sexual abuse and course of sexual conduct. Thirteen misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child were filed as well.

Stolz had been indicted for allegedly molesting a 10th boy, but two charges for those allegations were dismissed last month on technical grounds.

Stolz was fired last June, after the allegations were raised. He also has worked as an elementary school teacher on Long Island and was placed on administrative leave from that job after his arrest.

Lawyers in the case spent nearly two days picking the six-man, six-woman jury, asking prospective panelists how they would view child witnesses, and the defense asking if the jurors would want to hear Stolz testify to find him not guilty.

State law does not allow jurors to take into account whether a defendant testifies at trial, as part of the right to remain silent.

Testimony is scheduled to begin Wednesday after opening statements. The trial is expected to take about two weeks.

Stolz faces up to 7 years in prison for each felony, but under state law, the sentences would be capped at 20 years.


Stolz