Health care talks lack ailing Kennedy

  • 0

WASHINGTON - Ted Kennedy wakes up mornings in his house on Cape Cod to a packet of news clippings put together by his wife. If there's a hearing going on in Washington, D.C., he watches on his computer.

Five hundred miles away, Congress is wrestling with historic legislation to give every American access to quality health care. It is the moment the Massachusetts Democrat has worked toward for 46 years. But instead of marshaling the crowning achievement of his political career, he is sidelined, battling brain cancer.

"He has lived for this day when America would finally extend this right to every citizen. There's no doubt if he could, he would be here in the thick of this," Kennedy's son Patrick, a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, said in a recent interview, sitting on a bench on the Capitol grounds with tears in his eyes.

But history's third longest-serving senator isn't out of the game yet. Exerting what influence he can from his sickbed, he advises his aides in Washington over the phone. He has made himself the poster child of what he calls "my life's cause," and is using his illness in a final press for universal health care.

Kennedy, 77, seems determined not to miss this. He has outlasted medical expectations since doctors diagnosed a malignant tumor in spring 2008, and is not above expending every last bit of his political capital to deliver the bill he will be most remembered for. Democratic leaders are making plans to bring him back to the Senate floor later this year in a wheelchair, a bed if necessary, to cast his vote for heath-care reform.

"I have enjoyed the best medical care money (and a good insurance policy) can buy. … Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to," Kennedy wrote in an unusually personal essay published in Newsweek last week, adding: "We're almost there."

He cited his sophisticated course of treatment - risky surgery at Duke University Medical Center to remove part of the tumor, proton-beam radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital and multiple rounds of chemotherapy - as a privilege of the rich.

"My wife, Vicki, and I have worried about many things, but not whether we could afford my care and treatment."

Kennedy's aggressive cancer is bringing a sense of urgency to a famously slow-moving Congress, with friends on both sides of the aisle mindful of passing a bill in time for him to see it signed.

The last time he came to the Capitol was April. In June, he missed passage of his own ground-breaking measure to regulate tobacco. This month, Kennedy, who heads the Senate Health committee, could not participate in the crucial drafting of his legislation.

People close to him say he has his good days and bad. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who has taken over duties as chairman, has had dinner with him twice. Former aides recalled hundreds of meals at Kennedy's home in McLean, Va., or later on in Washington's elegant Kalorama, where experts on all manner of subjects gathered for lively exchanges that began in his study, moved to the dining room and finished in the living room, sometimes with Kennedy offering coffee. "Cream or milk?"

His well-informed staff is respected on Capitol Hill and in Kennedy's absence enjoys unusually direct access to some lawmakers.

"One of the things Teddy has going for him is the remarkable caliber of staff. Arguably they may be one of the best, if not the best, staff on the Hill. The staff's professionalism and reputation and credibility also go a long way to helping fill the void," said Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader and an informal adviser to the White House on health-care issues.

But Kennedy's aides, who have fiercely defended their boss' bill, have not been in a position to broker compromises and have caused tension at times, trying to carry on in Kennedy's stead while lacking his stature.

Few senators possess the friendships that have brought Republicans to the table or the gravitas that holds the party rank and file in line.

"He's the only Democrat who really has the sway with the unions, the trial lawyers, gays and lesbians, environmentalists, feminists," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a conservative Republican who has teamed with Kennedy on health-care legislation for three decades. "We've linked arms on a lot of things for the good of the country. And I give him a lot of credit because it hasn't always been easy to link arms with me."

The tragedies Kennedy experienced in his life - his brothers' deaths, his son Ted Jr.'s partial leg amputation from bone cancer, his daughter Kara's lung cancer - shaped a commitment to universal health care that spans nearly a half-century.

Patrick Kennedy recalled traveling with his father in the 1970s to some of the poorest corners of America to highlight people without health insurance. He said his father walked the halls while hospitalized for treatment in Massachusetts and North Carolina this year, asking other cancer patients and their families how they were managing the bills. "It still breaks his heart," the younger Kennedy said.

Ted Kennedy's record on health-care reform is hardly flawless. Critics say his refusal to compromise with presidents Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter missed promising windows of opportunity. During the Ronald Reagan years, he bowed to labor unions and declined to back a plan for catastrophic health insurance, a move he later regretted.

Now an overhaul seems more possible than it has in years, and Kennedy's absence is keenly felt on both sides.

Hatch hasn't heard from his old friend in more than a month. That's a long way from the days when, in the throes of creating a government health insurance program for poor children, Kennedy enlisted his chief of staff to serenade Hatch, an amateur songwriter, with one of his most patriotic tunes.

Back then, when Kennedy displayed his liberal stubbornness, Hatch would threaten to call his big sister, Eunice. "He'd say, 'Oh, no, don't do that. We'll work it out,' " Hatch chuckled at the memory recently. Last week, a frustrated Hatch walked out of bipartisan negotiations.

Such deep, cross-party friendships - it was Hatch who urged Kennedy to quit drinking after a fatal accident on Chappaquiddick Island in Edgartown, Mass., in 1969 - are rare today among younger lawmakers more focused on conquest than compromise. And, some people say, that's what's missing as opponents struggle to find common cause on an issue of great concern to most Americans.

Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, ranking Republican on Kennedy's health committee, found himself largely left out of the process and took to calling the product the "Kennedy staff bill," refusing to believe his friend would have denied him a seat at the table.

"He wouldn't have done that," Enzi said recently. "I have always been able to sit down and have some input."

Some wondered privately if Kennedy could have headed off some of the contentious debates and staggering number of amendments his health committee's bill carried.

Patrick Kennedy said he believes his father is wielding a higher influence off the Senate playing field.

"He is a spiritual man. He prays a lot," Patrick Kennedy said. "And I think there is almost something spiritual about where he is right now. He is reminding every one of his colleagues about the fragility and the dignity of life. I feel like he's contributing in way that's perhaps more profound."

Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this story.

Crash with motorcycle yields DWI charge

SARATOGA SPRINGS u A 47-year-old Florida man will be facing felony vehicular assault and driving while intoxicated charges following a serious crash Monday night involving the man's truck and a motorcyclist.

The motorcyclist, whose name was not released because his family had not been notified of the crash, remained in critical condition late Tuesday at Albany Medical Center, according to Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy.

"The victim is going to live, thank goodness. We thought that he wasn't going to make it through the night," Murphy said. Hospital personnel were "very concerned," however, about the condition of the man's legs as a result of the crash, Murphy said.

Police said Michael Charles Clark, of 3031 Ocean Drive, Hollywood, Fla., was driving his pickup truck west on Lake Avenue shortly before 6:30 p.m. Monday when he began a left turn onto Henning Road just as the motorcyclist was heading east on Lake Avenue, causing a collision.

Police said Clark had impaired speech and smelled of alcohol Monday night, according to court documents. On Tuesday, the results of a blood-alcohol test had not yet come back from a lab, police said.

Clark was also ticketed for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and not yielding the right-of-way.

Clark is being held on $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond. He was arraigned early Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga Hospital where he was taken after complaining of chest pains, according to police.

Murphy said it appears Clark was in the area to work for a trainer at one of the stables at the racecourse, but has no ties to the area and is considered a risk to flee.

A guard was placed outside his room at Saratoga Hospital on Tuesday, Murphy said.

Clark is expected to return Aug. 4 to Saratoga Springs City Court.

Think Big

  • 0

The current state of the economy may encourage us to downgrade spending, but it doesn't mean halting your home upgrades. Look to the smallest room in the house to make the biggest imprint, and look to yourself to make the difference. Don your overalls and bust out the hammer - here's how to breakthrough a boring bathroom without sending your savings down the drain.

Think Outside the Bathroom

Alison Hall, editor at Domino magazine, suggests the biggest misconceptions about bathroom do-it-yourself projects comes from personal limitations. "People always think in bathroom mentality, but you can treat the bathroom like a living room." Space limitations allow for unlimited creativity.

"Get crazy with this small area. Hang pictures, art collages or decorative plates like you would in any other room of the house." Bold and bright colors that become overkill in a larger room light up a lavatory. Working with a number of home-design firms in California, Christina MacDonald, of DRS & Associates, says that simply choosing a sink makes a statement. "Today, there are so many designs made from innovative materials like bamboo, onyx and colored glass."

American Standard's 2008 Bathroom Habits Survey, which the Piscataway, N.J., company released in the fall of 2008, revealed that being comfortable and being able to multitask are top priorities for people when it comes to time spent in their bathrooms. Add homey décor touches or double-duty fixtures and shelving units to meet your needs.

Let there be Light

Hall warns to not be trapped by tradition. When it comes to lighting up your bathroom, "don't think you can't use something glamorous like a chandelier." Create old world style by swapping out the current light fixture and bringing in ornate illumination. No re-wiring necessary.

Floor Coverage

Love the faucet but hate the floor? Gutting the groundwork can be costly and timely. For a quick fix to cover tile or linoleum Hall suggests, "forget limiting yourself to just bathmats. To cover the bathroom floor, opt for an indoor/outdoor rug that you would typically use in a front foyer or living room." Built to absorb water and heavy foot action, a carpet of this variety offers colors, patterns and sizes that go beyond the traditional range of solid toned bathmats.

Shower Door Bore

Think of the shower stall as a wall for art. If saddled down with sliding glass doors on the shower, glam up the glass by covering with a curtain. "Hanging a beautiful shower curtain in front of sliding glass doors adds instant stall style," says Hall. No doors? Go mod by removing the uniform shower rod. An inventive friend of Hall's modeled the hospital look by installing the same cords used for patient privacy to hide peeling paint above his shower. Bring this style saving look to your bathroom by, "attaching a really beautiful, textured fabric and run from the floor to the ceiling," suggests Hall.

Fun with Fixtures

Both Hall and MacDonald agree for the quickest bathroom fix-up, look no further than your fixtures. Hit up the local hardware store to change out the existing hardware like the towel bar, toilet paper holder and cabinet knobs, suggests Hall, which means minimal effort and money for a maximum makeover. For an upgrade that appeals to the body as much as the eye, MacDonald suggests swapping out your old showerhead for a spa rain canopy. A fan of a clutter-free surface, MacDonald also recommends wall-mounted accessories like soap dishes and toothbrush holders for a cleaner, more pulled together look.

"Opt for a suite of furnishings in the same pattern for a fresh transformation." Simply switching from your sleek shower curtain holders to a decorative detailed set changes the look from mod squad to French Country without consulting an interior decorator.

Wall Flower

From eye-popping pinks to muted mochas, a fresh coat of paint creates a new look overnight. But Hall warns, "be careful when you purchase the paint. Make sure to speak with someone and explain you are painting the bathroom, as you'll need to pick a moisture-resistant brand." Use tape to guard against brush strokes on the tile, tub and medicine cabinet.

Look beyond the traditional lavatory layout for an instant home improvement. From new knobs to a fancy faucet, picking a new pigment or swapping the shower curtain, get the biggest bang for your buck by taking on the bathroom yourself.

-CTW Features

Music is for the birds

Michael Pestel is a cross between Dr. Doolittle and the Pied Piper.

The artist and musician uses music to communicate with birds.

"I happen to be biased in my belief that birds taken as a whole represent the most extraordinary sound on the planet. Birds are the most talented musicians," Pestel said.

Through his experimental work, he has interacted with birds like the flamingo and the coral-billed New Guinea ground cuckoo.

Pestel is one of several artists featured in "Zoo Logic," an exhibit opening Saturday and running through Aug. 14 at the Lake George Art Project's Courthouse Gallery. The musician's contribution to the show is a DVD presentation of his work with live birds. During an opening reception, which will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the gallery, Pestel will give a performance using his "Birdmachine," a musical device he created for the project.

Working with traditional musical instruments, his own voice and the Birdmachine (a one-man-band-like contraption), Pestel has developed his ornithological series at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and the Central Park and Bronx zoos in New York.

Although the musician, who now lives in Connecticut, does elicit responses from his feathered friends when he performs, his intention is not to mimic. Drawing from a roster of extinct species, he tries to imagine what sounds each of the birds might have made. Using his musical tools, he gives the long-gone creatures a voice.

"I kind of pretend I represent the sounds that we can't hear anymore," he said. "By doing that, I sort of remind myself that I'm not there to mimic the sounds I hear around me. I'm there to carry on the conversation with living birds. I'm as interested in the forgotten voices as the living voices."

After years of experiments, Pestel has developed a better understanding of bird behavior. He even managed to become a part of the flock at the National Aviary through regular visits.

"I got to know those birds very well. It would just take me walking in the sliding door for them to start going crazy," he said.

One bird in particular seemed interested in the project, according to the musician.

"There was a specific bird named Monster who was a coral-billed New Guinea ground cuckoo - he looked sort of like a miniature tyrannosaurus rex with feathers - who took a real interest in me," he said.

Pestel even enticed other musicians to get in on the act through performances at aviaries. The experimental music intrigued both the birds and the humans in attendance.

The work has inspired Pestel to bring his sound experiments into more traditional musical forums, which he said have been met with mixed reactions.

"When you play in an aviary context, everybody gets it. They understand that I am there improvising with the birds. The sounds I make are pretty abstract, and I'm really pushing the flute to its limits. But in that context, people instantly get it," he said.

In a concert hall, the same nature-inspired sounds often have been met with frowns and confusion.

"Many will leave before the concert is over or will just be shaking their heads. Although most people like bird sounds, they're not thinking of this as music. Whereas, to the modern musician, this has everything to do with music," he said.

The artist hopes the project will inspire people to think about the sounds of nature from a musical perspective.

"When you walk into a forest, the sounds around you are pretty abstract - birds, wind, rivers and streams rushing by - but they have this overwhelming context," he said.

In Pestel's view, both he and the birds he performs with are making music.

"I've found this to be a great way to get people to listen to sounds in ways they might not have before and really appreciate them and not struggle with them," he said.

Byron H. Paynter Sr.

  • 0

WARRENSBURG - Byron H. Paynter Sr., 60, of River Street, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, July 28, 2009, at the Glens Falls Hospital surrounded by his loving family.

Born on March 25, 1949, in Bloomington, Ind., he was the son of the late Claude and Beverly (Colglazier) Paynter.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968, where he served his country overseas in South Korea.

Following his honorable discharge, he worked as a truck driver in Alaska, taking his chances on the ice roads while transporting supplies in the remote wilderness.

He spent the remainder of his time in New York and New Jersey with his family and friends.

He is survived by his wife, Donna Paynter of Warrensburg; his brothers: Scott Paynter of Bradenton, Fla. and Randy Paynter of Indiana; his two sons: Byron Paynter of Warrensburg; Shawn Paynter and his companion, Jessica Shaldone, of Clifton Park; step-children: Kenneth Sutphin of Medford, N.J.; William Sutphin and his wife, Tammy, of Fort Ann; Michelle Eanes of Ephrata, Pa.; Leo Sutphin of Warrensburg; and Jim and Shannon Foster of Hamilton; along with several grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

At Byron's request, there are no calling hours scheduled.

Friends are invited to gather to celebrate Byron's life at 1 pm, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009, at the Lake George American Legion, 3932 State Route 9L, Lake George.

Please visit for online guest book and condolences.

Home away from home at the fair

EASTON - After a long week at the Washington County Fair on Sunday, 14-year-old Rachel Liebig seemed tired and ready to go home.

The Hartford teen had not only worked the fair all week, she'd slept there.

Liebig said she spent the week living with 50 other youths in the on-site dorms, which were built in the mid-1970s for Cornell Cooperative Extension's 4-H youth program. The dorms provide a home away from home for kids who are either working or exhibiting at the fairgrounds.

Chrys Nestle, Cornell Cooperative Extension educator, assists with the youth dorm and said it's for the kids who have to stay late and get up early to care for their animals. Liebig has been showing cows at the Washington County Fair for the past six years, and although she bunks with others her age, she said the setting is nothing like summer camp.

A heavy workload and early-morning rise are Liebig's least favorite aspects of the week, but little sleep and hard work is worth showing her cow, she said.

This year, she showed her 1-year-old cow, Camaro.

"(Camaro) won junior champion one day and reserve champion the next," she said with a smile.

Logan Sweet, 9, of Argyle, agreed that showing his animal makes the hard work and long days of living at the fair worth it.

"I got a trophy. She won grand champion," he said of his pig, the Wicked Witch.

Although Wicked Witch was a little testy this past week, Sweet said her mood had nothing to do with her name, rather she's extremely pregnant.

"It's going to have babies in three weeks," he said.

Sweet, a 4-H youth, said he stays with Tammy Duel, his 4-H leader, either on the grounds or at her house.

Sweet said he's up with the Wicked Witch by 6 a.m. everyday, cleaning her messy pen.

But kids aren't the only ones who live at the fair for the week, said fair manager Mark St. Jacques. He estimated that more than 200 people stay overnight, from carnival exhibitors, employees, volunteers and entertainers.

St. Jacques said people who work the fair live at the grounds out of convenience.

"For people who have animals here. it's easier to care for them if they are staying here. Employees and volunteers are here for long hours. The entertainers use campers because there are no hotel rooms on the week of Travers," said St. Jacques.

The fair provides camper hook-ups and open space. And as for hygiene, St. Jacques said the restrooms on the grounds are already equipped with showers.

"I have a camper, and I've been here for the past two and a half weeks," St. Jacques said.

Instead of eating fair food everyday, St. Jacques stocks the camper with groceries and prepares sandwiches and other quick meals.

He said a lot of others staying on the grounds do the same.

"It's part of the economical impact the fair has here. The managers at Hannaford tell me they have a better week at the store because of the people we have here for the fair," he said.

Some exhibitors even bring their own appliances with them to make life a little easier.

"We have our own fridge, microwave and skillet. Occasionally as a treat we'll eat fair food, but mostly we eat what we brought for the week," said Duel, the 4-H leader and part owner of Burch Farms.

Duel not only had her cows on display but she has pigs as well.

Sunday wrapped up the last day of the fair, and by Monday morning, the crowds were gone - as were the campers.

Through Saturday, the latest attendance information available, 87,500 people had flocked to the Washington County Fair for the fun, food and animals.

The six-day total falls about 11 percent short of last year's attendance for the same period.

This year, a waterlogged Saturday was the least attended of the six days with 11,526 visitors; last year,

Saturday was the most attended day of the week with 23,706.

Criminals do the time, pay for the crime

  • 0

A one-night stay? Ninety dollars. Need to see a doctor? Ten bucks. Want toilet paper? Pay for it yourself.

In the ever-widening search for extra income during desperate economic times, some elected officials are embracing a new idea: making inmates pay their debt to society not only in hard time, but also in cold, hard cash.

In New York, GOP Assemblyman James Tedisco introduced a bill that would charge wealthy criminals $90 a day for room and board at state prisons.

Dubbed the "Madoff Bill," after billion-dollar Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, the legislation is designed to ease the $1 billion annual cost of incarcerating prisoners.

"This concept says if you can afford it, or even some of it, you're going to help the beleaguered taxpayers who play by the rules," Tedisco said.

In Arizona's Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, Sheriff Joe Arpaio calls himself America's toughest sheriff and makes prisoners sleep in tents in 100-degree-plus heat.

Earlier this year, he announced that inmates would be charged $1.25 per day for meals. His decision followed months of food strikes staged by inmates who complained of being fed green bologna and moldy bread.

In Iowa's Des Moines County, where officials faced a $1.7 million budget hole this year, politicians considered charging prisoners for toilet paper - at a savings of $2,300 per year. The idea was ultimately dropped, after much derision.

A New Jersey legislator introduced a bill similar to New York's, this one based on fees charged by the Camden County Correctional Facility, which bills prisoners $5 a day for room and board and $10 per day for infirmary stays - totaling an estimated $300,000 per year.

In Virginia, Richmond's overcrowded city jail has begun charging $1 per day, hoping to earn as much as $200,000 a year. In Missouri's Taney County, home to Branson, the sheriff says charging inmates $45 per day will help pay for his new $27 million jail.

Prisons and jails took some of the biggest cuts this summer when legislators took machetes to their state budgets, trying to slash their way out of an economic morass exacerbated by dwindling tax revenues. But to civil rights advocates - and some law enforcement officials - trying to raise money by charging inmates makes no sense.

"The overwhelming number of people who end up in prison are poor," said Elizabeth Alexander, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project. "The number of times in which these measures actually result in a lot of money coming in is very small."

Alexander also says such efforts only amount to political window dressing. "They allow someone to look tough on crime instead of being effective," she said.

Collecting the fees covers a wide spectrum. In Richmond, they are deducted from a prisoner's personal account - which contains whatever money relatives send and any cash the suspect had when arrested. In Arizona, sheriff Arpaio, who makes inmates wear pink underwear to increase the humiliation factor, also taps prisoner accounts. Inmates who have no money still receive food, the sheriff says.

Other authorities slap the prisoner with a bill upon release from prison. But it's often hard to collect. In Kansas, Overland Park officials acknowledged collecting only 39 percent of fees. In Missouri's Jackson County, officials discovered they spent more money trying to collect fees than they actually received from inmates.

In some cases, it's prisoners' families who shoulder the financial burden.

"It's the spouses, children and parents who pay the fees. They are the people who contribute to prisoners' canteen accounts," said Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which successfully opposed an effort earlier this year in Georgia to bill prisoners $40 per day.

The money was to be collected by seizing cash in their jail accounts or by filing lawsuits. The proposal also would have denied parole to those who could not make payments after being freed.

"It makes no sense to release people with $25, a bus ticket and $40,000 in reimbursement fees," she said. "Saddling people with thousands of dollars in debt is contradictory to helping someone become a functioning member of society."

In recent years, as get-tough sentencing and drug penalties increased, the nation's prison population skyrocketed. Chain gangs returned to states including Arizona and Alabama. Premium cable was eliminated in federal prisons. New York killed an inmate program that paid tuition for college-degree programs.

But trying to make prisoners pay to serve time is a wasted effort, civil rights advocates say. "This is a dry well," Alexander said. "They're not going to solve this (economic) problem by going down it."

Asked if she had heard about Des Moines County's proposal to charge inmates for toilet paper, Alexander laughed.

"I did not," she replied. "That's a good metaphor for the whole effort."

New life for Madden

GLENS FALLS - The new owners of the Madden Hotel are considering several long-term redevelopment options such as providing housing for students at Adirondack Community College.

Apartments for the elderly is another possibility, although that would require installing an elevator in the South Street building, which has not been used as an actual hotel in years.

Peter Shabat, the previous owner, primarily rented rooms to transients and others with limited income.

"We've got some ideas and some plans and things that we'd like to do," Jack Perna, one of the co-owners, said during a tour of the building on Tuesday. Chad Nims is the other co-owner.

Before determining a long-term use for the building, the duo will work with an architect to draw up plans to refurbish the building's facade, Nims said.

Both men hope improving the building's exterior will help attract commercial tenants to the ground floor.

Nims and Perna said they are talking with a caterer who may be interested in using the storefront, which used to be a bakery. They're also speaking with people who are considering establishing an upscale-type bar in a second ground-floor space.

The Open Door soup kitchen will remain a third ground-floor tenant.

For the time being, the plan for the upper floors is to make minor interior renovations and continue renting rooms on a month-to-month basis, so long as tenants do not create a disturbance.

Perna said it's necessary to maintain cash flow while they develop long-range plans.

"Obviously, it's a business," he said.

Old carpets have been ripped up, and other minor renovations have been completed to make the interior more presentable.

More importantly, Perna and Nims said, is that Shabat, the former owner, evicted the tenants who had been causing disturbances.

City officials had sought to close the building based on the city's nuisance abatement law, which addresses complaints over things like loud noise, disorderly conduct, fighting and lewdness.

The city ended its legal action last week after Shabat was fined $200 and assured city officials he had dealt with disruptive tenants.

Shabat said Tuesday he did not go through a court process to evict the tenants but made it clear they could no longer live there.

"Some of them just moved by themselves, and some of them I actually paid for them to move somewhere else," he said.

There were 13 vacancies - nearly half of the 30 units - on Tuesday. Tenants who remain in the building appreciated their unruly neighbors' being told to leave, Nims said.

"They thanked us," he said. "They said, 'We finally got a good night's sleep.' "

Most of those who still live there have jobs, Perna said.

Nims and Perna are in the process of renovating space on the ground floor for an office.

They said they plan to be visible landlords, stopping by the building on a daily basis to check on things, even though they have other jobs.

Nims owns a property maintenance company and another company that rents tents, tables and chairs for outdoor parties and banquets. Perna manages the bodyshop at Whiteman Chevrolet in Glens Falls.

Glens Falls Mayor John "Jack" Dimaond said he toured the building last week with Perna and Nims and noticed that a few doors had been replaced.

Diamond said the city will continue to be diligent with its crackdown on nuisance tenants, whether they reside at the Madden Hotel or at some other apartment building in the city.

Paterson addresses mayors, Senate

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The condition of the state and the three-week political crisis disrupting the Senate took center stage Monday during the annual gathering of the New York Conference of Mayors.

"We are in very difficult times," said Gov. David Paterson, who made a brief conference appearance at the Saratoga Hilton Monday morning, where he defined the state as being in a "perilous economic condition."

"We are probably going to come out in the next couple of weeks with an economic forecast that no one is going to like," he said. "Our tax receipts may be down 35 percent this year from where they were projected. We might have just as difficult a budget to grapple with this summer as we did last summer."

Paterson called on the state Senate to quickly resolve its political differences before several key bills expire Tuesday night - putting as much as $1.9 billion in play if the Senate fails to act.

"We've had an inoperable state Senate paralyzing our state government," Paterson said.

"It doesn't mean that we're going to lose $1.9 billion on July 1, but it does set in motion the inability of local municipalities and counties to address some of their needs - and some of the money that's lost will never be returned. So it is very serious, and it occurs in 48 hours.

"There is a seamless web of issues that will be ignited if we don't seek resolution of this economic crisis compounded by government's crisis in the next two days."

The state Senate has been working through the weekend to resolve its three-week dispute over control of the body, and Paterson has called the two squabbling factions to work every day for a week since the power struggle resulted in gridlock.

No bills have been passed since the June 8 overthrow.

"The Senate cannot allow its political differences to obfuscate the need for public service at this time," Paterson said. "This is not the time for politics."

Paterson spoke for just 12 minutes Monday and cancelled a scheduled press availability afterward.

City Deputy Finance Commissioner Kate Jarosh, who attended Monday's gathering, said the brevity of Paterson's visit didn't allow enough time to address the governor personally.

"I wanted to stand up and thank him for taking our VLT money away," said Jarosh, in a sarcastic nod to Paterson's decision to eliminate nearly $4 million in revenue over the past year that the city was supposed to receive for hosting the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway facility.

The resulting shortfall has forced the city to re-open its 2009 budget and make cuts that are tentatively scheduled for a City Council vote on July 7.

City employees and their unions are planning a protest targeting some of those proposed cuts, as well as stalled contract negotiations, outside the Saratoga Springs City Center at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday during the final day of the state Conference of Mayors gathering.

During his turn at the podium, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said that, while he's hopeful about the future, there will be many challenges in the short term.

Historian, memoirist and political author Doris Kearns Goodwin also spoke at Monday's gathering.

Her presentation segued from her childhood spent penning accounts of her beloved Brooklyn Dodgers to her biographies of the presidential eras of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.

Showcasing her Lincoln biography "Team of Rivals," Goodwin likened the political adversity faced 150 years ago by the 16th U.S. president to the challenging times faced by municipal leaders


Providing one of the more humorous anecdotes of Monday's session - as well as perhaps unintentionally defining the changing times - Goodwin recalled the days she spent working as a 24-year-old intern for President Lyndon Johnson.

"It used to be an honor saying you were a White House intern," Goodwin said with a laugh. "Things are more complicated these days."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Saratoga Springs

  • 0

The beautiful town of Saratoga Springs has a rich history that continues into its modern-day life.

Originally inhabited by the Iroquois Indians, neighboring tribes would come to Saratoga Springs each summer to visit the natural springs that Saratoga Springs is still famous for today.

During the Revolutionary War, the Battles of Saratoga during September and October 1777 were seen as a turning point for the war. British General John Burgoyne surrendered on Oct. 17, 1777, in an area outside modern-day Schuylerville now called Victory. The Saratoga Monument located there is a symbol of that day.

There are a number of parks to honor the defeat of the British in Saratoga, including the Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater and the General Phillip Schuyler House in Schuylerville.

After the Revolutionary War, the building of Saratoga Springs slowly began. In the early 1800s, Gideon Putnam built the Grand Union Hotel and Congress Hall, the first two hotels in the area. The building of these hotels spurred the growth of Saratoga Springs, and now many tourists enjoy the luxury hotel and spa that bears his name.

In 1826, Saratoga Springs legally was recognized as a village and was becoming known to tourists for its natural beauty as well as its up-and-coming nature. President Martin Van Buren was a frequent vacationer there, among others.

In 1864, the famous Saratoga Race Course was built by John Hunter and William R. Travers. The course became increasingly popular, which also added Saratoga Springs to a list of great places to gamble.

Less than a decade later, Morrissey's Club House was built as a casino for male tourists. Morrissey's Club House had a strict policy against women and locals gambling in their casinos. The area was expanded upon after Richard Canfield's 1894 acquisition of the casino, and today the Canfield Casino is no longer a place to gamble but an event hall known for world-class weddings and affairs.

Many visitors to the city of Saratoga Springs come to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. Dubbed "The Queen of Spas" during the Victorian Era, its reputation still holds true with a number of fine resorts and spas. Whether a visitor is in a mood to test out the mineral baths in Saratoga State Park of looking for a more modern facial or manicure, "The Spa City" is the place to be. A number of places to stay boast elegant spas, in addition to separate locations located throughout town.

When it comes to lodging, vacationers have their pick of ideal locations. From bed and breakfasts to traditional chain hotels to camp sites, the area is truly a tourist's paradise. Many of these locations are just a short walk from street-side shopping, world-class cuisine and a vibrant nightlife. For those who like to kick back and have a drink while listening to some great live music, Caroline Street is not to be missed. For those who like to try their hand at the slots, the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway (better known to locals as "Racino") is a mere five-minute drive from the heart of the city.

If you're looking for a little music, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (also known as SPAC) is not to be passed by. Settled in the midst of tall pine trees in the same park as a beautiful golf course and the famous mineral baths, SPAC draws a number of popular acts each summer, in addition to more classical events such as the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet. The ampitheater-style seating is great for those who like to be up close and personal with the artists, while the casual lawn seating is popular amongst those who like to socialize outdoors while enjoying the music and the starry summer sky.

Those who love the outdoors are not limited to outdoor concert seating. While the entire North Country area boasts rivers, lakes and breathtaking mountain views, Saratoga Springs is by far the most eclectic jewel. With nature activities for even the most cautious outdoorsman, Saratoga Springs has a number of hiking and bike trails, from the Mountain Biking-Stables to the Nielman Parcel and the Wilton Wildlife Preserve. Saratoga Lake, just a short drive from the city, is a sparkling oasis lined with marinas and lake side dining - a must-visit for the nautical type.

For the more sophisticated outdoorsman, the area is home to a number of tree-lined golf courses and the famous Saratoga Polo. Saratoga Springs is home to one of the four oldest polo fields in the United States, and during the summer, polo is played at 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings.

No matter what your taste or what you are looking to do, Saratoga Springs has a little bit for everyone. Whether you want to relax or are looking to feel the excitement of the track, "the city in the country" is the perfect place.

Soldier's return home celebrated

  • 0

LAKE GEORGE - The number 20 looms large in the life of U.S. Army Spc. Nicholas Dane, a member of the 110th MP Company.

He left for Iraq on May 20, 2008, and he'll complete his military service on May 20, 2012. In the meantime, after a short visit home, he'll leave again on Sept. 20 to return to his base at Fort Carson, Colo.

On Saturday, friends and family celebrated his homecoming at American Legion Post No. 374.

The taciturn young man, who just had his 21st birthday in August, said his duties as a member of the Military Police included escorting Iraqi dignitaries, like the president and prime minister, when they needed to travel around Baghdad.

"They'd call into higher leadership, then we'd be assigned," Dane said, as the Legion Hall began to fill with relatives and friends. "Our job was to pick them up, drive them there and hope nothing happened."

Seeming reluctant to recount his experiences in Iraq, the soldier nonetheless patiently answered questions while volunteering very little. He did say that one thing in particular surprised him after his arrival in the country.

"The heat," Dane said. "You know how it feels on your face when you open the oven door? Well, imagine that heat all over your body."

Although he said his role as an escort was "enjoyable," Dane added that he wouldn't consider a career in the military.

"No way as a career," he said with emphasis. "There are better opportunities in civilian life. Eventually, I want to be a state trooper."

During his 15-month stint in Iraq, Dane said he learned a little of the language, and spoke the words for "stop, "get back" and "please." In interactions with Iraqis, he said much of the population seemed to like the American soldiers being there, but some groups of people were easily manipulated into believing untruths.

"The terrorists try to say that our withdrawal means they're scaring us, they're forcing us out," he said, "and some of the people are very gullible."

The soldier said he couldn't recall a "best" day in Iraq, but did have a distinct memory of his unit's worst day.

"We were being mortared and a buddy was severely injured," Dane said. "He got shrapnel in his spine and now walks with a cane."

Dane's mother, Susan, said every day of her son's tour was a "worst" day for her.

"It was 15 months of hell," she said. "I was always scared. When you'd hear on the news that troops were killed - oh, it was horrible until I could hear his voice. Before every mission, he'd call and say 'I love you, mom,' and I knew he was going on a mission and I'd have to wait a few days for the call that he was


Susan Dane said that friends and family kept her going, and mentioned her son's GED teacher, Mrs. Howe, who sent her son packages and kept in touch with her when the teacher would hear from "Nick."

"The Lake George school is such a community," she said. "It's not just a word - they really care."

Legion Post Commander Joyce Wood and Angela Vernum, Legion Auxiliary president, both said they would like to do more homecoming events for area soldiers.

"We just need to find out when they're coming back," said Wood. "One way would be for people to call the post and let us know. We'll also try to give a hand, if a family needs help."

American Legion Post 374 of Lake George can be reached at 668-2045.

NASA refurbishes video copies of moon landing

  • 0

WASHINGTON - With the help of Hollywood, those historic, grainy images of the first men on the moon never looked better. NASA unveiled refurbished video Thursday of the July 20, 1969, moonwalk restored by the same company that sharpened up the movie "Casablanca."

NASA lost its original moon landing videotapes and after a three-year search, officials have concluded they were probably erased. That original live video was ghostlike and grainy.

NASA and a Hollywood film restoration company took television video copies of what Apollo 11 beamed to Earth 40 years ago and made the pictures look sharper.

NASA emphasized the video isn't "new" - just better quality.

"There's nothing being created; there's nothing being manufactured," said NASA senior engineer Dick Nafzger, who's in charge of the project.

But some details seem new because of their sharpness. Originally, Armstrong's face visor was too fuzzy to be seen clearly. The refurbished video shows his visor and a reflection in it.

The $230,000 refurbishing effort is only three weeks into a months-long project, and only 40 percent of the work has been done. But it does show improvements in four snippets: Armstrong walking down the ladder, which includes the face visor image; Buzz Aldrin walking down the ladder; the two astronauts reading a plaque they left on the moon; the planting of the flag on the moon.

The original videos beamed to earth were stored on giant reels of tapes that each contained 15 minutes of video, along with 13 other channels of live data from the moon. In the 1970s and 1980s, NASA had a shortage of the tapes and erased about 200,000 of those tapes and reused them. That's apparently what happened to the famous moon landing footage.

Nafzger praised the restored work for its crispness. The restoration company, Lowry Digital of Burbank, Calif., also refurbished "Star Wars" and James Bond films, along with "Casablanca."

The company noted that the latter film had a pixel count 10 times higher than the moon video, meaning the moon footage was fuzzier than that vintage movie and more of a challenge in one sense.

But the moon video also was three continuous hours, not chopped up like movies are, which made some of the work easier, said Lowry president Mike Inchalik.

Of all the video the company has dealt with, he said, "This is by far and away the lowest quality."

The restoration used four video sources: CBS News originals; kinescopes from the National Archives; a video from Australia that received the transmission of the original moon video; and camera shots looking at a TV monitor.

Both Nafzger and Inchalik said they went to extremes to enhance the video as conservatively as possible.

Bolton Landing, NY

  • 0

Bolton Landing, about 10 miles north of Lake George Village, is a distant cousin to its better-known neighbor.

While both are nestled on Lake George, Bolton Landing has a quieter appeal.

A short drive from the miniature golf courses and arcades that define Lake George Village as a mecca of family fun, Bolton Landing provides a respite from the buzz of activity.

And it has long been known as such.

Some of the first summer hotels and boarding palaces cropped up after the Civil War.

The Sagamore, which remains the most prominent landmark in the town of Bolton and the hamlet of Bolton Landing, opened on Green Island in 1883 and has seen a number of reincarnations over the years.

The exclusive resort survived two fires early on and was fully reconstructed in 1930, despite the bleak economic climate of the period.

The hotel eventually fell into disrepair and closed its doors in 1981. Two years later, a developer restored the property and saw its placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

Last summer, the resort was sold to new owners, who are overseeing renovations during another challenging economic climate. From spa visits to dining, golfing and tennis, it continues to offer a number of activities for visitors and has a commanding presence just off the shore of Bolton Landing.

In the 20th century, the hamlet developed a reputation as an artists' enclave of sorts.

Metropolitan Opera Diva Marcella Sembrich summered at Lake George from 1922 to 1934. The Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum, which commemorates the international operatic career of the Polish soprano, is located on Lake Shore Drive.

Also during the 1930s, sculptor David Smith spent his summers and falls in Bolton Landing.

Music and the arts remain part of the fabric of the community. The village is home to the Lake George Theater Lab, a theater company devoted to new American plays and adaptations.

And some of Bolton Landing's annual summer events include a free concert series in Roger's Memorial Park.

Culture aside, Bolton Landing is also a great starting point for exploring Lake George. With its three public beaches, the hamlet offers more accessible water frontage than any other community on the lake, according to the Bolton Landing Chamber of Commerce.

Whether kayaking, boating or sailing, there are a number of ways to enjoy the waters and state-owned islands.

In addition, the hamlet itself offers shopping, dining and entertainment. Hiking trails are readily accessible, with the best-known being Tongue Mountain Loop.

Lawmakers denounce 'You lie' outburst at Obama

  • 0

WASHINGTON - Democrats and Republicans alike are denouncing Rep. Joe Wilson for shouting "You lie" at President Barack Obama during his speech to Congress, an extraordinary breach of decorum for which the South Carolina Republican swiftly apologized.

"I was embarrassed for the chamber and a Congress I love," Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "It demeaned the institution."

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., told ABC on Wednesday: "Obviously, the President of the United States is always welcome on Capitol Hill. He deserves respect and decorum.

"I know that Congressman Wilson has issued an apology and made his thoughts known to the White House, which was the appropriate thing to do," Cantor said.

Wilson's outburst came after Obama said extending health care to all Americans who seek it would not mean insuring illegal immigrants.

"You lie!" Wilson shouted from his seat on the Republican side of the chamber.

After the speech, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, "There'll be time enough to consider whether or not we ought to make it clear that that action is unacceptable in the House of Representatives."

"Let's see what he does," Hoyer told WTOP radio before Wilson issued an apology. "Then there's time enough to consider further action."

Wilson's behavior caused a political hangover for him and possibly for the Republican critics Obama had cast as shrill and more interested in killing any health care overhaul than finding a way to provide it.

Later, Wilson was contrite.

"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me," he said in a statement. "While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility."

He then tried to call Obama to apologize personally, but ended up talking with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel instead, Wilson's office said.

Biden said Thursday that he hadn't spoken with Obama, but, "knowing the president, I'm sure he accepted the apology."

By late Wednesday, though, the congressman's Web site had crashed, he had taken a beating on his Twitter page and Democrat Rob Miller had raised thousands of unexpected dollars online for a possible rematch with Wilson in next year's midterm elections, according to Lachlan McIntosh, Miller's campaign manager.

In the eight hours since Wilson's outburst, his Democratic opponent, former-Marine Rob Miller, has received nearly 3,000 individual grassroots contributions raising approximately $100,000, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said.

Wilson, a conservative Republican who promotes a strong national defense and reining in the size of government, won a special election to the House in 2001, succeeding the late Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C. Wilson had worked on Spence's staff on Capitol Hill and also previously been an intern on the staff of venerable Sen. Strom Thurmond, R.S.C.

Wilson, who is the only Republican who serves on both the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, is a familiar face on the floor of the chamber, often going there after regular legislative business to make announcements, observations and political points in the so-called "one minutes," a special free-wheeling speaking period given lawmakers, usually in the after hours.

Wilson has been a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq.

"Everybody was stunned," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said of Wilson's eruption. "It was just something that nobody had ever witnessed before. We all felt embarrassed."

Republicans froze; several glanced in Wilson's direction.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed a fierce frown at him; first lady Michelle Obama pursed her lips and shook her head from side to side. Biden looked down and shook his head too.

Obama, meanwhile, looked toward the outburst and replied, "That's not true" before going on with his speech.

Wilson appeared to consult his Blackberry for much of the rest of Obama's speech. He shook his head defiantly after several of the president's statements. When Obama finished, Wilson bolted from the chamber.

Wilson's behavior was "totally disrespectful," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had been Obama's rival in the 2008 presidential election, said on CNN. "There is no place for it in that setting, or any other, and he should apologize for it immediately."

Associated Press writers David Espo and Ben Evans in Washington and Jim Davenport in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.

Officials: Village works to recover from sewage leak

  • 0
Officials: Village works to recover from sewage leak

Rain can't ruin racetrack

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Good Prospect, a 5-year-old gelding from New York, took first place in the first race on Opening Day at the Saratoga Race Course, giving racing officials hope that Good Prospect is a good omen for the six-week summer meet.

On this day, he was.

A crowd of more than 25,000 showed up Wednesday, a 40 percent increase over 2008 attendance. While the crowd was not quite as big as the 30,000 who attended opening day in the pre-recession days of 2007, New York Racing Association President Charles Hayward said it was good enough to call the start of the 141st season "an unqualified success."

In a venue steeped in tradition, the opening day crowd maintains its own ritual, with many traveling several hours before dawn to line up outside the track before the gates open at 11 a.m.

"It's a bad habit we can't break," said Diane Chase, who was among a party of four who left their respective homes in suburban Syracuse at 5:30 Wednesday morning to take part in a tradition they have been keeping for 20 years.

Joe Laliberte has made the 3-1/2 hour trip from Tewksbury, Mass. for a similar number of years, and he staked a spot outside the gates at 6:45 a.m. to secure his family's regular table near the paddock.

"This is the best spot right here," he said.

From the table, he watched the thoroughbreds being walked one behind another a few feet away, making a path to the area where they are greeted by their jockeys before the race.

Kathy Sparee took the day off from her job managing a McDonald's restaurant and made the trip from Niskayuna with her boyfriend, Jim Shafer. Shafer had recently completed his overnight shift at a Hannaford supermarket but he seemed none too worse for lack of sleep. He said he also has been coming to opening day for 20 years.

As the crowd filed in, vendors lifted the coverings off their counters for the first time this season, filling the air with the smell of grilled sausages and fried dough, beef barbecue and cotton candy. Menus from a handful of Spa City restaurants that have opened miniature eateries at the racecourse offer everything from hoagies to gumbo.

"We return to paradise for six weeks," said Sam "The Bugler" Grossman, who serenaded the crowds between races before making his way to the Winner's Circle to sound the pre-race "Call to the Post." The call is repeated 10 times a day, once for each race, a tradition equaled by racecourse announcer Tom Durkin.

"And … they're … off," Durkin cried, accompanied by a slow-rising clamor among the crowd.

"They're at the top of the stretch," he announced a moment later as the buzz built from the grandstand, and the horses sped by.

"They're heading for home," he said, finally, the clamor growing into a cacophony as the horses passed the finish line in a moment met by a cresting glee, or a hush of disappointment.

For the winners, the finish is a moment of financial redemption. Those not as lucky observe a moment of silence, then shed their masks of despair to belly up to the pari-mutuel window for another chance at victory. The ritual is scheduled to continue at least 10 times each day, for six days a week, until Sept. 7.

The sale must go on

WARRENSBURG - Lawns were lined with yellow tape. Signs warned cars not to block driveways and dozens of tents lined the street.

It was a full two days before the official start of the World's Largest Garage Sale, but preparations for huge crowds were already under way on Thursday.

This weekend, more than 25,000 people will descend on the town in the 30th annual World's Largest Garage Sale.

The event draws vendors from as far as Florida, who set up tents along Route 9 to sell items such as antiques, old tools and food.

"You name it, they sell it," said Lynn Smith of the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event.

Smith said the Guinness Book of World Records has classified the sale as the world's largest, and signs in place on Thursday showed the town is ready for the crowds.

This weekend, shuttle buses will bring shoppers to the heart of the action from a parking lot more than three miles from the sale. Signs directing shoppers to the lot are posted off Exit 23 of the Adirondack Northway.

On Thursday, Margaret Humiston and her sister, Debra Wixon, were two vendors getting ready for the sale.

Wixon traveled from Waterbury, Conn., to help her sister sell T-shirts, blankets, gloves and other items. Humiston sells the items at flea markets throughout the year, and has been bringing her inventory to the garage sale for about five years.

"I do it for a living," Humiston said.

The event began 30 years ago, Smith said, when the Chamber of Commerce and private property owners got together and held the sale as a way to get those driving through the town to stop there.

Homeowners on side streets still set up their own items on lawns, she said, but the out-of-town vendors far outnumber them.

Now, homeowners rent space on their lawns for vendors to use.

Steve Abston said he's had the same space along Route 9 for eight of the 10 years he's been selling sports memorabilia and military items such as pins and American flags.

The Wynanstkill man said he sells the items and collects Yankees' memorabilia as a hobby, and often ends up trading some items for others.

"It's a break from the routine, even though sometimes it's more work," he said.

Smith said the event is the main fundraiser for the chamber, which charges vendors for setting up tents on the main drag. Businesses donate their parking lots to the chamber for the weekend, she said.

"This little town gets full," she said.

But this year, Smith said weather and the economy might keep some away from the sale - and vendors echoed her concerns.

"I'm skeptical because of the economy as well as the weather," Abston said.

"Between the rain and the economy," Wixon said, "it's been a tough year."

According to The Post-Star's news partner, WNYT-TV NewsChannel 13, Saturday's forecast calls for rain across the region, and there is a chance of rain on Sunday, too.

Smith said vendors have noted how business at other events has been off because of the economy. But if the weather cooperates, she said, plenty would come out, if only to see what the fuss is about.

"It's a lot of fun," Smith said. "But it's crazy."

Saratoga County, NY Bike Trails

  • 0

Saratoga National Historical Battlefield - Circle route

• Town of Saratoga

• Length: 27 miles

From Route 9P south (Union Avenue), out of Longfellows Hotel and Restaurant, take the road along Saratoga Lake, crossing over Fish Creek Bridge. After 11.5 miles, turn left onto Route 423 at Battlefield Road, following signs to the Saratoga Battlefield. Take a left onto Route 32. Saratoga National Historic Park's entrance is on the right. Continue on Route 21 and make a left on Route 68. Turn right onto Staffords Bridge Road, which goes over Fish Creek. Once over the bridge, turn left on Meadowbrook Road, Route 65. Stay left, merge onto Dyer Switch Road. Turn left at the end onto Union Avenue and back to Longfellow's.

Road Biking along the Champlain Canal

• Town of Saratoga, Village of Schuylerville

• Distance: 26 Miles Road

• Terrain: 85 percent smooth asphalt

Surrounded by farmland, this area crosses both Washington and Saratoga counties along the Hudson River and Champlain Canal. There is a rest stop at the 13-mile mark at Canal Park at Lock 4. There are picnic tables and a portable comfort station.

Ride Directions: Start Fort Hardy Park. Route 29 West. Right on River Road. Right Stillwater Bridge Road at 13 mile, Right on Route 4, 32. Stay right on Route 4. Right on Route 29 East to Fort Hardy Park.

Driving Directions: Fort Hardy Park

Drive east from Saratoga Springs on Lake Avenue (Route 29) following signs to Schuylerville. Take a right at the light in Schuylerville staying on Route 29/Route 4. Continue through town and make a left at the next light staying on Route 29. Fort Hardy Park is on the left just before the bridge over the Hudson River/Champlain Canal.

Saratoga Monument

Road Biking

• Town of Saratoga

• Distance: 11 miles one-way

The Saratoga Monument, built in 1877, is now part of the Saratoga National Historic Park. The monument was built to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the victory over the British Army at the battles of Saratoga. The rock faced granite obelisk can be seen off in the distance. From the top of the monument, one can get a view of the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, the Green Mountains in Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains.

This route heads east out of town through farmland. Sections of the Fish Creek, as it flows toward the Hudson River, can be seen along the way.

Ride Directions: Start in Congress Park and ride east out of town on Union Avenue (Route 9P). Continue over the Northway to Meadowbrook Road at 2.5 miles on your left. Climb the hill and continue on this ridge to Stafford's Bridge Road. Go right over the bridge. Take the first left just after the bridge and continue on Stafford's Bridge Road (Route 68). At 6.5 miles Route 68 veers off to the right. Continue on Burgoyne Road for another 5 miles, to the Monument.

Hilly Moreau Climb

• Town of Moreau

• Difficulty: Advanced

• Length: 14.5 miles

The ride starts on the east side of the Palmertown Range and continues along the Hudson River before heading back over the mountain range. Grant Mountain and a large section of Moreau Lake State Park lie within the perimeter of the route. You continue south along Old Saratoga Road.

Ride Directions: Start the ride on Corinth Moutanin Road, which turns into Wilton Mountain Road. At the stop sign at the intersection, make a right onto Spier Falls Road (Route 24). Follow this road down and along the Hudson River past two hydro-electric dams. Turn right onto Potter Road for a short distance and bear right onto Mountain Road. Continue past the park entrance. Bear right when this road intersects with Old Saratoga Road (Old Route 9). Follow this road to Route 9 and back to where the ride began.

Driving Directions: Corinth Mountain Road

Travel north 6.5 miles on Route 9 from Route 50 in Saratoga Springs. Parking is available off Corinth Mountain Road on Mount McGregor Road.

Tommy Tune inducted into Hall of Fame

  • 0

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The quintessential Broadway entertainer was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Hall of Fame Sunday, after a rousing "Gala on Broadway" event Saturday night.

Tony Award-winning Thomas James "Tommy" Tune has been in the dancing and entertaining business for more than 50 years, though he may contend close to all of his 70 years were spent in dance.

"My first creative act was dancing, the rest of the skills (choreography, singing, directing) developed as I stayed in the business," said Tune.

The son of two "lovely" dancers, Tune was impressed by his parents' effortless grace on the floor together at a function in his youth, an episode he recounted as he expressed his thanks Sunday evening for the honor.

He became choked up at the memory of his parents as he shared his story, while his sister, Gracey, looked on. Tune put on shows at his family's Wichita Falls, Texas, home as a child. Both Tune siblings still dance actively, and they performed the Piece d' Occasion at the gala Saturday.

"This is something special," Tune said of his induction.

The performer, who donated 33 pairs of custom-made shoes from shows throughout his career to the museum's Ballet to Broadway exhibit built by Bonacio Construction, is also sharing several paintings and lithographs with the museum and the public.

Both his towering frame and his custom-made shoes - "about a size 13," says Tune, "but the more you tap dance, the more your feet grow" - are part of his Broadway persona.

The 6-foot-6 ½-inch-tall dancer said, "I travel across the stage well, and my dance can be read from a distance." But, he added, "I learned to dance before I got this tall."

Tune said his first professional choreography job was in Saratoga Springs doing choreography for "Kiss Me Kate" and "Showboat" at the Spa Little Theater.

He had just graduated from University of Texas theater department, arrived in New York City and earned his first dance role in "Irma la Douce" months before the Spa City assignment.

In one of his more recent roles, Tune was the headliner of the EFX show at The MGM Grand Theater in Las Vegas, Nev.

Tune has earned nine Tony awards, the 2003 National Medal of Arts, 1990 American Dance Award, and two Astaire Dance awards. He has performed for three U.S. presidents, the Queen of England and the Royal Family of Monaco.

Although he started as a dancer, Tune is also an award-winning actor, singer, director and choreographer - all while maintaining a very humble character, said Michelle Riggi, chairwoman of the museum's board of directors.

"He is the most gentle and kind man I have met, with an amazing talent," said Riggi, who shared that Tune was relaxing in her living room earlier that day, singing songs in the sofa. "How amazing is that to have that happen in your own home."

The museum, with Riggi's encouragement, is aiming to present "all forms of dance," so that it is accessible to the general public. The Broadway exhibit is a nod to a user-friendly style of dance and entertainment, and Tune a personification of the art form.

For his part, Tune, at 70 years old, said he has no intention of slowing down.

"This is what I do," he said before adding, with a twinkle in his eye, "but I do like to cook."

Staying put at prison

WILTON - Cliff Seguin isn't going into work Thursday.

Sequin, of Wilton, took an early retirement after state officials announced their intent to close Camp McGregor, the minimum security prison he refers to as his "second home." Seguin spent the last 25 years as a chef at Camp McGregor,

Seguin, 59, said he was offered a new job about a month ago at Mid-State Correctional Facility in Syracuse, but he turned the offer down because he didn't want to leave the community or abandon the Wilton-based charity he helps run, Operation-Adopt-A-Soldier.

Instead, Seguin opted to receive a fraction of the retirement benefits he would have gotten had he been able to stay on for another 23 months. He has also put his home on the market in hopes of downsizing to more affordable accommodations and is looking for part-time work to make ends meet.

"It's really too bad that after 25 years that your hand is forced," Seguin said. "It's very difficult for me, leaving the facility. Mt. McGregor was my home for a long time. I was a dedicated employee and here they stuck it to me."

Seguin's case is the exception.

According to the Department of Correctional Services, Seguin is the only employee at the prison who did not accept work at an alternate prison facility, or accept a transfer to the medium-security portion of the Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility before the camp was shut down on Wednesday.

Of the 36 prison employees who remained at the camp until its official closure, 21 transferred to other state prison facilities such as Great Meadow in Fort Ann, Hudson and Marcy. Another 15 were transferred to the medium-security wing at McGregor, officials said.

Erik Kriss, a spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services, said the 46 inmates who remained at the 300-bed facility were transferred elsewhere late last month.

Though state officials have been charged with coming up with a re-use plan for the prison by October, Kriss said no ideas have yet been developed. Officials could have difficulty finding a re-use for the camp because it is joined to the medium-security prison, he said.

In the meantime, the camp's buildings will be maintained on a minimal level, he said.

And, while dwindling inmate populations indicate the camp will likely not be needed as a prison again, Kriss said the option isn't being ruled out.

"If there ever comes a time when the inmate population ever goes back up again in this state, and that kind of space is appropriate, you never know," he said.

Senators call for additional support to dairy farmers

  • 0

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Flanked by a cow named Maggie - and six of his Senate colleagues - Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for the House to pass an amendment increasing price supports to dairy farmers.

The Vermont independent made his pitch in a park adjacent to the Capitol, posing with his colleagues and the cow. He spoke in favor of an amendment to provide $350 million in support to dairy farmers.

Sanders and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Tom Udall, D-N.M. stood with members of the National Farmers Union. The senators said dairy farmers are suffering through one of the worst periods in recent history.

Sanders says the agriculture industry will suffer if dairy farms continue to collapse.

Some smokers growing their own tobacco

  • 0

RICHMOND, Va. - Something unusual is cropping up alongside the tomatoes, eggplant and okra in Scott Byars' vegetable garden - the elephantine leaves of 30 tobacco plants.

Driven largely by ever-rising tobacco prices, he's among a growing number of smokers that have turned to their green thumbs to cultivate tobacco plants to blend their own cigarettes, cigars and chew. Byars normally pays $5 for a five-pack of cigars and $3 for a tin of snuff; the seed cost him $9.

"I want to get to where I don't have to go to the store and buy tobacco, but I'll just be able to supply my own from one year to the next," Byars said.

In urban lots and on rural acres, smokers and smokeless tobacco users are planting Virginia Gold, Goose Creek Red, Yellow Twist Bud and dozens of other tobacco varieties.

Although most people still buy from big tobacco, the movement took off in April when the tax on cigarettes went up 62 cents to $1.01 a pack. Large tax increases were also imposed on other tobacco products, and tobacco companies upped prices even more to compensate for lost sales.

Some seed suppliers have reported a tenfold increase in sales as some of the country's 43.3 million smokers look for a cheaper way to get their nicotine fix in a down economy. Cigarettes cost an average of $4.35 a pack, home growers can make that amount for about 30 cents.

It's the latest do-it-yourself movement as others repair their own cars, swap used clothes and cancel yard work services to save money.

"Cigarette smokers say, 'Yeah, we're going to die of cancer, but do we have to die of poverty as well?" ' said Jack Basharan, who operates The Tobacco Seed Co. Ltd. in Essex, England. Virtually all of his increased tobacco seed sales have been in the U.S., he said.

Provided the tobacco isn't sold or traded, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate homegrown tobacco. Most people grow for cigarettes, but some blend their own cigars and chew.

The FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture don't keep statistics on home growers, though seed suppliers and Internet buzz suggest strong interest. has sold more than 100,000 packets of tobacco seeds this year, compared with 22,000 in all of 2008, president Jim Johnson said. The Gautier, Miss.-based company offers 40 varieties of tobacco from around the globe and packages various flavor blends for first-time growers.

A grower who purchased one of Johnson's Oriental and Turkish blends for $24.50 could satisfy a pack-a-day habit for more than three years, according to Johnson's calculations.

However, growing and processing tobacco can challenge even the best gardeners. The nearly microscopic seeds must initially be grown inside and transplanted after the threat of frost has passed.

A seed started in March can be harvested, hung to dry and ready to smoke as soon as October. Some anxious growers have been known to microwave leaves to hasten the drying. For purists, the leaves can be cured, or aged, like a fine wine for up to three years.

"It's actually very labor intensive," said Ed Baker, general manager of Cross Creek Seed Inc. in Raeford, N.C., the No. 1 tobacco seed supplier in the U.S. "There's a reason why cigarette companies make all that money. If it was that easy, everyone would be growing their own tobacco."

Cross Creek has seen a big increase in seed requests from home growers but it sells in volume. It's smallest seed offering is 90,000 seeds for $170.

Novices and veterans can find smoker-friendly havens like, a Web site that offers growing and curing tips, often including angry posts over ever-increasing taxes and smoking restrictions.

Many would not discuss their crops with The Associated Press, fearful a high profile would invite government scrutiny and taxes. Others proudly share stories and post photos.

Arthur Skora, 42, records his success growing and curing in Greenwood, Wis., on a how-to DVD he sells online.

"Most of the people who are ordering are just getting fed up with prices and basically they're not going to take it anymore," Skora said.

Saving money wasn't the only motivation for Matt Schoell-Schafer, a landscape architect in Kansas City, who has 50 plants growing in his urban garden.

"It's not being a victim to their manipulation of this product," said Schoell-Schafer, 34, who enjoys an occasional cigar or cigarette. "So I'm sort of liberating myself by growing it myself."

Some growers contend their tobacco concoctions are safer than commercial products, which have a stew of additives ranging from colorings and oils to ammonia.

"The quick answer to that is no," said Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends at the American Cancer Society. Glynn knew of only one study of the health risks of homegrown and commercial blends - and it concluded no difference in safety between the two.

Homegrown tobacco can also contain fungus and mold, which can cause chronic bronchitis and other ailments, Glynn said.

Philip Morris USA, the nation's No. 1 cigarette maker, and other big companies are unlikely to shudder. Philip Gorham, a tobacco industry analyst with the investment research firm Morningstar, said he had no data on smokers who switched to homegrown. But he doesn't see it as a mass movement.

"It's one thing to switch from a premium brand to a discount one. It's quite another to switch from buying a manufactured product to roll your own," Gorham said.

At, Joyce Moore said she typically sold tobacco seeds as ornamental plants to gardeners who appreciated their elephantine leaves.

This year, her Astoria, Ore.-based company was overwhelmed by orders from tobacco users slammed by "the market collapse, the recession, then getting hit with exorbitant tobacco taxes."

Moore doesn't use tobacco herself but has no misgivings about her business.

"If I sold doughnuts in a bakery would I feel guilty because fat people come in and buy them?" she asked. "It just happens to be a very good year for tobacco seeds."

Sky high

QUEENSBURY - For the past five years, Harry Collison has flown with the name Talk of the Town on the side of his basket.

But this year, his balloon carries the Panera Bread logo, instead of the Glens Falls establishment.

Collison, a commercial pilot and owner of Two Angels Hot Air Balloon Team from Coatesville, Pa., said it's hard to remember everyone who has sponsored him over his last 16 years at the Adirondack Balloon Festival.

Many sponsors, Collison said, had to drop out this year due to the economy.

"If you have to make pay cuts, you're probably not going to sponsor a balloon," he said.

Local and national businesses sponsor balloonists to offset the cost of holding the festival, which co-founder and treasurer Joan Grishkot said costs roughly $100,000 to put on each year.

Gishkot said sponsors pay $525 to cover a balloonist's hotel room, propane and a meal or two over the weekend.

Down a few from past years, Grishkot said there 76 sponsors, a decline due to the recession. Each sponsor also receives a half-page ad in the festival program, which is sold to festivalgoers.

So far this year, Grishkot said program sales are "soft."

Sponsoring a balloon does get you an ad in the program and your business name of the basket, but one local sponsor said the advertisement is not entirely about drumming up business.

"Our name is out there, but I do it more for the fun of it," said Allen Powers, of Allen Powers CPA in Glens Falls, which does income tax preparations, financial services and accounting for small businesses.

Powers and his brother-in-law's business, Fones Tree Service in Glens Falls, sponsor two balloons owned by Ken Griswold and his wife, Amy, the owners of Champagne Balloon Adventures in Alexandria Bay.

Powers said he's been sponsoring Griswold for the last 15 years and even if doesn't get a lot of business from it, he said he gets more than his money's worth in camaraderie.

Sponsors also receive two free rides from their balloonist and Powers said he can still remember not only his first flight, but also the first balloon he went up in 12 years ago.

"It was a black balloon that had the Playboy bunny on it. We didn't know that was on the balloon until he inflated it," he said with a smile.

"We even got a little Playboy balloon pin," he said.

Although Powers is able to ride each year for free, he said he's only been up three or four times total.

"I usually let others who haven't gone up before enjoy it," he said.

Sponsor or no sponsor, a balloon flight really depends on the support from mother nature.

On Friday balloons were set to launch at 5 p.m., but the first balloon didn't drift off until close to 6 p.m. due to high winds.

Griswold said 4 to 5 mph winds are ideal flying conditions, but on Thursday winds were closer to 8 mph.

"There are a lot of limitations to inflating the balloon if it's windy," he said.

About 20 balloons did take a short ride from the Warren County airport on Friday night before the sun set.

Balloons are scheduled to launch from the airport at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Early birds get to fly

QUEENSBURY - Watching the balloons rise with the sun, some say, isn't the same without a bellyful of breakfast you cooked yourself.

A stream of headlights and taillights flowed steadily into the Warren County airport on Saturday morning at 5 a.m.

A long line of cars, Bob Rowe said, you want to be leading.

Rowe, of South Glens Falls, said you have to be in line by 4:30 a.m. in order to get front-row parking along the grass, where there's room to flip the tailgate down and bring out what you've brought to make breakfast.

Rowe said he and his friends have done a tailgate breakfast at every Saturday morning launch of the Balloon Festival for the last 12 years.

"It's beautiful to watch the sunrise and the balloons," he said.

While checking out other tailgaters nearby, Rowe's friend Crystal Miner, of South Glens Falls, noticed their neighbors brought a pop-up tent.

"We forgot our easy up," she said, sounding a little disappointed.

Even without a tent, Rowe said it's still fun to set up, make breakfast and watch others walk by.

"Everyone else is jealous," he said with a smile, as he sipped a mimosa.

Others, like Rowe, set up their gas grills along the runway to cook eggs and bacon as the balloons went up.

Melissa Prout, of South Glens Falls, had five families together, totaling up to 10 people in her tailgating crew.

"I just love entertaining and parties. Wherever I can throw one, I do," she said.

This year, Prout said, is the fifth time her family and friends have tailgated at the balloon festival.

A member of Prout's party, Carolyn Millington, also of South Glens Falls, said they come in the morning because there is usually a better chance that the balloons will actually fly.

"It's usually calmer in the morning," she said.

That, and getting up at 3:45 a.m., is what makes coming to the festival such an event, Millington said.

Festival organizer Mark Donahue said a heavy fog prohibited pilots from traveling too far, but 82 balloons did go up on Saturday morning as thousands of people wandered amongst the balloons bundled in blankets and sweats.

Saturday's early morning launch was the last of the festival, after a heavy rain forecast prompted event organizers to cancel Sunday altogether, and a strong wind kept balloons grounded during Saturday's evening launch.

For the late launch, Balloonmiester Bill Hughes told the pilots to do what they could to create a little excitement for the large crowd at the airport.

"So many people are going to be here. Go out and fluff and fuss," he said.

Although they couldn't take off, pilots all across the airport field brought our their baskets and inflated their balloons.

"They are calling for wind gusts and we don't like gusts because you can't anticipate one," said pilot Charles Blair of Newark, Del.

"It's unfortunate for the crowd and us to travel this far, but it is what it is and we can't control nature," he said.

After the spill

LAKE GEORGE - Shepard Park, Million Dollar Beach and Usher Park remain closed as officials test the water following a Sunday evening sewage leak into Lake George.

Village Mayor Robert Blais said he thinks approximately 8,000 gallons of sewage leaked into the lake.

"Which sounds like a lot, but we pump 1.2 million gallons a day," he said. "So it's a relatively small amount, but it's still enough to be concerned about."

Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said the leak is of obvious concern for public health reasons.

The state DEC classifies water bodies, and Lake George has a "double A special body" classification, meaning its primary uses are contact recreation such as swimming and drinking water, both of which are impacted by a sewage spill.

Navitsky said that, as of Monday, no warnings about water consumption or advisories to boil water had been given by the Department of Health.

He said Lake George might be using a secondary or backup water supply. Village Clerk Darlene Gunther confirmed the village has two 1-million-gallon water tanks that it can use in case of emergencies, but it was unknown Monday whether the village was using those.

The Department of Health was expected to conduct tests of the water Monday afternoon, and Blais said he expected to receive results by Tuesday morning.

Tests were to take place at Shepard Park and Usher Park in the village.

NYS Department of Health spokeswoman Claire Pospisil said officials with her department are testing primarily to check for fecal coliform bacteria.

"Fecal coliform bacteria is found in the digestive tracts of animals and humans and is found in human waste and animal waste," she said.

The Department of Health has not issued any warning or notifications about unsafe drinking water.

"We believe the drinking water plant in Lake George is capable of adequately filtering and disinfecting the water to meet New York state drinking water standards," Pospisil said.

As for Million Dollar Beach, Blais said since it is a state beach, it is up to the Department of Environmental Conservation to test the water there.

Blais said the DEC tests the water at state beaches every three days. That means the next test won't be done until Wednesday, so the beach will remain closed until then.

"We tried to give them the opportunity to get in on this testing," Blais said, referring to the tests by the Department of Health. He said the DEC hadn't returned his calls.

The Department of Health also notified some resorts north of Shepard Park that it will conduct tests along their private beaches, Blais said. He was not sure how far north the Health Department planned to test.

Hearthstone Point park and beach remain open, he said.

Sunday's afternoon spill affected more than just beach and park operations, as neighboring restaurant Shepard's Cove lost patrons due to the sewage stench and blocked roadways.

Shepard's Cove co-owner Blue Broda said she lost approximately $10,000 in business Sunday evening and sent home 12 employees.

"The pipe burst at 10 minutes to four, and I had every table upstairs and downstairs full," she said. "We also had live entertainment playing downstairs. We were pretty much at capacity when it happened."

Once the pipe burst, Broda said guests were in a hurry to pay their bills.

"They were leaving with napkins over their mouths because the stench was horrendous," she said.

Broda said Shepard's Cove has stayed open, but business has been almost nonexistent.

Village officials, public works crews and members of the Lake George Volunteer Fire Department blocked off access to the park or beach with yellow caution tape, making access to the restaurant almost impossible, Broda said.

"They barricaded lower Montcalm Street, put a barricade at the base of my deck and blocked off my docks so you couldn't even get in by boat," she said.

Broda said she finally was able to convince town officials to move the barricades so the lower Montcalm entrance of the restaurant was accessible, but as of early Monday evening, Shepard's Cove was still quiet.

Broda said the restaurant will remain open, but she's worried she won't be able to make up what's been lost.

"Yes we are open; yes the drinking waster is safe; yes there will be fireworks on Thursday, and yes we are still accessible," she said.

Beginning Tuesday, the village expected to start replacing contaminated sand in Shepard Park with clean sand from a pit in South Glens Falls.

Blais said the affected sand will be taken to the wastewater treatment plant for processing and would be returned to the beach once it's clean.

He expects three to four truckloads of fresh sand will be needed for the portion of the beach that was impacted by the sewer break.

According to Blais, the leak was attributed to a section of worn pipe that broke at the pump station.

He said Monday afternoon that the pipe had been severed, and a replacement was to be put in place. He said three new pipes have been ordered as a precautionary measure.

The pipe that broke was installed with two other pipes 30 years ago, and as a precaution, the village planned to replace all three, Blais said.

By 6 p.m. Monday, Public Works Superintendant David Harrington said the broken pipe had been repaired.

Blais said the other two pipes will be installed at a later date and in the middle of the night, so park and beach operations will not be affected.

Blais said the park is only closed because of the equipment on site. Events scheduled in the park beginning Tuesday will not be affected, he said.

Reporter Blake Jones contributed to this story.

Bomb kills dozens as Iraq celebrates U.S. pullout

  • 0

BAGHDAD, Iraq - At least 27 people were killed Tuesday in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, marring a national holiday declared to celebrate the departure of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities after six years and three months of war.

The government staged a military parade to mark "National Sovereignty Day," and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made a triumphant, nationally televised address.

"This day, which we consider a national celebration, is an achievement made by all Iraqis," said Maliki, speaking before the explosion at a market in Kirkuk, which damaged at least 30 shops. "Those who think that Iraqis are unable to defend their country are committing a fatal mistake."

While more than 130,000 U.S. troops remain in the country, patrols by heavily armed soldiers in hulking vehicles have largely disappeared from Baghdad, Mosul and Iraq's other urban centers. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the United States had closed or returned to local control 120 bases and facilities, and would formally turn over or close another 30 by the end of Tuesday, Reuters reported from Washington.

Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, called the date a "significant milestone," and said that U.S. forces would no longer conduct unilateral operations anywhere in the country.

Iraqis danced in the streets and set off fireworks overnight in impromptu celebrations to celebrate the pullout, a transition that the Iraqi government has said represents the nation's return to full sovereignty.

"Out, America, out!" a group of sweat-drenched young men chanted Monday at a Baghdad park as the sun was setting. They jumped up and down to the deafening beat of drums and the wail of horns.

Across town, the virtual absence of American troops and helicopters, the cheerfulness of Iraqis in military uniform, and the cries of joy gave this scarred, bunkered capital a rare carnival-like atmosphere. Iraqi police and army cars were decked with ribbons, balloons, plastic flowers and new flags. A few Baghdadis drove under the sweltering midday sun Monday honking horns as passengers hung out the windows waving flags and yelling euphorically.

In Basra, the sentiment was inscribed on walls with spray paint: "No No Americans." Another graffiti artist instructed: "Pull your troops from our Basra, we are its sons and want its sovereignty."

Despite the violence Tuesday - and the news that four American troops had been killed in combat Monday - Iraqi and American leaders expressed confidence in Iraqi security forces, which in the days ahead will rely less on U.S. support. Regarding the celebratory atmosphere against the backdrop of continuing violence, Odierno said Iraqis have every reason to be proud.

"It's a celebration of them taking responsibility for security of their own cities," the general said.

The military gave no details about the deaths of the four American troops in Baghdad on Monday. Another soldier was killed Sunday in a separate attack. The ongoing bloodshed, Odierno said, "reminds me that there are still dangers out there. There are still people out there who do not want the government of Iraq to succeed."

He said a "small number" of American soldiers - U.S. officials have declined to provide an exact count - would remain in Baghdad and other cities as trainers and enablers. But the military's focus is shifting to outlying areas of the capital and the northern city of Mosul, as well as the borders with Iran and Syria.

Tuesday's explosion in Kirkuk happened about 6 p.m. at Shorja Market when explosives packed in a vehicle detonated, Iraqi police officials said.

Americans are now entering a new phase in this war. As of July 1, they will have to behave as guests in a foreign land.

"There was a time here where we had pretty much carte blanche to do whatever we wanted to do," Brig. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, the top U.S. spokesman in Iraq, said recently. Going forward, he added, "all missions are coordinated with the Iraqi government."

Some American troops have expressed concern about becoming more exposed after the withdrawal, because Iraqis will have unprecedented authority over U.S. military operations. U.S. commanders have said they were bracing for an uptick of attacks from extremist groups during the transition period, which occur almost daily, and will rely heavily on Iraq's security forces for protection in the months ahead.

Odierno accused Iran of continuing to train, fund and support groups who carry out attacks in Iraq, often using rockets and armor-piercing roadside bomb attacks. Even as he acknowledged the peril Iraq still holds for American troops, however, Odierno said that in accordance with the withdrawal agreement the U.S. military will no longer conduct combat operations in Iraqi cities.

The pullback has created enormous fear and uncertainty among many Iraqis, who believe it will open the door for insurgents to increase their attacks. Apart from the organized celebrations, normally congested streets were empty in many parts of the capital Monday night and Tuesday, as Iraqis appeared to heed warnings of impending attacks by insurgents. But city streets were also largely empty of Humvees and U.S. troops - and, where people gathered, a celebratory mood prevailed.

Banners were strung around Baghdad proclaiming: "On the day of sovereignty, we're lighting candles for a better future." Anchors on state-run television wore folded Iraqi flags over their shoulders, and the station kept a graphic of a small Iraqi flag waving under the date "6/30" on the top left corner of the screen.

At a celebration in Zawra Park, one of the largest in the country on Monday, revelers sang songs popular during the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s.

"To the front lines we go," they sang. "Our bullets in our magazines."

Then, spraying water from bottles at the crowd, they began chanting: "America has left! Baghdad is victorious!"

Iraqi policemen, many wearing body-armor vests without plates, bobbed their heads, taken by the moment.

"The Army of the U.S. is out of my country," said Ibrahim Algurabi, 34, a dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen now living in Arizona who attended a concert of celebration in Baghdad's Zawra Park. "People are ready for this change. There are a lot of opportunities to rebuild our country, to forget the past and think about the future."

As Americans adapt to the vaguely defined terms of the security agreement that set June 30 as the deadline for soldiers to leave the cities, there is little talk among U.S. commanders and diplomats of engineering a victory in the 21/2 years they expect to remain here.

Some officials have begun saying privately that the best-case scenario would be to depart with a "modicum of dignity."

Doing so will mean contending with a resilient insurgency, volatile politics and a growing assertiveness among Iraqis whose patience with the U.S. presence long ago wore thin.

Maliki has called the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the cities a "great victory." He has not mentioned the thousands of U.S. lives lost in Iraq, or the billions of American tax dollars spent here. Between now and the August 2010 deadline by which the U.S. combat mission in Iraq is slated to end, U.S. troops will retain a significant, if less visible, presence in Baghdad as well as Mosul, in northern Iraq, and Basra, in the south. U.S. soldiers anticipate that they will have to defer to Iraqi leaders and commanders more often than not in order to conduct business in the cities.

With scores of urban outposts shut, a greater percentage of American soldiers are being deployed to the borders and the belts around Baghdad and Mosul, where U.S. commanders hope they will be able to interdict militants and weapons. All troops must withdraw by 2012, the final date of a drawdown timetable that neither Iraqi nor American officials are inclined to change.

Special correspondents Zaid Sabah, Dalya Hassan, K.I. Ibrahim and Aziz Alwan in Baghdad and Aahad Ali in Basra contributed to this report.