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Some telephone service disrupted in Lowville area

First published: July 30, 2014 at 1:21 pm
Last modified: July 30, 2014 at 2:52 pm

LOWVILLE — Telephone service was disrupted Wednesday for many Lowville area customers, including some Lewis County offices, but lingering issues stemming from a weekend storm were expected to be resolved by mid-afternoon.

Patricia Amendola, communications manager at Frontier Communications, said a direct lightning hit to the Lowville Central Office switch early Sunday morning knocked out phone service in the area, but it was restored to most customers — those on the primary side of the switch — by early Sunday afternoon.

However, the secondary side, including about 550 lines, had been “posing more challenges,” leading to intermittent service until final work was completed on Wednesday afternoon, she said.

Lewis County Manager Elizabeth Swearingin said several offices at the county and its municipal hospital were affected by the disruption, but the 911 emergency dispatch service was not.

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Colton concert moved to pavilion at Swift Field

First published: July 30, 2014 at 10:28 am
Last modified: July 30, 2014 at 1:00 pm

COLTON - Because of possible rain, Wednesday evening’s performance by Northbound, scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the gazebo, has been relocated to the pavilion at Swift Field in the hamlet of South Colton. Signs will be posted at the gazebo and elsewhere to let people know of the change in venue.

The Colt’s Pride Booster Club will have hot dogs, hamburgers, drinks and other goodies available to purchase.

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Cuomo’s biggest test is corruption probe handling

First published: July 30, 2014 at 10:40 am
Last modified: July 30, 2014 at 10:40 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo responds to a question about a published report that said his administration may have interfered with the corruption panel the governor created during a press conference at the University of Buffalo, Monday, July 28, 2014, in Buffalo, N.Y. Cuomo on Monday defended his handling of an anti-corruption commission, dismissing reports that his administration interfered with its work. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Allegations that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration meddled with his state anti-corruption commission are posing the greatest political test of his tenure and highlighting his skill at high-wire verbal gymnastics.

But with a re-election war chest of $35 million and polls putting him far ahead of his Republican challenger, political observers say the questions dogging the governor so far are unlikely to reduce his chances of winning a second term or dim his presidential ambitions.

Cuomo, responding to reports that his administration pressured the commission not to issue subpoenas to groups linked to him, said there was no interference. Not because his administration stayed out of it, however, but because its requests went unheeded.

“It’s clear the governor said things that don’t coexist easily,” said Richard Brodsky, a former state lawmaker who ran for attorney general in 2010. “There will be a political price to pay. His opponents will and should raise the issue. We will see if he can persuade the voters that what he said and what he did were appropriate.”

The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption was created by Cuomo last year to root out corruption. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission this spring after lawmakers passed a series of ethics reforms he sought.

The New York Times reported last week that a top Cuomo aide, Larry Schwartz, pressured the commission to drop subpoenas to entities connected to the governor, including a media-buying firm used by Cuomo and the Real Estate Board of New York, whose members had financially supported the governor’s campaign.

A year ago, in announcing the panel, Cuomo said it would be “an independent commission that is free to investigate whatever they believe needs to be investigated.”

On Monday, Cuomo insisted there was no interference, noting the commission balked at Schwartz’s attempt to veto the subpoenas. In April, he described the panel in different terms during an interview with Crain’s New York to dismiss an earlier accusation that he had meddled with the commission.

“It’s my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it,” he told the publication. “So, interference? It’s my commission. I can’t interfere with it because it is mine. It is controlled by me.”

Cuomo’s serpentine reasoning has revved up his election opponents — and commentators including Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart. But it’s unclear how many in the public are paying attention, and observers say that unless the story takes a deeper twist it’s unlikely to put much of a dent into Cuomo’s huge lead in polls over his Republican challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, in the heavily Democratic state.

“I think this confirms the underlying skepticism and cynicism that some people have about politics,” said Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at SUNY New Paltz. “But unless something changes, I don’t see the outcome of the election being affected.”

Astorino said contributions to his campaign picked up after the allegations. On Tuesday, he called for a state investigation into Cuomo’s handling of the commission, which he said had prompted him to look up the definition of the word “interfere.”

“He tried to interfere, but because it didn’t work it wasn’t interference?” Astorino said.

Four members of the 25-person commission have publicly backed Cuomo’s assertion, including one of the three co-chairs. Another commission member, Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita, said some members of the panel discussed resigning when they heard Cuomo’s office had tried to block the subpoenas. Cuomo’s office later backed off, he said.

Cuomo changed the subject Tuesday, announcing $250 million for clean energy projects, a business expansion in Canton and the completion of a senior-housing project in Manhattan. He is also considering a visit to Israel to show support during its conflict in Gaza. Such a visit would likely attract significant media attention and give him a chance to put the questions about the commission behind him.

One particular critic may be harder to shake. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the dissolution of the commission was “premature.” He collected the panel’s files and said federal prosecutors would continue its “important and unfinished” work.

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US economy grew at strong 4 percent rate in spring

First published: July 30, 2014 at 10:14 am
Last modified: July 30, 2014 at 10:14 am
In this July 17, 2014 photo, construction workers build a commercial complex in Springfield, Ill. The government issues its first of three estimates of how fast the U.S. economy grew in the April-June quarter on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

WASHINGTON (AP) — After a dismal winter, the U.S. economy sprang back to life in the April-June quarter, growing at a fast 4 percent annual rate on the strength of higher consumer and business spending.

The rebound reported Wednesday by the Commerce Department followed a sharp 2.1 percent annualized drop in economic activity in the January-March quarter. That figure was revised up from a previous estimate of a 2.9 percent drop. But it was still the biggest contraction since early 2009 in the depths of the Great Recession.

Last quarter’s bounce-back was broad-based, with consumers, businesses, the housing industry and state and local governments all combining to fuel growth. The robust expansion will reinforce analysts’ view that the economy’s momentum is extending into the second half of the year, when they forecast an annual growth rate of around 3 percent.

The second quarter’s 4 percent growth in the gross domestic product — the economy’s total output of goods and services — was the best showing since a 4.5 percent increase in July-September quarter of 2013.

A higher trade deficit was a small drag on growth, but even there analysts noted that exports posted a strong increase but this was offset by rising imports as a growing U.S. economy boosted demand for both U.S. and foreign goods.

Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said that given the solid rebound, he’s boosting his estimate for growth this year to a 2 percent annual rate, up from a previous 1.7 percent forecast. Ashworth said the rebound also supported his view that the Federal Reserve, which is ending a two-day meeting Wednesday, will be inclined to start raising interest rates early next year.

Most economists have been predicting that the Fed would wait until mid-2015 to start raising rates.

“At the margin, this GDP report supports our view that an improving economy will persuade the Fed to begin raising rates in March next year,” Ashcroft wrote in a research note.

Ashcroft is among a group of economists who think growing strength in the job market and the overall economy will prod the Fed to move faster to raise interest rates to make sure inflation doesn’t get out of hand.

The GDP report showed that one measure of inflation rose 2 percent last quarter, up from a 1.3 percent rise in the first quarter. The Fed’s inflation target is 2 percent, and for two years the GDP measure of inflation has been running below that level. Low inflation has given the Fed leeway to focus on boosting growth to fight high unemployment.

The economy’s sudden contraction in the first quarter of this year had resulted from several factors. A severe winter disrupted activity across many industries and kept consumers away from shopping malls and auto dealerships. Consumer spending slowed to an annual growth rate of just 1.2 percent, the weakest showing in nearly three years.

Last quarter, consumer spending, powered by pent-up demand, accelerated to a growth rate of 2.5 percent. Spending on durable goods such as autos surged at a 14 percent rate, the biggest quarterly increase since 2009.

Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.

In the April-June quarter, business investment in new equipment jumped at a 7 percent rate after having fallen 1 percent in the first quarter. That setback had reflected the expiration of business tax breaks at the end of 2013. Those tax breaks led companies to boost equipment spending at the end of last year.

Businesses, optimistic about future demand, increased their stockpiling last quarter. The increase in inventories contributed two-fifths of the growth in the quarter after having subtracted 1 percentage point from first-quarter activity.

Housing, which had been falling for two straight quarters, rebounded in the spring, growing at a 7.5 percent annual rate.

Government spending also recovered after two consecutive declines. The strength came from state and local governments, which offset the seventh quarterly decline in federal government spending.

With the new report, the government also released its annual revisions to GDP data for the previous three years. Those revisions showed that growth was slightly faster in 2013 than previously thought, mainly because the second half of the year was healthier.

But the government said growth in 2011 and 2012 was slightly lower than previously estimated. The new figures showed growth of 2.2 percent in 2013, 2.3 percent in 2012 and 1.6 percent in 2011.

Many analysts think the economy is on the verge of an acceleration after subpar annual growth rates of just above 2 percent through the first five years of recovery from the Great Recession, which officially ended in June 2009.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said he thinks growth could accelerate to above 4 percent in 2015. He said he expects support from continued solid gains in hiring, which should translate into strength in consumer spending. Employers have added at least 200,000 jobs for five straight months — the best such stretch since the late 1990s tech boom.

“I think we are finally going to start seeing more wage growth and that should kick the economy into high gear by late 2015,” Zandi said.

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