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Elaine Thompson 

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is hugged by quarterback Drew Stanton (5) after Seattle Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh missed a field goal at the end of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)


Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Dan Duke, wearing an inflatable T-Rex suit, dives into the water in Upper Lake Mary on New Year's Day during the 2018 Flagstaff Polar Plunge.


Columnists
top story
Flagstaff's first baby of 2018 an 'Emmie winner

Cydney Shaum and her husband Taylor Dustin smiled a weary smile at their 6 pound 5 ounce baby girl, Emmie Jean Dustin. It was the couple’s first child and the first baby born in 2018.

Emmie was born in Flagstaff Medical Center at 12:35 a.m. on New Year’s Day, after 12 hours of what Shaum called “relatively painless labor.”

The couple started to believe they would have a New Year’s Day baby around 11:15 p.m. on Sunday night.

“It was definitely on our mind that we could have a New Year’s baby. We thought a Jan. 1, 2018 birthday sounded better than Jan. 6,” Dustin said referring to Emmie’s expected birthday.

Dustin said he and the nurses on staff tried to guess the times the baby would be born.

“No one guessed midnight,” Dustin said with a smile.

The couple was thrilled when they learned they had a baby girl because both parents decided not to know the gender until the baby was born.

“It was hard for me not to know, but I am glad we didn’t know the gender. We couldn’t be happier to have a baby girl.”

Dustin said not knowing their new daughter’s gender made her birth even more special.

“I have always loved surprises and I couldn’t think of a better surprise than this,” Dustin said.

Emmie’s father was even there to catch his daughter and be the first person to usher her into the world.

“Catching my daughter as she was born was a once in a lifetime experience,” Dustin said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

The couple looked at their sleeping baby with excitement as they talked about her features and looked forward to little quirks they may discover as they get to know Emmie.

“She has little dimples on her cheeks,” Shaum said. “We are still getting to know her and I can’t wait to learn other things about her.”

Emmie's birth in Flagstaff makes her a fifth-generation Flagstaff resident and her mother said she couldn’t think of a better place to raise a child.

“I was born in Flagstaff and I think this is an amazing place to start our family,”

Shaum said that they were excited to bring their child into the world at the start of 2018, despite many of their friends choosing not to have kids right now.

“I think having a baby in 2018 can be overwhelming for a lot of people,” Shaum said. “Some of our friends and family have decided to wait to have kids because they don’t feel comfortable with the current climate. We are excited though and ready to start our family.”

As Shaum looked at her baby she reflected on the future. “I have a lot of fears but I try not to dwell on them,” Shaum said. “We are trying not to dwell on them though and just look toward the future.”

One other baby was born at Flagstaff Medical Center on New Year's Day.


National
AP
Feds employ data-driven early warning system in opioid fight

PITTSBURGH — The pain clinic tucked into the corner of a low-slung suburban strip mall was an open secret.

Patients would travel hundreds of miles to see Dr. Andrzej Zielke, eager for what authorities described as a steady flow of prescriptions for the kinds of powerful painkillers that ushered the nation into its worst drug crisis in history.

At least one of Zielke's patients died of an overdose, and prosecutors say others became so dependent on oxycodone and other opioids they would crowd his office, sometimes sleeping in the waiting room. Some peddled their pills near dilapidated storefronts and on blighted street corners in addiction-plagued parts of Allegheny County, where deaths by drug overdose reached record levels last year.

But Robert Cessar, a longtime federal prosecutor, was unaware of Zielke until Justice Department officials handed him a binder of data that, he said, confirmed what pill-seekers from as far away as Ohio and Virginia already knew. The doctor who offered ozone therapy and herbal pain remedies was also prescribing highly addictive narcotics to patients who didn't need them, according to an indictment charging him with conspiracy and unlawfully distributing controlled substances.

Zielke denied he was overprescribing, telling AP he practiced alternative medicine and many of his patients stopped seeing him when he cut down on pain pills.

His indictment in October was the first by a nationwide group of federal law enforcement officials that, armed with new access to a broader array of prescription drug databases, Medicaid and Medicare figures, coroners' records and other numbers compiled by the Justice Department, aims to stop fraudulent doctors faster than before.

The department is providing a trove of data to the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. Data drawn from authorities in 12 regions across the country shows which doctors are prescribing the most, how far patients will travel to see them and whether any have died within 60 days of receiving one of their prescriptions, among other information.

Authorities have been going after so-called "pill mills" for years, but the new approach brings additional federal resources to bear against the escalating epidemic. Where prosecutors would spend months or longer building a case by relying on erratic informants and limited data, the number-crunching by analysts in Washington provides information they say lets them quickly zero in on a region's top opioid prescribers.

"This data shines a light we've never had before," Cessar said. "We don't need to have confidential informants on the street to start a case. Now, we have someone behind a computer screen who is helping us. That has to put (doctors) on notice that we have new tools."

And Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, said the Justice Department will consider going after any law-breaker, even a pharmaceutical company, as it seeks to bring more cases and reduce the number of unwarranted prescriptions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been in lock-step with President Donald Trump about the need to combat the drug abuse problem that claimed more than 64,000 lives in 2016, a priority that resonates with Trump's working-class supporters who have seen the ravages of drug abuse first-hand. The president called it a public health emergency, a declaration that allows the government to redirect resources in various ways to fight opioid abuse.

But he directed no new federal money to deal with a scourge that kills nearly 100 people a day, and critics say his efforts fall short of what is needed. The Republican-controlled Congress doesn't seem eager to put extra money toward the problem.

While the effectiveness of the Trump administration's broader strategy remains to be seen, the Justice Department's data-driven effort is one small area where federal prosecutors say they can have an impact.

The data analysis provides clues about who may be breaking the law that are then corroborated with old-fashioned detective work — tips from informants or undercover office visits, said Shawn A. Brokos, a supervisory special agent in the FBI's Pittsburgh division. Investigators can also get a sense for where displaced patients will turn next.

Authorities acknowledge there are legitimate reasons for some doctors to prescribe large quantities of opioids, and prescriptions alone don't necessarily trigger extra scrutiny. What raises red flags for investigators are the dentists, psychiatrists and gynecologists who are prescribing at surprisingly high rates.

The effort operates on the long-held perception that drug addiction often starts with prescriptions from doctors and leads to abuse of more dangerous black market drugs like fentanyl, which, for the first time last year, contributed to more overdose deaths than any other legal or illegal drug, surpassing pain pills and heroin.

But that focus can cause law-abiding physicians to abandon disabled patients who rely on prescriptions, for fear of being shut down, said University of Alabama addiction researcher Stefan Kertesz. Those patients will turn to harder street drugs or even kill themselves, he said.

"The professional risk for physicians is so high that the natural tendency is to get out of the business of prescription opioids at all," he said.

Investigators said Zielke charged $250 a visit and made patients pay in cash. But Zielke said prosecutors unfairly targeted him. Instead of more prosecutions, he said, the government "should promote more alternative therapies," he said. "And they should find out why so many people have pain."

A second indictment by the anti-fraud unit involved a cardiologist in Elko, Nevada, accused of routinely providing patients fentanyl and other painkillers they did not need. Justice officials hope to expand the data-driven work nationwide.

Will it work? As Soo Song, who watched addiction warp communities while serving as acting U.S. attorney in western Pennyslvania, put it: "The best measure of success will be if fewer people die."


Washington
AP
2017 IN REVIEW
Often at odds, Trump and GOP relish tax win, court picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Handout 

Fitness resolutions can quickly turn to drudgery if you put too much pressure on yourself.


Local
top story
NEW HORIZONS
Flagstaff astronomer prepares New Horizons to look beyond Pluto

In the outer reaches of our solar system, NASA’s New Horizons space probe is currently sailing away from Earth at an average velocity of 36,373 mph. It has already completed its primary objective, sending back detailed images of Pluto and its moon Charon during its historic 2015 flyby.

The probe is now set to explore other objects in the Kuiper Belt. This belt covers a vast region of space beyond Neptune and is home to millions of icy bodies left over from the formation of the planets.

NASA has announced that the probe’s next target will be 2014 MU69, a mysterious, irregularly shaped celestial body about 16 miles long and a billion miles away from Pluto. The nametag stems from it being first observed by the Hubble telescope in the year 2014. If the mission is successful, MU69 will be the farthest object ever visited by a spacecraft.

Will Grundy is a key member of the New Horizons project. He is the leader of the surface composition theme team, based out of the Lowell Observatory here in Flagstaff. He hopes that a close-up view of MU69 will provide scientists with clues as to how the solar system came to exist today, particularly the planets that share the same chemical compounds as the object.

“These are the building blocks of the outer planets,” he said. “We don’t know a whole lot about that process yet because it happened four and a half billion years ago. And until now, we’ve never been able get a close enough look at one of these objects.”

The flyby will bring New Horizons within 2,200 miles of MU69. Imaging equipment aboard the probe will provide scientists with more clarity about the surface composition and geology of the object, revealing whether the object has traces of frozen water, ammonia, methane or carbon monoxide -- the same elements that constitute the outer planets. Scientists will then also look for evidence of any elusive moons or rings that might be in orbit.

The longevity of the project hinges upon the new data being transmitted back to Earth. Every adjustment of New Horizon’s trajectory consumes precious fuel. For that reason, Grundy explained that the team has to be precise when choosing which bodies are worth taking a closer look at.

“By good fortune, MU69 happens to be almost on a collision course with the spacecraft already,” he said. “So we diverted the spacecraft ever so slightly so that it would fly past close enough for study.”

The flyby is set to be on January 1st of 2019. Anyone interested in tracking New Horizon’s progress will be able to follow the craft’s voyage at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Mission/Where-is-New-Horizons/index.php


International
AP
At least 13 dead in Iran protests

TEHRAN, Iran — Protests across Iran saw their most violent night as "armed protesters" tried to overrun military bases and police stations before security forces repelled them, killing 10 people, Iranian state television said Monday.

Later in the day, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency said an assailant using a hunting rifle killed a policeman and wounded three other officers during a demonstration in the central city of Najafabad, about 200 miles south of Tehran.

It was the first report of a police officer dying during five days of unrest and raised the death toll to at least 13.

The demonstrations, the largest to strike Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, began Thursday in Mashhad over economic issues and have expanded to several cities, with some protesters chanting against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hundreds of people have been arrested.

Iranian state television aired footage of a ransacked private bank, broken windows, overturned cars and a firetruck that appeared to have been set ablaze. It said 10 people were killed by security forces during clashes Sunday night.

"Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces," state TV said.

In a later report, state TV said six people were killed in the western town of Tuyserkan and three in the town of Shahinshahr. It did not say where the 10th person was killed.

Earlier Monday, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Hedayatollah Khademi, a representative for the town of Izeh, as saying two people died there Sunday night. He said the cause of death wasn't immediately known, though authorities later described one of the deaths as the result of a personal dispute.

Two protesters also were killed during clashes late Saturday in Doroud, some 200 miles southwest of Tehran in Lorestan province, authorities have said.

On Sunday, Iran blocked access to Instagram and the popular messaging app Telegram used by activists to organize.

President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged the public's anger over the Islamic Republic's flagging economy, though he and others warned that the government wouldn't hesitate to crack down on those it considers lawbreakers.

That was echoed Monday by judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, who urged authorities to confront rioters, state TV reported.

"I demand all prosecutors across the country to get involved and the approach should be strong," he said.

Rouhani also stressed Monday that Iran "has seen many similar events and passed them easily."

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been tweeting in support of the protesters, continued into the New Year, describing Iran as "failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration."

"The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years," he wrote. "They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the protesters "brave" and "heroic," said in a video posted to YouTube on Monday that the protesters sought freedom, justice and "the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades."

He criticized the Iranian regime's response to the protests and chided European governments for watching "in silence" as the protests turn violent.

While some have shared Trump's tweets, many in Iran distrust him because he has refused to re-certify the nuclear deal and his travel bans have blocked Iranians from getting U.S. visas.

State TV has reported that some protesters invoked the name of the U.S.-backed shah, who fled into exile just before Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and later died.

Iran's economy has improved since its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the end of some international sanctions.

That improvement has not reached the average Iranian, however. Unemployment remains high, and official inflation has crept up to 10 percent again. A recent increase in egg and poultry prices by as much as 40 percent, which the government has blamed on a cull over avian flu fears, appears to have been the spark for the economic protests.

While the protests have sparked clashes, Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and its affiliates have not intervened as they have in other unauthorized demonstrations since the 2009 election.

It wasn't immediately clear if the Guard would change its posture given the reported attacks on police stations and military bases. In Tehran on Monday, streets were calm, though a heavy police presence was noticeable.

Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri , the Guard commander and deputy chief of staff for Iran's military, said Monday that Trump's support of the protesters "indicates planning by the U.S. for launching a new sedition in Iran."