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Taylor Mahoney Arizona Daily Sun 

Coconino Panthers hitter Dana Parker (6) hits the ball during a match against Sunrise Mountain Thursday.

Tom Bean 

Volunteer Allen Haden, of Friends of the Rio de Flag and Natural Channel Design, sowing native grass seeds during Make a Difference Day, Oct. 28, 2017, at Willow Bend Environmental Education Center. Volunteers helped to restore Willow Bend habitat gardens, establish native vegetation on slopes, and clean up trash along the Rio de Flag below the gardens in Sinclair Wash along the FUTS. For more photos, see page A7.

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Anti-gentrification banner in Flagstaff flies high

A banner protesting white supremacy and the perceived gentrification of Flagstaff was hung from a crane over the Hub student housing construction site sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning.

The banner depicted a Klansmen being hanged from the neck by a noose with the phrase “gentrify in hell” painted below the illustration.

The banner was taken down by Flagstaff Police before 8:30 a.m. and is being investigated as a trespass of private property, according to Flagstaff Police Department incident reports.

A website that identifies itself as “anti-colonial and anti-fascist” called “Rage and Resist” seemed to take credit for the banner, writing in a post that “this crane has been ominously hovering over our streets for long enough, so we figured it to be the ideal space to address how white supremacy & capitalism are driving forces of gentrification.”

However, the website claims the banner was not hung in an effort to voice support for “preserving the character of Flagstaff.”

“We care about what’s happening to the poor, the unsheltered, the Indigenous, and other People of Color more than we do about ‘the character’ of this little mountain settlement,” the post reads in part.

The post contains a call to action to readers, saying, “we must continue to fight like our lives depend on it, because they do.”

The post ends by saying, “hanging from a tower crane is the only “platform” any fascist should have.”

Attempts to reach the creators of the site were not successful.

The crane is owned by Phoenix-based company Stafford Crane Group.

The company’s Director of Operations Jack Stafford said that they were unaware of the sign and described the incident as “irrelevant unless the crane was broken.”

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A banner made from three bed sheets stitched together with a message reading "Gentrify in Hell" hangs from the crane above the Hub student housing building site early Sunday morning. The banner was removed by the Flagstaff Police Department before 8:30 a.m.

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First guilty plea, indictment of Trump aides in Russia probe

WASHINGTON — On a black Monday for Donald Trump's White House, the special counsel investigating possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump presidential campaign announced the first charges, indicting Trump's former campaign chairman and revealing how an adviser lied to the FBI about meetings with Russian intermediaries.

The formal charges against a total of three people are the first public demonstration that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team believe they have identified criminal conduct. And they send a warning that individuals in the Trump orbit who do not cooperate with Mueller's investigators, or who are believed to mislead them during questioning, could also wind up charged and facing years in prison.

Paul Manafort, who steered Trump's campaign for much of last year, and business associate Rick Gates ended the day under house arrest on charges that they funneled payments through foreign companies and bank accounts as part of their private political work in Ukraine.

George Papadopoulos, also a former campaign adviser, faced further questioning and then sentencing in the first — and so far only — criminal case that links the Trump election effort to the Kremlin.

Manafort and Gates, who pleaded not guilty in federal court, are not charged with any wrongdoing as part of the Trump campaign, and the president immediately sought to distance himself from the allegations. He said on Twitter that the alleged crimes occurred "years ago," and he insisted anew there was "NO COLLUSION" between his campaign and Russia.

But potentially more perilous for the president was the guilty plea by former adviser Papadopoulos, who admitted in newly unsealed court papers that he was told in April 2016 that the Russians had "dirt" on Democratic rival Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails," well before it became public that the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails had been hacked.

Papadopoulos was not charged with having improper communications with Russians but rather with lying to FBI agents when asked about the contacts, suggesting that Mueller — who was appointed in May to lead the Justice Department's investigation — is prepared to indict for false statements even if the underlying conduct he uncovers might not necessarily be criminal.

The developments, including the unexpected unsealing of a guilty plea, usher Mueller's investigation into a new, more serious phase. And the revelations in the guilty plea about an adviser's Russian contacts could complicate the president's assertions that his campaign had never coordinated with the Russian government to tip the 2016 presidential election in his favor, the central issue behind Mueller's mandate.

Mueller's investigation has already shadowed the administration for months, with investigators reaching into the White House to demand access to documents and interviews with key current and former officials.

The Papadopoulos plea occurred on Oct. 5 but was not unsealed until Monday, creating further woes for an administration that had prepared over the weekend to deflect the Manafort allegations. In court papers, Papadopoulos admitted lying to FBI agents about the nature of his interactions with "foreign nationals" who he thought had close connections to senior Russian government officials.

The court filings don't provide details on the emails or whom Papadopoulos may have told about the Russian government effort.

Papadopoulos has been cooperating with investigators, according to the court papers. His lawyers hinted strongly in a statement Monday that their client has more testimony to provide.

There, too, the White House scrambled to contain the potential fallout, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders contending that Papadopoulos' role in the campaign was "extremely limited." She said that "any actions that he took would have been on his own."

The criminal case against Manafort, who surrendered to the FBI in the morning, had long been expected.

The indictment naming him and Gates, who also had a role in the campaign, lays out 12 counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, making false statements and several charges related to failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts. The indictment alleges the men moved money through hidden bank accounts in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles.

In total, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts, according to the indictment. Manafort is accused of laundering more than $18 million.

Outside the courthouse, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing attacked the charges and said "there is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government."

Manafort's indictment doesn't reference the Trump campaign or make any allegations about coordination between Russia and campaign aides. But it does allege a criminal conspiracy was continuing through February of this year, after Trump had taken office.

Why the explosive growth of e-commerce could mean more jobs

WASHINGTON — When the robots came to online retailer Boxed, dread came too: The familiar fear that the machines would take over, leaving a trail of unemployed humans in their wake.

"I had a lot of people asking me, 'What is going to happen to us?'" says Veronica Mena, a trainer for the e-commerce startup. Anxiety had rippled through her co-workers after company executives announced plans to open an automated warehouse in nearby Union, New Jersey.

Yet their fears didn't come to pass.

When the new warehouse opened this spring, workers found their jobs were less physically demanding than at the previous, manual warehouse in Edison, New Jersey. And rather than cutting jobs, the company added a third shift to keep up with rapidly growing demand.

What happened at Boxed — and has occurred elsewhere — suggests widespread fears about automation and job loss are often misplaced. Automation has actually helped create jobs in e-commerce, rather than eliminate them. By accelerating delivery times, robotics and software have made online shopping an increasingly viable alternative to brick-and-mortar stores, and sales have ballooned at online retailers.

The surge in e-commerce has required the rapid build-out of a vast network of warehouses and delivery systems that include both robots and human workers. Even if the robots replace some people in each warehouse, the proliferation of new warehouses should generate hiring for years to come.

"We're not looking to do the same work with half the people," said Rick Zumpano, vice president for distribution at Boxed. "Since we're growing, we need everyone."

Jobs have been lost at storefront retailers, which have suffered under the e-commerce onslaught. But worries about a "retail apocalypse" wiping out many of the nation's 16 million retail jobs have missed a more important trend: E-commerce actually leads to more jobs by paying people to do things we used to do ourselves.

When people shop online, tasks that consumers once did — driving to a store, searching through aisles for a product, bringing it to a cashier and paying for it — are now done by warehouse employees and truck drivers. People spend less time shopping than in the past, research shows.

That means the bankruptcies and store closings in the retail sector aren't the complete picture. Michael Mandel, an economist at the Progressive Policy Institute, calculates that the number of e-commerce and warehousing jobs has leapt by 400,000 in the past decade, easily offsetting the loss of 140,000 brick-and-mortar retail jobs.

Amazon accounts for much of the additional employment. Yet it's also at the vanguard of automation. Since 2014, Amazon has deployed 100,000 robots in 25 warehouses worldwide. At the same time, it's nearly tripled its hourly workforce, from roughly 45,000 to nearly 125,000.

Online grocery shopping also is creating more jobs. Walmart is expanding its online grocery pickup service to 2,000 stores, double the 1,000 where it is now available. The company has created a new class of workers —"personal shoppers" — to fill all the orders.

All these trends have been helped by automation's ability to hold down costs.

And even with automation, there are still jobs at all these warehouses for people to do.

Barbara Ward, 56, is a packer at Boxed, and like all her colleagues, she writes a thank-you note for each order she packages. When a customer has ordered diapers, a packer might write a congratulatory note.

At Amazon's Baltimore warehouse, employees called "stowers" are needed to stock the shelves that are carried by robots. And that requires human judgment: Software suggests to workers where each item should be placed. But it's an employee's responsibility to make sure the shelves, which are tall and narrow, remain balanced.

The explosion of online commerce also is building demand for higher-paying jobs in software and robotics. Nearly 14 percent of software job listings are now posted by retailers, according to data analyzed by Glassdoor, the job recruitment website. That share has doubled from 2012, says Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor's chief economist.

Automation and robotics will get more sophisticated in the future, which will threaten some jobs.

"What's going to happen next is robotic arms, combined with vision technology and suction technology," says Marc Wulfraat, president of MWVPL, a consulting firm. "You can be darn sure that Amazon will take the first swing at it."

But it could take several years for such robots to be put into widespread use. For now, they work mostly with items in boxes and other rigid shapes, Wulfraat says. They can't yet handle bulkier items such as basketballs or softer items like clothes.

And Mandel argues that if robotic pickers lower costs further, it could create new markets for products and services, such as custom-made goods.

Wulfraat predicts hundreds of smaller warehouses will be built in large cities to shorten delivery times to as low as an hour, particularly for groceries. Amazon already has 53 such facilities, and its competitors will be forced to follow suit. Those facilities will be smaller and cheaper, and won't be worth fully automating.

Automation also is more likely in the coming years to make up for labor shortages rather than replace workers, Wulfraat says. Any warehouse workers displaced by automation will easily find jobs elsewhere.

"I don't see hundreds of thousands of workers unemployed and on the street," he said.