As Geneva Lanzetta and Hanna van Belle worked to put the finishing touches to a hand-painted and decorated chair, fellow FALA students flowed around them between classes. The two were working on one of almost a hundred chairs that will be auctioned Sunday during the fifth annual Chairs For Change and Dance Party at the Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff.
All money raised during the event is used to support One New Education, a Flagstaff nonprofit that provides educational scholarships for girls in developing countries across the world.
Each year the community comes together with students from area schools and local artists to decorate chairs and small furniture pieces to be auctioned. This year local artists Gwen Waring, Emma Gardner, Jo Rohrbacker and various Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy alums produced chairs. The Puente de Hozho service club also produced a chair and the Coconino High School interior design class created 13 chairs.
The Chairs For Change event is this Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Coconino Center For The Arts and will feature Vusi Shibambo & Friends, FALA’s African Drum and Dance, Ballet Folklorico de Colores and Sambatuque.
Tickets are available for $5 at the door on the day of the event.
WASHINGTON — Chester Trahan's grandchildren are working, so he's feeling better about the economy these days. But his view of the country's overall direction is pretty grim, darkened by what he sees as a surge in racism and violence fueled by President Donald Trump.
"He stimulated it. Those people were always there, but he gave them a voice," said Trahan, a 78-year-old retiree from Palm Coast, Florida. He's not about to give Trump credit even for the good stuff. "I don't think he's really done anything to help the economy out. It's been doing pretty well for awhile."
Trahan's conflicted outlook of America under Trump — the economy is headed in a better direction than the country overall — is widely shared. A majority in a new poll, 52 percent, say they think the country's direction has worsened over the last year, and only 28 percent are optimistic that things will get better in the year to come.
Despite that gloomy outlook, Americans are more likely to see the national economy as having improved rather than worsened in the past 12 months, 39 percent to 24 percent, according to a survey released Friday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Another 36 percent said they don't see much difference.
"Well, I hold a job again," said Republican-leaning David Peterson, 67, of Torrance, California a quality assurance manager at an aerospace company who was forced to work at a security job for a year. "But recent events would point toward things getting worse. ... It's a lot of violence in the news. A lot of violence in the country. A lot of natural disasters."
Can-do optimism has been a feature of American culture since the nation's founding. But the poll suggests it's been challenged in the 13 months since Trump took office, amid devastating mass shootings, a deadly race riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, record-setting hurricanes and Trump's volatile White House. Not contributing to a sense of safety has been Trump's feud with North Korea.
But Trump also has the improving economy in his pocket, low unemployment and a stock market that has only recently begun to wobble. He and the Republican-led Congress scored a major policy victory at the end of 2017 by passing tax cuts into law.
That's important to how Americans feel about the lifelong businessman and his presidency. His base of support remains historically low but solid, with about about 35 percent of Americans saying they approve of how Trump is handling his job overall. Nearly two-thirds disapprove.
Yet 45 percent say they approve of Trump's handling of the economy. That's higher than the 34 percent who approve of how he's handling foreign policy and 37 percent who say the same of Trump's handling of immigration.
Even among Democrats, just 8 percent of whom say they approve of how Trump is handling his job overall, 21 percent say they approve of his handling of the economy. Among Republicans, three-quarters approve overall while 82 percent back his performance on the economy.
Republicans stand far ahead of Democrats and independents in terms of optimism about how things are going in the country.
For example, 57 percent of Republicans but just a tenth of Democrats think the direction of the country will improve in the next year. Nearly 7 in 10 Republicans — but just 13 percent of Democrats — believe the national economy is likely to improve. Republicans are even more optimistic than Democrats when it comes to thinking their personal finances will improve, 54 percent to 27 percent.
And in general, 64 percent of Republicans but just 11 percent of Democrats think the country is headed in the right direction. Overall, just 32 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction, while 68 percent think it's on the wrong track.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,337 adults was conducted Feb. 15-19 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
WASHINGTON — A former senior adviser to President Donald Trump's election campaign pleaded guilty Friday to federal conspiracy and false-statements charges, switching from defendant to cooperating witness in the special counsel's probe of Trump's campaign and Russia's election interference.
The plea by Rick Gates revealed that he will help special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation in "any and all matters" as prosecutors continue to probe the 2016 campaign, Russian meddling and Gates' longtime business associate, one-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
With his cooperation, Gates gives Mueller a witness willing to provide information on Manafort about his finances and political consulting work in Ukraine, and also someone who had access at the highest levels of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Also Friday, Mueller's team unsealed a new indictment solely against Manafort that included an allegation that he, with Gates' assistance, secretly paid former European politicians to lobby on behalf of Ukraine.
The indictment accuses Manafort of paying the former politicians, informally known as the "Hapsburg group," to appear to be "independent" analysts when in fact they were paid lobbyists. Some of the covert lobbying took place in the U.S.
The indictment says the group was managed by a former European chancellor. Court papers accuse Manafort of using offshore accounts to pay the group more than 2 million euros.
Gates, 45, of Richmond, Virginia, made the plea at the federal courthouse in Washington. He admitted to charges accusing him of conspiring against the U.S. government related to fraud and unregistered foreign lobbying as well as lying to federal authorities in a recent interview.
The plea came a day after a federal grand jury in Virginia returned a 32-count indictment against Gates and Manafort accusing them of tax evasion and bank fraud.
The indictment in Virginia was the second round of charges against Gates and Manafort, who were initially charged last October with unregistered lobbying and conspiring to launder millions of dollars they earned while working on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.
Manafort continues to maintain his innocence.
"I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise," Manafort said Friday. "This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled-up charges contained in the indictments against me."
In court filings over the past few months, Gates gradually began to show the strain the case was placing on him and his family.
He frequently pleaded with U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson for leniency in his house arrest to let him attend sporting events with his four children. Even on Friday, ahead of his plea, Gates had asked the judge to let him take his children to Boston for spring break so they could "learn about American history in general, and the Revolutionary War in particular."
Under the terms of the plea, Gates is estimated to face between 57 and 71 months behind bars. Prosecutors may seek a shortened sentence depending on his cooperation.
Gates' decision marks the fifth publicly known guilty plea in the special counsel probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign.
It comes on the heels of the stunning indictment last week that laid out a broad operation of election meddling by Russia, which began in 2014, and employed fake social media accounts and on-the-ground politicking to promote Trump's campaign, disparage Hillary Clinton and sow division and discord widely among the U.S. electorate.
The charges to which Gates is pleading guilty don't involve any conduct connected to the Trump campaign. They largely relate to a conspiracy of unregistered lobbying, money laundering and fraud laid out in his indictments.
But his plea does newly reveal that Gates spoke with the FBI earlier this month and lied during the interview. That same day, his attorneys filed a motion to withdraw from representing him for "irreconcilable difference."
Gates served on the Trump campaign at the same time that Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner met with a team of Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016. He was also in the top ranks of the campaign when then-Sen. Jeff Sessions held a pair of undisclosed meetings with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.
For a few months in 2016, Gates was indispensable to Trump, leading the ground effort to help Trump win the Republican nomination and flying from state to state to secure Republican delegates in a scramble that lasted all the way until the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
But his power and influence waned once Trump fired Manafort in August 2016 after The Associated Press disclosed how Gates and Manafort covertly directed a Washington lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests.
Gates survived his mentor's ouster and worked through the election on Trump's inaugural committee — but among Trump aides he earned the nickname "the walking dead." Gates also worked briefly with the outside political groups supporting Trump's agenda, America First Policies and America First Action, but was pushed out of that job last year.
After a half-foot of snow fell officially in Flagstaff Friday, skiers, snowboarders and tubers are expected to be out in force this weekend.
As for local non-snowplayers, look for heavy traffic in the Milton, Humphreys and Fort Valley Road corridors as visitors from the Valley arrive in search of fun in the white stuff. Parking along Highway 180 north of Snowbowl Road is banned and Wing Mountain and Crowley Pit are closed, leaving only about 125 legal off-highway parking spaces in the corridor.
The National Weather Service said the storm brought 6.0 inches of snow to Flagstaff's Pulliam Airport through 5 p.m. and a high of just 25 degrees -- more than 20 degrees below normal for the date. The high Saturday won't get above freezing.
Blowing snow and slick roadways caused numerous slideoffs and fender benders Friday. Both Interstate 40 and I-17 were closed in full or in part for several hours apiece due to accidents.
The Flagstaff Unified School District held classes as usual but canceled all after-school activities. The Flagstaff Public Library and Lowell Observatory closed early.
On the snowplay front, Arizona Nordic Village and the Flagstaff Snow Park at Fort Tuthill will be open for business Saturday on natural snow.
The Nordic Village was reporting 4 to 5 inches of fresh snow at its lodge Friday. Groomers were set to work overnight to make sure the resort can open Saturday morning. Plans are to be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for skiing and snowshoeing. Starting at 4 p.m. the resort will start selling $5 trail passes for sunset skiing. The Village offers rental equipment and will be running a family-friendly movie in its warming hut.
Flagstaff Snow Park will have its snowtube runs open starting at 9 a.m. Saturday. Tickets for half a day are $9 for children ages 3 to 12 years and $11 for teens and adults. Tickets for a full day are $13 for children ages 3 to 12 years and $15 for adults and teens. Tickets can be reserved online at www.flagstaffsnowpark.com.
Arizona Snowbowl was reporting about five inches of new powder Friday afternoon and expecting another six inches overnight. The resort is recommending snow chains or four-wheel drive for the roadway. For the latest report on conditions and trails, check www.snowbowl.ski.