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Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

Flagstaff High School’s Ramsey Penza, 0, dunks the ball Friday evening during play against Coconino High School at Coconino.


Local
featured
‘THEY RAISED ME UP’
Athena winners credit mentors, other women

In the year of the #MeToo movement, the honorees at the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce’s Athena awards credited their mentors, both male and female, with their successes in business and in public service.

Theresa Bierer, the winner of the Athena Award, said the #MeToo movement has been important to her as the mother of two daughters, but in her own life she has benefited from both male and female mentors.

“In my career there have been amazing women and men who have mentored me,” Bierer said. “I’ve never felt like anyone held me back, but I’ve felt like they raised me up.”

Bierer, a professor of practice at Northern Arizona University, teaches business communication classes in the W.A. Franke College of Business.

“I teach juniors in the business college, and now we take time to talk about the #MeToo movement,” Bierer said. “It’s an opportunity for young women and men to learn to find their voices and be professional.”

Bierer said she was honored to receive the award, and there are many deserving women in Flagstaff who mentor others.

“I’m friends with so many amazing women who do give of themselves quietly,” she said. “They uplift women and men.”

She is grateful for the people of Flagstaff, who have helped her and her family through difficult times in the past, she said.

“This community is special,” she said. “The people here are special. They are here because they want to be here.”

Bierer said she would never wish anything bad to happen to anyone, but said if something were to happen, Flagstaff is the right place, because the community comes together to help one another.

“I’ve lived in seven states, and I’ve never seen a community rally around its people like this community has rallied around me,” she said.

Before becoming a professor, Bierer worked in the NAU Public Affairs office and previously worked as a television news reporter.

Sarah Benatar, the Coconino County Treasurer, was honored with the Athena Young Professional Award at Friday’s ceremony. She said her award was dedicated to women who devote themselves to others.

“This award is for you, all women,” Benatar said.

Benatar thanked her coworkers at the county as well as her coworkers at the United Way of Northern Arizona, where she worked as the manager of operations, research and policy.

“If you have fought or worked to protect women, families and children, if you have dedicated your life to public service, thank you for leading the way,” Benatar said. “I will continue to fight for women, families and children.”


National
Farthest photos ever taken, from nearly 4 billion miles away

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The NASA spacecraft that gave us close-ups of Pluto has set a record for the farthest photos ever taken.

In December — while 3.79 billion miles from Earth — the New Horizons spacecraft snapped a picture of a star cluster. The photo surpassed the "Pale Blue Dot" images of Earth taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1.

The images for "Pale Blue Dot" — part of a composite — were taken 3.75 billion miles away.

New Horizons took more photos as it sped deeper into the cosmos in December. These pictures show two objects in the Kuiper Belt, the so-called twilight zone on the fringes of our solar system.

NASA released the images this week.

New Horizons flew past Pluto in 2015. It's headed toward an even closer encounter with another icy world, 1 billion miles beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019. The targeted object is known as 2014 MU69; the spacecraft will pass within 2,175 miles.

"New Horizons just couldn't be better ... we're bearing down on our flyby target," said lead scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

New Horizons is currently in electronic hibernation. Flight controllers at a Johns Hopkins University lab in Laurel, Maryland, will awaken the spacecraft in June and start getting it ready for the flyby.

The spacecraft was launched in 2006.


Washington
AP
Trump won't declassify Democratic memo on Russia probe

WASHINGTON — Citing national security concerns, the White House on Friday formally notified the House intelligence committee that President Donald Trump is "unable" to declassify a memo drafted by Democrats that counters GOP allegations about abuse of government surveillance powers in the FBI's Russia probe.

White House counsel Don McGahn said in a letter to the committee that the memo contains "numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages" and asked the intelligence panel to revise the memo with the help of the Justice Department. He said Trump is still "inclined" to release the memo in the interest of transparency if revisions are made.

The president's rejection of the Democratic memo is in contrast to his enthusiastic embrace of releasing the Republican document, which he pledged before reading to make public. The president declassified the document last week, allowing its publication in full over the objections of the Justice Department.

The top Democrat on the intelligence panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, criticized Trump for treating the two documents differently, saying the president is now seeking revisions by the same committee that produced the original Republican memo. Still, Schiff said, Democrats "look forward to conferring with the agencies to determine how we can properly inform the American people about the misleading attack on law enforcement by the GOP."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was less measured, saying the White House move is "part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of cover-up on the part of the president." California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and has read the classified information both memos are based on, tweeted that Trump's blocking the memo is "hypocrisy at its worst."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who produced the GOP memo, encouraged Democrats to accept the Justice Department's recommendations and "make the appropriate technical changes and redactions."

Trump has said the GOP memo "vindicates" him in the ongoing Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. But congressional Democrats and Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who helped draft the GOP memo, have said it shouldn't be used to undermine the special counsel.

Earlier Friday, White House spokesman Raj Shah said Trump was discussing the Democratic document with the White House counsel's office, FBI Director Christopher Wray and another top Justice Department official.

The president had until Saturday to decide whether to allow the classified material to become public after the House intelligence committee voted Monday to release it. Republicans backed releasing the memo in committee with a unanimous vote, but several said they thought it should be redacted. Ryan also said he thought the Democratic document should be released.

In declining to declassify the document, the White House also sent lawmakers a letter signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Wray, as well as a marked-up copy of the memo, laying out portions it considers too sensitive to make public. Among those passages are some that the Justice Department says could compromise intelligence sources and methods, ongoing investigations and national security if disclosed.

The White House message caps off a week in which Republicans and Democrats on the committee have publicly fought, with the panel now erecting a wall to separate feuding Republican and Democratic staffers who had long sat side by side.

The disagreements have escalated over the last year as Democrats have charged that Republicans aren't taking the panel's investigation into Russian election meddling seriously enough. They say Nunes' memo is designed as a distraction from the probe, which is looking into whether Trump's campaign was in any way connected to the Russian interference.

Trump declassified the GOP-authored memo over the objections of the FBI, which said it had "grave concerns" about the document's accuracy.

In Nunes' memo, Republicans took aim at the FBI and the Justice Department over the use of information from former British spy Christopher Steele in obtaining a secret warrant to monitor former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. The warrant was obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The main allegation was that the FBI and Justice Department didn't tell the court enough about Steele's anti-Trump bias or that his work was funded in part by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

They argued that the reliance on Steele's material amounted to an improper politicization of the government's surveillance powers.

Democrats have countered that the GOP memo was inaccurate and a misleading collection of "cherry-picked" details. They noted that federal law enforcement officials had informed the court about the political origins of Steele's work and that some of the former spy's information was corroborated by the FBI.

They also noted that there was other evidence presented to the court besides Steele's information, though they have not provided details. The Democratic memo is expected to elaborate on these points.


Business
AP
All sides claim budget win; immigration fight looks tougher

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders, top Democrats and President Donald Trump are all claiming big wins in the $400 billion budget agreement signed into law Friday. But the push to pass the massive legislation underscored enduring divisions within both parties, and those rifts are likely to make the next fight over immigration even more challenging.

In Washington's latest display of governance by brinkmanship, the bipartisan accord bolstering military and domestic programs and deepening federal deficits crossed the finish line just before dawn — but not before the government shut down overnight.

Passage left nerves frayed and Democrats with little leverage to force congressional action on their most high-profile priority: preventing deportation of hundreds of thousands of the young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and remain here without permanent legal protection.

Lawmakers rushed to limit the disruption and impact over the lapse in government funding, voting in the middle of the night to reopen agencies before workers were due to report to the office. It was the government's second shutdown in three weeks, and most lawmakers were eager to avoid a big show of dysfunction in an election year.

Sen. Rand Paul did not share the urgency. Late Thursday, the tea party leader and Kentucky Republican put the brakes on the bill in protest over Congress' sudden willingness to embrace big deficit spending. Paul noted that he and many in his party railed against deficits when Democrats held the White House, but now seemed willing to look the other way with Republicans in control.

He said he hoped his stand would teach conservatives "to not accept just anything because it comes from a GOP Congress."

Paul's call clearly angered Republican leaders — Sen. John Cornyn called it "grossly irresponsible" — and it exposed a contradiction that may come to haunt Republicans as they try to fire up conservatives in midterm elections.

The budget measure provides Pentagon spending increases sought by Trump and the GOP, more money for domestic agencies demanded by Democrats and $89 billion that both wanted for disaster relief. The two-year pact, which also continues the government's authority to borrow money, postpones any possible federal default or likely shutdowns until after the November elections.

But the 652-page budget bill says nothing about protection for the "Dreamer" immigrants. That omission largely explains why a quarter of Senate Democrats and two-thirds of House Democrats voted no, and why immigration now because the next battle. In January, after a three-day closure, Senate Democrats secured from GOP leaders the promise of a debate and vote on a deal to protect the younger immigrants from deportation.

"Democrats have fought hard but, in the end, many opted to say yes to other priorities and leave Dreamers behind," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigration America's Voice. He called that decision plus opposition by many Republicans "inhumane and indecent."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., set next Monday as the start of a free-wheeling immigration battle, a debate he promised when Democrats agreed to vote to reopen the government last month. Ryan hasn't scheduled House consideration, infuriating Democrats, but he said Friday, "We will focus on bringing that debate to this floor and finding a solution."

Democrats want to extend the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which lets the immigrants temporarily live and work in the U.S. but that Trump would end March 5. The Democrats also want to make the immigrants eligible for citizenship or permanent residence.

In exchange, Trump wants $25 billion to build his beloved, proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall and other barriers. He also wants reductions in legal immigration, including limiting the relatives whom legal residents can sponsor and eliminating a lottery that offers visas to residents of diverse countries.

There's no obvious compromise that could win the 60 votes from Republicans and Democrats needed to prevail in the Senate. The most promising outcome may be a narrow bill extending DACA protections for a year or so and providing some border security money for Trump.

Whatever happens, this week's budget battle dealt a clear immigration defeat to Democrats, who'd initially vowed to block spending bills until there was a deal to help the Dreamers. The setback left party members divided.

No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois, a leader in the immigration fight, said the budget pact "opens the door" for Senate votes on protecting the young immigrants. But Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said anyone supporting the spending measure was "colluding with this president and this administration to deport Dreamers."

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona is preparing compromises to offer during his chamber's upcoming debate and says his party will suffer in November if the issue isn't addressed. No. 3 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana says Republicans still disagree about "how to handle this number of people that Barack Obama encouraged to come in here illegally."

With the immigration fight looming, Congress voted overnight to finance the government through March 23, giving budget-writers time to craft detailed legislation funding agencies through the rest of this fiscal year.