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Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

Coconino’s Preston Olney (1) shoots the ball over the head of a Mohave defender Tuesday at Coconino High School.


News
Flagstaff school makes 'Helping Houses' for Calif. fire victims

Even second- and third-graders can help others in their times of need.

This was the message Kathy Marron hoped to communicate to her art students at Thomas Elementary School as they began creating “Helping Houses” to raise money for victims of the California wildfires who lost their homes.

So far, the students have created more than 100 of these paper house magnets that can be purchased with a donation at the school or district offices. All donations will be sent to the American Cross and the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund.

“I was moved by the television and radio coverage of the plight of the people in California losing their homes,” Marron said. “I wanted to help out and I’m always looking for ways to teach the children they have the power, even though they are young, to help other people.”

The project ties into the schoolwide effort to help people and to make the world a better place and was partly inspired by local author Linda Kranz’s book “Only One You,” which reminds readers that everyone has the potential to improve the world around them. Earlier this month, the book inspired its own project when each of Marron’s students – kindergarten through fifth grade – contributed to an art installation by painting rocks to match the book’s main character, a fish named Adri.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Completed fridge magnets wait to be attached to cards Monday morning at Thomas Elementary School as part of an art project to raise money for families who lost their homes in the California wildfires last month.

Marron credits the house magnet idea to Cassie Stephens, an art teacher from Nashville, Tenn. who shares her project ideas with other art teachers through her blog. This online collaboration between art teachers is an advantage for students and teachers throughout the country, Marron said.

“When a good project comes your way, you want to share it because it benefits the kids,” she said of the collaboration.

Thomas Elementary is a member of the No Excuses University System of Schools, a program that asks schools to support at least one local or national cause annually. Achieving this goal has not been difficult, though, because the students have a desire to help others.

“Children are naturally compassionate. They love to help,” Marron said. “When I approached some of my second- and third-grade classes with the Helping Houses project, they enthusiastically agreed to participate, and wanted to make as many house magnets as they could.”

Jovani Ramirez, 7, and Aurivella Munoz, 6, are two of Marron’s second-graders who participated in the creation of these Helping Houses. They enjoyed creating this project and are passionate about the cause and eager to share with anyone who asks about it. Like other students, the two have a desire to help wildfire victims who lost everything, even beloved pets.

“We are trying to save people’s lives,” Jovani said. “We are going to make money for people who lost their homes, puppies, everything.”

Jovani has made three Helping Houses using vibrant colors like red, his favorite. He said the red door of one of his magnets matched that of his family’s house.

Aurivella said these houses are important in ensuring the victims have appropriate shelter.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Aurivella Munoz, 6, holds up a fridge magnet house that she made as part of a project to raise funds for families who lost their homes during the wildfires in California last month. The magnets are for sale and the money raised will be donated.

“We don’t want them to get hurt, like in a storm,” she said as she adorned one of her houses with hearts. “When I heard these people didn’t have houses, I was a little sad…I wanted to make hearts for them to make them feel better.”

These students do not want to provide for just wildfire victims, though -- they hope to make careers of helping others. Jovani wants to be a police officer when he grows up, while Aurivella wants to be a veterinarian.

Early in the school year, Marron’s classes painted the various shapes that now form the houses. The students have the creative freedom to decorate the various components, glue them together and add any other desired elements – including windows, doors and chimneys – before reinforcing the backsides of the houses and attaching magnets.

The project is particularly relevant because it encourages the students to think of others while still meeting the educational standards of their art class, which include working collaboratively and learning the fundamentals of art, design and visual communication. If enough magnets are sold, Marron hopes to expand the project to other grade levels. 

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Fridge magnets made by children at Thomas Elementary School sit attached to cards explaining the project Monday morning.

Principal Ginni Biggs said the students are learning the potential of art through this project. To the students, the mission behind the project is as important as the creations themselves.

“It’s about recognizing they made a work of art and knowing that someone wants something they made. [It teaches them] the power of art and sharing it,” Biggs said. “[Marron] does such a nice job of inspiring students to be their best selves and to do something greater than themselves.”

This altruistic attitude is not just important for students, but also for the whole community this holiday season.

“At this time of year, it’s so easy to get caught up with yourself,” Marron said. “We’re hoping that when people see [Helping Houses] on their refrigerator, they are reminded that they are making the world a better place by donating to the people in California.”

Aurivella added that the magnets would make good presents for Christmas or upcoming birthdays, like her own.

Although the school is the only current venue for these magnets, faculty members are actively seeking out additional places to display them. Businesses interested in helping with this project can contact Thomas Elementary for more information.


Washington
AP
Mueller recommends no prison for Flynn, citing cooperation

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's former national security adviser provided so much information to the special counsel's Russia investigation that prosecutors say he shouldn't do any prison time, according to a court filing Tuesday that describes Michael Flynn's cooperation as "substantial."

The filing by special counsel Robert Mueller provides the first details of Flynn's assistance in the Russia investigation, including that he participated in 19 interviews with prosecutors and cooperated extensively in a separate and undisclosed criminal probe. But the filing's extensive redactions also underscore how much Mueller has yet to reveal.

It was filed two weeks ahead of Flynn’s sentencing and just over a year after he became one of five Trump associates to plead guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia probe, in his case about conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Though prosecutors withheld specific details of Flynn's cooperation because of ongoing investigations, their filing nonetheless illustrates the breadth of information Mueller has obtained from people close to Trump as the president increasingly vents his anger at the probe — and those who cooperate with it.

This week, Trump accused his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, of making up "stories" to get a reduced prison sentence after pleading guilty to lying to Congress and also praised longtime confidante Roger Stone for saying he wouldn't testify against Trump.

It's unclear if Trump will now turn his fury on Flynn, whom Trump bonded with during the 2016 campaign.

Trump has repeatedly lamented how Flynn's life has been destroyed by the special counsel's probe. At one point, he tried to protect Flynn by asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into his alleged false statements, according to a memo Comey wrote after the February 2017 encounter.

That episode, which Trump has denied, is among those under scrutiny by Mueller as he probes whether the president attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommend between zero and six months in prison, and Mueller's office said Flynn's cooperation merits no prison time.

Prosecutors said Flynn's early cooperation was "particularly valuable" because he was "one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight" into the events under investigation. They noted his cooperation likely inspired other crucial witnesses to cooperate.

Mueller's team credited Flynn with serving 33 years in the U.S. Army, including five years in combat. But prosecutors also said the long military and government service that sets him apart from all other defendants in the investigation made his deception more troublesome.

"The defendant's extensive government service should have made him particularly aware of the harm caused by providing false information to the government, as well as the rules governing work performed on behalf of a foreign government," they wrote.

Flynn's case has stood apart from those of other Trump associates, who have aggressively criticized the investigation, sought to undermine it and, in some cases, been accused of lying even after agreeing to cooperate.

Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is accused of repeatedly lying to investigators since his guilty plea. Another Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, is serving a 14-day prison sentence and, though he pleaded guilty to the same crime as Flynn, was denied probation because prosecutors said his cooperation was lacking.

In Tuesday's filing, prosecutors emphasized that the conduct Flynn lied about cuts to the core of the investigation into any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Flynn's false statements stemmed from a Jan. 24, 2017, interview with the FBI about his interactions with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's then-ambassador to the U.S., as the Obama administration was levying sanctions on the Kremlin in response to election interference.

Mueller's office blamed Flynn for other senior Trump transition officials making misleading public statements about his contacts with Russia, an assertion that matches the White House's explanation of Flynn's firing.

As part of his plea deal, Flynn said members of Trump's inner circle, including his son-in-law and White House aide Jared Kushner, were involved in — and at times directing — his actions in the weeks before Trump took office.

According to court papers, in mid-December 2016, Kushner directed Flynn to reach out to several countries, including Russia, about a U.N. Security Council resolution regarding Israeli settlements. During those conversations with Kislyak, Flynn asked Russia to delay or vote against the resolution, a request the Kremlin ultimately rejected.

Flynn also admitted that later in December 2016 he asked Kislyak not to retaliate in response to the Obama administration sanctions, something he initially told FBI agents he didn't do.

Flynn was forced to resign his post on Feb. 13, 2017, after news reports revealed that Obama administration officials had warned the Trump White House about Flynn's false statements. The White House has said Flynn misled officials— including Vice President Mike Pence — about the content of his conversations.


News
2020 CENSUS
City and county solidify strategies to combat 2020 census under count

The year 2020 might feel far off, but the city and county staff have been preparing for it for almost the past year, working to get census workers an accurate database of addresses from across the county.

This is especially important given that the risk of an undercount in the 2020 census in Coconino County is “fairly high,” Sara Dechter, the city’s comprehensive planning manager, told a joint meeting of Flagstaff City Council and the County Board of Supervisors Monday.

Dechter said this is because the county and city have large minority and student populations, respectively, who may be less likely to respond to the census.

This lower response rate can be for any number of reasons, such as language barriers. When it comes to students, many may not know if they are supposed to be counted where they attend school or where they are originally from.

As the census count is supposed to capture where people are living on April 1, 2020, students attending Northern Arizona University would list themselves as Flagstaff residents.

To increase the likelihood of this, Dechter said, staff are identifying census blocks that are likely to house a high number of students. This will allow the census office to prioritize sending workers to areas heavily occupied by students so they are not missed and have plenty of time to respond.

“Given that about one in every three adults in the city of Flagstaff is an NAU student, it’s a big area,” Dechter said. “It was about 40 percent of the census blocks in the city that were identified for early nonresponse follow-up.”

Outside Flagstaff, the extremely rural nature of so much of the county also makes the census process more difficult. The postal system -- specifically accurate data on resident addresses -- is a critical way to get in contact with residents, Dechter said.

Within the next year, census staff will also likely begin traveling from Phoenix to identify “hidden addresses.” These are places where multiple buildings may share the same address and can often include people living in tiny homes or trailers on a family member’s property.

Another issue that could affect the census in and around Flagstaff is the number of second homes.

Many areas may exceed the number of households within a census block. But because of the number of second homes, that doesn’t mean there are necessarily as many people living within those blocks. The census may draw their census blocks in a way that might need to be corrected by the city and county.

For every person who is counted, it is estimated that almost $2,000 is provided by the federal government, be it through Medicaid, funds for transportation or funding for affordable housing programs.

Flagstaff will house a census office to coordinate efforts across northern Arizona. That office is expected to be staffed by about 10 management positions, the first of which are being hired now, Dechter said. Anywhere from 40 to 50 support staff positions are set to be hired across the county.

“It feels like the census 2020 is still pretty far off when you say it, but we will probably be seeing census workers actually out in the field in less than a year in Coconino County,” Dechter said.

Updated for a correction at 11:43 a.m. on Dec. 6. 


News
Police identify NAU student found in Rio de Flag

Kain Turner, 21, a student from Northern Arizona University, was found in the Rio de Flag near Beaver Street on Tuesday after he was reported missing Monday afternoon to the Northern Arizona University Police Department.

Cory Runge, spokesperson with the Flagstaff Police Department, confirmed Turner’s death.

His last known location was in downtown Flagstaff on Sunday morning. Turner was initially found by a concerned citizen at 7:45 p.m. Monday, and was unidentified until Tuesday afternoon.

“Cause of death is unknown, but initial investigation does not indicate any signs of foul play,” Runge said.

Northern Arizona University spokeperson Kim Ott confirmed that Turner, who was from Cottonwood, was pursuing a bachelor of science in information systems and was expected to graduate in fall 2020.

His fraternity’s Twitter account posted a picture of Turner Tuesday afternoon, expressing their sadness of losing another brother. Their president, Ryan Waltman, died last year in February.

“We are deeply saddened and hurt on the passing of our brother Kain Turner,” the official Twitter account posted Tuesday. “Kain had a smile that could light up a room and he never failed to make any of us laugh. He touched every single one of us and we all will have so many amazing memories with him. We miss him, but know that he’s looking down on us with Ryan.”

Brandon Ruiz was a friend of Turner since the first grade and also posted his condolences on Twitter, and described Turner as an amazing friend.

“He truly was a unique person with so many traits that we will all miss,” Ruiz said to the Arizona Daily Sun. “He was a beautiful person and, most importantly, an amazing friend that I’ll miss and love forever.”

The police investigation is ongoing. If you have any information regarding this incident, please contact the Flagstaff Police Department (928) 774-1414 or Silent Witness at (928) 774-6111.