WASHINGTON — Submitting to mounting pressure amid growing disruption, President Donald Trump signed a bill Friday to reopen the government for three weeks, backing down from his demand that Congress give him money for his border wall before federal agencies get back to work.
Standing alone in the Rose Garden, Trump said he would sign legislation funding shuttered agencies until Feb. 15 and try again to persuade lawmakers to finance his long-sought wall. The deal he reached with congressional leaders contains no new money for the wall but ends the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
First the Senate, then the House swiftly and unanimously approved the deal. Late Friday, Trump signed it into law. The administration asked federal department heads to reopen offices in a "prompt and orderly manner" and said furloughed employees can return to work.
Trump's retreat came in the 35th day of the partial shutdown as intensifying delays at the nation's airports and another missed payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff.
"This was in no way a concession," Trump said in a tweet late Friday, fending off critics who wanted him to keep fighting. "It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it's off to the races!"
The shutdown ended as Democratic leaders had insisted it must — reopen the government first, then talk border security.
"The president thought he could crack Democrats, and he didn't, and I hope it's a lesson for him," said the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of her members: "Our unity is our power. And that is what maybe the president underestimated."
Trump still made the case for a border wall and maintained he might again shut down the government over it. Yet, as negotiations restart, Trump enters them from a weakened position. A strong majority of Americans blamed him for the standoff and rejected his arguments for a border wall, recent polls show.
"If we don't get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency," Trump said.
The president has said he could declare a national emergency to fund the border wall unilaterally if Congress doesn't provide the money. Such a move would almost certainly face legal hurdles.
As part of the deal with congressional leaders, a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers was being formed to consider border spending as part of the legislative process in the weeks ahead.
"They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first," Trump said. He asserted that a "barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution."
The deal includes back pay for some 800,000 federal workers who have gone without paychecks. The Trump administration promises to pay them as soon as possible.
Also expected is a new date for the president to deliver his State of the Union address, postponed during the shutdown. But it will not be Jan. 29 as once planned, according to a person familiar with the planning but unauthorized to discuss it.
As border talks resume, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hopes there will be "good-faith negotiations over the next three weeks to try to resolve our differences."
Schumer said that while Democrats oppose the wall money, they agree on other ways to secure the border "and that bodes well for coming to an eventual agreement."
In striking the accord, Trump risks backlash from conservatives who pushed him to keep fighting for the wall. Some lashed out Friday for his having yielded, for now, on his signature campaign promise.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested on Twitter that she views Trump as "the biggest wimp" to serve as president.
Money for the wall is not at all guaranteed, as Democrats have held united against building a structure as Trump once envisioned, preferring other types of border technology. Asked about Trump's wall, Pelosi, who has said repeatedly she won't approve money for it, said: "Have I not been clear? No, I have been very clear."
The breakthrough came as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey both experienced at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday because of the shutdown. And the world's busiest airport — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — was experiencing long security wait times, a warning sign the week before it expects 150,000 out-of-town visitors for the Super Bowl.
The standoff became so severe that, as the Senate opened with prayer, Chaplain Barry Black called on high powers in the "hour of national turmoil" to help senators do "what is right."
A lunar eclipse hung above the starlit sky on Sunday night from 8:30 p.m. to midnight. Also known as the as the super blood wolf moon, this astronomical anomaly has significant scientific and cultural meaning.
William Oldroyd, an astronomy graduate student at NAU, explained that a number of astronomical phenomena occurred simultaneously to give this lunar eclipse such a unique name.
According to Oldroyd, the "super" part comes from the supermoon, which is when the moon is at the closest point of orbit to the Earth. This occurs three to four times each year. The "blood" aspect originates from the moon appearing red from our point of view. This happens as the sun rises and sets around the Earth, resulting in the sun’s rays reaching the surface of the moon and reflecting back to the Earth. Finally, a full moon in January is also referred to as a wolf moon.
“While each factor is interesting to witness by itself, it is special to see all of them happen at the same time,” Oldroyd said.
He added that visibility is an important variable as well, and that this lunar eclipse was the most observable one we will see for a long time. Additionally, a meteorite crashed into the moon during the lunar eclipse. Oldroyd said there were several researchers studying the rarity, adding this was the first time such an event was caught on video.
This astronomical event has heavy cultural implications as well. In Northern Arizona, there are many traditional elders from various tribes that reside here and practice their culture. A local Navajo woman, who asked to remain unidentified, elaborated on how significant this event is for the Navajo people. She explained that participating in the lunar eclipse depends on how Navajo people were culturally raised, and ranges on a spectrum of people not practicing their heritage to people implementing every tradition.
She clarified that the beliefs of the Navajo tribe, just like other tribes, are dense with information and stories. She said that each family has their own version of the traditional stories, but the ultimate message is the same. During the lunar eclipse, the moon is becoming the “young maiden,” and is returning to their homeland. It initiates the process of creating spiritual equilibrium with all living beings, including plants, animals and people.
“It’s a renewal of life and a chance for rebirth for everyone and everything,” she said.
Reiterating that each Navajo person and family has their own way of participating in the lunar eclipse, she described how her family prepares for the event. Her family’s experience goes on for hours. She said that during the eclipse, they have to go inside their home, shut the blinds and turn off the lights. During a solar eclipse, they do the best they can not to let any light in.
They do this to avoid witnessing the event. Her family also evades pictures or videos of it on the internet and other media platforms. They believe that seeing the eclipse can lead to health disparity such as cancer or blindness.
If preparation of the lunar eclipse, her family eats dinner early as they are not permitted to eat, sleep or go to the restroom during the experience.
“We have to plan ahead and eat dinner early. We have to mentally, physically and emotionally prepare for this,” she said.
She added that some families will tell stories, while others will pray together and sing traditional songs. Regardless of how practicing Navajo people engage in the spiritual event, every element of how to be humble during the eclipse and respecting the process is extremely important.
Another culture that gives significance to eclipses are the Maya people. Jeronimo Vasquez is a local astronomer from the Maya groups of Poqomchi’ and Mam. According to Vasquez, there are 31 Mayan speaking groups alive today, each with their own traditions and calendars. However, eclipses are typically a fearful time for the Maya and they would abstain from normal activity.
According to Vasquez, it was common in all Maya groups that people would avoid their normal activities because they were afraid of the eclipse causing supernatural events, such as tools coming to life and attacking their owner.
Vasquez said some Maya people believe that when there’s a lunar eclipse, the moon dies and is reborn. Other groups believe that an eclipse was a foretelling of death. Additionally, a handful of Maya groups believe eclipses are a fight between the sun and the moon. This astronomical tug of war depicts the sun beating the moon during a total lunar eclipse, as the shadow of the sun envelops the moon.
While stories about eclipses vary from culture to culture, Vasquez pointed out that there is something unique about the Maya.
“In the past, other cultures around the world had observational astronomy, but the Mayans had predictive astronomy,” Vasquez said.
Through scientific observation, the ancient Maya were able to understand the different relationships between the sun, moon and Earth. Vasquez said it took many generations of Mayan astronomers to routinely watch the sky in order to accumulate extensive knowledge regarding eclipses.
“If I have a hypothesis for any study, I have to observe an event happening repeatedly before I make any confirmation,” Vasquez said. “Imagine how many people were involved in creating these precise calendars.”
Vasquez added it took hundreds of years of observation to achieve such accuracy in predicting eclipses. The Maya had the full eclipse cycle mapped out by the 1200s, and astronomers were able to predict eclipses with an error of no more than a day.
Today, we have the benefit of technology to calculate when eclipses happen. Doing it the old-fashioned way was incredibly difficult and required rigorous observation.
According to Oldroyd, the next observable lunar eclipse will be in 2022. From both a spiritual and a scientific point of view, the super blood wolf moon was historic and will be remembered for years to come.
Unaware of the lasting consequences and despite city and school policies, Flagstaff students remain latched onto the newest form of substance abuse - vaping.
Like other schools throughout the country, Flagstaff Unified School District middle and high schools saw a drastic increase in vaping- and electronic-cigarette-related incidents during the last school year, causing school and district administrators to add vaping to existing disciplinary policies and to notify the school community during registration events for the current year.
As the policy now states, possession of an electronic smoking device on school property, like any other tobacco product, can be treated with suspension and, if repeated, expulsion.
Early last month, Flagstaff City Council passed an ordinance that treats e-cigarettes and vaping in the same way as commercial cigarettes, therefore banning the use of such products in enclosed public places including schools, banks, bars and restaurants, retail stores and reception areas.
Nevertheless, student use has continued.
In total, Flagstaff High School, Coconino High School, Mount Elden Middle School and Sinagua Middle School have registered approximately 65 vaping-related incidents since the beginning of the school year. There have also been a few isolated incidents at the elementary schools.
“I think the kids see it as something they know they’re not supposed to do, but they’re curious about,” said Tom Safranek, principal of Mount Elden Middle School. “There’s an exhilaration of breaking the rules.”
The problem extends beyond these incidents, though.
“What we discovered at the high school level is just a small percentage of the students that are using,” said Mike Sifling, FUSD safety officer and safety resource officer for CHS.
Students are often exposed to these products by parents and siblings who are using them to quit smoking; it is easy for these students to slip such products into their backpacks – without parental knowledge – and take them to school. Once they are confiscated by school officials, though, they will not be returned to families.
Tari Popham, principal of Sinagua Middle School, said students will sell devices stolen from family members to other students. They also lie about their ages to order such products online.
Administrators have reported that vaping is not limited to one student group; rather, it has been seen among all demographics.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that, because manufacturers are not required to report the ingredients in their e-cigarettes, 66 percent of teens believe their devices contain just flavorings.
During the Jan. 8 FUSD Governing Board meeting, FHS Principal Tony Cullen said, “They have no idea they’re getting high…So many kids are just passing them around not knowing what’s in them.”
FUSD has partnered with the Coconino County Public Health Services District (CCPHSD) to participate in a free program through the Attorney General’s Office, where confiscated devices will be tested and destroyed. Results from those sent in at the beginning of the school year are still to be finalized.
Juul, a slim, rectangular device that looks like a refill pack of pencil lead, is the most common vaping product found in student possession, Sifling said. According to the company’s website, all the Juul flavor pods are 3 to 5 percent nicotine, or about 200 puffs – the amount of nicotine in an entire pack of cigarettes.
Devices come in all shapes and sizes and can often be mistaken for common products like flash drives, an idea the district hopes to communicate to teachers and parents.
“If you can think of it, they can make it,” Sifling said as he described a new vaping product hidden in the drawstrings of a sweatshirt.
Although addiction is certainly a component to this issue, Stacie Zanzucchi, CHS principal, noted that vaping is predominantly social in nature. Students are more likely to participate in a group than alone; however, because adult presence has now increased in concentrated areas during the school day, high school students are found using these devices in their cars during school breaks -- when they are found at all.
“Students know that we are aware now, so it happens out of school, when they are away from us,” Zanzucchi said.
Middle school users have been discovered vaping in bathrooms between classes and, in the case of Sinagua, across the street at Foxglenn Park.
The district’s goal is to stop the problem by increasing student education on the effects of nicotine; however, they have to battle against marketing strategies that seem to target youthful users.
Safranek said, “A lot of the marketing, the packaging, is kid-oriented. It smells good, like candy. It doesn’t have that tobacco smell that most people don’t care for.”
Flavors include enticing desserts like strawberry shortcake as well as catchy names like Neon Dream and Vivid Vanilla. Zanzucchi noted the names sound like innocent smoothie flavors.
School leaders agree the act is also appealing to students because the direct effects of vaping are still largely undetermined. Popham compared the trend to that of cigarettes in the 1950s: both are popular social habits, but the bodily damages caused by their use will not be accurately determined until years after the damage is done.
Because shocking stories and statistics on vaping and e-cigarette use have not been uncovered yet, many students believe that it is not harmful to them and that, if it is, it does not compare to smoking tobacco.
To combat this mentality, school and CCPHSD representatives have presented the dangers of nicotine to students of all ages this year in health classes and other ongoing presentations. The Coconino Anti-Tobacco Students, known as the CATS, have also been working to publicize the dangers of vaping to the CHS campus.
On their first offense, during the procedural in-school suspension, Sifling said students receive one-on-one information on the dangers of vaping. So far, Sifling said there have not been any second offenders.
“The idea is, with the first offense, we want to bring the student in, we want to educate them as best as we can. We need them in school, so we try to make it a teachable moment,” he said.
Students found with the devices are also connected with addiction resources.
Additional awareness and education is still needed from parents and community members, though, to prevent the vaping that is occurring outside of schools. Parents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the diversity of vaping products and to have conversations with their children about the dangers of smoking and peer pressure.
The second suspect shot by Arizona Department of Public Safety officers Wednesday on West Topeka Avenue died from his wounds late Thursday night, family reported. DPS later released further information on the topic.
Preston Oszust, 20, died at 10 p.m. Thursday night in the Flagstaff Medical Center, according to Jennifer Timmons, who said she helped raise Oszust like a mother. Marcus Gishal, 20, was also shot by officers on Wednesday night and was pronounced dead by DPS at the scene.
The shooting erupted after the two men fled a traffic stop initiated by DPS officers at a Maverik gas station on the Historic Route 66, DPS reports. Once the two suspects were found, DPS alleges that Gishal shot at officers first, leading to the four officers shooting at the two now-deceased suspects.
Timmons said that Oszust and his friend had hard lives, but were not bad people.
"They were the sweetest young men you could imagine ever meeting," Timmons said. "They were the kind of people that went out of their way for everyone and lifted everyone up."
Timmons said she had taken Oszust into her home when he was 14 years old. Timmons' oldest son asked her to adopt Oszust into their family.
Oszust was homeless, sleeping on public benches before Timmons took him in.
"My older son said we have to take care of him," Timmons said. "I was like, yeah, we cant let him sleep outside. He pretty much bonded with me really quickly.
"He needed that love. He needed a mother," Timmons added.
A candlelight vigil for Oszust, Gishal and Kyle Martinson, 20, who died in the Coconino County Detention Facility Tuesday morning, was held Friday afternoon at Bushmaster Park.
As of Friday, DPS officials have not responded to questions about whether the officers have been placed on leave after the Railroad Springs shooting.
A video released by the Arizona Department of Public Safety on Friday shows the suspects in Wednesday night's shooting running through the Railroad Springs neighborhood.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to describe the relationship between Timmons and Oszust.