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New mother Maria Graciano rests as her mother, Maria Concepcion, holds Fernando Ortiz Graciano on Monday at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls. Fernando was born at 9:20 a.m. on New Year's Day, making him the first baby born in Twin Falls in 2018. Fernando is 22 inches long and weighs 7 pounds, 10 ounces.

St. Luke's New Year's baby born Monday morning

TWIN FALLS — “Brahms’ Lullaby” chimed over the loudspeaker when St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center’s first baby of the year was born.

Fernando Ortiz Graciano came into the world at 9:20 a.m. Monday. Weighing in at 7 pounds, 10 ounces, Fernando is 22 inches long and has a full head of black hair, now hidden under a blue knitted hat donated by St. Luke’s staff.

His mother, Maria Celene Graciano of Wendell, beamed as a nurse put him in her arms and their eyes locked.

“Oh, he’s precious,” exclaimed hospital spokeswoman Michelle Bartlome.

Graciano’s mother, Maria Concepcion, could hardly stand still waiting for her turn to hold the bundle of joy. Concepcion brought three of Fernando’s young cousins to meet him.

“Can I hold him yet?” she asked anxiously, before swooping him up and kissing his face.

Fernando’s father, Israel Ortiz, met his son earlier that day via FaceTime. Ortiz, a 30-year-old landscaper, is in Mexico, awaiting immigration papers.

Fernando, his mother’s first baby, is named in honor of his paternal grandfather.

Graciano, 23, spoke through St. Luke’s interpreter Blanca Villasenor.

“She says he is the best thing ever to happen to her,” Villasenor said.

Graciano moved from Denver to Wendell about two months ago, she said. She found out in October she was having a boy. Her pregnancy went smoothly, as did her 17-hour labor.

Fernando will go home with a blanket and onesie declaring him a St. Luke’s New Year’s Baby, a gift certificate for portraits, and a new car seat donated by Safe Kids Magic Valley.

“I never imagined having him today,” Graciano said, with Fernando back in her arms. “I’m happy. He’s the most beautiful thing.”


Maria Graciano holds her son, Fernando Ortiz Graciano, on Monday at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls. Born at 9:20 a.m. on New Year's Day, Fernando is the first baby born in Twin Falls in 2018.

Perils abroad, full plate at home, as Trump opens 2nd year

WASHINGTON — The glamour of his holiday break behind him, President Donald Trump returned to the White House on Monday night to face a hefty legislative to-do list, critical midterm elections and perilous threats abroad.

Trump is starting his second year in office after a lengthy sojourn at his private Palm Beach club, capped by a New Year’s Eve bash. Before his departure, he fired angry tweets at Iran and Pakistan, slamming Islamabad for “lies & deceit” and saying the country had played U.S. leaders for “fools,” a reference to frustrations that Pakistan isn’t doing enough to control militants.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted that his government was preparing a response that “will let the world know the truth.”

Meantime North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Monday the United States should be aware that his country’s nuclear forces are now a reality, not a future threat. To that, Trump only said: “We’ll see.”

The president is hoping for more legislative achievements after his pre-Christmas success on taxes. He plans to host Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin at Camp David this weekend to map out the 2018 legislative agenda.

Republicans are eager to make progress before attention shifts to the midterm elections. The GOP wants to hold House and Senate majorities in 2018, but must contend with Trump’s historic unpopularity and some recent Democratic wins.

The president concluded 2017 with his first major legislative achievement — a law to cut taxes, beginning this year, for corporations and individuals at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion added to the national debt over 10 years. The tax overhaul also will end the requirement, in 2019, that all Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine. That’s a key component of the Obama-era health law that that Republicans have been unable to repeal; other features of the law remain intact.

The White House has said Trump will come forward with his long-awaited infrastructure plan in January. Trump also has said he wants to overhaul welfare and recently predicted Democrats and Republicans will “eventually come together” to develop a new health care plan.

Ryan has talked about overhauling Medicaid and Medicare and other safety-net programs, but McConnell has signaled an unwillingness to go that route unless there’s Democratic support for any changes. Republicans will have just a 51-49 Senate majority — well shy of the 60 votes needed to pass most bills — giving leverage to Democrats.

Congress also has to deal with a backlog from 2017. It must agree on a spending bill by Jan. 19 to avert a partial government shutdown.

In addition, lawmakers have unfinished business on additional aid for hurricane victims, lifting the debt ceiling, extending a children’s health insurance program and extending protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Trump has said he wants money for a border wall in exchange for protecting those immigrants.

Trump spent his last day in Florida as he spent most other days — visiting his golf course and tweeting.

On Pakistan, he said: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

It was not immediately clear why the president decided to comment on Pakistan. The U.S. has long accused Islamabad of allowing militants to operate relatively freely in Pakistan’s border regions to carry out operations in neighboring Afghanistan. In August, the United States said it would hold up $255 million in military assistance for Pakistan until it cracks down on extremists threatening Afghanistan.

On Iran, Trump kept up his drumbeat in support of widespread anti-government protests there. He tweeted Monday that Iran is “failing at every level” and it is “TIME FOR CHANGE.”

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Faulkner Planetarium will feature “Dinosaurs at Dusk: The Origins of Flight” at 1:30, 3:30 and 7 p.m. among other shows at CSI’s Herrett Center for Arts and Science in Twin Falls. Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children.

Curtis Compton 

Oklahoma cornerback Tre Norwood breaks up a pass to Georgia wide receiver Javon Wims during the second quarter in the College Football Playoff Semifinal NCAA college football game at the Rose Bowl Game on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Pasadena. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

As Twin Falls City Council prepares to select a mayor, Shawn Barigar reflects on 2 years of controversy, growth

TWIN FALLS — Over the past two years, Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar and his wife, Camille, have been thrust into the national spotlight more intensely than they’d ever envisioned.

In spring 2016, three immigrant boys sexually abused a 5-year-old girl in the Fawnbrook Apartments. The incident fueled an onslaught of online news (some real some fake), blog posts and complaints at City Council meetings.

A September 2017 article in the New York Times describes the strain the Barigars’ marriage endured as they received death threats via email and voicemail. In the summer following the Fawnbrook incident, they bickered frequently.

Shawn Barigar had known his position in the public eye would come with less privacy. Although the magnitude was greater than he’d imagined, it hasn’t swayed him from his goal — to serve the community, convey its desires and protect its reputation and values.

Barigar now plans to throw his hat in the ring once more.

“There’s no question the discussion of refugee resettlement and immigration that arose from the Fawnbrook case was probably the most difficult to make our way through,” Barigar said on Friday. “Looking back at it now, I think it was an overall good community conversation. Even through difficult times, there’s a way to find lessons learned and positive outcomes.”

On Tuesday, the City Council will meet for the first time in its chambers at the new City Hall, 203 Main Ave. E. After Barigar swears in Council members Suzanne Hawkins, Greg Lanting and Christopher Reid for their new terms, the Council will hear from those of its members who are interested in becoming mayor for the next two years.

“It’s been a really good run,” Barigar said. “We have had some really incredible growth in this community.”

He’s served 10 years on the City Council, and was selected as mayor in 2016. During his mayoral term, he’s watched the former Banner Furniture building be remodeled into a City Hall. Five blocks of Main Avenue underwent a major renovation. Clif Bar opened and Chobani and Jayco announced expansions. Pole Line Road also further developed into a major retail corridor.

The controversy, he said, was the most challenging part of the job. But he feels that it gave the city an opportunity to come together and reaffirm its beliefs and values.

Barigar said he’d like to continue to serve as mayor and reflect the forward-thinking desires of the community.

Unlike some cities, in which a mayor is elected to the seat, Twin Falls selects its mayor to a two-year term by a majority vote of the City Council. The Council in 2015 had shot down a proposal to have the mayor elected by popular vote.

On Tuesday, Council members who are interested in serving as mayor will give a brief presentation to the rest of the City Council. A motion and a vote will follow. The newly selected mayor will then appoint a vice mayor with approval of the Council.

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 203 Main Ave. E.

At least 13 dead in Iran protests

TEHRAN, Iran — Protests across Iran saw their most violent night as “armed protesters” tried to overrun military bases and police stations before security forces repelled them, killing 10 people, Iranian state television said Monday.

Later in the day, Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency said an assailant using a hunting rifle killed a policeman and wounded three other officers during a demonstration in the central city of Najafabad, about 200 miles south of Tehran.

It was the first report of a police officer dying during five days of unrest and raised the death toll to at least 13.

The demonstrations, the largest to strike Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, began Thursday in Mashhad over economic issues and have expanded to several cities, with some protesters chanting against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hundreds of people have been arrested.

Iranian state television aired footage of a ransacked private bank, broken windows, overturned cars and a firetruck that appeared to have been set ablaze. It said 10 people were killed by security forces during clashes Sunday night.

“Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces,” state TV said.

In a later report, state TV said six people were killed in the western town of Tuyserkan and three in the town of Shahinshahr. It did not say where the 10th person was killed.

Earlier Monday, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Hedayatollah Khademi, a representative for the town of Izeh, as saying two people died there Sunday night. He said the cause of death wasn’t immediately known, though authorities later described one of the deaths as the result of a personal dispute.

Two protesters also were killed during clashes late Saturday in Doroud, some 200 miles southwest of Tehran in Lorestan province, authorities have said.

On Sunday, Iran blocked access to Instagram and the popular messaging app Telegram used by activists to organize.

President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged the public’s anger over the Islamic Republic’s flagging economy, though he and others warned that the government wouldn’t hesitate to crack down on those it considers lawbreakers.

That was echoed Monday by judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, who urged authorities to confront rioters, state TV reported.

“I demand all prosecutors across the country to get involved and the approach should be strong,” he said.

Rouhani also stressed Monday that Iran “has seen many similar events and passed them easily.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been tweeting in support of the protesters, continued into the New Year, describing Iran as “failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration.”

“The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years,” he wrote. “They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the protesters “brave” and “heroic,” said in a video posted to YouTube on Monday that the protesters sought freedom, justice and “the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades.”

He criticized the Iranian regime’s response to the protests and chided European governments for watching “in silence” as the protests turn violent.

While some have shared Trump’s tweets, many in Iran distrust him because he has refused to re-certify the nuclear deal and his travel bans have blocked Iranians from getting U.S. visas.

State TV has reported that some protesters invoked the name of the U.S.-backed shah, who fled into exile just before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and later died.

Iran’s economy has improved since its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the end of some international sanctions.

That improvement has not reached the average Iranian, however. Unemployment remains high, and official inflation has crept up to 10 percent again. A recent increase in egg and poultry prices by as much as 40 percent, which the government has blamed on a cull over avian flu fears, appears to have been the spark for the economic protests.

While the protests have sparked clashes, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and its affiliates have not intervened as they have in other unauthorized demonstrations since the 2009 election.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the Guard would change its posture given the reported attacks on police stations and military bases. In Tehran on Monday, streets were calm, though a heavy police presence was noticeable.

Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri , the Guard commander and deputy chief of staff for Iran’s military, said Monday that Trump’s support of the protesters “indicates planning by the U.S. for launching a new sedition in Iran.”