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Crime-and-courts
breaking
Shoshone man charged in fatally shooting biological daughter

SHOSHONE — A Shoshone man has been charged in the fatal shooting of a woman who police say was his biological daughter.

Johnathan Pugh, 61, was arraigned in Lincoln County Thursday on one count of voluntary manslaughter.

A bartender at the Iron Horse Saloon called police Wednesday night after Pugh ran into the bar covered in blood and asking for an ambulance, according to an affidavit.

Pugh told the bartender that a woman had been shot in the head in his store across the street.

When police arrived at the store, they found Pugh lying on top of the woman, sobbing, according to the affidavit.

She was identified as Malani Lang, Pugh’s 36-year-old biological daughter.

Pugh told police that Lang had moved in with him one week earlier.

He said the two were arguing that night about Lang’s childhood and Pugh’s decision to give her up for adoption when she was eight years old.

Police said Pugh told them that he tried to point the gun at his own head, but it went off and shot Lang instead.

Pugh said he thought the gun didn’t have a magazine in it at the time.

Lang was flown to Portneuf Hospital, where she died, according to a statement from the Shoshone Police Department.

Pugh had a BAC of 0.09 at the time of the shooting, police said.

He was jailed on a $200,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 24.


PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS 

College of Southern Idaho Men's Basketball player Roche Grootfaam receives his diploma Friday from CSI President Dr. Jeff Fox during the morning graduation ceremony at the college in Twin Falls.


Business
AP
Trump unveils plan to reduce drug prices

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s long-promised plan to bring down drug prices, unveiled Friday, would mostly spare the pharmaceutical industry he previously accused of “getting away with murder.” Instead he focuses on private competition and more openness to reduce America’s prescription pain.

In Rose Garden remarks at the White House, Trump called his plan the “most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs for the American people.” But it does not include his campaign pledge to use the massive buying power of the government’s Medicare program to directly negotiate lower prices for seniors.

That idea has long been supported by Democrats but is a non-starter for drugmakers and most Republicans in Congress. Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas dismissed Trump’s plan as “a sugar-coated nothing pill.”

The administration will pursue a raft of old and new measures intended to improve competition and transparency in the notoriously complex drug pricing system. But most of the measures could take months or years to implement, and none would stop drugmakers from setting sky-high initial prices.

“There are some things in this set of proposals that can move us in the direction of lower prices for some people,” said David Mitchell, founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs. “At the same time, it is not clear at all how they are going to lower list prices.”

Drugmakers generally can charge as much as the market will bear because the U.S. government doesn’t regulate medicine prices, unlike most other developed countries.

Trump’s list of 50 proposals, dubbed American Patients First, includes:

  • A potential requirement for drugmakers to disclose the cost of their medicines in television advertisements.
  • Banning a pharmacist “gag rule,” which prevents druggists from telling customers when they can save money by paying cash instead of using their insurance.
  • Speeding up the approval process for over-the-counter medications so people can buy more drugs without prescriptions.
  • Reconsidering how Medicare pays for some high-priced drugs administered at doctors’ offices.

Those ideas avoid a direct confrontation with the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, but they may also underwhelm Americans seeking relief from escalating prescription costs.

Democrats pounced on Trump for not pursuing direct Medicare negotiations, an idea he championed before reaching the White House.

“This weak plan abandons the millions of hard-working families struggling with the crisis of surging drug prices,” said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a statement.

Pharmaceutical investors and analysts expressed relief after the announcement, and shares of most top drugmakers rose Friday afternoon, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly.

“Trump had a choice today: to seek disruptive fundamental reform or to embrace more incremental steps,” wrote Terry Haines, a financial analyst, in an investment note. “Trump chose the incremental over the disruptive.”

Some parts of the plan were previously proposed in the president’s budget proposal sent to Congress, including providing free generic drugs to low-income seniors and sharing rebates from drugmakers with Medicare patients. Other parts could be implemented directly by the administration.

A majority of Americans say passing laws to bring down prescription drug prices should be a top priority for Trump and Congress, according to recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

As a candidate, Trump railed against the pharmaceutical industry. But as president he has shied away from major changes and has staffed his administration with appointees who have deep ties to the industry. They include Health Secretary Alex Azar, a former top executive at Eli Lilly and Co., who joined Trump for Friday’s announcement.

Azar and other Trump officials have hinted for weeks that the plan would, in part, “dismantle” the convoluted system of rebates between drugmakers and the health care middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers, which negotiate price concessions for insurers, employers and other large customers.

Trump called out those companies in his speech: “Our plan will end the dishonest double-dealing that allows the middleman to pocket rebates and discounts that should be passed onto consumers and patients,” Trump said.

Azar later told reporters that the administration would “seek input” on doing away with drug rebates in the Medicare system to encourage more direct discounts. He gave no timeframe for more concrete steps.

Public outrage over drug costs has been growing for years as Americans face pricing pressure from multiple sources: New medicines for life-threatening diseases often launch with prices exceeding $100,000 per year. And older drugs for common ailments like diabetes and asthma routinely see price hikes around 10 percent annually. Meanwhile Americans are paying more at the pharmacy counter due to health insurance plans that require them to shoulder more of their prescription costs.

America has the highest drug prices in the world.

The U.S. spent $1,162 per person on prescription drugs in 2015, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That’s more than twice the $497 per person spent in the United Kingdom, which has a nationalized health care system.


PAT SUTPHIN TIMES-NEWS 

Ashley Christensen, of Twin Falls, picks herself up from the sand as she competes in the girls long jump Friday, May 11, 2018, during the 4A District Track Championships at Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls.


Education
3 Jerome schools will likely get new security vestibules by next school year

JEROME — Jerome and Twin Falls schools are looking for ways to improve their entryways to help prevent visitors from walking right into hallways or classrooms.

Jerome’s school board voted May 10 to approve an architect agreement — with fees totaling about $14,600 — to LKV Architects to create detailed design plans for security vestibules at Horizon Elementary School, Summit Elementary School and Jerome Middle School. The Twin Falls School District is also looking to create security vestibules at its older school campuses in the near future.

As a result of mass school shootings in recent years — including in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. — many schools are looking at how they can make their buildings safer.

“Just looking at what’s happening across the country with schools, we’re looking at ways at improving security in a variety of ways,” Jerome School District Superintendent Dale Layne said Friday.

In schools with a security vestibule, visitors can get inside the building, but can’t get past another set of locked doors until they check in at the front office. A secretary must push a button to release the lock.

Ideally, the projects at three Jerome schools will begin and wrap up this summer. But that depends on how quickly the architect can complete the plans, Layne said, and the availability of contractors.

In total, projects are estimated to cost $150,000-$200,000. The money will come from a 10-year plant facilities levy, which voters renewed — but agreed to provide additional money — in March. The measure is for $650,000 annually for the first five years and $700,000 annually for the next five years.

The Jerome School District has a design concept for a security vestibule at Jerome High School but isn’t ready to move forward with that project yet.

“It’s a little more difficult because of the building itself,” Layne said. “We’re working on it, but weren’t not as far along on that.”

Jefferson Elementary School already has a vestibule, which was designed a few years ago when the school office was relocated.

Currently, Jerome schools try to focus on having exterior building doors locked, except for the main entrance. Other school security measures include security cameras indoors and outdoors, and locking systems for classroom doors.

Schools are also working with students to address bullying and mental health issues, Layne said. “That kind of level of security is not as visible, but is just as important or more important.”

Creating a security vestibule will be the most challenging at Horizon Elementary, which will require essentially flipping the office 180 degrees, Layne said. “That one is going to be a little more involved.”

Horizon Elementary’s school principal wasn’t available to comment Friday on the project.

The vestibule project will be fairly straightforward at Jerome Middle School, Layne said, with adding a door and some additional walls.

Summit Elementary’s project will be the easiest, with essentially just one additional wall. “It’s small enough that there’s a possibility we could do that internally,” he said.

In Twin Falls, creating security vestibules will be paid for using a 10-year, $4.75 million annual plant facilities levy voters renewed in March. Creating the vestibules is one of the top priorities for the levy money, but a timeline for projects hasn’t been set yet.

The Twin Falls School District’s three newest campuses — South Hills Middle School (opened in 2017), and Rock Creek and Pillar Falls elementary schools (opened in 2016) — already have vestibules.