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Dia de los Muertos: Honor the dead with dancing, food at CSI

TWIN FALLS — Enjoy a bowl of hot pozole or savor the sweet “bread of the dead.”

Nov. 1 is the day when many Latinos in the U.S. and Mexico celebrate Dia de los Muertos — or Day of the Dead. The holiday tradition on All Saints Day invokes a mix of pre-Columbian Aztec rituals, plus Christian traditions, said Benjamin Reed, a Jerome resident and Spanish-language radio station on-air personality.

But despite the skulls, the Day of the Dead celebration isn’t like Halloween because it’s not all about spirits and ghosts, said Perri Gardner, adviser for College of Southern Idaho’s Diversity Council. It’s about honoring the dead, celebrating their lives and realizing that death is part of life.

“They glory in it, to a certain degree,” Reed said. “Death is really very much a part of the culture.”

But while larger U.S. cities such as Boise host sizable celebrations, here in the Magic Valley it appears that many families don’t celebrate it at all.

“It’s kind of a small market,” Reed said. “It’s even hard to find pan de muerto.”

Which is why the Diversity Council hosts an annual Day of the Dead celebration. This year’s event takes place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, downstairs in the student union building — on the back side of the Taylor Administration Building at CSI.

“We keep doing it because the community really likes it,” Gardner said. “This is a holiday that has really interesting culture.”

Day of the Dead traditions originated with the Aztecs, who made human sacrifices to their gods, Reed said. But Christian influences brought Catholic undertones to the celebration.

Today, the most common symbols of Dia de los Muertos are marigolds, sugar skulls, pan de muerto — or bread of the dead — and altars. Some people write short poems for their deceased loved ones or visit their graves, Reed said.

Mi Pueblo, a Hispanic grocery store in Twin Falls, carries pan de muerto and other treats.

At the CSI celebration, participants can get a taste of some free pozole or eat pan de muerto and other pastries from Mi Pueblo. There will also be horchata and a hot-chocolate type drink that’s popular for the holiday, Gardner said.

Pozole, she explained, is a chicken or pork soup with hominy.

“There’ll be an altar set up where people can leave notes to their loved ones,” Gardner said. Last year, “People put up some beautiful messages for their loved ones in five or six languages.”

A DJ will play music for people to dance to. Additionally, children can get their faces painted for free and will be able to decorate sugar skulls or skull-shaped cookies — Gardner didn’t know yet which would be available, since the sugar skulls take lots of time to make.

CSI ran out of food early at its last Day of the Dead event, Diversity Council president Angelica Ortega said, so this time it ordered double the amount in expectation of a crowd. Gardiner recommends showing up early.

The event is done in partnership with the new CSI group Latino Movement.

Also new this year: organizers will have posters up around the building explaining the significance of items such as the marigolds and the skulls, Ortega said.

“We’re really making it educational for people to learn what Day of the Dead is and what it means,” she said.

Ortega said her own family never celebrated Dia de los Muertos while she was growing up. She knew about the holiday mostly because of dual-immersion celebrations she had while attending elementary school in Hailey.

Reed said he usually doesn’t make an altar, but he eats pan de muerto with his wife each year. While the celebration hasn’t picked up much speed here in the Magic Valley, Reed believes the area will likely have more celebrations in the future, as younger generations see more of their family members die and be buried here.

“It’s really beautiful,” Reed said. “It’s elegant. It’s something that I hope doesn’t get lost.”

Fire causes extensive damage to Farmhouse Restaurant in Wendell

WENDELL — An early morning fire Tuesday caused extensive damage to Farmhouse Restaurant in Wendell.

The blaze was reported at 1:43 a.m. at the restaurant on Frontage Road South. When firefighters arrived, flames were seen coming from the roof, Wendell Rural Fire Chief Bob Bailey said.

Firefighters were still on scene as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, he said, trying to determine the cause of the fire.

There’s extensive damage to the restaurant and it won’t be able to reopen for a very long time, Bailey said. “It’s a tragic loss to the community. It was everyone’s favorite restaurant.”

Fire departments from Jerome, Gooding, Bliss and Hagerman assisted.

Former Trump adviser's guilty plea could rattle White House

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump dismissed George Papadopoulos on Tuesday as a “liar” and a mere campaign volunteer, but newly unsealed court papers outline the former adviser’s frequent contacts with senior officials and with foreign nationals who promised access to the highest levels of the Russian government.

They also hint at more headaches for the White House and former campaign officials. Papadopoulos is now cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 White House campaign.

Records made public Monday in Papadopoulos’ case list a gaggle of people who were in touch with him during the campaign but only with such identifiers as “Campaign Supervisor,” ‘’Senior Policy Advisor” and “High-Ranking Campaign Official.” Two of the unnamed campaign officials referenced are in fact former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates. Both were charged with financial crimes in an indictment unsealed Monday.

The conversations described in charging documents reflect Papadopoulos’ efforts to arrange meetings between Trump aides and Russian government intermediaries and show how he learned the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”

Though the contacts may not by themselves have been illegal, the oblique but telling references to unnamed people — including “Professor” and “Female Russian National” — make clear that Mueller’s team has identified multiple people who had knowledge of back-and-forth outreach efforts between Russians and associates of the Trump election effort.

It’s a reality that challenges the administration’s portrait of Papadopoulos as a back-bench operator within the campaign, an argument repeated Tuesday by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who dismissed him as a “volunteer” with a minimal role.

In charging the 30-year-old Papadopoulos with lying to the FBI, Mueller’s team is warning of a similar fate for anyone whose statements deviate from the facts.

“I think everyone to whom Mueller and his team wanted to send a message heard loud and clear the message,” said Jacob Frenkel, a Washington defense lawyer.

The White House had braced over the weekend for an indictment of Manafort and for allegations of financial misconduct that it could dismiss as unrelated to the campaign or administration. Then came the unsealing of Papadopoulos’ guilty plea and an accompanying statement of facts that detailed his efforts to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his cooperation with prosecutors since his arrest at an airport last summer.

The extent of the contacts is substantial. During a six-month period ending Aug. 15, Papadopoulos met, telephoned, Skyped or emailed his three foreign contacts or five different Trump campaign officials a total of 29 times. He also traveled twice to London and once to Italy. Another trip to Moscow was canceled.

There are clear indications prosecutors used Papadopoulos to gather more information about the campaign as they probe possible criminal activity.

He was arrested in July, but the case was not unsealed until Monday, giving prosecutors weeks to debrief him for information and use him to get deeper into the campaign. He was initially arrested on false statements and obstruction of justice allegations, but as part of a plea deal, pleaded guilty only to lying to the FBI, a possible token of leniency in exchange for further cooperation.

In court papers, prosecutors have said prematurely making the case public would hurt his ability to be a “proactive cooperator,” which legal experts say could including surreptitious techniques like wearing a microphone to record conversations.

“I would infer from that that he was working proactively on behalf of the prosecutors, which would mean going out and obtaining evidence,” said former Justice Department prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg.

Though the campaign officials and other people referenced in the complaint are not named, it’s nonetheless possible to ferret out the identities of several.

For instance, Joseph Mifsud is the “London professor” who figures prominently in the case, according to a comparison of court papers and emails obtained by The Associated Press. Mifsud confirmed to The Telegraph newspaper that he is the professor mentioned as a would-be link between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In court papers, Mifsud is described only as a “London professor” who met repeatedly with Papadopoulos and offered to set up meetings with Russian officials who could provide “thousands of emails” with damaging information about Clinton.

The professor is also credited in the document with introducing Papadopoulos to a woman referred to as a “female Russian national” who served as a potential link to the Russian government. Papadopoulos described her incorrectly in emails to Trump campaign officials as Putin’s niece. She has not yet been identified publicly.

Mifsud, a vocal Putin backer, told the newspaper the FBI case lacks credibility and that he did not tell anyone he could produce emails that would weaken the Clinton campaign.

Papadopoulos’ place on the Trump campaign was formalized in March when Trump adviser Sam Clovis released the names of eight foreign policy advisers amid public pressure on Trump to disclose his foreign policy team.

Police: No arrests in cross draped in pig parts at Islamic Center

TWIN FALLS — An investigation continues into what Twin Falls police are describing as a hate crime at the Islamic Center of Twin Falls.

A 4-foot cross draped in bacon and pig parts was left in the center’s parking lot over the weekend.

Twin Falls Police Lt. Terry Thueson said Tuesday he didn’t have any updates on the investigation. No arrests have been made.

Police ask anyone with information about suspicious vehicles or activity in center’s parking lot on Friday night or early Saturday to call the police at 208-735-4357.

Imad Eujayl, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Twin Falls, said Tuesday he has received some calls of support following the incident, but no donations or organized response from community groups.

Tammy Stewart wrote in a Facebook message to the Times-News that she plans to donate money to the Islamic Center of Twin Falls so it can install security cameras or whatever else it needs to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

She wrote she knows people who attend the Islamic Center and many, she considers friends.

“I am born and raised here,” Stewart wrote. “I am pro refugee and understand their circumstances and lifestyles before coming here. Nobody has the right to be hateful, especially to people they do not know.”

Stewart wrote she doesn’t want her grandchildren to be raised in a community that hates people because of skin color, religion, or ethnicity.

Police were dispatched at 7:30 a.m. Saturday to the center at the 400 block of Addison Avenue. The center’s caretaker found the cross.

“Hate crimes such as malicious harassment are very serious and the Twin Falls Police Department takes these crimes very seriously,” Thueson said in a statement Monday. “The Twin Falls Police Department will do everything within our means to identify those responsible and hold them accountable. Acts such as this cannot be ignored and will not be tolerated in our community.”

The incident is the latest in a string of vandalism at Twin Falls’ only mosque dating back to 2015, when anti-Muslim sentiments began to take hold as the community debated refugee resettlement.