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AP
Trump pleads on TV for wall money; Dems say he 'stokes fear'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged congressional Democrats to fund his long-promised border wall Tuesday night in a somber televised address that was heavy with dark immigration rhetoric but offered little in the way of concessions or new ideas to break the standoff that has left large swaths of the government shuttered for 18 days.

Speaking to the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued the wall was needed to resolve a security and humanitarian "crisis," blaming illegal immigration for what he said was a scourge of drugs and violence in the U.S. and asking: "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?"

Democrats in response accused Trump appealing to "fear, not facts" and manufacturing a border crisis for political gain.

Using the formal trappings of the White House, Trump hoped to gain the upper hand in the standoff over his demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He plans a visit to the border Thursday as he continues to pitch what was a signature promise of his 2016 presidential campaign.

He addressed the nation as the shutdown stretched through its third week, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers going without pay and some congressional Republicans growing increasingly jittery about the spreading impact of the impasse. Trump will visit the Capitol today to meet with Senate Republicans, and has invited Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to return to the White House to meet with him later that day.

He claimed the standoff could be resolved in "45 minutes" if Democrats would just negotiate, but previous meetings have led to no agreement.

For now, Trump sees this as winning politics. TV networks had been reticent about providing him airtime to make what some feared would be a purely political speech. And that concern was heightened by the decision Tuesday by Trump's re-election campaign to send out fundraising emails and text messages to supporters trying to raise money off the speech. Their goal: A half-million dollars in a single day.

"I just addressed the nation on Border Security. Now need you to stand with me," read one message sent out after his remarks.

In their own televised remarks, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of misrepresenting the situation on the border as they urged him to reopen closed government departments and turn loose paychecks for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Negotiations on wall funding could proceed in the meantime, they said.

Schumer said Trump "just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration."

In his dire address, Trump ticked off a string of statistics and claims to make his case that there is a crisis at the border, but a number of his statements were misleading, such as saying the new trade deal with Mexico would pay for the wall, or suggesting through gruesome examples that immigrants are more likely to commit crime.

Trump, who has long railed against illegal immigration at the border, has recently seized on humanitarian concerns to argue there is a broader crisis that can only be solved with a wall. But critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation.

Trump used emotional language, referring to Americans who were killed by people in the country illegally, saying: "I've met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I've held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible."

The president often highlights such incidents, though studies over several years have found immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.

Trump has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without getting congressional approval for the billions he's requested. But he did not mention that Tuesday night.

Trump was nearly halfway through his 9-minute address before he ever mentioned the border wall, describing it as a request from law enforcement rather than his own longstanding political pledge. He also suggested that his proposal to build the wall from steel, rather than concrete, was a concession to Democrats, although they don't see it that way.

Trump sought to put the blame on Democrats for the shutdown, which reached its 18th day, saying they "will not fund border security." In fact, House Democrats passed legislation the day they took control of the House that offered $1.3 billion for border security. And Senate Democrats have approved similar funding year after year.

Ahead of the speech, the White House sought to shore up GOP support on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of Republicans have been expressing unease with the extended shutdown. But GOP lawmakers were still raising concerns Tuesday, talking about disruptions in payments to farmers and troubles for home buyers trying to get government-backed mortgage loans.


Local
'Home for me': Optimist Club Youth House opens doors to young adults in need

TWIN FALLS — Alex Frandsen considers herself lucky.

She was in two foster-care homes before she lived with her grandmother for two years. When she was 18 years old, she was homeless. She lived out of motels for months.

Now, Anderson is the first resident living in the Twin Falls Optimist Club’s Youth House.

“I’ve been living out of boxes for months,” Frandsen said. “I can see this place being home for me.”

The Youth House has opened its doors to young adults who have transitioned out of the foster care program.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS 

Julie Bastian, first counselor of the Relief Society, helps Alex Frandsen move in Monday at the new Twin Falls Optimist Club Youth House in Twin Falls.

Residents will have a two-year lease and pay $100 per month plus 10 percent of the utilities. Life-skills classes — from how to cook to how to pay bills — will be taught by community members. The ultimate goal is to prepare them for the next step in their lives, said Barry Knoblich, president of the Optimist Club Foundation and Youth House project manager.

“There was nothing here for them,” Knoblich said. “Now they have a place.”

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS 

Case Manager Josselyn Smith gives a tour Monday of the newly remodeled Twin Falls Optimist Club Youth House in Twin Falls.

To live in the house, potential residents must fill out an application before being screened. The residents make a commitment to be sober and employed or in school when signing the lease.

Club President Anna Scholes said the project was a “no-brainer” for the Optimist Club.

“These kids don’t have anywhere to go,” Scholes said. “I have an 18-year-old. The idea of him trying to figure out cooking, budgeting and everything out on his own is awful.

“We provide these kids with an opportunity to learn these things. This place gives them a chance to learn.”

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS 

The Twin Falls Optimist Club Youth House sits open for tenants Monday in Twin Falls.

Liz Haugee, secretary for the club and designer of the house, said that the remodeling on the 1900s house on Third Avenue North was extensive. The house needed a new roof, a new heating system and more. Fundraisers and community support made the $115,000 remodel possible.

The building is owned by Twin Falls County and is leased to the Twin Falls Optimist Club for $1 a year.

The remodeling was as much work as building three houses, Knoblich said. The house has three floors with multiple bathrooms and a kitchen and it is ADA accessible. It will be able to accommodate 18 young adult residents and two resident advisers.

“These kids have had enough instability in their lives,” Knoblich said. “We made this place because we care.”


News
City of Rocks, Twin Falls airport still open despite federal shutdown, Craters of the Moon not so lucky

BURLEY — Federal agencies across the Magic Valley continue to see impacts as the partial government shutdown continues.

Magic Valley Regional Airport Manager Bill Carberry said the shutdown has affected Transportation Security Administration agents who perform security at the airport, as well as those across the country.

There are 800,000 federal workers affected by the impasse between President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress over Trump’s demand for funding to build a wall along the Mexican border. The partial federal government shutdown began on Dec. 22, 2018.

“But we haven’t really had any issues,” Carberry said. “The TSA agents are still coming to work and screening people.”

There are about 22 TSA agents at the airport, and most of them are part-time employees, he said.

The shutdown has also affected Federal Aviation Administration employees, which include air traffic controllers, but those workers have also remained on the job at the airport, he said.

The federal employees — who are required to remain on the job — are not currently receiving paychecks. The phones went unanswered at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Reserve and a voicemail told callers that due to a “lapse in appropriations” the park would be shut down for an indeterminate length of time and emails and phone messages would not be answered.

In Cassia County at the City of Rocks National Reserve, Superintendent Wallace Keck said the park remains open — temporarily funded by the state.

The City of Rocks is in the heart of the national reserve, he said, and it is cooperatively managed by the National Parks Service and Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

COURTESY OF WALLACE KECK 

Winter birders explore City of Rocks National Reserve.

For the time being, he said, the park remains completely open, but if the shutdown continues that could change. There are no federal employees stationed at the reserve and state employees are not affected by the lapse in appropriations, he said.

But at this time, he said, the parks can’t incur any charges against any federal accounts.

The visitor’s center is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tues – Sat. and the roads are plowed.

There were about 250 continuing claims for unemployment insurance benefits by government workers in December statewide, Jan Roeser, regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor said.

“It might be up about 10, but that’s about it,” Roeser said.

Some government employees may not have filed for unemployment over the holidays, choosing to take a vacation instead.

“They might be concerned at this point,” Roeser said.

If a government worker files for unemployment, the worker is required to look for a job and make two contacts per week. They also can’t be sick or out of town.

In 2013 when there was a full federal government shutdown, there were 1,600 unemployment claims statewide.

Roeser expects more furloughed employees to submit applications in January.

“We have a lot of empathy for those workers because they’re in a tight spot,” Roeser said.

Federal employees who receive benefits do not know if they will have to pay it back, which could cause a hardship, she said.

In the eight counties of South-Central Idaho, there are 920 civilian or non-military government jobs across 73 locations. The average wage, including benefits, is $82,646.

About 64 percent of those workers are men, and the highest age groups are those 45 to 54 years old and 55 to 64 years old.


COURTESY OF WALLACE KECK 

Winter birders explore City of Rocks National Reserve.


If you do one thing

If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.


Local
Could coconuts become Chobani’s new cash cow? 'Non-Dairy Chobani' hits shelves this month

TWIN FALLS — Plant-based yogurt alternatives are a small, but growing share of the overall yogurt market in the U.S. And Chobani has decided to jump on board.

Consumers can expect to see the Greek-yogurt giant’s non-dairy products on grocery store shelves in the next few weeks. The products come in both drinkable and spoonable formats and are produced in Twin Falls using a cultured organic coconut puree.

Chobani says it was purposeful in giving the product the name of “Non-Dairy Chobani” — and not calling it yogurt.

“As an independent food company, Chobani is taking a leadership role in advocating for transparency in dairy and clear distinctions between milk-based foods, such as yogurts, and other options like our Non-Dairy Chobani cultured organic coconut purees,” the company said in a statement. “Chobani believes consumers are more empowered when food companies accurately describe foods and the nutritional benefits they offer.”

The product has been in development for more than a year.

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS 

Chobani is seen in the distance Dec. 5 in Twin Falls.

“We were looking at this plant-based market, albeit small but growing,” said Peter McGuinness, Chobani’s chief marketing and commercial officer. “We finally got product that we’re really really proud of.”

Plant-based milk alternatives take up 13 to 15 percent of the U.S. milk market, and plant-based yogurt alternatives have only about 2 percent market share, he said. But that’s major growth compared to the 1.5 percent it had a year ago, McGuinness said.

And while there are a lot of different players in the market, he said, Chobani felt it could offer a better option for people who are lactose intolerant, believe they are, or who choose a vegan lifestyle.

Chobani claims its non-dairy products have 25 percent less sugar than other non-dairy options (11 grams of sugar per 5.3-ounce cup and 9 grams per 7-ounce drink). And Non-Dairy Chobani is made with all-natural ingredients, including organic coconut sourced from Sri Lanka.

Why coconut? McGuinness said the company already had good coconut suppliers for items such as its most popular product, the Almond Coco Loco Flip.

The company may consider using other plant sources in the future.

“That’s the beginning, not the end,” McGuinness said.

Chobani also isn’t moving away from its roots of making yogurt.

“We have milk in our veins,” McGuinness said. “We’re still deeply committed to dairy. We continue to think fresh dairy is underpenetrated in the U.S.”

As Chobani Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya put it in a statement, “this isn’t a replacement to dairy, but it’s a game-changer for plant-based products.”

This is the third product launch the company has had in a month, following the recent rollouts of Less Sugar Greek and Gimmies. The research and development team based in Twin Falls has led the development of the new products.

The single serve cups of Non-Dairy Chobani comes in blueberry, peach, slightly sweet plain, strawberry and vanilla flavors. The single-serve drinks come in mango, slightly sweet plain, strawberry and vanilla chai.