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Adrian Blair, front right, grabs a rose, while Kylee Lopshire, Nichole Taylor and Davis Craney look on during Wednesday's rehearsal of 'The Puppet Tree' at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

'Puppet Tree' channels Shel Silverstein for family-friendly fun

TWIN FALLS — Erin Taylor is in a bit of a predicament: She’s in a puppet show at the College of Southern Idaho and she’s afraid of puppets.

Taylor and eight other performers will help retiring CSI professor Laine Steel bring some 50 puppets to life Friday in Steel’s new show, “The Puppet Tree.”

Steel’s work showcases poet Shel Silverstein’s classic children stories “Runny Babbit,” “The Giving Tree” and “The Missing Piece.”

Taylor says she knows her fear of puppets is irrational, but she can’t help but be creeped out by how lifeless they appear — until the actors breathe life into them.

Many of the puppets were made exclusively for the show, said Steel, who’s been performing theater for 30 years. For this show, he is going back to what kicked off his career.

“I worked with puppets at the start of my career,” Steel said. “I’m returning to my roots with this.”


Kylee Lopshire looks to the crew as a large cutout of a giraffe comes on stage during Wednesday's rehearsal for 'The Puppet Tree' at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

Stage manager Curtis Hopfenbeck handles scene changes and helps the actors when they need an extra hand. The audience can catch him on stage at one point as the skunk in the trunk during the charming “A Giraffe and a Half” sketch. While all the other performers feign exhaustion at the repeated lines, the skunk continually pops up and greets the audience.

“This show is so light-hearted and goofy. It’s reminiscent of childhood,” Hopfenbeck said. “During the show, I can’t help but smile.”

Controlling the puppets come with a new set of challenges, CSI theater major Kylee Lopshire said. Actors are trained to look out at the audience and to use their whole bodies to act; here they must have their puppets face down to look at the audience and the only body parts they use is their mouth and hands, she said.

Lopshire controls the titular “Giving Tree,” and has to match the mouth movements to the other performers.

“As an actor, you don’t think of working with your hands,” Lopshire said. “In theater, we’re trained to use our whole body.”

Working with people they know and enjoy makes the work easier, Taylor said.

“This is a new experience for all of us,” she said.

Steel said that his students finally understand what directors deal with during a show.

“You put a puppet on their hands and the actors gain more empathy for the director,” Steel said. “They have to make the puppet do what they want and now they’re the ones saying ‘Why aren’t you doing what I want you to do?’”

Correction: A previous version of this story included an incorrect performance date. The shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday. There will not be a performance on Sunday. The Times-News regrets the error. 

PHOTOS: The Puppet Tree


Tayson Criddle voices Runny Babbit during Wednesday's rehearsal for 'The Puppet Tree' at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

Americans to begin saying their goodbyes to George H.W. Bush

WASHINGTON — Americans will begin saying goodbye to former President George H.W. Bush today when his body arrives in Washington for public viewing in the Capitol Rotunda — a rare honor that will be bestowed on a man who earned the respect and admiration of many with his leadership, bravery and grace.

The public viewing will kick off four days of events that will include a state funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral on Wednesday and a private service at Bush’s longtime church in Houston on Thursday. But tributes from leaders around the world have been pouring in since his death Friday night.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called him “a perfect American” for how “he served the country in so many capacities.”

“He never forgot who he was,” Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Bush’s presidency, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “He never let it all go to his head. He was a man of great humility.”

Bush, who died at his Houston home at age 94, will be buried Thursday on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M University.

In Washington, D.C., he will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda from 7:30 p.m. today to 8:45 a.m. Wednesday. President Donald Trump, who ordered federal offices closed for a national day of mourning on Wednesday, is to attend with first lady Melania Trump and other high-ranking officials.

James Baker, Bush’s former chief of staff and secretary of state, called his boss’s tenure in office “a consequential presidency” because of his foreign policy achievements.

“Yes, he’s a one-term president ... but he is going to be and was a very consequential one-term president. And I would argue far and away the best one-term president we’ve ever had,” Baker told ABC’s “This Week.”

Bush’s crowning achievement as president was assembling the international military coalition that liberated the tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait from invading Iraq in 1991 in a war that lasted just 100 hours. He also presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

At the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was raised in East Germany, told reporters she likely would never have become her country’s leader had Bush not pressed for the nation’s reunification in 1990.

A humble hero of World War II, Bush was just 20 when he survived being shot down during a bombing run over Japan. He enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday.

Shortly before leaving the service, he married his 19-year-old sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, in a union that lasted until her death earlier this year.

“He knew what combat was all about,” Powell said on “This Week.” ‘’He knew that combat meant the death of people, people on your side and people on the other side. And so he wanted to avoid a war.”

Bush turned his attention to politics in the 1960s, being elected to his first of two terms in Congress in 1967. He would go on to serve as ambassador to the United Nations and China, head of the CIA and chairman of the Republican National Committee before being elected to two terms as Ronald Reagan’s vice president.

Soon after he reached the zenith of his political popularity following the liberation of Kuwait, the U.S. economy began to sour and voters began to believe that Bush, never a great orator, was out of touch with ordinary people. He lost his bid for re-election to then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who would later become a close friend.

It wasn’t only former political rivals Bush found easy to befriend.

Roberto Molina, whose family owns Molina’s Cantina, one of Bush’s favorite Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston, said he remembers Bush’s kindness to his staff whenever he would stop by to eat.

“No matter which party you’re affiliated with, everybody seemed to say the same things about President Bush,” Molina said. “He was a down-to-earth person, approachable, and just a good man.”

Construction will wrap up in February on Hansen's new gymnasium

HANSEN — Construction is slated to wrap up in February on a new practice and community gymnasium in Hansen — a project funded largely by a private donation.

In fall 2017, the Hansen School District — which has fewer than 400 students — found out a private family donated $1 million to the school district. The family asked for the money to go toward building a community gymnasium.

With only two school gyms in Hansen — one of which doubles as an elementary school multipurpose room — and a demand for recreational space in town, school officials say the project is a welcome addition.

Dome Technology of Idaho Falls is building the 11,310-square-foot facility, which will include a basketball court, walking track, restrooms, locker rooms and exercise room. The gym is under construction at the corner of Walnut Avenue and Rock Creek Road.

“It seems to be moving along just fine,” Hansen School District Superintendent David Carson said.

“The cold weather kind of slows things up a little bit.”

The vast majority of the $1.1 million price tag will be paid for using the private donation. The district is covering the remaining $100,000 using its voter-approved plant facilities levy.

The school district also plans to put together a fundraising campaign seeking to raise about $30,000 to purchase volleyball and basketball equipment for the new gym.

The gymnasium will be used as a practice facility for Hansen school sports teams. It will also be open to the community, including for indoor walking, and for community youth programs. Hansen Junior/Senior High School plans to continue using its existing gym for games.

Having a new gym will allow for more space and better practice times, instead of practice schedules such as at 6 a.m. or 8 p.m.

“It’s going to alleviate our practice times,” Hansen athletic director Jim Lasso said. Plus, he said, it will allow the school district to host tournaments.

Lasso said he’s also excited for more opportunities for the community and families to use gym space. “I know that’s been pretty popular in the past.”

As construction is underway, the process of finishing the dome roof — which entails creating pressure through an air compressor — should be done soon and the dome will be able to stand on its own, Carson said. “That’s a big milestone that’s coming up in a few weeks.”

After that, crews will work on finishing the interior, including pouring a cement floor and installing the basketball court.


Student Shaalee Jardine, 15, plays volleyball during P.E. in February at Hansen High School. Hansen School District received a $1 million private donation to build a community gymnasium.

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.

itsme / Spenser Heaps, Deseret News 

Jennie Taylor, wife of Maj. Brent Taylor, takes a moment beside his casket at the end of his interment at the Ben Lomond Cemetery in North Ogden, Utah, on Nov. 17. 


Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien (4) is brought down by Fresno State defensive end Mykal Walker (3) Saturday night, Dec. 1, 2018, at Albertsons Stadium in Boise.

Counties, city may hire firm to analyze emergency medical services

TWIN FALLS — After the Twin Falls Fire Department began to offer emergency medical services in 2017, its annual call volume increased from 1,400 to 5,400.

“Twin Falls was probably one of the last major cities in Idaho that was not doing EMS,” said Fire Chief Les Kenworthy, who joined the department after it started those responses.

But in some ways, they weren’t as prepared as they could have been. Communication between the fire department and Magic Valley Paramedics is handled between two dispatch centers. The fire department sends three to four personnel out to each medical call, often in a full-sized fire engine. And sometimes, paramedics are spread thin between multiple counties and can’t get there right away.

“It’s very problematic on many occasions,” Kenworthy said. “There are several issues with our EMS system.”

The fire chief, among others, would like to see those things improve for residents and for the departments. Which is why on Monday, he’s asking the City Council to use contingency funds to help hire a consultant firm.

“We want this company to be looking at from the point the call comes in … to, in some cases, once (the patient) come out the hospital door,” Kenworthy said.

Ultimately, by getting some outside help, he hopes to better coordinate EMS between the city, Magic Valley Paramedics and Twin Falls and Jerome counties. This, in turn, should help improve response times and “come up with the best, most efficient system we can provide with the resources we have.”

The Council will be asked to use $7,653.50 in contingency funds and partner with Twin Falls County and Jerome County to hire the firm. The firm would evaluate opportunities for regional cooperation with EMS system design and operational changes.

Meanwhile, Kenworthy said he is looking into possibly getting an ambulance for the fire department as a “quick response unit” that would be able to transport patients if needed. It would also save fuel and wear and tear on fire trucks while requiring only two people to staff it.

The City Council meets at 5 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers at City Hall, 203 Main Ave. E.

Also at the meeting, the city will consider a project to improve safety for students walking to and from I.B. Perrine Elementary and Robert Stuart Middle schools. The City Council may authorize the mayor to sign a program agreement form for its 2019 Children Pedestrian Safety Program application. If approved, Twin Falls would ask the state for $248,500 to construct 1,200 feet of sidewalk on the north side of Caswell Avenue West from Sparks Street North to Washington Street North.

The money would come from surplus funds from the state and, if awarded, would need to be completed by late fall or early winter of 2019, City Engineer Jackie Fields said in her report. The city of Twin Falls would have to design, bid and administer the project’s construction.

Fields said a pedestrian crossing signal will be placed on Washington Street North at Caswell Avenue this year.

Also at Monday’s meeting:

  • The mayor will read a proclamation declaring December 2018 as Veterans Suicide Awareness Month in the city of Twin Falls
  • The Council will consider a request to approve a contract between the city of Twin Falls and the Twin Falls Rural Fire District from Oct. 1, 2018, to Sept. 30, 2020
  • The Council may approve changes to the Municipal Powers Outsource Grant process
  • The Council will adjourn into executive sessions for the purposes of considering the evaluation, dismissal or disciplining of — or to hear complaints or charges brought against — a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent; and to communicate with legal counsel for the public agency to discuss the legal ramifications of and legal options for pending litigation or controversies not yet being litigated but imminently likely to be litigated.

Trump and Xi buy time in trade war. That was the easy part.

WASHINGTON— The dinner-table diplomacy that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China conducted over the weekend produced something as vague as it was valuable: an agreement to keep talking.

Forged over grilled sirloin at the Group of 20 summit Saturday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the ceasefire Trump and Xi agreed to Saturday night illustrated that the leaders of the world’s two largest economies can at least find some common ground, however tentative and ill-defined it might be. The truce pulled the United States and China back from an escalating trade war that was threatening world economic growth and had set global investors on edge.

“The prospects for real progress on substantive issues with China are now better than at any point in the Trump administration,” said Andy Rothman, investment strategist at Matthews Asia.

What Trump and Xi achieved was the gift of additional time — 90 days, at least — to try to resolve the thorny and complicated issues that divide them. Most important among them, and perhaps the most intractable, is the U.S. argument that Beijing has deployed predatory tactics in a headlong drive to overtake America’s global supremacy in high technology.

Yet reaching a permanent peace will hardly be easy. The Trump administration asserts, and many experts agree, that China systematically steals trade secrets and forces the U.S. and other foreign countries to hand over sensitive technology as the price of admission to the vast Chinese market.

Washington also regards Beijing’s ambitious long-term development plan, “Made in China 2025,” as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidizing Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors.

This year, Trump imposed an import tax of 25 percent on $50 billion in products, then hit an additional $200 billion worth of goods with 10 percent tariffs. Those 10 percent tariffs were scheduled to ratchet up to 25 percent on Jan. 1 if the United States and China failed to reach an agreement to at least postpone that move.

In Buenos Aires, they did reach such an accord. Trump agreed to delay the scheduled U.S. tariff increase for 90 days while the two sides negotiate over the administration’s technology-related complaints. In return, China agreed to buy what the White House called a “not yet agreed upon, but very substantial” amount of U.S. products to help narrow America’s gaping trade deficit with China. If the Chinese did eventually increase such purchases, it would be warmly welcomed in the U.S. Farm Belt, where producers of soybeans and other crops have been hurt by Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs.

But can China be trusted? Its contentious tech policies lie at the heart of its economic vision, and Beijing could prove reluctant to sacrifice its ambition, no matter what longer-term agreement with the United States it eventually reaches.

“Make no mistake about it: The issues that we have with China are deep structural issues, and you’re not going to resolve all of them in 90 days or even 180 days,” said Dean Pinkert, a former commissioner on the U.S. International Trade Commission and now a partner at the law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed. The Trump administration is “going to have to decide how much progress they need in order to define it as a win.”

Parag Khanna, founder of the FutureMap consultancy and author of the forthcoming book “The Future is Asian,” noted that in speeches to domestic Chinese audiences, Xi is still promoting the economic self-reliance that Made in China 2025 symbolizes.

“What he’s saying to his own people has more long-term validity than what he’s saying to Trump over dinner for the sake of everyone saving face,” Khanna said.

Even so, the Buenos Aires breakthrough may calm investors who worried about financial damage from the trade hostilities. Caterpillar, Ford and other U.S. corporate giants have complained that the higher Trump tariffs, if kept in place, would guarantee higher costs and lower profits. That’s one reason the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled this fall after hitting a record close Oct. 3.

In the meantime, just as Trump dialed back the drama on one trade front over the weekend, he magnified the tension on another. En route from Buenos Aires on Air Force One, the president told reporters that he would soon notify Congress that he’s abandoning the North American Free Trade Agreement. Such a move would force lawmakers to approve the NAFTA replacement he reached Sept. 30 with Canada and Mexico — or have no North American trade bloc at all. The absence of any such bloc would hurt companies that have built supply chains that crisscross the three countries’ borders.

“This trades one trade uncertainty for another,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, tweeted. “Policy uncertainty remains unusually high for an economy that on paper should be feeling fat and happy.”

Prospects in Congress for the new deal — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement — were complicated by the midterm elections, which left opposition Democrats in control of the U.S. House. Democrats favor provisions of the USMCA that encourage automakers to shift production back to the United States. But they say the deal must do more to protect U.S. workers from low-wage Mexican competition.

“The work is not done yet,” Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.