Cronkite News Service

Cronkite News Service Digest for Thursday, July 24

Here is the Cronkite News Service lineup for Thursday, July 24. Please contact Steve Crane in the Washington, D.C., bureau at 202-684-2398 or steve.crane@asu.edu if you have questions. Stories promised for today along with photos and links to multimedia elements will move on the CNS client site at cronkitenews.asu.edu/clients.

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Tribal, Glendale officials in West Valley Casino fight testify to Senate

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Glendale Gaming,780
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By JULIANNE DEFILIPPIS
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Tohono O’odham leaders “looked us in the face and lied” about their plans for a Glendale casino, and Congress needs to step in and stop it, opponents of the project told a Senate committee Wednesday.

“They broke faith with us and the voters of Arizona,” said Diane Enos, president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, during a tense two-hour hearing before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

But Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said the tribe has “complied with the letter of every applicable law” and has “gracefully answered every allegation no matter how ridiculous or how offensive.”

Norris said Congress should not approve what he called “mean-spirited” legislation to block the project. Read More »

ADEQ: Focus on modernization, private-sector practices boosts efficiency

  • Slug: BC-CNS-ADEQ Efficiency,580
  • Sidebar: Examples of improved ADEQ performance.
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By MATTHEW SEEMAN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – The director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality told a House committee Wednesday that his agency has improved efficiency by using private-sector practices and embracing modern technology.

Henry Darwin told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that strong businesses focus on the customer and use technology to streamline performance, something that Arizona DEQ has worked toward emulating.

“You only have to look to the demise of Blockbuster video, who used to have stores on every street corner, to see the consequences of not keeping up with the American public’s expectations that quality products and services be delivered immediately and online” he testified. Read More »

State, Mohave County officials urge halt to ‘devastating’ hatchery changes

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Fish Fight,500
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By JULIANNE LOGAN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Arizona officials told a House panel Wednesday that the federal government’s decision to end a rainbow trout program at the Willow Beach fish hatchery could have a devastating impact on the state’s economy.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said last year it planned to stop sport-fish production at the hatchery after 52 years there. Local officials said they rely on the hatchery for tourism dollars, and were never consulted on the decision to end the trout program.

“Once the fish are gone, the fisherman will be gone. Then we will have nothing,” said Mohave County Supervisor Hildy Angius, during a sometimes-testy hearing before a House Natural Resources subcommittee. Read More »

Homeland Security cites progress on flood of Central American migrants

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Border Briefing,500
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By AUBREE ABRIL
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security officials said Tuesday that they have cut the time it takes to deport Central American adults and seen a sharp drop in the number of kids trying to cross the border.

Secretary Jeh Johnson also said the department’s Operation Coyote is making a dent in the human smuggling trade, arresting 192 smugglers in the last month and seizing more that $625,000 from almost 300 bank accounts of suspected traffickers.

But as he claimed successes, Johnson said much more needs to be done. He repeated calls for Congress to act on a White House request for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to handle the surge of Central Americans – many of them children – crossing the Southwest border. Read More »

Report: Driving drops in Arizona as public transportation ridership grows

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Arizona Transit,470
  • Sidebar: Transit stats by city
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By MATTHEW SEEMAN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Public transit use rose across Arizona as the number of miles driven dwindled, according to a new report that called for shifting funds from “unnecessary” highway projects to mass transit.

The report from the Arizona Public Interest Research Group said bus and rail ridership grew across the state from 2005 to 2010, largely driven by increases in Phoenix and Tucson. As mass transit grew, the number of miles driven by Arizonans per capita fell by 10.5 percent from 2005 to 2012, the report said.

Diane Brown, executive director for Arizona PIRG and an author of the study, attributed the changes to more millennials and seniors eschewing cars in the state.

“We have seen a tremendous opportunity for the increase in the public – particularly in the Phoenix area – to use public transportation,” Brown said, noting the city’s growing light-rail line and ridership. Read More »

Along the route north, shelter operators heed calling to aid desperate migrants

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Sheltering Migrants,2190
  • Eds: Part of the Cronkite School’s Southwest Borderlands initiative
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By JESSIE WARDARSKI

Cronkite News Service

ARRIAGA, Chiapas, Mexico – He’s not in it for money or self-gratification. He does it for migrants who have no voice, who are afraid to stand out in a country that’s not their own. He has dedicated his life to helping secure theirs.

Carlos Solis eats, sleeps and breathes the rights of Central American migrants who have illegally crossed the southern border of Mexico and reached his House of Mercy shelter in the dusty, rural city of Arriaga.

“I stay here. I sleep here. I spend close to 24 hours a day here,” Solis said.

Solis took over as director and sole fulltime employee about a year ago from the founder, the Rev. Heyman Vazquez, who now works in northern Chiapas shelters. Solis had been training under Father Vazquez to become a priest when he found his true calling in front of him at the shelter. Read More »

Court upholds conviction of smuggler who held migrant for ransom

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Smuggler Conviction,460
  • Graphic available (thumbnail, caption below)

By JULIANNE DEFILIPPIS
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court Monday upheld the conviction of a human trafficker who was involved in a scheme to kidnap a young Honduran immigrant in Tucson and demand ransom from his mother.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Jose Antonio Liera-Morales’ right to confront his accuser was not violated by testimony of federal agents, one of whom testified to calls from the frantic mother who feared for her son’s life.

Attorneys on both sides of the case declined comment on Monday’s ruling. Read More »

Congress takes another step toward saving A-10 fighter from budget ax

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Warthog War,560
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By RYAN HOWES
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Congress moved one step closer to saving the embattled A-10 “Warthog” for another year, with Senate Appropriations Committee approval Thursday of a defense funding bill that included $338 million to keep the jets flying.

It is the latest step in a battle that began in February, when the Pentagon unveiled a budget request that called for the decades-old fleet to be retired, worrying officials around Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where 83 of the jets are based.

Davis-Monthan’s “economic impact for Tucson and southern Arizona is enormous,” said Mike Varney, CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber. He said the base contributes an estimated $1.2 billion to the region’s economy. Read More »

First fallout approaches for state’s refusal to comply with Real ID Act

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Real ID,810
  • Sidebar: DHS’ Real ID enforcement schedule
  • Photos, graphic available (thumbnails, captions below)

By AUBREE ABRIL
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Arizona lawmakers told the federal government in 2008 that the state would not cooperate in the Real ID Act, a post-9/11 law that aimed to make it harder for potential terrorists to get fake IDs.

The first fallout from the decision could begin to be felt in Arizona on Monday.

That’s when residents of states that have not complied with the Real ID Act – Arizona is one of 11 such states – will not be able to use their driver’s licenses to get in to restricted areas of nuclear power plants and federal facilities.

In January, the list of areas requiring a second form of identification, like a passport, would expand to include all federal facilities that require identification. Ultimately, the restriction could apply to people trying to board a plane – although that will not come until at least 2016 and only after a Department of Homeland Security evaluation. Read More »

Arizona kid cooks up a White House invitation with healthy lunch recipe

  • Slug BC-CNS-Cooking Kid,590
  • Sidebar: Vasquez’s winning recipe
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By MIRANDA RIVERS
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Fielding questions in the courtyard of the Westin Hotel in Georgetown, Cody Vasquez has the composed, mature nature of someone twice his age.

But when the Gilbert 12-year-old begins to talk about food, his whole face lights up as he struggles to keep his hands and feet still.

Cody, who first started cooking at age 4, makes time to practice cooking every day, whether it’s preparing a meal for his family or spending time in the kitchen at his parent’s restaurant.

That passion earned him an invitation to the White House, where he will be one of 54 young chefs Friday taking part in a “Kid’s State Dinner” hosted by first lady Michelle Obama as part of her “Let’s Move!” initiative. Read More »

Experts: Water-safety message needs to reach all ages, all bodies of water

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Drowning Education,810
  • Sidebar: Drowning statistics
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By PAULINA PINEDA
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Gilbert dad Cody Thomson has a problem with pool-safety campaigns: the pool part.

Thomson, whose then 6-year-old son, Brenan, drowned in a canal in 2011, said safety campaigns need to remind people that drownings and water-related injuries don’t only occur in pools.

“If you get in a canal, unless there’s some sort of precautionary measure, there’s no way to get out,” he said.

In a desert state like Arizona, it may seem odd that there are many ways to drown, but Thomson is one of many advocates in the state pushing for water-safety from any number of angles.

A 2011 Arizona Department of Health Services report on water-related incidents from 1992 to 2010 said that 468 of the 1,837 incidents that required a fire department response did not occur in a pool. Read More »

Cold-calls for the corps: Peace Corps reaches out to recruits, eases process

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Corps Calling,640
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By JULIANNE LOGAN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – When Scottsdale resident Candy Campbell sat down in October to fill out the application to be a Peace Corps volunteer, she hoped to be fulfilling a lifelong dream.

She didn’t think it would almost take a lifetime to fill out the paperwork.

But the 60-page application required answers to specific, intricate questions, multiple essays – and almost two months for Campbell, at the time a recent Arizona State University graduate, to complete.

“It was a really long application process and it was discouraging,” said Campbell, who was ultimately accepted by the corps and is scheduled to go to Burkina Faso in January.

But over the past nine months, more than 30,000 would-be Peace Corps volunteers have not toughed it out like Campbell, starting but failing to finish the application process. Read More »

Acting VA secretary tells Senate $17.6 billion is needed to fix faltering agency

  • Slug: BC-CNS-VA Plea,610
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By RYAN HOWES
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson told a Senate committee Wednesday that the agency will need another $17.6 billion over the next three years to cut patient waiting times for the rising number of veterans.

“These funds address only the current shortfalls in clinical staff, space, information technology, and purchase care necessary to provide timely, high-quality care,” Gibson said during testimony to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. “We must, all of us, seize this chance for opportunity.”

It was the first time Gibson had testified before a congressional committee since taking control of the troubled agency after the May 30 resignation of former Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The tone of the hearing was largely supportive, but the price tag mentioned by Gibson raised some eyebrows on the committee. Read More »

Come fly with me: Lawmakers took 21 privately funded trips this Congress

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Lawmaker Travel,690
  • Sidebars: Arizona delegation’s travel; top states for privately funded trips
  • Photos, graphics available (thumbnails, captions below)

By AUBREE ABRIL
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Arizona’s House and Senate members took an average of just under two privately sponsored trips since the start of this Congress, ninth most in the nation.

An analysis of data on such travel, from the Clerk of the House and from the government watchdog website LegiStorm, showed that Arizona’s 11 delegation members took an average of 1.9 trips since January 2013.

But those trips were relatively cheap. The average trip for an Arizona delegation member during the period was $8,144.36, the 21st-highest when compared to other states’ delegations.

Maine’s three delegation members topped the list for number of trips, at an average of seven each, while Oklahoma was tops for the cost of the trips its members took, at an average of $18,035.43. The trips ranged from conferences around the corner to fact-finding trips to Israel, Colombia and Turkey, among other locations. Read More »

Navajo County supervisor urges Senate to focus on wildfire prevention

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Fire Funding,520
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By PAULINA PINEDA
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Navajo County Supervisor David Tenney told a Senate panel Tuesday that forest thinning is a “smart and responsible” way to curb wildfires and that fighting fires after they’ve started cannot be the only strategy.

The hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee came one week after President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve $615 million in emergency funding for wildfire efforts for the rest of this fiscal year.

“While I appreciate the administration’s proposal to spend more money on suppression, I would prefer a more fiscally sound way to address rising wildfire costs,” Tenney said.

Tenney was one of several witnesses, including senators, forestry and firefighting officials, who said prevention has to be part of the government’s plan for dealing with wildfires. Read More »

CORRECTION to July 14 story on disabled employment

EDS: Clients who used the story slugged BC-CNS-Disabled Employment, which moved July 14 under a WASHINGTON dateline, are asked to use the following correction.  A corrected version of the story has been posted here.

WASHINGTON – A July 14 Cronkite News Service story on the consistently high unemployment rates for people with disabilities incorrectly identified Susan Webb. She is a vice president of Arizona Bridge to Independent Living.

Employment improves, but disabled jobless rate stays stubbornly high

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Diasbled Employment,880
  • Sidebar: Employment rates for total workforce, disabled workers
  • Photos, graphic available (thumbnails, captions below)

EDS: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Susan Webb. She is a vice president of Arizona Bridge to Independent Living. The story below has been revised to reflect the correct information. Clients who used this story are asked to use the correction that can be found here.

By MATTHEW SEEMAN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – While the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 7.9 percent in 2012 to 7.1 percent in 2013, the jobless rate for people with disabilities remained stubbornly above 13 percent – which comes as little surprise to advocates.

They point to a combination of factors for the problem – employers’ hesitation to hire, disabled people’s fears that a job could cost them benefits and a federal benefits system that creates a “disincentive to work.” Because of that, joblessness for the disabled was 13.2 percent in 2013, down only slightly from 13.4 percent a year earlier,according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

“We’re talking about a very long-term, chronic problem,” said Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability. Read More »

Central American minors pushed north by poverty, violence and hopes for refuge

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Beast Riders,2775
  • Eds: Part of the Cronkite School’s Southwest Border initiative.
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By EMILIE EATON
Cronkite News Service

ARRIAGA, Chiapas, Mexico – As night falls, Samuel Carcamo, in a gray button-up shirt and cuffed jeans, stands on the tracks with dozens of other migrants waiting to climb on top of the northbound freight known as “The Train of Death.”

A native of El Salvador, he is already more than 400 miles from home and has at least another 1,200 miles to get to Houston, his ultimate destination.

He looks younger than the 17 years old he claims to be. Either way, Carcamo is one of the thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America making the dangerous journey north to the United States, where the flood of illegal immigrant children and families has overwhelmed government agencies trying to respond. Read More »

Arizona ranked in top five for alcohol-related deaths in CDC study

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Alcohol Arizona,700
  • Sidebar: Top states for alcohol-related deaths
  • Photos, interactive graphic available (thumbnails, captions below)

By MIRANDA RIVERS
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Arizona was tied for the fourth-highest rate of alcohol-related deaths among its working-age population from 2006 to 2010, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

The June report said 13.4 percent of all deaths to working-age residents were attributable to alcohol for that period, up slightly from 13.1 percent during the five years prior.

The 2006-2010 rate for the state was well above the national average of 9.8 percent for the period, and tied with Wyoming for fourth-worst, behind only New Mexico, Alaska and Colorado.

The same CDC study said Arizona ranked fifth in the nation for the rate of alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people in the overall population, when the population is adjusted to parallel the nation’s age. Only Alaska, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming had higher overall rates. Read More »