McSally raises $3.2 million, but analysts still expect a tight race

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By DANIKA WORTHINGTON
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Rep. Martha McSally’s aggressive fundraising gives her an edge over her competitors in the 2nd District House race, say experts, but they caution that the district will likely still be competitive come November.

The first-term Tucson Republican raised more than $3.2 million last year, topping all but a handful of House members, and had $1.9 million on hand at the end of the year, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings.

While $3 million is a lot for challengers to overcome, analysts say other factors, such as the eventual GOP presidential nominee and outside funding, could have a large effect in the district, which is almost evenly split between Republican, Democratic and independent voters. Continue reading “McSally raises $3.2 million, but analysts still expect a tight race”

Advocates want simulators, not live animals, to train military medics

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By LAUREN CLARK
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Caesar lies on the table, motionless as medics begin to address a gaping wound.

Motionless because, well, Caesar’s a dummy.

While he make look like a real human patient – and breathe, bleed and even cry out like a real human patient – Caesar isn’t a human at all, but is a machine that mimics a patient.

And advocates say he is a cheaper and more humane alternative to training military battlefield medics than the current practice of wounding and then treating live animals. Continue reading “Advocates want simulators, not live animals, to train military medics”

Suns rookie Booker ready for NBA All-Star Weekend spotlight

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By MEEHEE KIM
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Devin Booker is 19 going on 29. That’s how Tyson Chandler sees his young Phoenix Suns teammate.

The rookie guard from Kentucky has already made his mark in the NBA, becoming the third youngest player to score 30 points. His company: Lebron James and Kevin Durant.

Booker will show off his skills during All-Star Weekend in Toronto when he competes in The Foot Locker Three-Point Contest Saturday. Thursday he got a bonus when he was selected to replace Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers in Friday’s BBVA Rising Stars Challenge.

At Booker’s three-point practice Tuesday against local TV reporters, he shot off the rack to prepare.

“Shooting off the rack is a lot different than shooting in the game,” Booker said. “It’s a whole different skill so it’s something you have to get used to. I think I’ll be fine.” Continue reading “Suns rookie Booker ready for NBA All-Star Weekend spotlight”

Phoenix Sky Harbor breaks yearly traffic records, prepares for future growth

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By CHLOE NORDQUIST
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – A record 44 million passengers passed through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport last year, a 4.5 percent increase from 2014. And airport officials said they’re making preparations for continued growth in years to come.

“We had increases month after month, so it was a very positive year,” airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said. The airport’s previous record was nearly 42 million passengers in 2007, a record set before the Great Recession.

Frequent flyer Nick Gnat, a freelance trainer for display systems company Daktronics, said he noticed the increase in passengers, especially during early mornings and late nights when security backed up because lanes were closed.

“There are longer lines, for the most part, than I’ve experienced in the past,” Gnat said.

He also said he noticed more pressure on airlines to pack planes with passengers.

“I think they are pushing really hard to have every plane jam packed,” he said. “You’re seeing a lot of pressure to route people such that every flight is always full all the time. So as a result, you see a lot of backup.”

Continue reading “Phoenix Sky Harbor breaks yearly traffic records, prepares for future growth”

Online diamond retailer Blue Nile competes for customers through ‘web rooms’

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By KAITLYN THOMPSON
Cronkite News

SCOTTSDALE – This Valentine’s Day, U.S. consumers will spend an estimated $19.7 billion, with $4.4 billion of that total going toward jewelry, according to the National Retail Federation Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey.

Although nearly one in five of those people planned to purchase rings, bracelets and necklaces, most of them won’t buy online. And that’s something Seattle-based online diamond retailer Blue Nile wants to change.

Blue Nile has opened interactive “web room” storefronts to try and capture more of the market.

President and CEO Harvey Kanter, an Arizona State University alumnus, spoke about the company’s change during a lecture at the W.P. Carey Economic Club of Phoenix on Jan. 28.

Kanter said only about 6 to 7 percent of buyers purchase engagement rings through a website.

Continue reading “Online diamond retailer Blue Nile competes for customers through ‘web rooms’”

Cronkite News Digest for Friday, Feb. 12

Here is the Cronkite News lineup for Friday, Feb. 12. If you have questions on news stories, please contact Steve Crane in the Washington, D.C., bureau at 202-684-2398 or steve.crane@asu.edu, or call the Phoenix bureau for Kevin Dale at 602-496-5168 or kevin.dale@asu.edu or Venita James at venita.hawthorne.james@asu.edu or 602-496-5280. For business story questions, please contact Christina Leonard at 602-361-5893 or christina.leonard@asu.edu. Questions on sports stories should be directed to Brett Kurland 602-496-5134 or bkurland@asu.edu. Stories promised for today along with photos and links to multimedia elements will move on our client site at cronkitenews.asu.edu/clients.

Continue reading “Cronkite News Digest for Friday, Feb. 12”

McCain raised $5.6 million in 2015, easily outdistancing challengers

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By DANIKA WORTHINGTON
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain raised and spent more in 2015 for his re-election bid than all 10 challengers combined, ending the year with $5.1 million in the bank, according to the latest Federal Election Commission figures.

The nearest in the fundraising race was Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, who brought in nearly $1.9 million and had $856,755 on hand as of Dec. 31, according to the FEC.

The challengers say they’re not worried about the funding disparity and that there are months yet before they have to face McCain, a five-term incumbent Republican. But political experts said that while it’s possible for an underfunded candidate to win, the challengers will likely have to pick up their fundraising games. Continue reading “McCain raised $5.6 million in 2015, easily outdistancing challengers”

Robotics conference in Phoenix showcases future of medical, military technology

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By TRAVIS ARBON and ZIYI ZENG
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Wearable and implanted devices are the next frontier of military technology and medicine. That was the message at the Wearable Robotics Association’s WearRAcon 16 conference, which opened on Wednesday.

Those machines could be anything from a personal cooling system to an exo-skeleton suit, replacement limbs or even a jet pack. Speakers at the conference said those advances are just a few years away from reality.

The conference, which gathered a group of robotics industry professionals, scientists and academics, runs through Friday at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix. About 160 attendees listened to experts, explored exhibits and discussed the issues swirling around the emerging field. This was inaugural conference for the Wearable Robotics Association, a Scottsdale-based organization of robotics entrepreneurs and scholars.

Geoffrey Ling, former director of the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Biological Technologies Office, said technology and medical research have advanced enough to begin considering wearable robotics.

“I believe that we are on a threshold of man’s next transformation,” Ling said. “And that is where man and machine become symbiotic.”

Continue reading “Robotics conference in Phoenix showcases future of medical, military technology”

Facebook blocks some Arizona marijuana dispensary pages from site

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By ZAC PACLEB and LAUREN MICHAELS
Cronkite News

MESA — One Scottsdale medical marijuana’s Facebook page features a video titled “Alcohol v. Marijuana” with a cameo by Snoop Dogg.

A Yuma dispensary promotes a “Wednesday only” sale, featuring the strain “CBD Yummy” for $10 a gram.

And a Phoenix dispensary highlights “Tangerine Dream,” its strain of the week.

However, Facebook users may have a hard time finding some of these dispensary pages in the future. Instead, they might see this: “Sorry, this content isn’t available right now.”

Facebook has started to delete business pages of marijuana dispensaries.

Earlier this month, dispensary owners and patients in New Jersey noticed the pages disappearing, according to media reports. And Arizona dispensaries have followed.

“It was just kind of without warning,” said Paul Morris, regional manager of Giving Tree Wellness Center in Mesa. “It just came up, and so of course, I appealed it. And about a day-and-a-half later, it was adios muchacho. It was completely erased.”

Continue reading “Facebook blocks some Arizona marijuana dispensary pages from site”

Arizona Canadians flock to South Mountain for snow and poutine

  • People attending the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic enjoyed listening to live music. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    People attending the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic enjoyed listening to live music. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    Attendees enjoy food and each others’ company at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    Attendees enjoy food and each others’ company at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    Poutine, French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, are a popular Canadian snack offered at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    Poutine, French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, are a popular Canadian snack offered at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    Face painting was among the activities at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    Face painting was among the activities at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    Two members from the Royal Mounted Canadian Police, also called Mounties, pose at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    Two members from the Royal Mounted Canadian Police, also called Mounties, pose at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    A girl plays in artificial snow at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic at South Mountain Park. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)
    A girl plays in artificial snow at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic at South Mountain Park. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)

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By ELENA MENDOZA
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – “Rock your maple leaf, get a little loonie.”

Linda Myers, who moved to the Valley 20 years ago from her native Ontario, wore a hat symbolizing the slogan at the Great Canadian Picnic. The red and white hat rocked a felt maple leaf, a national symbol of Canada.

“The Great Canadian Picnic is such a nice way to just see a lot of Canadians in one place,” said Myers, who has attended the annual event with her husband for six years. “We can all get together with them and soak up a little bit of Canadian culture that we certainly miss.”

 Canadian families on Saturday sledded on a hill of artificial snow, danced to a live band, had their faces painted and chowed down on poutine, a familiar Canadian dish of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, with the peaks of South Mountain as a backdrop.

Continue reading “Arizona Canadians flock to South Mountain for snow and poutine”

Arizona lawmakers welcome A-10 funding, while questioning shift to F-35

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By MADISON ALDER
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Arizona lawmakers applauded the official announcement that the A-10 fighter will be funded through fiscal 2022, even as they expressed concerns Wednesday about the readiness of its proposed replacement, the F-35.

The comments were the latest in a years-long tug-of-war between the Air Force, which has been threatening to retire the decades-old A-10 for budget reasons, and lawmakers who said it still has a vital role to play. Continue reading “Arizona lawmakers welcome A-10 funding, while questioning shift to F-35”

VA struggles to fill medical center positions in Arizona, across nation

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By DANIKA WORTHINGTON
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald told lawmakers Wednesday that his agency is having trouble filling vacancies at VA medical centers around the country, which has led to “critical staffing problems” at the facilities.

McDonald said applications to the VA are down as much as 75 percent since problems uncovered at the Phoenix VA two years sparked probes that revealed systemic problems at the agency nationwide, leading to the resignation of a secretary.

It also comes as the health care industry as a whole faces shortages of medical personnel and struggles to fill openings. Continue reading “VA struggles to fill medical center positions in Arizona, across nation”

Prop 123: ‘Vote Yes’ campaign pushes education message across state; ‘Vote No’ hoping to protect land trust

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By Matthew Tonis
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – With May’s special election fast approaching, supporters and opponents of Proposition 123 – the multi-billion dollar proposal to divert money from the Arizona land trust to boost education funding – are trying get their voters to the polls.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey developed the plan and state lawmakers set the May 17 election to put it in front of voters. it would allocate $3.5 billion to state education during the next 10 years. Funding would be split in two parts. Most of the money – about $2 billion – will come from the state’s land trusts and the remainder will come from the general fund. Continue reading “Prop 123: ‘Vote Yes’ campaign pushes education message across state; ‘Vote No’ hoping to protect land trust”

Despite recent market drops, officials still see bright copper future

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By LAUREN CLARK
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – It’s a rainy Monday morning at Potomac Metals, a scrap yard just outside of Washington, D.C., as a customer climbs into the bed of his pickup truck and starts sorting odd scraps of metal into piles.

As he sorts, a worker weighs the piles then hands over cash for the metal. But the copper that would have brought $3 per pound three years ago yields just $1 per pound on this day.

Copper is one of the pillars of Arizona’s economy, but steadily falling demand on world markets has depressed prices and caused ripples that are felt in the state and as far away as this East Coast scrap yard. Continue reading “Despite recent market drops, officials still see bright copper future”

Phoenix area police, schools weigh how to handle bomb threats

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By JOHNNY SOTO
Cronkite News

CHANDLER – Police and school officials approach school bomb threats with caution, working together to determine if a threat is credible enough to evacuate a school and bring in bomb-sniffing dogs.

Their goal is to make sure everyone, from students to staff, is safe. How bomb threats are handled follows a specific protocol, law enforcement and school officials said.

Since October at least eight schools in the Phoenix area have had bomb threats, according to news reports. Nothing was found and no schools were closed.

But the difficulty of assessing school bomb threats shows in different responses in other states. The Los Angeles Unified School District shut down its 1,500 campuses for the day because of a threat. New York schools stayed open after a threat was reported within 24 hours of the Los Angeles threat.

Allen Moore, who oversees security at Mesa Public Schools, said threats can come as a phone call, a note left at the school or police station or written on school property. Most threats are vague, he said.

Continue reading “Phoenix area police, schools weigh how to handle bomb threats”

App aimed at Chinese-speaking students wins $50,000 in ASU competition

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By KAITLYN THOMPSON
Cronkite News

TEMPE – Despite Chang Liu’s numerous years of English lessons in China, she found it extremely difficult to communicate when she arrived at Arizona State University.

“About six months ago, it was my first time to be here in the U.S.,” said Liu, an ASU undergraduate student. “I realized I had spent years learning English, from primary school to college almost every day, but it was totally useless.”

Liu wanted to make learning English easier for other students in China, so she teamed up with two business graduate students, Megan Kirk and Elizabeth Oviedo, to develop a mobile application that allows Chinese students to interact with native English speakers. They called it Let’s Chat.

Let’s Chat was one of three entrepreneurial businesses that pitched their ideas to judges at the Sun Devil Igniter Challenge Spark Tank on Feb. 4, and they beat out the competition to win the $50,000 grand prize.

Spark Tank is an ASU version of the TV show “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurial teams pitch their business ideas to a team of judges in the hopes of taking home investment money.

Continue reading “App aimed at Chinese-speaking students wins $50,000 in ASU competition”

Labor stats: Fine artists in Arizona have higher annual income than in other states

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By KAITLYN THOMPSON
Cronkite News

SCOTTSDALE – Fine artists in Arizona on average make more money annually than artists in any other state, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Arizona sculptors, painters and illustrators made an annual average salary of $95,600 in 2014, making the state the highest paying for that occupation, followed by New York at $75,940. The annual average salary for fine artists in the United States is $51,120.

Arizona State University professor James White, who has created art for the past 50 years, said he thinks the reason Arizona artists came out on top has to do with the kind of people who reside in the state.

“There are a lot of people with disposable incomes in Scottsdale, and it’s the people with disposable income that collect art,” said White, a sculptor and neon artist.

Continue reading “Labor stats: Fine artists in Arizona have higher annual income than in other states”

Arizona legislator pushes flurry of bills aimed at updating state tech

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By TRAVIS ARBON
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – State Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, writes bills every session with one goal in mind: dragging the state’s public-facing technology infrastructure into the future.

Stevens proposed more than a dozen bills this legislative session that address the government’s information technology systems. One would provide a form for businesses to apply for trademarks online. Another would allow candidates for federal offices to collect signatures through an Internet portal.

Although he’s pushed related bills since joining the Legislature in 2009, only a handful have been signed into law. This session, his last as a member of the state House, Stevens introduced more technology-related bills than at any other point in his tenure, sponsoring most of them alone.

Stevens said he believes his colleagues don’t fully understand the benefits of modernizing the state’s technology infrastructure.

“There’s some people out here that don’t believe me, but it’s the way of the future,” Stevens said. “It is hopelessly me. I can tell you that I see eyes glaze over when I talk electronics, but it’s what I do.”

Continue reading “Arizona legislator pushes flurry of bills aimed at updating state tech”

Report: Phoenix renters pay more for car insurance than homeowners

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By MARISELA RAMIREZ
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Renters in Phoenix could pay $77 more on average than homeowners for identical car insurance, a practice that “unfairly discriminates against lower-income drivers,” a consumer group said Monday.

The Consumer Federation of America said it sought quotes from seven insurance companies in 10 large cities across the country and found insurers charged more to renters in almost every instance.

Phoenix, with a 7 percent difference between renters and homeowners, fell in the middle of the pack. Louisville, Kentucky, had the biggest gap, at 13 percent, while Portland, Oregon, and Chicago were tied for the smallest at 4 percent. Continue reading “Report: Phoenix renters pay more for car insurance than homeowners”

National parks need $11.9 billion in maintenance, $580 million in state

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By JESSICA SWARNER
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Arizona parks and monuments had more than $580 million in deferred maintenance at the end of fiscal 2015, part of a national backlog totaling $11.9 billion, according to a new National Park Service report.

The report said the backlog was up at both the state and national level – from $517 million and $11.4 billion, respectively – at a time when parks are seeing increased numbers of visitors. Continue reading “National parks need $11.9 billion in maintenance, $580 million in state”