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Activists file a ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana

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The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project filed a ballot initiative Friday that would legalize recreational use of marijuana and regulate and tax the drug like alcohol.

“I believe that the Arizona voters recognize that it’s time to try something different than prohibition,” said Ryan Hurley, an attorney for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a political committee backed by the Marijuana Policy Project that is behind the initiative.

According to a draft of the initiative provided by the Marijuana Policy Project, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would allow those 21 and older to carry up to one ounce of marijuana for private use.

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Saturday’s Record Store Day may further boost growth of vinyl sales

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PHOENIX ­– In the age of streaming music and digital downloads, vinyl records have made a comeback.

Vinyl sales in the U.S. grew by an estimated 52 percent in 2014 to 9.2 million copies, according to a Nielsen report. The sales were the highest since the monitoring group began tracking vinyl in 1991.

Local independent record-store owners said they’ve experienced the trend first hand. Vinyl doesn’t only draw customers seeking some nostalgia, it offers a warmer sound, beautiful artwork and a “cool” factor customers can’t necessarily get with digital music, they said.

Record Store Day, which occurs nationwide on the third Saturday in April, has helped drive growth in vinyl.

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Cronkite News Digest for Friday, April 17

Here is the Cronkite News lineup for Friday, April 17. Please contact Steve Crane in the Washington, D.C., bureau at 202-684-2398 or or Steve Elliott in the Phoenix bureau at 602-496-0686 or if you have questions on news stories. Please contact Christina Leonard at or 602-496-5241 with questions on business stories. Please contact Brett Kurland at or 602-496-5134 with questions on sports stories. Stories promised for today along with photos and links to multimedia elements will move on our client site at

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Panel: Government should invest in video games to help students learn

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WASHINGTON – A panel of experts was in Washington this week advocating for more fun in schools – more “hard fun.”

That is the term that was being used by industry and government officials who were part of a panel Thursday that talked about how video games and gaming can help students learn.

“We’ve been trying to find a way to put those two together for centuries,” said Greg Toppo,  a national education writer for USA Today.

“I think one of the most exciting things is that this movement has that at its forefront,” he said. “It’s always thinking about hard fun.” Read More »

Outdoor recreation worth $646 billion a year to economy, experts say

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WASHINGTON – Consumers spend $646 billion annually on outdoor recreation, said advocates, who called on the government Thursday to do a better job tracking the worth of what they called an undervalued industry.

Speakers at the Center for American Progress event also said that the numbers demonstrated the value of the nation’s parks and open spaces, which the outdoor industry depends on.

“These are legitimate jobs,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, adding that national parks saw more visitors last year than ever before. Read More »

Effort to recall Douglas seeks to turn Facebook likes into political power

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PHOENIX – It began after the November general election with a website and Facebook page carrying a battle cry shared by two young men: “Diane Douglas is not fit to lead as the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona.”

“It was a form of protest initially,” said Max Goshert, a Red Cross aquatic safety instructor. “We were protesting her election. We didn’t think the people of Arizona really knew who they were electing.”

The message caught on quickly after Douglas, a tea party Republican running on a platform of repealing Common Core, narrowly won election.

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Leaders: Arizona must increase higher ed funding to improve economy

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PHOENIX – If Arizona doesn’t change course and increase funding to higher education, the state’s economic health will decline, Arizona State University President Michael Crow told a group of business leaders Thursday.

He pointed to two statistics: Arizona and New Mexico have the lowest level of educational attainment. The two states also have the fastest falling per capita gross domestic product.

There’s a correlation, he said.

The state Legislature cut $99 million in funding to the state’s higher education institutions for the budget year that begins July 1.

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Notario fraud preys on those seeking help with immigration paperwork

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GLENDALE – Whenever Monica Alegria has an appointment with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, she gets so nervous her head aches. Alegria didn’t come into the country illegally nor does she have a criminal record, but she and her husband are facing possible deportation.

While applying for green cards, she said, the couple paid $2,000 in legal fees to an individual they thought was a licensed immigration attorney but who disappeared without providing any legal services.

Frustrated, the Alegrias then tried another firm, only to be victims of fraud again. This time, according to their current attorney, the individual filed the Alegrias’ green card applications under asylum status even though they weren’t eligible, causing the start of deportation proceedings.

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Senators look at ‘perverse incentive’ of asset forfeitures for police agencies

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WASHINGTON – A Senate panel said Wednesday that while civil asset forfeitures can be a valuable tool for compensating victims and funding police work, there are too many loopholes that can allow abuses.

One witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee worried that without the funding that law enforcement agencies get from seized assets, it will be harder for police to do their jobs.

But critics said that asset forfeiture programs like equitable sharing create a “perverse incentive” for law enforcement that shifts the focus from fighting crime to padding police budgets.

Under the program, law enforcement agencies are allowed to divide up proceeds from goods and assets seized during an investigation – even if the property owner hasn’t been arrested. Read More »

Court affirms ruling that Maricopa deputies used race in traffic stops

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WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld a lower court’s ruling that racial discrimination by Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies extended to all traffic stops – not just those performed during “immigration sweeps.”

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also affirmed much of a district judge’s orders that required training for officers and video-recording of traffic stops, among other mandates.

The appeals court did narrow the purview of monitors that the district court appointed to enforce its injunction, but attorneys for the plaintiffs said that would have “a very limited effect” on the court’s efforts to rein in deputies.

Dan Pochoda, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona which represented the plaintiffs, said his group was “very pleased” with Wednesday’s ruling. Read More »

Ducey calls budget, education, business highlights of first 100 days

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PHOENIX – Before boarding his “Opportunity Express” RV on Wednesday to celebrate his first 100 days in office, Gov. Doug Ducey said he has provided “100 productive days of promises kept.”

Ducey said that includes expanding school choice for tribal communities, improving education, having Apple agree to build a data command center in Mesa and wrapping up the legislative session sooner than usual.

“Of course our biggest accomplishment, and the hardest part of this job this past year, was passing the budget,” he said at an event outside the State Capitol. Read More »

ASU researchers find potential clues to detecting ovarian cancer

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TEMPE – Arizona State University researchers said they have identified three promising biological signals that could help detect ovarian cancer before patients display any symptoms.

Researchers from the Biodesign Institute said identifying the biomarkers – a type of blood-born signal – is another step toward early detection.

ASU’s new study is the first use of high density microarray technology that uses a sample of the patient’s blood to identify biomarkers for ovarian cancer, researchers said.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Doctors generally don’t diagnose the cancer until it’s in the advanced stages, and only 15 percent of ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed early, according to the alliance.

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House panel says ICE released 30,000 convicted criminals in 2014

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WASHINGTON – House lawmakers grilled the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday, saying her agency had released more than 30,000 immigrants with criminal records in 2014 while failing to act against other immigrants its officers stopped.

In her first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, ICE Director Sarah Saldaña faced two hours of often hostile questioning over the releases and over the administration’s policy of focusing enforcement efforts on immigrants who pose the greatest threat to the U.S.

“The agency’s released thousands of criminal aliens convicted of offenses involving dangerous drugs, assault and domestic violence,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the chairman of the committee. Read More »

Panel: Government needs better way of measuring border security

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WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security needs to find a better way to measure the success of border security policy or else spending on the issue is little more than “a shot in the dark,” a panel of experts said Monday.

A report by the Bipartisan Policy Center also said that while the department already collects much of the data necessary to evaluate its effectiveness, that data is not consistently analyzed and not readily available for public review.

The center organized the panel where former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the data that is being collected is often focused on the wrong things, like numbers of border patrol agents or miles of border fence.

Such “brute force” statistics do little to show how successful U.S. immigration policy and border security are at slowing the flow of illegal immigration, he said. Read More »

It’s not your imagination: Airline performance fell in 2014, report says

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WASHINGTON – Two of the biggest airlines serving Arizona saw a decline in their service last year – but they were not alone.

The annual Airline Quality Ratings report released Monday said that, with few exceptions, major airlines’ performance dropped in all four categories the study measures: on-time performance, baggage handling, denied boarding and passenger complaints.

“All four things got worse. We’re going in the wrong direction and consumers are actually telling us we’re going in the wrong direction,” said Dean Headley, a professor of marketing at Wichita State University’s business school and one of the authors of the report. Read More »

New life for paint: Gilbert connecting unused cans with people, projects

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GILBERT – You can’t beat the price of a 5-gallon drum of latex paint at Jack Minkalis’ shop – as long as gray or tan will get the job done.

Individuals and professionals can leave this town’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility, which Minkalis supervises, with up to 10 gallons of recycled paint without paying a cent.

With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimating that about 10 percent of house paint purchased each year – between 65 million and 69 million gallons – goes unused, recycling is one way Gilbert and some other communities are trying to keep that paint out of landfills.

“It’s all about sustainability,” Minkalis said. “Even the paint we have that we can’t recycle we send out.” Read More »

Decades later, families wait as tribal relocation office struggles

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WASHINGTON – The federal government’s attempts to end a bitter, centuries-long land dispute between the Navajo and Hopi tribes was supposed to take five years and $41 million to resettle what was then estimated at around 1,000 families.

But more than three decades and $564 million later, there are still families waiting to be compensated. The Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation is still sifting through the remnants of what turned out to be more than 7,000 families who applied to the program.

Relocated families complain that the program has severed important ties with their own people and with their ancestral lands. Tribal officials say that that, in turn, has contributed to a number of social ills, like alcoholism, and a “tremendously significant” loss of culture.

In short, critics say, the government’s relocation efforts have failed at almost every turn.

But they don’t want it shut down. Not yet, at least. Read More »

Hurley’s past breathes new life into ASU men’s basketball

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TEMPE – Two-time national champion. NCAA all-time assist leader. Former consensus All-American.

That’s the playing resume of new Arizona State men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley, who was introduced by the school at a Friday morning press conference.

Success as a player doesn’t always translate to success as a coach, but Hurley’s basketball pedigree extends far beyond his four years on the court at Duke.

Coaching is in his blood, from his father, Bob Hurley Sr., who leads one of the top high school programs in the country at St Anthony High School in Hurley’s home state of New Jersey, to his brother Dan, who is the head coach at the University of Rhode Island.

It’s that history that molded the former Blue Devils star into a skillful sideline architect.

“First of all, it’s what I saw growing up. My dad was a coach that cared about his kids a tremendous amount and was very loyal to his program at St. Anthony’s and his community,” Hurley said. “The players at St. Anthony’s were almost like an extended family. So that’s what I saw and that’s what I’ve taken with me too.” Read More »

Remembering Raul Castro, Arizona’s first and only Hispanic governor

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PHOENIX – To Alfredo Gutierrez, former majority and minority leader of the Arizona State Senate, Gov. Raul H. Castro wasn’t the warmest person to deal with.

In his less than two years in office during the 1970s, Gutierrez said that Castro was very formal in his relationships and had to learn how to deal the Legislature.

But Gutierrez said there’s no denying Castro’s influence, which transcended being Arizona’s first and only Hispanic governor.

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APS parent was largest donor to federal campaigns in Arizona last cycle

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WASHINGTON – Pinnacle West Capital and its employees were the largest non-party contributors to federal candidates in Arizona in the last election cycle, giving $187,783 to House and Senate candidates in the 2014 midterm election cycle.

Only the Democratic and Republican parties gave more than Pinnacle West, the parent company of the Arizona Public Service Co., according to analyses of Federal Election Commission reports by the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Although it contributed more money to Republicans, Pinnacle West gave to both Democratic and GOP candidates, according to the reports, sometimes giving to opposing candidates in the same race. Read More »