Cronkite News Service

Cronkite News Service Digest for Wednesday, April 16

Here is the Cronkite News Service lineup for Wednesday, April 16. Please contact Steve Crane in the Washington, D.C., bureau at 202-684-2400 or steve.crane@asu.edu or Steve Elliott in the Phoenix bureau at 602-496-0686 or steve.elliott@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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Correction to Cronkite News Service story on ticket scalping

  • Slug:BC-CNS-Ticket Scalping, CORRECTIVE,045
  • Note: Clients that used BC-CNS-Ticket Scalping, which moved April 9 under a PHOENIX dateline, are asked to use the following story:

An April 9 Cronkite News story on ticket scalping erroneously characterized the terms of a state law limiting resale of tickets within 200 feet of a venue’s entrance or connected parking lot. The law stating that limit applies only to the sale of tickets at more than face value.

Jump in fatal train accidents during 2013 prompts national safety campaign

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Trains-Safety,420
  • Sidebar: Safety tips.
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By JORDAN YOUNG
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – A nationwide spike in fatal train accidents involving trespassers and motorists in 2013 has prompted a national safety campaign urging people to think trains when they see tracks.

While Arizona didn’t follow the trend in 2013 – eight deaths among trespassers equaled the 2012 total, and there were no reported deaths involving motorists – it wasn’t that long ago that the state was among the nation’s worst in terms of accidents, said Doug Farler, state coordinator for Operation Lifesaver, which is directing the campaign.

“We’re just trying to tell people to do smart things, make good choices,” Farler said, “and being on the railroad tracks and railroad bridges isn’t one of the smart choices, ever, because you never know when the trains are going to come.”

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Advisory: E-cigarette story

The story on Coconino County’s electronic cigarette ordinance will move Wednesday morning.

From sink to garden: Gray water systems catching on in Tucson

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Gray Water,700
  • Sidebar: Gray water tips.
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)
  • Video story in YouTube

By KIMBERLEIGH HOLSCLAW
Cronkite News Service

TUCSON – The green tree python on display in the Reid Park Zoo’s Lee H. Brown Family Conservation Learning Center coils to collect rain.

Visitors who come to this building to learn how such animals adapt to their surroundings, some by conserving water, may not know that they are doing the same when they use the sinks and water fountains.

In addition to cisterns that collect rain that hits the roof, channeling it to be used for irrigation, the center that opened in 2008 features a gray water system that sends water through underground pipes to water plants outside.

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Organizer ready to try again to create top-two primary system

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Top-Two Primary,710
  • Sidebar: States with top-two primaries.

By CATHERINE CALDERON
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX– With independents now the state’s largest voting bloc, former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson said he’s getting ready for another attempt at establishing primary elections that have the top two vote-getters advancing regardless of party.

“I think it’s a process of when you’re asking for change it never happens on the first time,” Johnson said. “You have to keep going back.”

Voters overwhelmingly defeated the idea in 2012. The state Republican, Libertarian and Green parties opposed Proposition 121, while the Arizona Democratic Party didn’t take a stand but made its concerns clear. Meanwhile, the campaign against the measure was funded in large part by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a conservative dark money group.

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Arizona’s long-term water future: Is the state ready to make hard decisions?

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Water-Conversations, 1st Ld-Writethru,950
  • Note: SUBS grafs 9-10 with Pickard to RECAST paraphrase on water being a contentious issue for clarity and context and offer an alternative quote to put the statement about water being for fighting in sharper context.
  • File photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By BRITTANY ELENA MORRIS
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – Residents of the Sun Corridor stretching through the Valley and Tucson turn on faucets, water lawns and fill swimming pools without any doubt that the state’s most precious resource will always be there.

More than century of planning has brought Arizona to this point, starting with the Salt River Project and decades of arduous negotiations that led to a supply of Colorado River water. So have the landmark Groundwater Management Act of 1980 and a system of banking some of the state’s Colorado River allotment in aquifers.

While all of it gives Arizona flexibility in the near term, many conversations these days focus on the long term as two decades of drought grips the Southwest and the Colorado River’s watershed.

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From laser-leveled fields to drip irrigation, farms stretch water they have

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Water-Agriculture,750
  • Sidebar: Best Management Practices program.
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By MORIAH COSTA
Cronkite News Service

Ronald Rayner has been fascinated with water since he was a boy on his father’s farm in Goodyear. Now a partner on the family farm, A Tumbling-T Ranches, he has found a way to conserve water and double production since 1980.

Rayner does this by planting cotton over harvested wheat and barley plants, instead of clearing and plowing fields beforehand. This technique, called double-cropping, prevents soil erosion and helps trap moisture by creating a natural mulch.

“We use the same amount of water today that we did (since 1980) even though our efficiency has increased substantially,” he said.

Water is a big part of a farm’s budget, and Rayner said farmers have a bottom-line reason to be efficient.

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Class of foreign pilots graduates from Valley academy

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Foreign Pilots,350
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By JORDAN YOUNG
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – Heading to a foreign country to study is challenge enough for many young men and women.

Add to that learning how to fly an airplane from instructors who don’t speak your native language, and that sums up Marlon Zeng’s year at TransPac Aviation Academy at Deer Valley Airport.

“I was afraid of my training because I had no idea how to fly before I came here,” said Zeng, who along with 24 other Chinese students received his wings Thursday.

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CORRECTION to April 9 story on Interstate 11 meeting

EDS: Clients who used the story slugged BC-CNS-Interstate 11, which moved April 9 under a WASHINGTON dateline, are asked to use the following correction. A corrected version of the story has been posted here.

WASHINGTON – An April 9 Cronkite News Service story on a Washington meeting of Arizona and Nevada officials over the proposed Interstate 11 between the two states incorrectly attributed a quote about the road to Kevin Biesty, an assistant director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. The source of that quote could not be determined. The quote has been removed from subsequent versions of the story.

Arizona lawmakers blast ‘ridiculous’ plan to retire A-10 fighter jets

  • Slug: BC-CNS-A-10 Advocates,520
  • Video story available on YouTube
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By WHITNEY OGDEN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Arizona congressmen Thursday renewed calls for the Pentagon to drop its “absolutely ridiculous” plan to retire the A-10 fighter, saying the replacement F-35 is 10 times as costly and does not protect ground forces as well.

The Air Force announced in February that it would retire the 40-year-old, close air support jet as part of its 2015 budget cutting, saying it can no longer afford the aging, one-mission plane.

But lawmakers with A-10s in their districts battled back Thursday, saying scrapping the jets would hurt local economies while weakening troop support. Read More »

Measles alert prompts warnings about parents forgoing vaccines for kids

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Measles-Vaccinations,725
  • Sidebar: County MMR rates.
  • File photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By KIRSTEN KRAKLIO
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – Maricopa County’s first confirmed measles case in three years had health officials and advocates pointing with worry Thursday to the increasing rate of Arizonans choosing to exempt their children from vaccinations.

“The fact that we have lower immunization rates makes the possibility of an outbreak like this – getting so out of control that it circulates for a long time with a lot of cases – more likely and makes it harder for us to quickly control it,” said Dr. Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

England’s comment followed his agency’s announcement Wednesday that an unvaccinated person returning from Europe tested positive for measles after visiting several crowded places in the Valley in late March, likely exposing others.

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SRP using robot to fight pipe leaks, spare workers from cramped spaces

By CATHERINE CALDERON
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – In the back of an SRP truck, Michael Wiechens stares at a monitor and works a joystick back and forth. His view: a 360-degree scan from inside an irrigation pipe.

Until eight years ago, SRP workers inspecting pipes for flaws had to do it themselves, crawling into cramped spaces that can contain broken glass, needles and toxic air and requiring a supporting cast of workers to ensure safety.

Today, Wiechens can do the job himself with a robot manufactured in Austria.

“The biggest thing for me is to keep the people that I work with safe, to keep them from having to go into a confined space with only one entrance and one exit,” he said.

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Report ranks Phoenix high among cities in solar capacity

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Solar-Phoenix,500
  • Sidebar: Rankings.
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By BRITTANY ELENA MORRIS
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – With solar panels going up on homes, businesses and public buildings, Phoenix ranks No. 6 among a group of large U.S. cities in an environmental group’s accounting of per-capita photovoltaic capacity.

The Environment America Research and Policy Center, which evaluated 57 cities in 38 states for 2013, found that Phoenix had 96 megawatts of overall capacity. That ranked third, behind Los Angeles and San Diego.

Measuring that capacity per-capita, Honolulu ranked first, followed by San Jose, Calif., Wilmington, Del., San Diego, Indianapolis and Phoenix.

Whatever the measure, Councilwoman Kate Gallego said she wants Phoenix to be No. 1.

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Advocate honored for work to give voice to victims of violence

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Victims’ Advocate,550
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By WHITNEY OGDEN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – To Jamie Balson, it seemed like prosecutors treated domestic violence victims more like a “tool” toward winning a conviction than the people they were.

So she set out to change that.

The Peoria attorney started a program to train police officers on victims’ rights and the responsibilities they have to the victims during an investigation. The success of that spurred her to create a foundation that helps victims of violent crime pursue civil action against their attackers.

“Victims aren’t just a piece of evidence,” said Balson, a deputy county attorney in Maricopa County. “They need to have an active voice while the case is going on.”

Her work to change courtroom perspectives and give domestic violence victims the “voice they deserve” was recognized Wednesday by the Justice Department. It named Balson one of 10 recipients from around the country of the National Crime Victims’ Rights Service Award. Read More »

Nevada, Arizona officials hold informal Interstate 11 meeting

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Interstate 11,460
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

EDS: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote about the road to Kevin Biesty, an assistant director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. The source of that quote could not be determined. The quote has been removed from the version of the story below. Clients who used the story are asked to run the correction that can be found here.

By COLTON GAVIN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Supporters of the proposed Interstate 11 met Wednesday in Washington where they expressed optimism about the future of the long-discussed highway that could link Phoenix and Las Vegas – and possibly beyond.

The informal meeting of Arizona and Nevada lawmakers and officials was called to show support for the road and to help attract federal funding. While there is still much to be done, those at the session insisted that now is the time to start pushing.

The highway between the two cities is just one segment of the larger Intermountain West Corridor, which could one day be a new interstate route from Mexico to Canada. Read More »

In ticket scalping, laws of supply and demand play out near venues

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Ticket Scalping, 1st Ld-Writethru,685
  • Note: A previous version of this story erroneously characterized the terms of a state law limiting resale of tickets within 200 feet of a venue’s entrance or connected parking lot. The law stating that limit applies only to the sale of tickets at more than face value.
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By JOE MARTIN
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – Standing in the shadow of Chase Field on a rainy afternoon, Jery Brown is looking for customers among those heading to see the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The stadium will wind up not even half full on this Wednesday, but Brown is selling the cache of tickets in his pocket, including seats in the bleachers and along the first base line.

His nephew, who identified himself only as T.B., tells fans that Brown is also buying tickets to tonight’s game – or any other game, for that matter.

“We buy and sell. As long as there’s a demand, we try and find a supply, and we put them together,” Brown said.

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Federal report: State should repay $2.2 million in child care funds

  • Slug: BC-CNS-FundFeud,500
  • File photo available (thumbnail, caption below)

By MAURO WHITEMAN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Arizona’s Department of Economic Security improperly claimed more than $2.2 million of federal funds for child care and development – funds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the state should pay back.

But the state has said it shouldn’t have to, claiming in an official response that the money was spent appropriately and any error was due to “an unintentional misunderstanding of the process.”

The charge and response were contained in a report last week by the HHS Office of Inspector General, which reviewed $29 million in funds for child care and development. The state had two years to obligate those funds, but the report found that some of Arizona’s fiscal 2009 funds were obligated outside that two-year window. Read More »

Mesa’s public libraries offering books, DVDs – and croquet sets

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Stuff-brary,450
  • Sidebar: Park kit.
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)
  • Video story in YouTube

By JORDAN YOUNG
Cronkite News Service

MESA – When going to the library, Mesa residents can check out a classic book such as “Pride and Prejudice” or a DVD such as “Star Wars.” They also can check out a croquet set.

Offering sports equipment – and soon, donated cake pans – at the Mesa Public Library’s four branches is a way to show residents that the facilities are about more than just books, said Sandy Rizzo, a librarian at the Red Mountain Branch.

“We do want to kind of break through that perception because really the library is about your life,” she said.

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Protesters rally as Obama-era deportations top 2 million

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Deporation Milestone,530
  • Sidebar: Deportations by year
  • Video story available on YouTube
  • Photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By COLTON GAVIN
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Protesters rallied outside the White House again Tuesday, renewing demands that President Barack Obama halt deportations amid reports that they had surpassed the 2 million mark under his administration.

Several dozen protesters, including many from Arizona, held signs and shouted “2 million, too many,” with some criticizing Obama as the “deporter in chief.”

“I have been working with about 40 families who are suffering because of deportation,” said Natally Cruz, a caseworker with the immigration advocacy group Puente Movement in Phoenix. “This policy does more harm than good.”

The protesters called on Obama to sign an executive order halting deportations as long as Congress refuses to act on comprehensive immigration reform, a power they insist the president has.

But administration critics from the other side of the aisle dispute the suggestion that Obama can take that action on his own. Read More »