Gun sales in state start to climb back up after January’s Trump slump

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By ALEXIS EGELAND
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Gun sales in Arizona have started to rebound after a brief January slump that experts attribute to the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

The latest FBI background check data show that gun sales in Arizona last year peaked at 44,887 in December, before plunging to 31,366 in January. That mirrored national sales, which hit a high of 2.8 million in December before falling to just over 2 million a month later.

But sales in March had bounced back to 38,170 in Arizona and 2.4 million nationally.

The numbers are just the latest in a rollercoaster ride of gun sales driven up by what experts said were typical reactions to the possible election of a Democrat, Hillary Clinton, and a subsequent drop when gun-friendly Republican Trump moved into the White House. Continue reading “Gun sales in state start to climb back up after January’s Trump slump”

FEC: Arizonans gave $1.5 million toward Trump’s $107 million inaugural

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By DUSTIN QUIROZ
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Arizona residents donated $1.5 million toward President Donald Trump’s record-breaking inauguration fund, dwarfing the $26,000 that Arizonans gave to the last inauguration of President Barack Obama, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

The bulk of the Arizona money came from Godaddy.com founder Bob Parsons, who gave $1 million, while the other 12 came from businesses and individuals – some of whom were not even aware that their purchase of Trump memorabilia were being counted toward the inauguration

“It wasn’t a donation,” said Ioanna Morfessis, a Phoenix resident listed as one of the donors. “I bought five inaugural plates, $50 each.”

Calls to others who listed Arizona there address went to businesses that said they had never heard of the donor. The Huffington Post reported this week that the inaugural committee conceded errors in its filings, and experts said the Arizona problems are common in campaign financing reports. Continue reading “FEC: Arizonans gave $1.5 million toward Trump’s $107 million inaugural”

Arizona law enforcement agencies stress need to hire officers, announce job fair

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By FARAI BENNETT
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone and other Arizona local leaders came together earlier this week to highlight their need to hire more law enforcement officers and shore up their “depleted” departments.

The Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety and Phoenix Police Department have hundreds of vacant law enforcement positions each. They will join forces at a job fair this weekend.

Cindy Scott, an associate clinical professor of Justice Studies at Northern Arizona University, said this emergency hire has been a long time coming. Because of the economic downturn, agencies could not hire employees. Agencies faced budget cuts and hiring freezes within an eight-year period, and the departments couldn’t keep up with the attrition rate.

Since the departments hired most of their employees in the 1980s, those officers are ready to turn in their badges, making more room for new officers.

But many departments don’t just plan to simply replace officers. They need more resources to keep up with population growth as well.

Continue reading “Arizona law enforcement agencies stress need to hire officers, announce job fair”

Cronkite News Digest for Friday, April 28

Here is the Cronkite News lineup for Friday, April 28. 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 at bkurland@asu.edu or 602-496-5234. 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, April 28”

Experts tell Senate that aging in isolation a ‘silent killer’ for millions

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By ANDRES GUERRA LUZ
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Mortality rates are higher among seniors who are aging in isolation, a “silent killer” that affects millions but goes mostly unnoticed, experts told a Senate committee Thursday.

Witnesses told the Senate Special Committee on Aging that an estimated 8 million older adults are affected by isolation, putting them at more risk for depression, dementia and mortality.

In Pima County, 46 percent of nearly 2,300 seniors surveyed last year cited social isolation as an issue of living alone, said W. Mark Clark, president of the Pima Council on Aging. Continue reading “Experts tell Senate that aging in isolation a ‘silent killer’ for millions”

Phoenix teacher takes in sights as she takes message to White House

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By DUSTIN QUIROZ
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – It’s a long way from the first-grade of Encanto Elementary School in Phoenix to a meeting in Washington with some of the nation’s most powerful government officials, and teacher Michelle Doherty admitted Thursday that she was a little overwhelmed.

“My emotions have been up and down, up and down,” said Doherty, Arizona’s 2017 teacher of the year, a day after a trip to the White House.

“To see everything I’ve read about, teach to my kids, is actually here,” said Doherty, a first-time visitor to Washington.

The 23-year veteran of teaching, all at Encanto, took in the sights but her Washington visit wasn’t all vacation. She took part in a week of meetings by the Council of Chief State School Officers and made a point of relaying the voices and concerns of students and teachers in Arizona’s public schools. Continue reading “Phoenix teacher takes in sights as she takes message to White House”

Family members hail opening of office for victims of immigrant crime

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By ANDRES GUERRA LUZ
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – A new federal office that will assist victims of crimes committed by immigrants brought “relief and a sense of accomplishment” to parents of Arizona crime victims, on hand Wednesday to witness the opening of the office.

The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement – or VOICE – office fulfills a pledge by President Donald Trump, who often pointed on the campaign trail to crime survivors like Mary Ann Mendoza and Steve Ronnebeck, whose sons were killed by illegal immigrants in Arizona.

“It feels amazing,” said Ronnebeck, whose son Grant was shot and killed in 2015 during a robbery by an undocumented immigrant. He called the program a “perfect start” toward addressing these crimes that they say for too long have been brushed under the rug.

Immigration advocates have criticized the creation of the office, which they said will further criminalize immigrant communities in this country. Some advocates see the program as a way to justify aggressive enforcement against immigrants, who they said commit crimes at one-third the rate of native-born residents. Continue reading “Family members hail opening of office for victims of immigrant crime”

Trump orders review of predecessors’ national monument designations

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By JOSEPH GUZMAN
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump ordered the Interior Department Wednesday to review two decades of national monument designations, actions he said represent an “egregious use of government power” affecting millions of acres of land.

The order could lead to the reversal of national monument designations made since 1996 under the Antiquities Act, an early 20th-century law that lets presidents unilaterally protect historic, cultural and natural resources on federal land by declaring it a monument.

Trump, signing the order at the Department of the Interior, vowed to give control over local lands “back to the states and people where it belongs,” specifically citing President Barack Obama’s December designation of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Continue reading “Trump orders review of predecessors’ national monument designations”

Valley Metro chief: Federal cuts threaten light rail, trolley projects

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By ARREN KIMBEL-SANNIT
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Transportation Department budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration could threaten Valley rail projects in which the federal government has already invested $75 million, the head of Valley Metro said Wednesday.

CEO Scott Smith joined other public transit officials who said the proposed cuts could also hobble the economic development that often accompanies investments in transit infrastructure.

“We are now close to $9 billion in real estate activity within a half-mile radius of the light rail corridor in just eight years,” Smith said during Wednesday’s conference call.

But Smith said proposed rollbacks of the Federal Transit Authority Capital Investment Program and other federal grants in the Trump budget blueprint could jeopardize expansions on the outer reaches of the light rail system and the construction of a streetcar system in Tempe. Continue reading “Valley Metro chief: Federal cuts threaten light rail, trolley projects”

Surge of community events aims to quell undocumented immigrants’ fears, teach legal rights

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By EMILY L. MAHONEY
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Children kept themselves busy with coloring books and chased each other with masks in the corner of the cafeteria at Isaac Middle School, but school had long since ended and adults soon came over to keep them quiet.

Parents sat in rows of chairs across the large room and listened intently to a presentation in Spanish, detailing how they can keep their families together if faced with deportation.

Community meetings like this have cropped up across Phoenix in recent weeks, quantifying the heightened levels of uncertainty brought on by President Trump’s calls for tougher immigration enforcement.

Continue reading “Surge of community events aims to quell undocumented immigrants’ fears, teach legal rights”

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit attracts crowds at Heard Museum, only North American stop

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By RYAN SANTISTEVAN
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The Heard Museum is now recognized for more than being one of 31 of Phoenix’s points of pride. It is also the only North American stop on a world tour for the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit.

The exhibit is offering tourists and locals alike the opportunity to admire artwork by the two famous Mexican artists. The 33 pieces from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection will be on exhibit at the Heard until August 20.

The process to host the exhibit began in February of 2016. David M. Roche, director and CEO of the Heard Museum, was approached by his friend Robert R. Littman, who told him that another venue had to cancel so the collection was available.

Continue reading “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit attracts crowds at Heard Museum, only North American stop”

SRP gets failing grade for transparency of online financial records

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By ARREN KIMBEL-SANNIT
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Arizona’s Salt River Project earned failing marks for the transparency of its online financial records, one of more than half of special districts nationwide to fail in a new report on districts that provide services independently of state or local jurisdictions.

The report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said the SRP Agricultural Improvement and Power District, which spent $3.7 billion in 2013, met basic legal standards by posting annual audited financial reports online. But SRP otherwise failed to make accessible recent budgets or dollar-for-dollar checkbook-level spending, the report said.

“The autonomy of special districts has led to them falling off the map in terms of spending transparency,” said Michelle Surka, an author of the US-PIRG report. The lack of transparency for these special districts means it is difficult for taxpayers to tell what the districts’ sometimes-considerable budgets go toward and what they get in return, she said. Continue reading “SRP gets failing grade for transparency of online financial records”

Arizona charters sweep top spots in ‘best high schools’ report

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By KENDRA PENNINGROTH
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – A U.S. News and World Report ranking of the best high schools in the country gave the top spot to Basis Scottsdale, one of four Basis charter schools in Arizona that finished in the report’s top five.

U.S. News and RTI National, a research firm, looked at more than 22,000 public high schools in the United States and awarded 2,609 of them with gold, silver or bronze medals to indicate their ability to make students college-ready.

Basis Scottsdale finished first, followed by Basis Tucson North, Basis Oro Valley and Basis Peoria in second, third and fifth, respectively. The School for the Talented and Gifted in Texas finished fourth, interrupting the Basis sweep.

In all, eight Arizona schools finished in the top 50. In addition to the top-five Basis schools, Basis Chandler was seventh, University High School in Tucson finished 15th, University High School in Tolleson was 21st and Gilbert Classical Academy High School was in 30th place. Continue reading “Arizona charters sweep top spots in ‘best high schools’ report”

Rush to hire border agents raises concerns about unqualified officers

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By ANDRES GUERRA LUZ
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – A Trump administration plan to hire thousands of border and immigration officers has advocates concerned about a possible repeat of the last hiring binge, which they said was followed by an increase in corruption and misconduct cases.

A report Tuesday by the American Immigration Council pointed to the hiring of 8,000 Border Patrol agents from fiscal 2006 to 2009, and what it called a corresponding surge in corruption cases and complaints against officers at the agency from 2007 to 2012.

“Now the Trump administration wants to repeat history by hiring thousands of additional Border Patrol agents, as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, without introducing the reforms and safeguards needed to avoid the abuses and scandals of the past,” the report said. Continue reading “Rush to hire border agents raises concerns about unqualified officers”

Democrats: Border wall could block budget, force government shutdown

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By JOSEPH GUZMAN
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Democratic leaders said Monday that President Donald Trump’s insistence on the border wall in the budget has “thrown a monkey wrench” in negotiations to reach a deal by Friday that would head off a government shutdown.

The current budget expires at midnight Friday and unless Congress acts to replace or extend the budget, nonessential government services would stop at 12:01 a.m. Saturday – Trump’s 100th day in office.

Democrats said Monday that negotiations with their Republican counterparts were going well until Trump tweets this weekend accused Democrats of trying to block a wall that “will stop drugs and very bad … gang members” from coming into the country. Continue reading “Democrats: Border wall could block budget, force government shutdown”

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Trump hosts McCains, Graham

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By ARREN KIMBEL-SANNIT
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Exchanges between President Donald Trump and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, have been largely limited to sniping at each other through the media and Twitter over the past year.

But the two men were scheduled to meet face-to-face Monday at a private dinner at the White House with Cindy McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, an ally of McCain’s and another frequent Trump antagonist.

The dinner could give the trio an opportunity to patch things up at a time with major congressional battles on the budget and uncertainty over U.S. handling of political and military conflicts worldwide looming. Continue reading “Guess who’s coming to dinner? Trump hosts McCains, Graham”

Step up: Study says dancing may aid brain health in older adults

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By SAUNDRA WILSON
Cronkite News

SUN CITY – The high-stepping, high-kicking Sun City Poms dance before raucous crowds, from high schoolers at assemblies to families lined up along streets during parades.

The team of senior women, ranging from 55 to 84 years old, practice up to 10 hours every week.

Greta Paulsen, the director of the Sun City Poms, said being on the team has helped keep her mind sharp. The retired electrical engineer, 69, had no dance experience before moving to Sun City and joining the Poms nearly five years ago.
Paulsen said the women have fun, but they’re also doing something healthy for their brains, according to new research.“My mind has a tendency to be lazy as it is and this forces me to focus,” Paulsen said. “The biggest challenge was coordinating the hands and feet.”

Continue reading “Step up: Study says dancing may aid brain health in older adults”

Arizona students create solar-powered go-karts to compete in statewide Racing the Sun competition

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By ERICA APODACA
Cronkite News

TUCSON – For the past several months, Morgan Smith has hunched over the framework for a small go-cart in a classroom littered with metal shavings at his Tucson high school.

Smith, a senior at Palo Verde High Magnet School, will compete later this month in the sixth-annual Racing the Sun event. This is his second year at the race.

“This is the first year we have decided to build our own cart instead of using an existing model,” Smith said, adding that his team named their cart Eleanor.

Bruce Wright, the associate vice president of Tech Parks Arizona, said the program’s goal is to “try to get young people excited about (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and help them to pursue a career in these areas or certainly go to college and study these areas.” Continue reading “Arizona students create solar-powered go-karts to compete in statewide Racing the Sun competition”

DACA clubs provide resources, support for undocumented students

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By MINDY RIESENBERG
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Valeria Rodriguez was 18 years old when she found out she was undocumented.

“I was enrolling for college and thought I was an American citizen because I had documents,” she said.

But those documents turned out to be fake, the legacy of an unscrupulous lawyer who took advantage of her mother when she gave birth to Rodriguez in Mexico.

So Rodriguez, 24, was thrilled when President Barack Obama initiated DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and she was able to take advantage of the opportunity to go to college.

Continue reading “DACA clubs provide resources, support for undocumented students”

Hall of Fame-bound Selig impacted growth of baseball in Arizona

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By HALEY STESIAK
Cronkite News

PHOENIXArizona has become synonymous with baseball. Its growth in the Grand Canyon State is due in large part to Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig.

When Selig took over Major League Baseball’s leadership in July of 1998, eight teams trained in the state for spring training and the Arizona Diamondbacks were in their inaugural season.

Today, Arizona is home to 15 MLB teams and 10 facilities, many state of the art.

It’s one of the reasons Selig will be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in July. Continue reading “Hall of Fame-bound Selig impacted growth of baseball in Arizona”