Public health vs. parent choice: The vaccination debate in Arizona

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Vaccination Debate,2320
  • Searchable database of school, child care vaccination rates
  • Photo, 11-minute video story, “herd immunity” explainer video available.

By Veronica Graff
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Health officials warn that vaccination rates are deteriorating across Arizona, risking public health as parents continue to opt out of immunizations.

Immunization levels in the past year fell further below the necessary rate to guarantee community protection against the outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases. The reason: Personal exemptions from vaccinations are on the rise, according to state data and a Cronkite News analysis.

Populations throughout Arizona are most vulnerable in areas where personal exemptions are favored, experts say. Continue reading “Public health vs. parent choice: The vaccination debate in Arizona”

For homeless young adults, HomeBase offers structure, shelter and a way out

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Home Base,1870
  • 6 photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By Lindsay Walker
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Clay Hollinshed found himself sleeping under the stars in a community park near Grand Canyon University in west Phoenix this past winter. But he wasn’t afraid.

“I felt free,” he said, beaming ear to ear, his curly hair peeking out from inside the white bandana attempting to hold it in place.

He had gathered his few belongings and left the group home where he had been living since 2016, tired of the chaos that surrounds the foster care system. He had just turned 18, had no place to go and no ties to his family.

Hollinshed sounds mature but, in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt, looks innocent. The freedom he experienced under the stars now is limited to the walls of an emergency housing program for homeless youth called HomeBase, where he has been living about six months. Continue reading “For homeless young adults, HomeBase offers structure, shelter and a way out”

Cronkite News Digest for Monday, May 20

Here is the Cronkite News lineup for Monday, May 20. If you have questions on news stories, please contact Steve Crane in the Washington, D.C., bureau at 202-684-2398 or, or call the Phoenix bureau: Executive Editor Christina Leonard at 602-361-5893 or or Content Editor Venita James at Direct borderlands story questions to Vanessa Ruiz at 305-431-3082 or Sports story questions should go to Paola Boivin at or Brett Kurland at or 602-496-5134. Clients who want to use Cronkite videos can find clean versions, and scripts, for download at these Dropbox links for stories from March and from April. Stories promised for today, along with photos and links to multimedia elements, will move on our client site at Continue reading “Cronkite News Digest for Monday, May 20”

Lack of funds makes it more difficult for refugee women in Arizona to set up new lives

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Refugee Funds. 1,965 words.
  • 2 photos and captions below.

By Molly Stellino
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – During the farmer’s market on Saturdays outside Phoenix Public Market downtown, Rodain Abo Zeed sets up a quaint stand filled with falafel, fattoush, pastries, kubbeh and stuffed zucchini. Attendees stroll by under the afternoon sun, gazing at her exotic, hand-made Syrian dishes.

Rodain’s Syrian Kitchen is still a relatively new business. And although Abo Zeed works hard each week on her homemade creations, there is still one thing she doesn’t have: a sign.

It’s a big change from where she comes from. Continue reading “Lack of funds makes it more difficult for refugee women in Arizona to set up new lives”

Giants’ Tony Watson embraces special connection with civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Giants MLK. 960 words.
  • File photo available.

By Squire Harrington
Cronkite News

SCOTTSDALE – “We Shall Overcome” reads the headstone at Rose Hill Cemetery in Shenandoah, Iowa. “Thomas E. Offenburger, 1934-1986.”

The marker is a reminder for San Francisco Giants reliever Tony Watson and his family of the small role his great uncle played in the civil rights movement.

“It’s a piece of family history that everyone’s held onto,” said Watson, 33, who was born one month before Offenburger died. “I think it’s very cool, very significant.”

It is a sports connection worth noting because Watson is in town this week with the Giants, who start a three-game series with the Diamondbacks. Friday also is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s first national address, when he stood at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1957 and delivered “Give Us the Ballot” at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. Continue reading “Giants’ Tony Watson embraces special connection with civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr.”

Fare enough: Uber, Lyft surge ahead of cabs in campaign expense reports

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Legislative Lyft, 665.
  • 2 photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

By Andrew Howard
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The initial public offering of Uber shares this month fell short of expectations, but there’s at least one audience where the ride-sharing service dominates: members of Congress.

Federal Election Commission reports for the 2017-2018 election cycle show that congressional campaigns spent $2,171,381.99 on rides and on services like UberEats.

Expenses on ride-sharing services far outstripped traditional taxicab trips, with campaigns listing more than 44,000 entries for Uber during the period and another 15,000 for Lyft, compared to only 6,500 for taxis.

Arizona lawmakers were part of the trend, racking up a total of $20,094.13 in Uber and Lyft fares during the cycle, compared to just one taxi fare. Continue reading “Fare enough: Uber, Lyft surge ahead of cabs in campaign expense reports”

Repatriating remains of those found in desert is long, expensive process

  • Slug: BC-CNS-BC-CNS-BC-CNS-Remains, 3300
  • 6 photos (thumbnails, captions below)

Cronkite News

TUCSON – Urns of all shapes, sizes and composition fill the many glass shelves lining the walls of a display room at the Adair Funeral Home Dodge Chapel.

“The American,” a brightly lacquered square made of wood, depicts U.S. military might: Fighter jets soar above Old Glory, which serves as the backdrop for the flag raising on Iwo Jima in World War II. The funeral home also sells a keg urn, made of aluminum and customizable with decals that look like beer cans, such as Budweiser, Modelo Especial or whatever brew the deceased preferred.

Many families sit down with a funeral arranger to plan services when a loved one dies.

But hundreds of other families, often impoverished and thousands of miles away in Mexico, will never step foot inside a funeral home like this or choose a fancy urn. Their loved ones died unattended, trying to cross the Sonoran Desert, and the families will have to navigate the long, expensive process of repatriating the remains by telephone.

Continue reading “Repatriating remains of those found in desert is long, expensive process”

Border Patrol officials say rescue beacons offer aid to distressed migrants, but humanitarian groups claim they’re ineffective

  • Slug: BC-CNS-BC-CNS-Rescue Beacons, 2760
  • 2 photos

Cronkite News

SOUTHERN ARIZONA – Peppered across the vast, rugged desert along the southern border are dozens of 30-foot steel poles, each topped with a battery-powered strobe light. These are rescue beacons, the first of which were erected more than two decades ago in response to a spike in migrant deaths.

Migrants who find themselves in distress press a red button on the pole, which activates the strobe and sends a radio signal to Border Patrol agents. Sequential bursts of blue light temporarily turn the white-tipped grasses of the Sonoran Desert blue.

Border Patrol argues that these beacons, which have been used for nearly 30 years, help save lives and negate the need for humanitarian efforts by volunteer groups, such as No More Deaths.

Continue reading “Border Patrol officials say rescue beacons offer aid to distressed migrants, but humanitarian groups claim they’re ineffective”

Inmates at Arizona prison prepare retired greyhound racers to live with families

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Greyhounds in Prison,450
  • 4 photos, video available (thumbnails, captions below)

Cronkite News

ELOY – Sit. Down. Wait.

More than a dozen inmates at Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy spend their days working with former racing greyhounds to understand these commands.

They’re part of a unique program that allows the inmates at the private prison to rehabilitate and train the canines and prepare the dogs to go home with a family.

“Our primary purpose here is to take those K9s and socialize them and get them ready for adoption, and we’ve been doing that through an inmate work program,” Warden Todd Thomas said.

Continue reading “Inmates at Arizona prison prepare retired greyhound racers to live with families”

Wilderness of the world: Reconnecting with nature helps struggling teens, families heal

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Wilderness program, 350
  • Video available.

Cronkite News

TONTO NATIONAL FOREST – “There’s a certain element of trauma that comes when you are removed from your comfort zone and taken to a place you don’t really know or understand or want to be in,” said Dan Santovin, who works with troubled youth and their families in the Anasazi wilderness behavioral program.

Teenagers and young adults in the program hike deep into forests, including the Tonto National Forest northeast of metro Phoenix, for a minimum of seven weeks, living primitively and learning from guides – the trail walkers who accompany them – and therapists, known as shadows.

The program is meant to help struggling young people and their families deal with substance abuse, depression, self-harming behavior, bipolar disorder and other concerns. Back home, parents participate in workshops and weekly therapy sessions before reuniting with their children in the wilderness. The process teaches everyone to respect and trust one another again.

Continue reading “Wilderness of the world: Reconnecting with nature helps struggling teens, families heal”

CORRECTION to May 9 story about emigrant Venezuelan doctors in Peru

EDS: Clients who used a Cronkite News story slugged  BC-CNS-Peru Doctors that moved Thursday, May 9, under a LIMA, Peru, dateline, are asked to run the following correction. The errors occurred throughout the original. A corrected version of the story has been posted here.

PHOENIX – A Cronkite News story about the challenges that emigrant Venezuelan doctors face getting certified in their new home of Peru misspelled the names of Dr. Jaime Parra and the University of Carabobo.

Inspection reports available for day care, school kitchens – if you look

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Kitchen Inspections,480
  • 5 photos, video story available (thumbnails, captions below)

Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Squeals of joy fill a colorfully decorated schoolroom before breakfast on a Thursday morning. As the children wash their hands one by one, cook Mariela Alejos pushes plastic carts loaded with freshly prepared beans, tortillas and watermelon to each classroom.

Alejos feeds schoolkids every day at Arizona Migrant Head Start in Surprise. The smell of fresh-cut cilantro fills her kitchen, mixing with the aroma of beef slowly simmering on the stove for lunch.

Alejos does everything with purpose. In between each task, she cleans any dishes, washes her hands and pulls on a fresh pair of gloves. She makes sure her kitchen stays pristine. Continue reading “Inspection reports available for day care, school kitchens – if you look”

Dust, particle pollution disproportionately affect Latino and poor communities

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Pollution Inequity,720
  • Photo available (thumbnail, caption below)
  • Video story by Marcella Baietto

Cronkite News

PHOENIX – After years of riding the bus to and from school in south Phoenix, Angelica Beltran Cuevas began to notice she was battling for breath.

“It just got so bad at times that I had to go to the hospital. I couldn’t breathe anymore,” she said.

Beltran Cuevas was diagnosed with asthma in the third grade. Afterward, her family moved from south Phoenix for her health. She’s now a senior at Metro Tech High School in central Phoenix.

She attributes her heightened asthma to diesel exhaust from the buses and the poor air quality in south Phoenix. Continue reading “Dust, particle pollution disproportionately affect Latino and poor communities”

In Indian Country, potholes can be a bump in the road to an education

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Education Potholes,930
  • 3 photos available (thumbnails, captions below)

Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Classrooms at Keams Canyon Elementary School are noticeably emptier during the winter and monsoon months.

That’s when Principal Gary Polacca says heavy rains turn the dirt roads stretching across the Hopi reservation into “muddy sinkholes,” making it hard for school buses to reach students’ homes for risk of getting stuck in the mud.

Students, who have a harder time getting to school on their own, are stuck at home for the day – or the week, depending on when the weather clears up. Continue reading “In Indian Country, potholes can be a bump in the road to an education”

New law changes how English Language learners are taught. But what comes next?

  • Slug: BC-CNS-English Immersion, 1790
  • 7 photos, Spark video, ELL timeline and success rate graphic available (thumbnails, captions below)

Cronkite News

MESA – A cacophony of voices speaking in Spanish, interspersed with laughter, fills a classroom at Rhodes Junior High School. Some students speak halting English, but on occasion they attempt to translate for students who don’t speak any.

As the students try to type short paragraphs describing a time when they experienced conflicting emotions, several use Google to translate phrases or entire sentences. The students later upload those paragraphs to their blogs.

Amethyst Hinton Sainz, the teacher, stands near her desk helping two students retrieve their login credentials. Continue reading “New law changes how English Language learners are taught. But what comes next?”

Maricopa County includes pets in annual homeless survey for the first time

  • Slug: BC-CNS- Homeless Pets. 560 words.
  • 4 photos and captions below.
  • Sammie Gebers video here.

Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Every January, volunteers fan out across Maricopa County to conduct the Point-in-Time homeless count in hopes of learning about challenges faced by people who lack shelter. But this year, a new question was added to the survey: “How many pets did you have sleeping with you last night?”

Shanate Smith, a coordinator for the Point-in-Time count and a human services planner with Maricopa County Association of Governments, said the number of pets on the street has grown in recent years.

“We wanted to start asking that question to decide whether or not is this something that we should continuously word towards in gathering hardcore data or is this just something that’s a random phenomenon that’s happening in the last six months,” she said. Continue reading “Maricopa County includes pets in annual homeless survey for the first time”

Smartphones, Snapchat, Instagram transform how today’s teens bully each other

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Cyberbullying. 2,325 words.
  • 4 photos and captions below.
  • 5 MP3 sound clips below.
  • Graphic here.

Cronkite News

PHOENIX – It was a Sunday night, about 11. Sheila Pott heard sirens wailing and then a knock on her front door.

A police officer stood outside, demanding her daughter’s phone. A day before, Pott had spoken at the funeral for her 15-year-old daughter, Audrie, who had committed suicide earlier that week after an assault.

Pott knew little about what caused the teen to take her own life, beyond a strange stream of apologetic Facebook messages from friends chiming from Audrie’s open laptop. But without a proper warrant, Pott refused to hand over the phone.

That unsettling visit was the first in what would become a yearlong investigation into what happened at a 2012 Labor Day weekend party in the Silicon Valley suburb of Saratoga, California. Three 16-year-old boys sexually assaulted Audrie at the party, according to news accounts and the website of a foundation established in her name. They also took photos of the attack and shared them with classmates.

“I don’t think she thought she could start over,” Pott said during a recent visit with family in Phoenix, nearly seven years after Audrie’s death. Continue reading “Smartphones, Snapchat, Instagram transform how today’s teens bully each other”

Henry Cejudo reflects on Maryvale roots as he prepares for UFC championship bout

  • Slug: Sports-MMA Cejudo,1260
  • 2 photos, graphic available (thumbnails, captions below)

Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Henry Cejudo appeared destined for gold after his mother coined the nickname “Niño de Oro.”

Golden Child.

“When he was little, he used to have like platinum hair and he was always in the sun,” said Henry’s older brother, Alonzo. “He always looked like he had a shade of gold on him.”

“Niño de Oro” seemed like an appropriate nickname when Cujedo went to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and became the youngest gold medalist in the history of USA Wrestling, striking gold at the age of 21. Now he is known to millions of MMA fans as “The Messenger,” and will attempt to become the UFC’s sixth two-division champion when he fights Marlon Moraes for the vacant UFC bantamweight championship at UFC 238 in Chicago on June 8. Continue reading “Henry Cejudo reflects on Maryvale roots as he prepares for UFC championship bout”

Influx of Venezuelans sorely tests Peru’s economy and labor market

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Peru Labor.
  • 1,985 words
  • 5 photos and captions below.

Cronkite Borderlands Project

LIMA, Peru – Federal authorities face the daunting task of assessing how Peru’s economy and labor market can absorb the more than 700,000 Venezuelans who have fled their country and resettled here in the past few years.

Adding to the challenge is an estimate by the International Organization for Migration that the number could grow to more than 1.4 million by the end of 2019.

“We understand, and we understood, this is one crisis – a human crisis,” said Roxana del Aguila Tuesta, superintendent of the Ministry of Migration. “We cannot close our eyes, close our ears or close our mouths.” Continue reading “Influx of Venezuelans sorely tests Peru’s economy and labor market”

A different border crisis: It’s not security or immigration, it’s sewage

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Border Sewage. 2,360 words.
  • 4 photos and captions below.
  • Austin Westfall videos here and here.
  • Brittany Watson video here.

Cronkite News

People who live along the southern border all say the same thing: When it rains, it stinks.

The reason is a failing, aging network of pipes that run from Mexico to wastewater treatment plants in the U.S. When heavy rains fall, the pipes often break and spill raw sewage on both sides of the border, causing not only a putrid odor but public health and environmental concerns.

This infrastructure was sufficient when it was built about 70 years ago, but time and the escalating population on the Mexican side of the border has crippled it.

U.S. and Mexican officials say they need millions of dollars to fix the system, but that raises the key question: Who’s responsible for making repairs?

Over the past four months, a team of Cronkite News reporters addressed these concerns to understand the complexities of wastewater treatment along the border. Below are stories from the communities most affected by a system that has been in place since the 1940s. Continue reading “A different border crisis: It’s not security or immigration, it’s sewage”