Cronkite News Digest for Wednesday, Dec. 12

Here is the Cronkite News lineup for Wednesday, Dec. 12. 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 Brett Kurland at or Paola Boivin at or 602-496-5134. Stories promised for today along with photos and links to multimedia elements will move on our client site at


Breaking barriers: Volunteers bringing health care to Phoenix’s unsheltered homeless

PHOENIX – Expect people who life on the streets to be exhausted from carrying around everything they own, all the time, Bonnie Ervin tells the volunteers she is training. Expect people who are homeless to be hyper-vigilant, so don’t walk up on them without warning, she adds. Ervin, a social work instructor at Arizona State University who once was homeless, is training more than 50 ASU students to be part of Street Medicine Phoenix, a new program created to provide medical outreach to the homeless where they live – on the streets. The help ranges from screenings for blood pressure and diabetes to referrals for physical and addiction services. Improving the health of homeless people improves the health of the community as a whole, advocates say.

Slug: BC-CNS-Street Medicine. 700 words. By Anya Magnuson.

Photos and video available.

Santa Monica moonscape: Biologists consider ways to restore badly burned national recreation area

LOS ANGELES – Last month’s Woolsey Fire destroyed 88 percent of public land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and experts with the National Park Service already are assessing the damaging and considering ways to restore the land. One of the first steps is to monitor and eliminate invasive plant species that could change the landscape forever. To that end, they argue against well-meaning hikers dropping “seed bombs” in burned areas and stress that nature will have to do the heavy lifting here.

Slug: BC-CNS-Santa Monica Park. 1,450 words. By Ryan Fonseca | LAist

4 photos available.




In a hole: Arizona officials lack funds to find, secure at least 100,000 abandoned mines

 PHOENIX – After the hallucinations began, John Waddell started to believe he would die. Waddell, 60, was trapped 100 feet down an abandoned gold mine in west Maricopa County for three days, fighting off rattlesnakes and praying someone would come looking for him. He got lucky. At least 35 people have died and 22 have been injured in the estimated 100,000 mines in Arizona, only 19,000 of which have been mapped by state officials and fewer still have been secured. And officials worry that as more people move to and visit Arizona – many eager to explore the state’s long untouched lands –  the chances of coming across one of these hazardous mines only increase. Eds: First of a two-part series.

Slug: BC-CNS-Abandoned Mines. 2,895 words. By Chris McCrory.

7 photos, video available.

Arizona’s two abandoned-mine inspectors face daunting task: ‘We’re all by ourselves’

WICKENBURG – Jerry Tyra started working underground in 1960, drilling ore samples to help mine companies figure out whether to develop a mine site.  Since 2007, the 75-year-old has been doing a different kind of exploration: scouring the state for the thousands of abandoned mines some of his former employers may have left scattered throughout the Arizona desert. When he finds one, Tyra uses wire and metal posts to fence it off, placing warning signs on the wire. He and the state’s one other abandoned-mine supervisor close about 600 old mines a year, but with an estimated 100,000 old mines scattered around the state, that’s a huge task. We talk with Tyra and others who know just how difficult the job is, especially with an annual budget of less than $200,000. Eds: Second of a two-part series.

Slug: BC-CNS-Abandoned Mines 2. 2,285 words. By Chris McCrory.

12 photos, videos on volunteers and bat habitats available.

Population boom in West putting humans closer to devastating wildfires

DENVER – Nearly half the population of the West lives in an area with potential for wildfire danger. And both the risk of fire and the population in harm’s way are rising in this fast-growing part of the nation: Eighty-four percent of the risk area has not yet been developed. “Which means the problem is going to get much worse,” said Ray Rasker, executive director of the nonprofit Headwaters Economic Group, a Montana research organization studying wildfire risk and community development. The group estimates that since 2000, more than 1 million people in Colorado, 3 million in Arizona and 21 million in California have been threatened by wildfires that came within 10 or fewer miles of their towns. Eds: This is another story from Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a collaboration between Cronkite News/Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.

Slug: BC-CNS-Fire Neighbors. 1,195 words. By Laura Frank | Rocky Mountain PBS

Photo, documentary video available.

20 years later, some victims still recovering from Baptist Foundation scheme

PHOENIX ­– It’s 5 a.m. and Anna Mezzapelle Cacace, 85, is getting ready for another day at work as a licensed insurance broker, selling Medicare and Medicaid supplementary benefits. Cacace is still working at age 85 not because she wants to but because she can’t afford to retire. In 1998, she and her husband, Joseph, invested over $100,000 in a fund run by the Baptist Foundation of Arizona, lured by its promise of 6 percent returns and the backing from a well-respected religious institution. They lost everything. The Cacaces were among 11,000 investors who lost $580 million when the BFA, a registered nonprofit, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1999, in what prosecutors described as a Ponzi scheme. To this day, it is considered one of the largest affinity frauds in U.S history.

Slug:  BC-CNS-Scheme Survivors. 1,405 words. By Veronica Graff.

3 photos available.

Native Americans hope to protect ancestral sites in path of multibillion-dollar copper mine

TONTO NATIONAL FOREST – LeRoy Shingoitewa looks out over the hills and rocky valleys here where Resolution Copper plans to a mine that could eventually produce a quarter of the nation’s copper. It’s passionately opposed by some Native Americans who say it will destroy a sacred site near Oak Flat Campground in the Tonto National Forest about 70 miles east of Phoenix. Shingoitewa, a Hopi, is aware of the controversy and agrees that most tribes in the area would “rather you not disturb this area. Our ancestors are here.” But he is field director for a team of “tribal monitors” who are documenting culturally significant Native American sites that could be affected by the mine. The monitors, funded by Resolution Copper and designed with help from the Forest Service, hope their work can save at least some of what’s at stake – the ancestral lands and cultural resources here. Critics say they are merely documenting what will ultimately be destroyed by the mine.

Slug: BC-CNS-Mine Monitors. 1,690 words. By Daisy Finch.

10 photos, video story available.

Will Arizona’s saguaros survive climate change and drought?

TUCSON – On a still morning in Saguaro National Park East, Tom Orum and Nancy Ferguson pulled measuring equipment from their truck. Orum, 71, and Ferguson, 74, have visited this spot – a flat landscape where saguaros tower over teddy bear cholla, prickly pear, woody shrubs and spiny plants – for four decades to monitor the health of over 600 saguaros on 60 acres here. They are the third generation to measure and monitor the cactuses since 1941, and monitoring saguaros has become a treasured ritual for the married couple. But since the 1990s, they say, they have seen what could be troubling changes in their beloved saguaro flatlands, as the cactuses struggle to cope with climate change and prolonged drought by reproducing less frequently. This worrisome downtick could signal the state’s saguaros are in decline.

Slug: BC-CNS-Baby Saguaros. 1,691 words. By Stephanie Morse.

6 photos and 1 video story available.

Caught between DACA and ACA, Dreamer’s hopes for kidney transplant dim

PHOENIX – Paul sits in his parents’ modest home in Phoenix and talks matter-of-factly about the dialysis treatments that keep him alive. Paul, now 21, has been getting one form of dialysis or another since age 2 and will keep undergoing the treatment unless he can get a transplant. But while the typical wait is three to five years, Paul, a DACA recipient is years from any hope of getting a transplant. Immigration status is not supposed to affect transplant eligibility, but insurance coverage and socioeconomic status do. And with DACA recipients barred from Obamacare, and health issues that make it hard to hold a job, Paul can’t get the insurance that might pay for a transplant. “If you’re rich, you can get a transplant. If you have papers, you can get a transplant,” he said. “That’s the only way.”

Slug: BC-CNS-Kidney Confusion. 2,070 words. By Rebecca Spiess.

5 photos available.


Despite fits and starts, optimism remains that water deal is close

WASHINGTON – After months of wrangling, state and tribal officials, industry and agriculture representatives walked out of a meeting at the last month with high hopes they were nearing agreement on a complex water-conservation plan. And five days later, they found themselves grappling with new demands that threatened to derail the deal. That two-steps-forward, one-step-back progress typifies the delicate negotiations as officials try to hammer out Arizona’s portion of a multistate drought contingency plan to take effect if levels in Lake Mead continue to drop. But on the eve of a seven-state conference on Colorado Water use, most are cautiously optimistic that a deal will get done in the near future.

Slug: BC-CNS-Water Torture. 880 words. By Brendan Campbell.

Photo, video available.

Battle beneath the waves: Purple urchins thrive, starving out red urchins used in sushi

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Jeff Maassen has been a sea-urchin diver for 30 years, working along the coast here to harvest red sea urchins that end up in area sushi restaurants as uni, a delicacy. But divers like Maassen aren’t harvesting as many red sea urchins these days. Climate change has raised ocean temperatures and let the purple sea urchin – which is not harvested for human consumption – thrive along the coast, devouring the kelp forests and crowding out the red sea urchins, which Maassen said are starving to death.

Slug: BC-CNS-Purple Urchins. 460 words. By Emily Fohr.

3 photos, video story available.


A bookie, a bet, a basketball player: 25 years ago, point-shaving scandal rocked ASU

PHOENIX – The 1993-94 Arizona State University men’s basketball team, coached by Bill Frieder and led by senior guard Stevin ‘Hedake’ Smith, was poised to compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament. But Smith was $10,000 in debt to a bookie and agreed to take part in a point-shaving scheme that netted millions for its organizers – and likely cost him his shot at the NBA. Twenty-five years later, a Supreme Court has cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting and critics worry that widespread availability of a sports book will open the door to more cases like Smith’s. “If gambling on colleges is (allowed) in 20 or 30 states, there is probably a 100 percent chance of a point-shaving scandal at some school,” Tom McMillan, a former college and pro basketball plaeyer and CEO of LEAD1, an organization for athletic directors, said in April

Slug: Sports-Point Shaving.1,670 words. By Zachary Pekale.

Graphic, and podcasts, one and two, available.

Pulling no punches: Mariah Bahe, 14, aspires to be first Navajo boxer to win Olympics

CHINLE – Even with modern technology, it is nearly impossible to find the home-built boxing gym identified by a tattered wooden sign that reads, “Damon-Bahe Boxing Gym.” In and around this small town on the Navajo Nation, house numbers rarely exist. And Google Maps can’t quite explain that, off Indian Route 7, less than a quarter mile west of the Chevron gas station, lies an entrance to a dirt road. Three right turns later, the gym’s sign and another that warns “Beware of Dog” greet guests. The modest gym constructed on a patch of land once used to raise goats now houses the Olympic-sized dreams of a 14-year-old Navajo girl.

Slug: Sports-Navajo Female Boxer. 1,758 words. By Isaac Colindres.

4 photos and video story available.