70 percent of 4th-graders don’t read proficiently — what’s the problem?

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Gloria Knott/Arizona Sonora News.

A group of children join together for story time at the Tent for Tots booth at the Tucson Festival of Books. (Photo by: Gloria Knott/Arizona Sonora News Service)

Seventy. That’s the percentage of fourth graders in Arizona who don’t read proficiently.

If that isn’t alarming enough, a whopping 56 percent of third-graders failed the reading portion of the AzMERIT test in 2017, meaning they scored neither proficient nor highly proficient.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 65 percent of fourth-graders nationwide don’t read proficiently, compared to 70 percent in Arizona. NAEP defines “proficient” as “competency of challenging subject matter.”

The 65 percentage point hasn’t changed much. It isn’t much of an improvement since 1992, when the percentage was 71.

The Arizona Department of Education found that students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school, and that 90 percent of high school dropouts struggled with reading in third grade.

Statistics show that 32 million adults in the United States are illiterate — about 13 percent of all U.S. adults. In 2003, Tucson-based organization Literacy Connects reported that 530,000 adults in Arizona read at or below a fifth-grade reading level.

And despite many recent initiatives to improve reading skills across the country, the problem remains. Why aren’t children reading at levels they should?

A girl stops to read “Pete the Cat: Robo-Pete” at the Tucson Festival of Books. (Photo by: Gloria Knott/Arizona Sonora News Service)

Poverty could be one reason. Nearly 7 in 10 third-graders from low-income families failed the AzMERIT in 2015. And according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 80 percent of fourth-graders from low-income families don’t read proficiently.

Put simply, these children don’t have books. Many families can’t afford them. Erika Nichols-Frazer, the communications manager for the Children’s Literacy Foundation, said on average there is only one book for every 300 children in low-income communities.

Besides affordability, Nichols-Frazer said that many parents might be too busy juggling multiple jobs to visit the library or read to their child daily.

Additionally, parents of low-income families are often unable to afford early childcare. Specifically, the Annie E. Casey Foundation said that 62 percent of children ages 3 to 4 in Arizona were not enrolled in preschool in 2016.

“Those who have attended preschool come to kindergarten more prepared,” Nichols-Frazer said.  “They’ve read books, they’ve talked to other kids. Free childcare is a huge issue.”

Free childcare is nearly nonexistent in Arizona. In 2017, Tucson residents voted on Proposition 204, an initiative to pay for early childhood education. The proposition failed.

A young girl visits the Bookmans booth at the Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus. (Photo by: Gloria Knott/Arizona Sonora News Service)

And even though poverty is a giant issue among literacy rates, the Children’s Literacy Foundation says 2 in 5 children in high-income families are not read to daily, either. Research shows that the more you read to children, the better their literacy levels and comprehension will be.

Sometimes the K-12 education system is to blame. In which case, Arizona ranks dangerously low.

Teachers often don’t have the funds to afford books to facilitate better reading lessons. Budget cuts don’t make anything better.

“Many districts don’t have money to buy books,” said David Paige, associate professor of education at Bellarmine University. “A good teacher can take limited materials and figure out how to make them work. But they would be able to do a lot better if they had more of the right materials.”

Terri Clark, literacy director of Read On Arizona, agreed, stating that “dangerous cuts” have been made to the education system in Arizona.

“It’s like, we’re asked to build a house, but we’re only given the bare minimum to build it,” Clark said.

But Paige said that even in high-income schools, some students still don’t read proficiently. He says one of the ways to change that is better curriculum.

Paige co-wrote a study in 2012. In it, he found that high school students who can read fluently aloud tend to read proficiently overall. His research showed that curriculum can be altered to better cater to students’ needs and help them connect to the literature.

For example, if classrooms incorporated literature with a strong voice, such as plays, students’ fluency would improve, thus improving their comprehension of the content and reading skills overall.


Kristi Grimm, author of “Mitty’s Gamen: Time to Learn,” reads to a small group of children at the Tucson Festival of Books. (Photo by: Gloria Knott/Arizona Sonora News Service)

Another reading initiative in Arizona, the “Move On When Reading” legislation, was passed in 2010 and enacted in 2013. According to the Arizona Department of Education, third-graders who perform “far below the third grade level” in the reading section of the AzMERIT, in addition to other factors such as quarterly benchmarks, should not be promoted to fourth grade. This is said to provide students with extra time to pick up on needed literacy skills.

Exceptions are made for students learning English and students diagnosed with a learning impairment or disability.

Despite the startling number of third-graders who failed last year’s AzMERIT test, 842 students of the 87,164 who took the exam were not promoted to fourth grade. This is only 1 percent of all third-graders—even though 56 percent failed the end-of-year exam.

Beyond K-12 education, Paige said, “We don’t do a very good job at teaching college students how to teach reading.”

Clark agreed. She said that aspiring teachers are often only taught the very basics of how to teach reading. But if a child is having a hard time reading due to a disability, a teacher might not have the background to “support that struggling reader.”

School principals are not always trained in reading, either, especially if they previously taught science or another unrelated subject, which doesn’t help the literacy problem.

There’s also the belief that the strict push for standardized testing handcuffs teachers’ ability to teach reading.

“We make tests such high stakes for kids,” said Timothy Rasinski, professor of literacy education at Kent State University. “If students don’t pass these tests, they’re supposed to be retained. Teachers often, and understandably so, focus on teaching to the test rather than teaching kids how to read.”

Adam Rex reads “The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors,” a book he illustrated, to a group of children at the Tucson Festival of Books. (Photo by: Gloria Knott/Arizona Sonora News Service)

Although poverty and the education system can be partly to blame, improving the literacy rate can be as easy as picking up an object and saying its name aloud to your young child. It’s as easy as reading to your child 20 minutes a day and having them read aloud 20 minutes a day when they’re old enough to do so.

Nichols-Frazer also said that when parents weren’t read to as kids, or if they don’t feel comfortable with their own literacy skills, they might not want to read to their children. She says it’s time to break that cycle.

Nichols-Frazer said there could also be a lack of awareness regarding when to start reading — which should begin as soon as humanly possible.

“Studies show that children who have heard language and vocabulary in the womb are able to form better literacy skills,” Nichols-Frazer said.

Research also has shown a slew of little fixes throughout the years. In 2016, 91 percent of children said they were more likely to read if they picked out the book themselves, according to Nichols-Frazer.

“There is no silver-bullet answer to improving literacy,” Clark said. “It’s making sure every child has access and opportunities.”

Gloria Knott is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at gloriaeknott@gmail.com. 

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Fortnite. A lifestyle or an addiction?

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Derek Gaines/ Arizona Sonora News.


A new video game has taken the country by storm, and taking over people’s lives

The game is called Fortnite and it has stolen the spotlight in the video game world and changed how people view video games.

The premise is that 100 players parachute onto an island with only a pickaxe. Players can choose to play alone or with a team up to four (they’re two separate game modes). When landing on the map, players forage for weapons and defensive items.  The goal is to be the last team or player standing out of 100.

Video games –since their creation — have faced criticism of desensitization of violence, addiction and other unhealthy behaviors. Especially with children.

However, video games today are a lot more socially interactive and serve as a healthy form of expression. Fortnite serves as a prime example of how this new style of socially interactive video games has become so popular.

Parents will always have concern when it comes to video games and their children’s mental health. Colin Post, 21, for example, said his parents would take his Xbox out of his room when it was his bedtime when he was younger. “I played video games every day on an average of like five or six hours,” Post said, “Eventually, as I got older, I grew out of it. I still play a lot of video games today, but nowhere near the amount I did when I was younger.”

Sport and Clinical Psychologist, Jonathan Fader says that video games today especially Fortnite are more interactive today. “The beauty of video games is that they’re moving from a solo experience to a more social experience that invite people to come together and bond over a social activity,” he said. 

Common setup of college students T.V’s when playing Fortnite. (Photo by: Derek Gaines/ Arizona Sonora News)

Richard Huskey, of an assistant professor at The Ohio State University School Communication, studies video game addictions from a neuroscience perspective. He says that a number of individuals undoubtedly suffer from video game addiction, but until criteria for assessing video game addiction are firmly established, it is difficult to justify appropriate levels of concern.

“Encouragingly, longitudinal studies suggest that for many gamers, video game addiction is not a long-term problem,” Huskey said, adding that video games have become  more socially interactive in past years and serve as a healthy platform to socialize.

“Some kids have difficulty socializing in person for different reasons. With video games, they’re still communicating, just virtually. In fact, in some cases socializing through video games serves as ‘training wheels’ for how kids communicate.”

Fortnite is by no means a violent game. While the premise is to shoot and eliminate opposing players, the game contains no blood or gore and has vibrant, cartoony-style graphics. 

In terms of popularity, no other video game has achieved the growth that Fortnite has had in seven months. The reason for that growth is the impact it’s had in popular culture and its recognition with public figures.

Just look at Tyler Blevins more commonly known as by his gaming alias, “Ninja,” who has risen to stardom in the gaming community through his streaming of Fortnite and recently broke 200,000 subscribers on Twitch, an online platform for watching and streaming video game broadcasts.

Blevins has gotten so big that he recently broadcasted a stream playing Fortnite with rappers Drake and Travis Scott and professional football player, JuJu Smith-Schuster. The stream had 635,429 concurrent viewers on Twitch and helped him gain over 90,000 subscribers which accounts for a total of at least $250,000 a month in revenue for him according to an article by Polygon.

Screenshot of Barstool Sports doing a segment on Fortnite and unhappy girlfriends. (Photo by: Derek Gaines/ Arizona Sonora News)

 Many athletes, musicians and entertainers stream themselves playing Fortnite on Twitch, social media accounts constantly post memes and videos of people playing the game, even some bars have marketed drinks pertaining to the game.

What separates Fortnite from other popular games is that it’s free. What started out as a demo trial has now turned into one of the most popular games in the country that has shaped the video game community.

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See them long trains run and watch them disappear

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Emily Homa/Arizona Sonora News.

A part of the locomotive storage facility west of Benson, Ariz. (Photo courtesy of the University of Arizona School of Journalism)

Drive along the I-10 interstate east toward Benson. Quick! Look out your window! Do you see that long, curving line of mustard yellow metal that seems to go on forever? Notice that they are massive locomotives, stretched out in the middle of nothing and leading to nowhere.

Out of the desert shrubs and dusty landscape emerges what appears to be a train graveyard hosts over 100 steel corpses. Little do you know, these engines are not in their final resting place, but are stuck in idle limbo awaiting their fateful return to service.

The little engine that could takes on a new meaning for these trains. Years of hard labor and travel are ingrained into their gears and wheels so that, one day, the little engine can pull again.

Union Pacific owns and operates 8,500 locomotives over 31,000 miles of track west of the Mississippi. Some 1,400 of those locomotives sit waiting for their chance to drive again in storage facilities across the country.

Jeff Degraff, director of media relations in Arizona for UP, said that the 3-mile stretch of track once held approximately 360 stored locomotives. Several years ago, the track was reconfigured and cut off from the main line. Today, about only 20 engines are left on the track and that number continues to dwindle.

“Union Pacific operates in over 23 states and has a lot of spots used for storage,” Degraff said. “They are strategically chosen, easy to grab and all in one place.”

Degraff said that the desert was chosen as one of the main train storage facilities because of its temperate conditions. The isolated location and hot temperatures in Southern Arizona prevent these locomotives from rust and extreme cold. They are kept safely preserved until they are back and ready for business.

“The locomotives are not considered dead, they are active trains that have been pulled out of service to ensure that not too many would not get in the way on our track network,” Degraff said.

When extra resources are needed and there is a higher customer demand for products pulled by freight, the stored locomotives are put back into service.

“We’ve had ebs and flows based on customer need,” Degraff said. “After several years in the recession, where less trains were needed, we are now in a resurgence where a lot of customers are ramping up their production.”

When the trains are put back into service they can travel the entire Union Pacific network. From Chicago to the Pacific Northwest down to Arizona, these engines have a high tolerance for long-distance travel.

According to Degraff, these locomotives weigh almost 10 tons and cost between $1 and $3 million. Security measures are taken to ensure that the trains are not tampered with or damaged.

Degraff said that some of the vandalism on the locomotives “are not of any consequence” and that the tracks are fenced off and isolated.

The Union Pacific Police Department works with the Pima County Sheriff’s office, Border Patrol and the Tucson Police Department as well.

Deputy James Allerton, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said that the train tracks are considered to be in UP’s jurisdiction, but that area is still in the county and their department patrols just past March Station Road off I-10.

“We don’t get called often by the Union Pacific Police, and there aren’t too many emergencies,” Allerton said. “Trespassing or vandalism wouldn’t be considered an emergency, but we still have grounds to arrest someone for these crimes.”

Allerton said that PCSD has more essential resources than the Union Pacific officers do, so they call them in for help if necessary.

Visitors and tourists who want photos of the locomotives are encouraged to stay in public areas, and away from the tracks and fences.

“As long as you are not laying across the train tracks you should be good to go,” Allerton said.

Emily Homa is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at jhoma@email.arizona.edu. 

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Q&A: UA biologist talks Mount Graham red squirrel conservation

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Jessica Blackburn.

A Mount Graham red squirrel perches on a forest branch and nibbles on seeds while being observed by biologists. (Photo by: UA Conservation Research Laboratory’s Mount Graham Red Squirrel research program team.)

Ever been scolded by a squirrel? Dr. John Koprowski, of the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment, has. Since he was a young boy, Koprowski has been researching and studying animal behavior and conservation. But during his time at UA, his emphasis has been based on squirrels from around the world.

One squirrel species Koprowski has researched locally is the Mount Graham red squirrel, an endangered subspecies of the American red squirrel. This species was thought to have gone completely extinct in the 1950s, but had actually survived in small numbers and was rediscovered 30 years later. Their numbers have been dwindling for years but, due to last year’s 48,000-acre wildfire, the population went from 250 to 35.

Researchers on Koprowski’s team have been observing the squirrels’ behavior for years by live-trapping squirrels, putting radio collars on them, studying where young ones choose to live when they leave their mothers and observing their pinecone piles that they guard with their lives. Koprowski himself got too close to an angry mother Mount Graham red squirrel’s territory once, hence the scolding. Despite these incidents, Koprowski and his team are using these observations and data to deduce how to help the Mount Graham red squirrel from going extinct.

Q: Could you tell us how you knew you wanted to become a biologist?

A: I was always very interested in the natural world and it was the thing that always excited me about any place I went. For me, watching animals and being in natural areas was just something I always enjoyed. I went to Ohio State University for zoology in my undergraduate degree, and I realized that I could go on to be a professor or a research biologist somewhere. Around junior year when I was 20-years-old was when I realized that I really wanted to become a biologist.

University of Arizona mammalogist, conservation biologist and squirrel expert, Dr. John Koprowski has been working on the Mount Graham red squirrel research program for the UA Conservation Research Laboratory for nearly two decades. (Photo by: Nancy Koprowski.)

Q: Could you explain how you got started with the Mount Graham red squirrel project and what you found out about them?

A: In 2000, I came on board and right away suggested we apply other techniques to the Mount Graham situation, such as capturing the animals with greater success, putting radio collars on them and following them around. It enables us to figure out what kind of habitat they prefer, it enables us to figure out how much habitat they need and it enables us to determine if there are specific needs that are not being met. Usually, they prefer bigger trees that can support them and trees that have lots of other trees around them so they have lots of escape routes. By finding out what they prefer and their role in their habitat, we have been able to build up our knowledge base, and we’ve found their survivorship is the real problem and we think that’s related to relatively poor habitat quality.

Q: What do you think is the importance of understanding what causes the endangerment of the Mount Graham red squirrel or other smaller mammals?

A: When you’re talking about a species that is disappearing, or a significant portion of the population disappearing, it tells us that something’s going wrong; that there’s an issue with the system. I think that’s where my real interest as a scientist and even a concerned citizen comes in. I want to know how the world is changing and how we might mitigate those changes. That’s kind of the big overarching reason. Often with these more secretive species like the Mount Graham red squirrel, there are basic things we don’t understand yet. By focusing on a single species, or a smaller group of species, especially in these lesser-known species, you learn a bunch of very basic information that can be applied to the conservation of the species, which is why it’s important to understand the problems these species are encountering.

Q: Over your years working with the Mount Graham red squirrel, do you have any anecdotes to share?

A Mount Graham red squirrel assesses its territory as it carries forest brush in its mouth to construct a nest. (Photo by: UA Conservation Research Laboratory’s Mount Graham Red Squirrel Research Program team.)

A: They have kind of a baseball pitcher’s mound made of pinecones that they store up. They go up, cut them down and put them in this pile. They defend it all winter long and so it’s the only way they’re going to be able to survive the winter. If you walk into their territory they will come running right up to you and scold you with squirrel chattering. It’s one of my favorite things, because it’s when I think of them as a survivor and see the fighter in them. I was observing a mother squirrel and her young and all of a sudden she started barreling down the tree and scolded me right in my ear—and they can be quite loud.

Q: Why do you think humans should take an interest in smaller mammals and in particular the Mount Graham red squirrel?

A: When you have things like small mammals, they often have very important roles in these systems. In many cases, like the Mount Graham red squirrel, they are seedeaters and dispersers, so they’re really critical to forest continuation and persistence. As we learn more about a species we start to learn more about the larger system. I think in a general sense, that’s important. And anytime you’re losing a species it tells you something’s going on even if you don’t understand the components and the influences on this yet, it tells you the system we thought was working has a change happening that may or may not be natural. If there’s something wrong it gives us a warning or an early detection system.

Q: When we look at the Mount Graham red squirrels being threatened, how should we consider their effect on the environment?

A Mount Graham red squirrel chitters from its tree. (Photo by: UA Conservation Research Laboratory’s Mount Graham Red Squirrel Research Program team.)

A: In the case of Mount Graham Red squirrels, we know they’re very important in the distribution of seeds and the movement of seeds in the forest. The most important thing we’ve learned about how they connect to the system, though, is that these piles of cones they make for themselves for the winter are used by lots of other species. When you have a pile of cones for red squirrels, that pile means food. For some other animals that means food too, like chipmunks or some bird species. But for other species, it is habitat and structure. You’ll have smaller mammals like mice and shrews that burrow down and live in the habitat made by the red squirrels. And for lots of insects, the pinecones are very critical because they’re moist areas. All these other species were found more frequently near these piles of cones. They’re interesting by themselves, but we also now know that they influence other species and are an integral part of the species.

Q: Do you have anything else to add regarding the Mount Graham red squirrel?

A: We should appreciate the big picture. When people hear, “Oh, only 35 left? This is a species that is destined for extinction.” And that may be, but it’s our job is to try to prevent that and level the playing field and give it a chance. Especially because some of this problem is our doing—we’ve degraded it. I hope people wouldn’t give up on a species too soon, not only with red squirrels but other species as well. There have been cases where species have gotten down to a dozen or less in numbers and have been able to come back. They key is identifying the problems and rectifying those problems, so to me, the squirrels aren’t every giving up. I want people to realize we’re talking about survivors when we’re talking about most endangered species. Given all the things that are against them, you have individuals still around that are trying to survive and trying to persist.

Jessica Blackburn is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at blackburnj3@email.arizona.edu.

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Faith based services- do they work?

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Ashlee Fenn / Arizona Sonora News.

Victor Hightower, the Tucson Gospel Rescue Mission public relations and outreach coordinator, poses next to a trailer used for donations. (Photo by: Ashlee Fenn / Arizona Sonora News)

Bill Souza is a recovering alcoholic, who until going through the Gospel Rescue Mission long term addiction recovery program, wasn’t very religious.

The Tucson Gospel Rescue Mission and other drug and rehabilitation centers in Southern Arizona, have a stigma that comes with being a Christ-centered service and how they are solely a tool for conversion, when their stated goal is to serve individuals in need, regardless of religious views.

Throughout his life, Souza said he held great jobs but would fall into bad habits, where he would end up jobless. His life was full of high highs and low lows and his addiction to alcohol took over. That’s when he found himself at the Gospel Rescue Mission, seeking help.

Victor Hightower, the Tucson Gospel Rescue Mission public relations and outreach coordinator, explained that if a person needs help but doesn’t believe in God, they will still get help.

“God may not even come up, they might just need a place to stay,” Souza said. “That’s how it was for me at first.”

One focus of the Gospel Rescue Mission is to provide help for addiction recovery and life redirection through serving the homeless and needy in a spiritual, physical, and mental wholeness through the power of Jesus Christ, according the Gospel Rescue Mission’s mission statement.

Homelessness in Tucson has been a pervasive problem. According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s annual report for 2016, “the number of unsheltered persons counted Statewide was 3,244.”

Twenty-six percent of the homeless population lives in Pima County that’s why the Gospel Rescue Mission reaches out.

The Gospel Rescue Mission and other gospel based services are free for all people. Those looking for services that are not faith based can expect to pay an average of $1,000 a day for a 60 to 90 day private rebab center, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.

The Gospel Rescue Mission provides more than just a place for the homeless to stay. It provides daily meals, a place for people to wash their clothes, donated furniture and clothes to choose from, showers, chapel services, and the option for long term help.

All short-term services are non-exclusive—anyone, despite that person’s beliefs are able to come and go as they please, Hightower said.

Those seeking long-term help for addiction recovery have the option to sleep there if they work with a case manager and go through a bible based workbook.  “There aren’t many empty beds,” Hightower said.

This specific program can be as short as 6 months, but usually an individual is in it for 18 months to two years. Long-term help requires you to spend time everyday studying Christianity.

All employees at the Gospel Rescue Mission are trained and although the long-term programs have rules, all staff members show grace.

“Our staff members understand that mistakes are made and instead of kicking a person out, we help them even more,” Hightower said. You don’t know what a person is going through, we try to be understanding and show humility.”

Those who are in our addiction recovery program know that it’s a bible based program, Hightower said. Regardless of their religious views, we just ask that they keep an open mind.

Ashlee Fenn is a reporter of Arizona Sonora news, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at ashleefenn@email.arizona.edu. 


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Arizona communities receive thousands of dollars to clean up contaminated or blighted ‘brownfields’ properties

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Nicole Hernandez

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Arizona communities receive thousands of dollars to clean up contaminated or blighted ‘brownfields’ properties

KINGMAN – The White Mountain Apache Tribe cleaned up contamination from meth labs in its tribal housing units. A Kearns Canyon school district got rid asbestos in some of its buildings. And South Tucson redeveloped areas once home to blighted hotels and gas stations. All three used federal grant money. Throughout the state, local communities have received hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up, redevelop or demolish properties once contaminated by hazardous substances or pollutants. These troubled properties are called “brownfields,” and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency distributes millions of dollars of grants across the U.S. every year to help in their cleanup. Experts estimate there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S., according to the EPA. This year, the EPA gave the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality about $750,000 to distribute to projects throughout the state. The city of Kingman recently received one of those grants and used more than $150,000 to remove asbestos and mold from a building built in 1963. Community members plan to turn the building that once housed city offices into a facility for veterans. The new veterans assistance headquarters is critical to the area – especially considering Mohave County has the highest rate of veteran suicides in Arizona, said Pat Farrell, president of the Jerry Ambrose Veterans Council, which bought the structure from the city. The city originally could not sell the building because of the potential public health dangers. So when Farrell learned about the Brownfields grant, he jumped on the opportunity to apply. [caption id="attachment_86934" align="alignright" width="300"] The city of Kingman recently received a “Brownfields” grant and will use more than $150,000 to remove asbestos and mold from a building built in 1963. A community group will provide veterans services from the refurbished building. (Photo by Nicole Hernandez/Cronkite News)[/caption] “I’m kind of an old fashioned guy,” he said. “I don’t like to see good, solid properties go to waste, and this is a good, solid property.” In March, the building’s old cubicles and offices still stood. Wires hung from ceiling tiles, construction debris riddled the concrete floors and wooden framing was exposed. By July 2019, the empty structure will become livable spaces to house dozens of veterans. The building also will provide services to the thousands of veterans in the northwest region of Arizona and parts of Nevada and California beginning this July. Farrell said the grant made the project possible: “It allowed us to open the door to returning this building to its former glory.” The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is currently working on nine brownfields grant projects, and it completed 20 last year. Some of those projects include the demolition of an old library in Camp Verde and development of a community center in Duncan. “There’s a lot of benefit to the program in the sense that we’re abating sites that are not used to their fullest intent,” said Jennie Cure, who coordinates the grants for the state. “And also, with these sites cleaned up, the people who come to these downtown areas on a regular basis feel that someone cares about their community.” Cure said ADEQ officials hope to receive more money – up to $1 million – this upcoming fiscal year to pursue more abatement projects. This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal. [su_divider top="no" size="1" margin="10"] [sub-tag] Read more

Maricopa County adds text-to-911 emergency system

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Imani Stephens

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Maricopa County adds text-to-911 emergency system

PHOENIX – Maricopa County residents can now text 911, expanding rapid response in a medical or police emergency to people who are deaf or have other disabilities. Officials said the text service will help more than 150,000 Valley residents who are deaf or hard of hearing, speech impaired, or unable to have a voice conversation. Norbert Enos, who is deaf and lives in Surprise, said the city's deaf seniors no longer have to rely on neighbors to make the phone call. "We needed other access to 911," Enos said. "If I'm pulled over on the highway, I wouldn't have any way to contact 911, until this system was implemented." [su_pullquote align="right"]

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New 911 text service helps people with disabilities get faster emergency response [/su_pullquote] Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said this week's launch means anyone can send a text if they're not in a position to call 911. "This capability can be useful to anyone who can't speak out loud without putting themselves in danger - such as a homeowner, hiding in a closet from a burglar, or a domestic violence victim, who doesn't want an abuser to overhear their 911 call," Stanton said. Michelle Potts, spokeswoman for the Chandler Police Department, said people had been sending text messages to Chandler's non-emergency text service because they could not call 911. That delays response times. "With the disability community, this is the first time that it has provided them access," Potts said. Still, the system is limited so people are urged to call 911 if they can. Because text-to-911 is new, officials said GPS is not available to pinpoint an exact location of the person sending the text. Also, the English-language service does not provide language translations, can't receive group texts or figure out abbreviations or slang. Maricopa County joins Lake Havasu City in establishing a text 911 system. Most states have the service in at least one city. "Regardless of where we travel, when we are on vacation, etcetera, we (want to) always have access to emergency services," Enos said. Follow us on Twitter. Read more

AP, TigerSwan and Big Oil — Battle for Water is Now Battle in Court and News Rooms

Read more of this story here from CENSORED NEWS by Brenda Norrell.

. AP, TigerSwan and Big Oil -- Battle for Water is Now Battle in Court and News Rooms By Brenda Norrell Censored News There are questions about the AP article, covering Chase Iron Eyes court hearing yesterday, particularly in regards to whether the judge will require TigerSwan and Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier to turn over documents and information in the Last Child case at Read more

Record Number of Women Run for U.S. House Seats

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by GEOFF MULVIHILL and MAUREEN LINKE / The Associated Press.

CHERRY HILL, N.J.—The number of women running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives set a record Thursday, the vast majority of them Democrats motivated by angst over President Donald Trump and policies of the Republican-controlled Congress.

Their ranks will continue to grow in the weeks ahead, with filing deadlines still to come in more than half the states.

In many places, women are running for congressional seats that have never had a female representative.

“It’s about time,” said Kara Eastman of Nebraska, one of two Democrats vying to challenge a Republican incumbent in a district centered in Omaha.

A surge of women into this year’s midterm elections had been expected since the Women’s March demonstrations nationwide just after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Numbers analyzed by The Associated Press show that momentum is continuing.

After Virginia released its candidate list Thursday, a total of 309 women from the two major parties have filed candidacy papers to run for the House. That tops the previous record of 298 in 2012.

The AP analyzed data going back to 1992 from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and did its own review of candidate information released by the states.

While just over half the nation’s population is female, four out of every five members of the U.S. House are men. The women’s candidacies won’t necessarily change that. They still have to survive party primaries and win the general election, often against an incumbent with name recognition and a large reservoir of campaign cash.

Even with the record numbers, women are still outnumbered by male candidates. But experts say the sheer number of women running combined with so many House seats open due to retirements or resignations provides one of the best opportunities for women to make real gains in terms of representation and a change in priorities.

Many of the female candidates have focused their campaign messages on health care, education, early childhood development, family leave and workplace equality.

Eastman said she was motivated by Republican attempts to cut health coverage for low-income people and rollbacks of environmental protections.

She decided to run after her mother, who has since died, was diagnosed with cancer for the fifth time and saw her prescription drug prices soar even though she was covered by Medicare.

“It’s a great thing for me to show my 16-year-old daughter,” Eastman, who runs a children’s health care nonprofit, said of her candidacy.


Linke is an Associated Press visual journalist who reported from Washington, D.C. Associated Press writer Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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U.S. Trade Gap Rises for the 6th Straight Month to 9½-Year High

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by PAUL WISEMAN / The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON—The U.S. trade deficit rose for the sixth straight month in February, reaching the highest level since October 2008 and defying President Donald Trump’s efforts to rebalance America’s lopsided trade with the rest of the world.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that the trade gap — the difference between what America sells and what it buys in foreign markets — widened to $57.6 billion in February from $56.7 billion in January. Exports of goods and services hit a record $204.4 billion; imports set a record $262 billion.

The news comes amid a U.S. trade dispute with China that has rattled global financial markets and raised fears among U.S. farmers and businesses that depend on access to the Chinese market. The trade deficit in goods with China narrowed in February to $29.3 billion from $36 billion in January.

The United States ran a $77 billion deficit in the trade of goods in February, the highest level since July 2008. That was partially offset by a $19.4 billion surplus in services such as education and banking, lowest since December 2012. The services surplus was dragged down $1 billion in payments for broadcast rights for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which count as a services import.

Exports of cars and auto parts posted big increases in February as did imports of pharmaceuticals, crude oil and civilian aircraft.

Trump campaigned on a pledge to take aggressive action to reduce America’s massive trade deficits. In March, he slapped tariffs on imported steel and aluminum but exempted most major countries except China and Japan. China counterpunched this week with tariffs on $3 billion in U.S. products.

On Tuesday, the U.S. proposed slapping tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports, and Beijing responded within hours with plans to tax $50 billion in American products, including soybeans and small aircraft. The two countries have signaled that they will seek to settle their differences before the tariffs take effect.

The president views trade deficits as a sign of economic weakness and as the result of bad trade agreements and unfair practices by America’s trading partners. Most economists say they are caused by bigger economic forces, mainly the fact that the United States consistently spends more than it produces.

The trade gap has continued to rise since Trump entered the White House partly because the U.S. economy is strong and American consumers have an appetite for imported products and the confidence and financial wherewithal to buy them.

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