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President Obama's proposal to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba has elicited mixed reactions from Valley residents with Cuban roots.
PHOENIX -- Arizona will not be able to enforce controversial limits on medication abortions, at least not now.
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Attorney General-elect Mark Brnovich has announced the appointment of two top officials for his incoming administration.
Arizona Attorney General-elect Mark Brnovich has announced the appointment of two top officials for his incoming administration.
A man convicted of the brutal murder of a Buckeye librarian could get to escape not only the death penalty but his conviction because of possible bias by the judge.
The saying goes that good teams don’t rebuild, they simply reload. That seems to be the case with the East Valley’s boys basketball teams as several of them are set to make deep playoff runs again.
Claiming consumers here were misled, Attorney General Tom Horne has filed a $3 billion lawsuit against General Motors alleging it sold vehicles to Arizonans the company knew were unsafe.
Another election season has come and gone. You might reasonably conclude that, once again, no ballot fraud occurred in Arizona, from the absence of any news accounts. But that’s almost certainly not true.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my friend, Charles, and missing him. He was a husband, father, English teacher, social worker, canoeist, bluegrass player, therapist, connoisseur of green-apple moonshine, and a good friend.
PHOENIX (AP) -- The Republican and Democratic candidates for Arizona governor are making a final campaign push through the state as they try to seal a general election win and their parties pull out all the stops to get voters to the polls.
The efforts by Republican Doug Ducey and Democrat Fred DuVal are being mirrored by other statewide and congressional candidates who hope that voters will back them in Tuesday's elections.
Democrats are focusing on get-out-the-vote efforts, trying to mobilize voters who are seen as generally less enthusiastic than their GOP counterparts in a midterm election year.
That includes Democratic state Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is facing only token opposition as he races toward an expected win in Congressional District 7 in south and west Phoenix. He's trying to help statewide candidates by using the campaign machine that propelled him to a victory in the primary in the heavily Democratic district to turn out voters.
"We've had 60 people going out every day for the last month and a half," Gallego said. "There's never been an operation like this in this district â but this district alone cannot turn the whole state." Gallego pointed to similar efforts by Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva and Ann Kirkpatrick to get Democratic voters to the polls as well.
The state Democratic Party has more than 150 paid canvassers contacting voters and is hiring more for the final push, Executive Director DJ Quinlan said Friday. That's on top of 60 organizers who have been in the field for months.
Democrats are targeting unmarried women, younger people and minorities, especially Hispanics, who tend to vote in lower proportions.
Republicans are also pulling out all the stops, and if registered Republicans haven't returned their early ballot, they can expect a phone call this weekend from one of hundreds of volunteers working phone banks, said Tim Sifert, the state party's spokesman.
"We've got a massive statewide get-out-the-vote effort involving phone calls to voters who have not yet voted their early ballots as well as voters we are encouraging to go to the polls on Election Day," Sifert said. "Clearly the campaigns are in addition to that. We also have canvassers going door to door, where it's practical."
Democrats acknowledge that nationally the election is likely to favor Republicans, with the Senate possibly becoming majority Republican and the GOP gaining more House seats to strengthen its current majority. But they still like their chances for victories in stateside, congressional and legislative offices in Arizona.
"We feel like across the board we'll certainly win statewide - it's really a crapshoot which we'll win because the races are so close," Quinlan said. "But my fundamental point is, in a year when it really should be favoring Republicans I think we have a chance to win at every level."
Ducey plans stops in Maricopa, Mohave, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai and Coconino counties between Friday and Monday. DuVal plans 22 stops across metro Phoenix and in southern Arizona over the weekend. Both will be joined by other candidates for statewide office on many of the stops.
Close to one out of every seven votes cast this year will come from Hispanics, according to a non-partisan organization promoting Latino turnout. And group members predict that large percentage of them will vote for Democrats — but not necessarily because of what those candidates offer, but how Republicans are campaigning.
Supporters of the Mesa Public Schools override say the $31.8 million dollars at stake are vital to keep the school district afloat, but opponents say the district would use those funds inefficiently.
Washington • Lawmakers reacted angrily this week to reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs may have known about problems at its Phoenix health care facilities years before they came to light this spring.
A 2008 report by the VA Office of Inspector General found that workers in Phoenix were manipulating records to improve their own performance reviews and to make it appear as if veterans had shorter wait-times for care.
That was echoed in a 2010 internal memo that said VA employees were “gaming the system” to make wait times appear shorter.
Those same practices were revealed this spring, when whistleblowers charged that delays in health care may have led to the deaths of some veterans. Those disclosures sparked a series of angry hearings in Congress, which passed a multibillion-dollar reform bill this summer.
VA officials said late this week that the earlier reports addressed problems as they were identified and it should have been “no secret” to Congress.
But lawmakers didn’t see it that way.
“Anyone who concealed these findings should be immediately fired,” said Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, in a written statement late Wednesday.
Kirkpatrick, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called the VA’s handling of wait times “government at its worst.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said Thursday that he found the existence of earlier reports “disturbing.” Those reports “further highlight the need for fundamental reform, new leadership and full accountability at the Phoenix VA,” he said in a prepared statement.
Problems uncovered at the Phoenix VA earlier this year started a national examination of the department that found widespread problems and led to the resignation in May of then-Secretary Eric Shinseki.
An August inspector general’s report on the Phoenix facility cited cases of wait-time manipulation at 20 other facilities around the country. It included links to the full reports on those other cases, dating as far back as 2005, and also linked to a 2011 report on mismanaged non-VA care funds in Phoenix.
But the August report included no such link to the 2008 report on Phoenix wait-times. That earlier report received only a two-sentence reference that said it “was an accepted past practice at the medical center to alter appointments to avoid wait times greater than 30 days and that some employees still continued that practice.”
OIG officials said Thursday that the 2008 report had not previously been released because it contained information protected by the Privacy Act, which protects personal information recorded by federal agencies.
‘Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future’ is the first anthology from Arizona State University’s Project Hieroglyph, which aims to reignite humanity’s grand ambitions for the future through the power of storytelling.
Democrat Fred DuVal used the last gubernatorial debate Tuesday to essentially accuse Doug Ducey of class warfare, robbing from schools to give tax breaks to the rich.
PARADISE VALLEY -- Democrat Fred DuVal used the last gubernatorial debate Tuesday to essentially accuse Doug Ducey of class warfare, robbing from schools to give tax breaks to the rich.
Ducey has centered his gubernatorial campaign on his theme of "kick-starting'' Arizona's moribund economy. Central to that is his promise to work to eliminate the state income tax. But DuVal told an audience of two different women's groups such a move would be irresponsible.
He cited the anticipated deficit of $500 million this fiscal year and more than $1 billion next year. That includes a court order to immediately boost school funding by $331 million, a decision DuVal said he will accede to and that Ducey wants to appeal.
"This is a choice you get to make,'' DuVal said.
"Doug's priority is to lower taxes for the wealthiest among us,'' he continued. "My priority is to assure that we adequately fund schools.''
But Ducey appears to be backing away -- or at least finessing -- his position on tax cuts.
During both the Republican primary and since then, Ducey has said he wants to move toward eliminating the tax, or at least making it "flatter and fairer.'' Tuesday, however, he had a different message.
"No one's ever talked about eliminating the income tax,'' he told the audience. Instead he said his goal is simply to drive it "as close to zero as possible.''
And he even added some conditions Tuesday to pursuing that goal which has been a cornerstone of his campaign.
"It's where I would like to take the state,'' he said.
"But I've got to deal with the financial situation of the state as I find it as governor,'' Ducey explained. "And I'll do what's responsible and in the best interest of all of our citizens.''
Ducey disputed that cutting income taxes necessarily means there will be less money for public schools. And Ducey said that he does not necessarily believe that restoring school funding to where it would have been had lawmakers not ignored a voter-approved mandate to adjust annually for inflation will lead to better schools.
The key, he said, is finding better ways to educate children.
"We are underperforming across the state,'' Ducey told the audience.
"But we have pockets of excellence in the state,'' he continued, citing reports that three of the Top 10 high schools in the nation as ranked by U.S. News and World Reports are located here: two Basis charter schools and University High School in Tucson.
Ducey said he would look at the "best practices'' of those schools "so more of our children have a better opportunity.''
Ducey also cited reports from the Auditor General's Office which for the past decade have shown that an ever-smaller percentage of tax dollars is actually winding up in the classroom.
The most recent report shows that less than 54 cents of every education dollar was put into things like teacher salaries. That compares with 58.6 cents a decade earlier, a trend Ducey said he wants to reverse.
But DuVal said the rest of the report found that administrative costs for things like superintendents, principals, business managers and clerical staff is below the national average. Instead, the report said what's making up the difference are fixed non-instructional costs like heating, cooling and running school buses.
And Auditor General Debra Davenport specifically said that's a direct function of less money overall for schools. She said the only place to cut was the classroom, citing figures that while the number of children attending Arizona public schools has dropped by 3 percent since 2009, the number of teachers dropped by 8.6 percent.
"The reason there isn't more money going into the classroom is there isn't enough money,'' DuVal said.
That still leaves DuVal's contention that Ducey's plan to cut income taxes is designed to favor the wealthy.
"The income tax is paid disproportionately by wealthy,'' DuVal said, acknowledging that, by definition, people with more income pay more tax on that income. But he said all this comes as Arizona has one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation -- 5.6 percent plus all local levies -- a tax he called "regressive.''
"Our tax structure is clobbering working Arizona families,'' he told reporters after the debate.
"They're paying significantly more of their income in taxes than upper-income Arizonans,'' DuVal said.
Ducey said what will help businesses come to and expand in Arizona are things he promises like lower taxes and less regulation. But DuVal said some business leaders have suggested otherwise.
He cited comments made in 2011 by the former chief executive of Intel.
"The educational system in the United States and in Arizona in particular is not particularly attractive,'' Craig Barrett told the Arizona Commerce Authority. In fact, Barrett said the situation is so bar that if Intel were looking for a site to build an entirely new operation, as to expanding its $10 billion Arizona presence, the state would not even be on the list of Top 10 choices.
He was not alone in his comments.
"The education system here is very weak,'' said Doug Pruitt, at the time the chief executive of Sundt Construction.
Q: Why are you running
PHOENIX -- Having won benefits for current of gay state and university employees, attorneys are back in court demanding the same for everyone hired in the future. And if they win, count on them to start going after cities, counties, school districts and all government employers in Arizona.
Tara Borelli of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund wants U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick to permanently void a 2009 Arizona law that says benefits like health insurance are available only to those who are married. Borelli, the lead counsel on the case, said gay employees need benefits for their partners and children just the same as those who are married.
But Assistant Attorney General Charles Grube, in his own legal filings, effectively is urging Sedwick to butt out.
"Domestic-partner health coverage is not a fundamental right,'' he told the judge.
He said that means state lawmakers were free to decide to pass a law saying that benefits are limited to those who are wed. Grube said that is a financial decision well within the powers of legislators.
Grube said because the state provides no benefits for any unmarried partners, gay and straight, there is no discrimination against anyone because of sexual orientation.
But Borelli said that ignores one key fact: Straight couples have the option to get those benefits by marrying; a 2008 voter-approved state constitutional amendment denies that same right to gays, thereby making those same benefits inaccessible.
And that remains the case in Arizona unless and until federal courts rule gays can wed.
Gov. Jan Brewer is defending the law as one based not on sexual orientation but on budget considerations. She told Capitol Media Services the state needed the money it was spending providing benefits to the partners of its gay workers -- benefits Sedwick blocked her from cutting.
Borelli, however, said the effects are minimal, saying gays make up just 0.2 percent of all state employees getting benefits.
Arizona first provided domestic-partner benefits in 2008 when then-Gov. Janet Napolitano ordered state personnel rules rewritten to expand the definition of who is a "dependent'' for purposes of getting benefits. Those rules, which did not specify the gender of the partner, required a showing of financial interdependence and an affidavit by the worker affirming there is a domestic partnership.
But in 2009, after Napolitano resigned to take a post in the Obama administration, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved, and Brewer signed, a state law narrowing the definition -- and specifically excluding unmarried couples.
Sedwick issued a preliminary injunction blocking the change, at least as it applies to gay employees.
The judge acknowledged the change in law, tucked into a provision of the state budget, is not discriminatory on its face. But he said the denial has to be examined in light of the ban on same-sex marriage.
"As a result, (the law) denies lesbian and gay state employees in qualifying domestic partnership a valuable form of compensation on the basis of sexual orientation,'' he wrote in 2010.
Sedwick has since given the case class-action status. That sets the stage for the fight over whether the law should be permanently blocked.
Grube told the judge there's no basis for such an order. He said any disparate impact on gays is the result not of this law but of the other statutes and constitutional provisions which bar gays from marrying.
On a more practical level, Brewer said there's the question of cost.
"I think we all know that Arizona was in dire shape financially,'' she said of her 2009 decision to sign the law voiding the change in rules.
"We had to make some tough choices,'' the governor continued. "I believe that was one area we could cut costs, just like we had to do in behavioral health or education.''
Borelli, however, gave Sedwick figures -- produced by the state -- that show the cost of benefits for the partners of gay workers now covered is less than 0.3 percent of the total program, with the cost of claims for children at about 0.01 percent.
Brewer also brushed aside questions of whether the state should reconsider now that its finances are vastly improved from 2009.
"I would tell you that, almost today, no one can afford insurance,'' saying that is a question that can be taken up by the next governor and the next crop of legislators.
Finances aside, Grube said there's a rational reason for lawmakers providing benefits to those who are married versus those who are not.
"Under Arizona law, married persons have a legal duty to supply support to their spouses,'' he told the judge.
"A married person who fails to provide a spouse with necessary medical attendance actually commits a crime,'' Grube continued. "There is no such criminal statute for unmarried persons.''
But Borelli noted it is the state itself that prohibits gays from marrying in the first place and being subject to laws governing marriage. Beyond that, she said this is not a matter of criminal law.
"Plaintiffs rely on family coverage as an important part of their compensation for the same reason as their heterosexual colleagues: to provide shelter and protection to their families from the potential extreme stress of untreated illnesses and attendant financial burdens,'' she wrote.
And that, she said, goes to the other part of her discrimination argument. She said the gay workers are doing the same job as their heterosexual counterparts.
Brewer had one more reason to justify the Arizona law.
"The federal government also does not provide insurance to domestic partners,'' she said.
Borelli said that's true. But she also said it's unnecessary since the federal government recognizes the marriages performed in states where that is legal, allowing gay employees to get benefits for their partners.
It is only in states like Arizona, she said, where that is an issue.
Having won benefits for current gay state and university employees, attorneys are back in court demanding the same for everyone hired in the future. And if they win, count on them to start going after cities, counties, school districts and all government employers in Arizona.
The Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce has announced the nominees for the 2014 Palo Verde Women in Business Award.
Dr. Ken Danyluk and Team Orthodontics have something to hide – and that’s a good thing.
Dr. Al Borhan and his Valley urologist colleagues are teaming up with the nonprofit Prostate On-site Project to make the Herculean feat of getting skittish menfolk tested for prostate cancer easier and more accessible through mobile-testing units.
A man legally married in California whose husband died last week in Tucson wants a federal judge to issue an emergency order requiring Arizona to list him on the death certificate as the spouse.
Attorney General Tom Horne is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that Arizona lawmakers can legally restrict the right of women to a medication abortion if they have “justification” to do so and other options remain.
In Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” the narrator speaks of his instability caused by the fever dream of the jungle this way: “(It) was the playful paw-strokes of the wilderness, the preliminary trifling before the more serious onslaught which came in due course.”