Your West Valley News: Local news from Phoenix's West Valley communities - Sun City West, Sun City Grand, Surprise, Glendale, Peoria, El Mirage, Youngtown

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  • Artist demonstrates watercolor techniques

    Malcolm Blazer, guest artist, demonstrated water color techniques at the Sun West Art Club’s general meeting on Oct. 13.He also discussed varius watercolor papers and paints and explained how they can influence a painting.Blazer is an accomplished professional with expertise in several styles of watercolor and also works in oils and pastels. He teaches at Glendale Community College and is one of the artists offering classes for the Sun West Art Club.Interested in trying your hand at art?The Sun West Art Club provides the opportunity to explore different media to learn new techniques or to expand artistic skills.Classes and workshops are taught by professional artists who offer instruction in watercolor, oils, drawing, pastels and mixed media.

  • Peoria Main Library has book sale Saturday

    Hundreds of books will be on sale at the Friends Fall Book Sale from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the main library.All sales benefit the Peoria Public Libraries. In addition, there is a Decorate Your Own Pumpkin class from 10 a.m. to noon.In the afternoon at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., celebrity makeup artist Ron Titone will be teaching two free classes for tweens on How to Paint your Face for Halloween. For more information, call 623-773-7555 or visit www.peoriaaz.gov/library.

  • Fill 'er up: Get free gas today in Sun City West

    The Phoenix Suns will give motorists a chance to fill their tanks with free gas beginning at 7 a.m. today at the Fry’s Fuel Station at 19403 N.R.H. Johnson Blvd. in Sun City West.In anticipation of the start of the Suns’ season, the team is promoting “Fuel Up with the Suns,” giving fans a chance to receive $10 of free gas.Beginning at 7 a.m. Friday, the first 100 fans to show they are a Fry’s Rewards member, be wearing Suns gear or have the official Suns mobile app on their phone will be eligible for $10 worth of free gas.Those who do not receive free fuel will get free Suns merchandise.The promotion also will take place at three Phoenix locations:• 2250 E. Baseline Road;

  • Birt’s Bistro wins award

    Birt’s Bistro has received an honorable mention award in the 2014 EideBailly Resourcefullness Award program.Birt’s Bistro, based at the Benevilla campus in Surprise, was one of 102 organizations reviewed for the award, and one of the three Arizona organizations that received recognition.The EideBailly Resourcefullness award recognizes organizations that have implemented creative and sustainable revenue generation initiatives and excel in five categories: Sustainability, Creativity, Implementation, Impact and Overall Impression.Birt’s Bistro was recognized for its social enterprise business model which uses profits from the restaurant to support Benevilla’s programs and services.Benevilla is a not-for-profit human services agency dedicated to enhancing the lives of West Valley residents by providing care services for older adults, intellectually disabled adults, children and families.

  • Back to nature for Echo Mesa owls

    Fallen Feathers on Thursday released two owls over Echo Mesa Golf Course after the wildlife rehabilitation organization brought them back to health.The owls were found on the course unable to care for themselves.

  • Fake healthcare workers targeting seniors in West Valley

    Surprise police are issuing a warning after learning fake healthcare workers are targeting the elderly, knocking on doors and claiming to be from Banner Health.Police say the suspects say they are part of the Home Health program. The suspects say they need access to the resident's home to “evaluate their condition and current pain medications.” Authorities say in one incident, a female suspect reviewed the medications while the male suspect stayed in the hallway claiming he needed to take a phone call. When the female began asking for payment for their home health services, the resident became suspicious and the suspects left. One of the suspects was able to remove the victim’s cash and credit cards while the homeowner's attention was on the other suspect. Police said neither suspect was wearing any type of uniform and had no form of identification or badge. The victims said the suspects left in a pickup.Surprise Police remind residents not to allow people into their home who drop by unannounced and who lack proper identification.Banner Health also says:

  • Draft rules on medical marijuana out for comment

    PHOENIX (AP) — Proposed draft rules for Arizona's medical marijuana program are out for public comment. The state Department of Health Services says the draft rules include court-ordered proposed changes on regulations for licensing of dispensaries but also proposed changes in rules involving patients and caregivers. The proposed changes include reducing fees for several categories of patients, including ones who are 65 or older or under 18 years of age. Other reductions are envisioned for veterans and patients who receive hospice service and some forms of public assistance. The latest proposed rules change previous drafts released earlier this year. The department says it plans to have the revised rules take effect next summer.

  • Time running out to request Arizona early ballots

    PHOENIX (AP) — Time is running out to request an early ballot for next month's general election ballot. The Arizona Secretary of State's office says voters who want to request an early ballot for the general election must act by 5 p.m. Friday — the last day that an early ballot request made to a voter's county recorder's office can be honored. Completed ballots should be signed, sealed and mailed by next Thursday in order to arrive in time to be counted in the Nov. 4 election. After that they should be dropped off at a polling place. Voters who don't request an early ballot can still vote early by contacting their county recorder to find early voting locations. And ballots can be cast at normal voting locations on Election Day.

  • Paintings in national parks spark probe, furor

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A series of colorful, eerie faces painted on rocks in some of the West's most famously picturesque landscapes has sparked an investigation by the National Park Service and a furor online. Agents so far have confirmed the images in Yosemite and four other national parks in California, Utah and Oregon. Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said the vandalism could lead to felony charges for the person responsible. The images appear to come from a New York state woman traveling across the West this summer and documenting her work on Instagram and Tumblr, said Casey Schreiner of modernhiker.com, whose blog post tipped off authorities. The investigation is the subject of well-trafficked threads on the website Reddit, where people railed against the drawings as the defacing of irreplaceable natural landscapes. "You're seeing this emotional response of people who feel like they've been kicked in the gut," Schreiner said. It's not the first time vandalism in parks has been documented on social media. Last year in Utah, two Boy Scout leaders caused an online uproar when they recorded themselves toppling an ancient rock formation at Goblin Valley State Park and posted it on YouTube. But in this case, the woman appears to consider the work an artistic expression, Schreiner said. One photograph online showed a painting of a woman's face on a rock outcropping against the panoramic sweep of Oregon's Crater Lake National Park. In another, a backpack-size line drawing of a woman smoking a cigarette appears on red rock in Utah's Zion. The images appear to have been painted with acrylic paint or drawn with marker, Schreiner said. He took screen shots Tuesday of seven images that appeared on Instagram and Tumblr accounts under the handle "creepytings." The accounts later were made private or taken down. The Associated Press is not naming the woman associated with the accounts because she hasn't been charged with a crime. Efforts to reach her Thursday were not successful. Artists who work in natural environments typically consider who owns the land and get permission to work there, said Monty Paret, an associate professor of art history at the University of Utah. The earthwork "Spiral Jetty" sculpture on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, for example, is on land leased from the state. The images that surfaced this week look more like graffiti, Paret said. "As opposed to tagging in a back alley, it's like tagging an iconic building," he said. "It's going to get a lot more attention." National parks agents have confirmed the vandalism in Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks in California, Canyonlands and Zion in Utah, and Crater Lake in Oregon. Investigators also are looking for vandalism in other places the woman's social media trail indicates she visited: Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon in California; Rocky Mountain in Colorado; Bryce Canyon in Utah; and Grand Canyon in Arizona. Crater Lake superintendent Craig Ackerman said bad weather has kept staff from going to the painting there, which is at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. Though rangers typically remove graffiti to discourage others, sometimes cleaning it causes even more damage, he said. Vandalism is a small but persistent problem for the Park Service, which welcomes about 280 million visitors a year, Olson said. It typically is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and a year in prison. But vandalism in national parks can be a felony if the damage is extensive or in specially protected places, he said. ___ Associated Press writer Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Oregon, contributed to this report.

  • Border deaths drop to 15-year low

    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The number of people who died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border has dropped to the lowest level in 15 years as more immigrants turned themselves in to authorities in Texas and fewer took their chances with the dangerous trek across the Arizona desert. The U.S. government recorded 307 deaths in the 2014 fiscal year that ended in September — the lowest number since 1999. In 2013, the number of deaths was 445. The Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector finished the 2014 budget year with 115 deaths, compared with 107 in the Tucson sector, according to figures obtained by The Associated Press. It marks the first time since 2001 that Arizona has not been the deadliest place to cross the border. Arizona has long been the most dangerous border region because of triple-digit temperatures, rough desert terrain and the sheer volume of immigrants coming in to the state from Mexico. But more immigrants are now entering through Texas and not Arizona, driven by a surge of people from Central America. The Tucson and Rio Grande Valley both saw their numbers of deaths decline from 2013, although Arizona's drop was more precipitous. Border enforcement officials say the lower numbers are in part due to increased rescue efforts as well as a Spanish-language media campaign discouraging Latin Americans from walking across the border. Tucson Sector Division Chief Raleigh Leonard says the addition of 10 new rescue beacons that were strategically placed in areas where immigrants traverse most often has been a factor in the decrease in deaths. "I think we can all agree that crossing the border is an illegal act, but nothing that should be assigned the penalty of death," Leonard said in an interview. Immigrant rights advocates are skeptical that it is solely the Border Patrol's efforts contributing to the decrease in deaths. "At best, what the Border Patrol is accomplishing is a geographical shift in where these deaths are happening — rather than adequately responding to the scale of the crisis," said Geoffrey Boyce, a border enforcement and immigration researcher at the University of Arizona and a volunteer with the Tucson-based nonprofit No More Deaths. The Rio Grande Valley sector was flooded with a surge in unaccompanied minors and families with children who turned themselves in at border crossings in Texas. Most were from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where gang violence and a poor economy have driven out huge numbers of people. That surge has dwindled recently, however, as U.S. and Central American authorities have launched a public relations campaign warning parents against sending their children to the U.S. Meanwhile, the Tucson Sector, once the busiest in the nation, has seen a steep decline in border crossers. Fewer Mexicans are crossing into the U.S. as the economy here has faltered and drug violence at home has improved. The Border Patrol also responds to hundreds of cases each year of immigrants who need to be rescued while crossing the desert, long an issue in the Arizona desert. The Border Patrol conducted 509 rescues in the 2014 fiscal year in the Tucson sector, compared to 802 in 2013. Some of the rescues are made with the help of beacons that were activated 142 times this year. The beacons are 30-feet tall, solar-powered and have sun reflectors and blue lights on top that are visible for 10 miles. The beacons also have signs in three languages directing users to push a red button that sends out a signal for help. Agents respond usually within 10 minutes to an hour. The agency has a team dedicated solely to rescues, called Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue. Agents in this elite group spend their days searching for immigrants and responding when one seeks help. They assist not only those who cross the border in search for jobs, but also drug mules and smugglers who become injured or dehydrated in the summer heat. It was only 10 a.m. and already 95 degrees on a day in late June when the unit's agents provided medical assistance to a 28-year-old man suspected of smuggling drugs near Sells, Arizona. The thin man had an ID from El Salvador and said he lived in Tucson. He oscillated between Spanish and English, but his message was the same: He was in extreme pain. The agents gave him a gallon of a sports beverage. He was to drink it slowly, they told him, or else it would make him sick. Next, they connected a saline bag intravenously and checked his vitals. The agents monitored him and re-examined his vitals, concluding that he wasn't dehydrated but suffering from muscle fatigue. Minutes later, agents who used a drug-sniffing K-9 to search the area found several bundles of marijuana and another suspected smuggler. The men were arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally, but were not charged with smuggling because the loads of marijuana were not found on them. "To us, it could be a mule, an illegal immigrant. They're all the same. They're human beings," Leonard said.

  • Races for governor carry 2016 implications

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans in search of clues to the 2016 presidential contest might find them in this year's governor races. GOP candidates are defending seats in Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio and trying to defeat a Democratic incumbent in Colorado. Taken together, the five states account for 72 electoral votes, or more than a quarter of the total needed to win the White House. The success or failure of Republicans in those races could hold big influence over the fortunes of the party and its prospective presidential candidates — none more than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential presidential candidate who leads the Republican Governors Association. Win in these states and Republicans could parlay their network of governors into a blueprint for winning. Losing any or all could raise obstacles in a potential campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton, the leading Democrat considering a run for the White House. No race figures more prominently in that calculation than Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, a former GOP governor, are battling for control of the nation's top battleground state. With 29 electoral votes, Florida has been the biggest up-for-grabs prize in recent presidential elections. "If we're able to win in Florida it would put the 2016 campaign in a more friendly environment," said Mitch Stewart, a former Obama campaign strategist, of the governor's election. In 2012, President Barack Obama's campaign won in a series of hard-fought contests in many of the same states with competitive governors' races this year. Few expect Republicans to sweep the races — but any success could give them hope in 2016. Ohio and Iowa offer upbeat scenarios for the GOP. In Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich is sailing to re-election against Democrat Ed FitzGerald, whose campaign imploded in a series of negative revelations. A Kasich victory could help his party's brand in Ohio while raising questions about the Democrats' capabilities in the state. "Going into '16, the baggage of Obama is not going to go away, and the Democrats just don't have high-profile political leaders statewide," said Terry Casey, an Ohio-based GOP strategist who has advised Kasich. Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad holds a steady lead in the polls and could become the longest-serving governor in U.S. history. Branstad seized control of the state party away from supporters of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, something that could be an asset to establishment Republicans competing in the first presidential caucus state. Republicans hope to protect incumbent Govs. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Rick Snyder in Michigan, which could give presidential candidates two examples of how to connect with blue-collar voters. Democrats have carried the two states in every presidential race since 1992. Democrats hold an advantage in Pennsylvania, where businessman Tom Wolf maintains a wide lead against Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Despite a Democratic voter registration edge, Republicans have long coveted the state. Mitt Romney made a last-minute push there in 2012 while President George W. Bush made repeated visits in 2004. Both efforts failed. Christie, in a speech Tuesday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said it was important to have a deep bench of Republican governors serving in 2016. "Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke?" Christie asked, referring to Walker's Democratic challenger. History offers examples of why holding a governorship can matter in a presidential race. Republicans like to compare their recent crop of governors to a group that oversaw statehouses during the 1990s and included the-Gov. George W. Bush, who sought the presidency in 2000 after decisively winning re-election in Texas two years earlier. And few Democrats forget that Bush's brother, former Gov. Jeb Bush, provided a built-in advantage in Florida during the 2000 election and the 36-day recount that followed. Some Democratic-leaning law firms in Tallahassee and elsewhere were hesitant to assist Al Gore's legal challenge for fear of crossing the powerful governor. Stewart, who oversaw Obama's battleground state operation in 2012, noted that with Kasich serving as Ohio governor, Democrats were forced to challenge a state law cutting three days from the early voting period for everyone, except members of the armed services and Ohioans living overseas. Democrats prevailed but Stewart said if Democrat Ted Strickland had still been in office, "you don't worry about that." Elsewhere, Colorado and Georgia could offer opportunities for both parties. Republicans are trying to seize on Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's stumbles over a controversial death penalty decision and gun-control legislation. Obama invested heavily in the state during his two presidential campaigns, and Republicans would like to put it back into their fold in 2016. Georgia could offer a breakthrough for Democrats if the party can rally around Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, against Gov. Nathan Deal. The state's demographics have shifted to include more black and Hispanic voters. A win there would offer "a nice blueprint on how to win in 2016," said Penny Lee, a former executive director for the Democratic Governors Association.

  • Gasoline prices in Arizona at $3.04 per gallon

    PHOENIX (AP) — Gasoline prices around Arizona have fallen to their lowest level since January 2013. Officials with Triple-A Arizona said Thursday that the average statewide price for unleaded regular gasoline is $3.04 a gallon. That's almost 10 cents lower than last week. This week's national average is $3.07 per gallon, down by more than 8 cents from last week. Triple-A analysts say prices should remain low, barring unforeseen circumstances. The East Valley area (Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Ahwatukee, Apache Junction and Queen Creek) has Arizona's lowest average gasoline price at $2.93 a gallon, and Flagstaff has the highest at $3.36. Missouri has the lowest average gas prices among states in the continental U.S. at $2.78 a gallon with California having the highest at $3.45 a gallon.

  • Kool cars line up Saturday at Westgate

    Car enthusiasts from all over the state will descend upon Westgate Entertainment District for the 10th Annual KOOL Classic Car Show from 94.5 KOOL FM.The event, hosted in conjunction with Nancy Perry Productions, will have classic cars from more than 50 classes, live music, activity booths and plenty of dining options at Westgate restaurants.The show is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Lots 1 and 5 behind the AMC Theater. Free for spectators.Car show is open to all makes, models and years. For information, visit www.westgateaz.com/events/special-events/.

  • Cuban filmmaker to screen award-winning movie at ASU’s West campus

    Acclaimed Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula will visit Arizona State University’s West campus Monday and Tuesday to interact with students and make public presentations.A highlight of the visit will be a screening of Coyula’s award-winning film “Memories of Overdevelopment (Memorias del Desarrollo)” Tuesday. The event begins at 6 p.m. with Coyula leading a discussion focusing on “50 Years of Cuba: Looking In, Looking Back.” The discussion will explore influences and scenes from other films that have marked Coyula as a director. “Memories of Overdevelopment” will be screened at 7 p.m. The discussion and screening will be in the Kiva Lecture Hall at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix.The public also is invited to hear Coyula address “Digital Audiovisual Grammar: Understanding Independent Filmmaking as a One Man Crew” at 3 p.m. Monday in Second Stage West, in the lower level of the University Center Building.The events are free and open to the public. Visitor parking on campus costs $2 per hour.Coyula was born in Havana in 1977. He was part of a new wave of independent Cuban filmmakers working outside of the mainstream using digital technology on shoestring budgets. Early on, he came to the attention of the critics through his shorts which garnered many awards at various Cuban film festivals. After graduating from the prestigious International Film School of San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, in 1999, Coyula went to New York to study at the Strasberg Theater Institute and to direct his first feature, “Red Cockroaches.” The film gathered more than 20 awards.For his second feature film, Coyula embarked on the challenging job of directing “Memorias del Desarrollo,” a follow-up to the Cuban film classic “Memorias del Subdesarrollo” and also based on a new novel by Edmundo Desnoes. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in support of his work on the film.

  • Burns' series gives PBS a ratings milestone

    NEW YORK (AP) — Ken Burns' series "The Roosevelts" earned PBS its biggest audience in two decades, making it the documentary maker's third most popular film after "The Civil War" and "Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery." PBS said the seven, two-hour episodes that aired last month had an average audience of 9.2 million viewers. The most popular was the first night, on Sept. 14, which had 11.7 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company. "It was power, it was sex, it was death, it was betrayal," PBS chief programming executive Beth Hoppe said on Thursday. "But it was also World War I and World War II and the president of the United States and his wife. It was this epic tale but it was told in a very intimate way. It was a lot like 'Downton Abbey,' but it was real. The series gave PBS its highest weekly viewer average since 1994, when Burns' series "Baseball" aired. Although the "Lewis & Clark" documentary in 1997 had more viewers, "Baseball" was stretched across a longer period, so PBS had a larger weekly audience when the sports documentary aired. PBS went wall-to-wall with the history of Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, airing each episode twice on a given night and making them available online; full episodes were streamed more than 1.85 million times, PBS said. Streams were not included in the individual episode viewing figures. There was evidence that many people used streaming to keep up with the series as it went along, Hoppe said. After the opening episode, the fifth night — FDR's first two terms and the preparations for World War II — had the most popular episode. Each person who watched "The Roosevelts" saw an average of nearly four hours of the series, PBS said. Burns is working on a shorter documentary on cancer that will air in a few months for PBS. His next big documentary series, on the Vietnam War, is scheduled to air on PBS in 2016.

  • FedEx, UPS make plans for a better holiday season

    DALLAS (AP) — Facing an even bigger mountain of packages this holiday season, FedEx and UPS are hiring more workers to avoid the delays that frustrated shoppers and gift-recipients a year ago. Last December, the delivery giants were caught off-guard by bad weather and a surge in last-minute online shopping. An estimated 2 million packages were late at Christmas. On Wednesday, FedEx Corp. said it expects deliveries between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to rise 8.8 percent over last year, to 290 million shipments. Volume is expected to surge on each of the first three Mondays in December, with FedEx predicting a peak of 22.6 million shipments on Monday, Dec. 15. The delivery companies and Internet retailers are benefiting from a strengthening economy and optimism about consumer spending. At the same time, they're dealing with consumers who increasingly enjoy the ease of shopping on computers and mobile devices but expect the goods to show up almost as quickly as if they had shopped at a store. That expectation is often fed by online retailers, who hold out the promise of free delivery until right before Christmas. About 1.3 million express packages handled by UPS and 618,000 carried by FedEx failed to get delivered on time last Christmas Eve, according to ShipMatrix Inc., which makes software for shipment tracking. The firm's president, Satish Jindel, said UPS and FedEx were at fault only 30 percent of the time. In most cases, retailers promised guaranteed express delivery but tried to save money and didn't pay the delivery companies for that speedier service, Jindel said. The merchants face tough competition for consumers who base purchases first on price, and second on free shipping, and the faster the better. "Every single year the percentage of retailers offering free shipping goes up," said Vicki Cantrell, senior vice president at the National Retail Federation. "The consumer expects it. The retailer may or may not be able to afford it." Target Corp. has started offering free holiday shipping for any item on its website, a first for the retailer as it tries to compete better against online rivals such as Amazon.com Inc. The timing of the offer was stunning — weeks before the unofficial kickoff of holiday shopping. Cantrell said Target, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other retailers are getting better at the shipping game. They will ship items from stores instead of a central warehouse if that is faster, or tell online customers when the product they want can be picked up at a store near their home. Those strategies could relieve pressure on the delivery companies and satisfy the shopper more quickly. The retail federation's online division, Shop.org, predicts that online sales in November and December will rise 8 to 11 percent over last year. To meet that demand, online retailers such as Amazon and the delivery companies are hiring more. FedEx plans to hire 50,000 seasonal workers, up from 40,000 last year. United Parcel Service Inc. says it will add up to 95,000 people, up from 85,000. Last year, both companies wound up scrambling to hire more seasonal employees than they had planned, which increased costs and cut into profits. FedEx also expects to invest $1.2 billion in its ground-shipping network in its current fiscal year, with most of that going to increase capacity and automation. The company said that the improvements have sped up ground delivery by a day or more in more than two-thirds of the U.S. UPS has also invested to boost shipping capacity during the holidays, said the company's chief commercial officer, Alan Gershenhorn. He said that UPS had improved it forecasting and package tracking. UPS has not issued a holiday forecast. Shares of FedEx fell $1.41 to $158.47; UPS shares fell $1.69 to $99.06.

  • Government ups air bag warning to 7.8M vehicles

    DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government is now urging owners of nearly 8 million cars and trucks to have the air bags repaired because of potential danger to drivers and passengers. But the effort is being complicated by confusing information and a malfunctioning website. The government's auto-safety agency says that inflator mechanisms in the air bags can rupture, causing metal fragments to fly out when the bags are deployed. The inflators are made by Japanese parts supplier Takata Corp. Safety advocates say at least four people have died from the problem, which they claim could affect more than 20 million cars nationwide. On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration added 3.1 million vehicles to an initial warning covering 4.7 million cars and SUVs. Car owners might have difficulty determining if their vehicle is equipped with the potentially dangerous air bags. The warning covers certain models made by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota. Most of the 7.8 million vehicles are subject to existing recalls. But manufacturers have limited the recalls to high-humidity areas, excluding cars and trucks in states to the north. NHTSA says owners in Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii and "limited areas near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana" should pay special attention to the warning. Worse yet, the regulatory agency has twice corrected the number of vehicles affected and acknowledged that a list it released Monday wasn't completely accurate. The agency urged people to use its website to see if their cars are affected — but a feature allowing people to check for recalls by vehicle identification number malfunctioned Monday night and still wasn't operational Wednesday. Automakers have been recalling cars to fix the problem for several years, but neither Takata nor NHTSA have identified a firm cause. The agency opened a formal investigation into the problem in June, and a theory put forth in agency documents suggests the chemical used to inflate the air bag can be altered by high humidity, making it explode with too much force while deploying. "It's in a total state of uproar right now," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader. The problem also is drawing attention from Congress. Staff members for the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked NHTSA to brief them on the Takata air bags. They also plan to meet with automakers, a committee spokeswoman said. NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement that car owners should respond to the recalls to stay safe. The agency, he said, is tracking down the "full geographic scope" of the issue. Kathryn Henry, a spokeswoman for the agency, said it is unclear whether a high number of inquiries caused its website to malfunction. Until it's repaired, she urged car owners to go to manufacturer websites or call dealers. General Motors, which sold two models with the faulty air bags, planned to notify about 10,000 customers by overnight mail. The models covered are 2003 to 2005 Pontiac Vibes in high humidity areas and Saab 9-2X models. The cars were made by other manufacturers — the Vibes by Toyota, and the Saabs by Subaru. The rare warning by regulators comes three weeks after a Sept. 29 crash near Orlando, Florida, that claimed the life Hien Thi Tran, who suffered severe neck wounds that investigators said could have been caused by metal fragments flying out of the air bag on her 2001 Honda Accord. Her Accord was among the models being recalled. One police agency concluded that the air bags caused her wounds, while another is still investigating. NHTSA is seeking information. On Monday, Toyota issued a recall covering passenger air bags in 247,000 older model vehicles including the Lexus SC, Corolla, Matrix, Sequoia and Tundra. Like many earlier recalls, Toyota's recall covers vehicles only in areas that have high absolute humidity. GM and Toyota each told customers not to let anyone sit in the front passenger seat until repairs are made. Toyota said it's working with Takata to pinpoint the cause of the rupture and to gauge the influence of high absolute humidity, which is a measurement of water vapor in the air.

  • Mobile wallets offer different way to pay

    Ever stand at a cashier fumbling through your overstuffed wallet for the right credit, debit or loyalty card? An end to the frustration may be on its way, according to Consumer Reports.For several years, a number of companies have been trying to get you to input the details of your payment cards into a “mobile wallet” — an app that is stored in your smartphone. Then you can make a payment from the card of your choice and even accrue applicable loyalty points simply by waving your smartphone over a card terminal.Problem is, there haven’t been many merchants that can actually read the data stored inside mobile wallets. Google Wallet, which was introduced in 2011, and Isis Wallet, backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless and launched nationwide in 2013, require merchants to have or buy equipment that includes a technology known as near field communication, which has not yet been widely adopted. As a result, Google Wallet and Isis Wallet work at only about 200,000 U.S. merchants compared with 12 to 15 million that take plastic.But now a new player, LoopWallet, launched in February, uses magnetic pulse technology that allows its mobile wallet to work with 90 percent of existing card readers. That might be enough critical mass for the technology to become a viable option. However, a lot of pieces still have to come together for mobile wallet technology. Allied Market Research, based in Portland, Oregon, projects that mobile payments will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 127.5 percent, reaching a global market size of more than $5 trillion by 2020.Should you consider making the switch to LoopWallet or one of the others? Here’s what Consumer Reports says to consider:• The benefit. More smartphone owners are finding that their handsets are a convenient payment device, with 30 percent using them to make online purchases, 24 percent to pay bills and 17 percent to pay for store purchases, according to a recent Federal Reserve study. Mobile wallets provide one more payment option in today’s cell-savvy world.

Featured columns

  • OPINION: Sun City satisfaction

    Strange as it may seem to most of us who live in Sun City, occasionally we encounter situations we consider inappropriate for our senior adult community.How best to deal with such encounters?Ever felt frustrated?Actually, there are many avenues of approach to seek resolution that will lead to continued member satisfaction. During my time as a board director I have learned a great deal about this process and those of us on the board and in management think our corporate documents and practices provide excellent answers and paths to help residents in need of answers.The board of directors hosts two meetings each month (except July and August) in which members may bring concerns, questions, requests, etc., to the board. The Director/Member Exchange is held on the second Monday of each month and our monthly board meeting is generally the last Thursday of the month. At each of these sessions, residents may engage in interchanges with directors or members of our senior management staff, and it is not unusual for us to follow up with additional information following the meetings.During the year there are tens of thousands of resident and guest visits to our recreation centers, golf courses and bowling centers. We would be naïve if we thought every one of these visits were conducted without occasional misunderstandings or conflicts.

  • Mobile wallets offer different way to pay

    Ever stand at a cashier fumbling through your overstuffed wallet for the right credit, debit or loyalty card? An end to the frustration may be on its way, according to Consumer Reports.For several years, a number of companies have been trying to get you to input the details of your payment cards into a “mobile wallet” — an app that is stored in your smartphone. Then you can make a payment from the card of your choice and even accrue applicable loyalty points simply by waving your smartphone over a card terminal.Problem is, there haven’t been many merchants that can actually read the data stored inside mobile wallets. Google Wallet, which was introduced in 2011, and Isis Wallet, backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless and launched nationwide in 2013, require merchants to have or buy equipment that includes a technology known as near field communication, which has not yet been widely adopted. As a result, Google Wallet and Isis Wallet work at only about 200,000 U.S. merchants compared with 12 to 15 million that take plastic.But now a new player, LoopWallet, launched in February, uses magnetic pulse technology that allows its mobile wallet to work with 90 percent of existing card readers. That might be enough critical mass for the technology to become a viable option. However, a lot of pieces still have to come together for mobile wallet technology. Allied Market Research, based in Portland, Oregon, projects that mobile payments will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 127.5 percent, reaching a global market size of more than $5 trillion by 2020.Should you consider making the switch to LoopWallet or one of the others? Here’s what Consumer Reports says to consider:• The benefit. More smartphone owners are finding that their handsets are a convenient payment device, with 30 percent using them to make online purchases, 24 percent to pay bills and 17 percent to pay for store purchases, according to a recent Federal Reserve study. Mobile wallets provide one more payment option in today’s cell-savvy world.

  • Limit usage of sweeteners

    Dear Dr. Blonz: I continue to hear that high-fructose corn syrup is a dangerous food additive that is much worse than regular sugar. Is this true? — J.B., Walnut Creek, CaliforniaDear J.B.: Let’s take a look at high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and compare it to “regular” sugar, also known as sucrose. Both are composed of the same two simple sugars (monosaccharides): glucose and fructose. In the case of sucrose, the two simple sugars are bound together, but in HFCS, they are not.This is an important characteristic, because fructose on its own is about 1.4 times as sweet as glucose. When bound to fructose as part of a sucrose molecule, the sweetness is less potent. Honey is also a 1:1 blend of glucose and fructose, but with honey, as with HFCS, the two are not bound; this explains why honey tastes sweeter than sucrose.The creation of HFCS begins with cornstarch, which is not noticeably sweet. Cornstarch is made up of long chains of glucose molecules all bound together. Cornstarch gets converted to corn syrup by breaking apart the individual glucose molecules. This gets done using a starch-digesting enzyme, similar to what goes on in our body when we eat starches.Corn syrup then gets converted to HFCS through the use of a specialized enzyme that converts glucose into fructose. Not all the glucose is typically converted, and the percentage in the final product depends on its intended use. A typical HFCS is about 55 percent fructose, 45 percent glucose. It is called a “high”-fructose corn syrup because standard corn syrup is primarily glucose.How does HFCS compare to sucrose? A study in the July 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at whether HFCS might not satisfy like other sweeteners, which could then lead to excess consumption (and an increased risk of obesity), but it found no differences between HFCS and sucrose. In the same journal in May 2008, they looked at the effects of beverages sweetened with HFCS, sucrose, fructose and glucose. The study reported no differences in a number of physiological measures, including 24-hour blood glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels. Another study in the December 2013 issue of Nutrition Research reported no significant difference in the metabolic effects of HFCS versus sucrose at low, medium or high levels of consumption.

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