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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  • Glendale council declines to revisit company’s billboard plan

    GLENDALE, Ariz. – If a Phoenix billboard company is to erect a pair of its billboards along Loop 101 in north Glendale, it will have to so do by resubmitting an application to the municipal officials.The City Council, by a margin of 4-3, decided Tuesday against considering rescinding its earlier denial of a request by Rose Law Group on behalf of Becker Boards to rezone a slice of Palm Canyon Business Park off the freeway near Bell Road in order to erect a pair of 85-foot-high static billboards there.The governing body, citing opposition from local residents and officials in neighboring Peoria, rejected the application by a 5-2 vote March 24.Councilman Gary Sherwood, one of two members supporting the request, asked for the matter to be reconsidered. He was supported by colleagues Norma Alvarez and Sammy Chavira. The business park lies within Sherwood’s council district, the Sahuaro District.Chavira, who originally voted against the application in March, said the billboards are an instrument for promoting business and promoting Glendale and would drive people there.“I’m a huge proponent when it comes to advertising for our city,” he said.

  • Group studies Civil War

    John W. Kohl and Joye Kohl will be the featured speakers at the Nov. 10 monthly meeting of the West Valley Genealogical Society.John Kohl received his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Oregon. Following a career in higher education, he retired from Montana State University as professor and dean emeritus. Joye Kohl is a graduate of the University of Wyoming, receiving a master’s degree from American University and her doctorate from Montana State University, where she also taught. She is a genealogist and writer of family histories.They have spent many years researching the Civil War and visiting all the sites and battlefields along the route of the Wisconsin C-3 Voluntary Infantry of John Christian, Kohl’s great-grandfather, and Jacob Cumley, his great-great grandfather.They will share their expertise through a presentation, “What Were Your Female Ancestors Doing During the Civil War — The Role of Women During the Civil War.”The meeting, followed by the speaker, is at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the First Presbyterian Church, 12225 N. 103 Ave., Sun City.  The meeting is open to anyone interested in pursuing their family history.The society, 12222 N. 111th Ave., Youngtown, is offering the following educational opportunities for November:

  • Dysart candidates address top issues

    Two Dysart Unified School District four-year seats are up for grabs on Nov. 4, with incumbents Tracy Sawyer-Sinkbeil and Blossom Tande seeking re-election and facing off with Spencer Bailey. Their bios and some of their views on key key issues follow:NAME: Spencer BaileyYEARS IN DISTRICT: 9 yearsOCCUPATION: OrthodontistTHREE MAIN ISSUES IN THE DISTRICT: Since moving to the district, I have seen many positive changes and improvements made. As a governing board member I would like to help the district improve in all areas so as to make the Dysart district the envy of school districts in the state of Arizona. As a governing board member, the responsibilities are to serve every resident and student of the Dysart district by:1. Developing district policies with extensive community involvement and then enforcing the implemented policies.

  • Symphony quartet offers preview at Rio Salado

    A sneak peek at the West Valley Symphony’s 2014/15 season and a performance by the symphony’s quartet awaits those who attend a free all-day community event offered by RISE Learning for Life, a part of Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center in  Surprise.Join maestro Cal Stewart Kellogg at 10 a.m. Friday at 12535 W. Smokey Drive, Surprise, for an overview of the upcoming season, including Great Early Romantics, the Holiday Season concert, Going Places, Romance is in the Air and Shall we Dance?The West Valley Symphony Quartet begins its performance at RISE at 1 p.m.RISE offers this community event annually to give the public a chance to experience classical music in an informal educational atmosphere. Because of the popularity of the event, persons planning to attend should RSVP at 480-377-4296.• The 26 classes scheduled at RISE include a look at the birth of the United States by retired history teacher Mike Dubin. The American Revolution class meets from 1-2 p.m. Tuesday.• Immunologist Dr. Enoc Hollemweuger discusses the basics of allergies, how they affect our lives and different approaches to treating and managing allergies at a RISE Learning for Life class beginning at 10 a.m. Oct. 29.

  • Surprise readies to rip out Bell Road median grass

    It’s fair to say the Surprise City Council was waterlogged during its Tuesday afternoon work session.And it was by choice. Assistant Public Works Director Terry Lowe examined the city’s water resources from four different angles and for nearly two hours.His presentations included the latest in Surprise’s efforts to create a storm water utility, overall direction of city water policies and the council water subcommittee and an overview of water conservation policies.Lowe and council members then discussed putting those water conservation policies into action in a way that would be most visible to residents and impactful to the short-term bottom line — by removing grass from medians on Bell Road west of Grand Avenue and replacing it with some sort of xeriscaping.“Removing the grass is a huge thing and it will set a good example,” Vice Mayor Skip Hall said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a constituent tell me, ‘You guys are on the water committee and you always talk about saving water. How about saving water on Bell Road.’”Right now grass medians cover about six miles of Bell, an area of about 460,000 square feet. Untreated Maricopa Water District water irrigated the medians, delivered by a system that Lowe said is well past its prime.

  • El Mirage mayor takes post with Arizona League

    El Mirage Mayor Lana Mook has been appointed to a policy committee of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.Mook will serve on the General Administration, Human Resources and Elections Committee.Mook was one of several appointees announced this week by Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, league president.“These municipal leaders will be essential in setting the league’s legislative priorities,” Mitchell said. “I appreciate their willingness to serve and am confident their leadership will bring forth the types of proposals that will ensure success not only for the league but for the State of Arizona.”The League of Arizona Cities and Towns is a voluntary association of all the 91 incorporated cities and towns in Arizona.

  • Arizona poised to purchase homes on freeway route

    PHOENIX (AP) — Plans for a 22-mile extension of the Loop 202 freeway around the Phoenix area's southern edge are nearing final approval, and the owners of about 200 homes have been told to get ready to find new places to live. "It's kind of sad because all my kids were born in this house," said James Voss, who bought his home in 2000. The proposed South Mountain Freeway would extend from Interstate 10 near the Ahwatukee section of southeast Phoenix to Interstate 10 on the metro area's west side. The project has been on the drawing boards for about 20 years, but the state Department of Transportation recently sent letters to people whose property lies in the path of the freeway. "The letter was just advising residents — specific residents — that their house was potentially in the right-of-way area for the proposed freeway and that they would soon be contacted by an appraiser to begin the process of appraising their home," ADOT spokesman Tim Tait said. However, Tait said the department won't begin actually buying properties until the Federal Highway Administration approves the project. ADOT expects federal approval for the $1.8 billion project early next year. That would set the stage for home demolition in 2015 and the start of freeway construction in 2016. Construction would take four or five years. "This really shouldn't be a startling revelation to any of the homeowners in the alignment," Tait said. "It's been well-known in the corridor that properties would have to be acquired." Kelly Roberts, a homeowner who received an ADOT letter, said she has conflicted feelings. "It was mixed feelings of a little bit of relief that this might be coming to an end, and then feelings of 'Oh, shoot, we're going to be displaced from our home,'" Roberts said.

  • Arizona activists defend ballot deliveries

    PHOENIX (AP) — A coalition of Arizona advocacy groups defended its practice Wednesday of dropping off early ballots for voters. The grassroots organizations are facing an outcry in the wake of surveillance video posted last week that shows a volunteer hand-delivering numerous ballots to a Maricopa County elections office a day before the Aug. 26 primary. "It's a nonstory. Nothing that they did was illegal," said Tony Navarrete, a spokesman for immigration advocacy group Promise Arizona. "It was them making the promise to voters that they were going to turn in their ballots during the primary." The video has been viewed more than 360,000 times on YouTube. A.J. LaFaro, the Republican Party's chairman for Maricopa County, said he witnessed the man, who is a canvasser for Citizens for a Better Arizona, dropping off a box full of ballots. Lafaro said "ballot harvesting" raises issues about the security of those ballots before they're counted, even though signatures on ballot envelopes are checked by election workers. "From the time those ballots are mailed to the time they're turned back in, lots of things can happen," LaFaro said. Ramiro Luna, Citizens for a Better Arizona field director, criticized LaFaro and others for referring to canvassers as "thugs." According to Luna, canvassers knock on doors —mostly in Hispanic communities — and encourage voters to participate. But they are trained not to touch a ballot or mark it in any way, he said. "The ballot is something we keep as sacred. It is between the voter and the election department. All we are doing is providing a service to make sure the ballot is counted and is turned in on time," Luna said. LaFaro acknowledged the Republican Party has been doing the same thing when it sends get-out-the-vote volunteers to canvass neighborhoods. "On occasion we offer to take their ballot and deliver it for them," LaFaro said. "If it's not illegal, we're going to make that offer." But he argued it was on a much smaller scale compared to Democratic-leaning groups. "We don't comprehend, nor do we subscribe to what we see out there on the progressive-socialist side," LaFaro said. "That gentleman bringing in several hundred ballots, what function does that serve? We still cannot comprehend why they do it." Maricopa County Elections spokesman Daniel Ruiz said there is no law covering how a ballot gets to the poll. What counts is whether the ballot is signed and the signature can be verified. However, voters who don't plan on mailing a ballot or dropping it off in person should make sure to give it to someone they trust, Ruiz added. LaFaro said he will urge the Legislature to change the law when it returns in January to make the process illegal. The collection of ballots by groups like Citizens for a Better Arizona has become an issue in the Arizona secretary of state's race. The practice would have been banned under a major 2013 election law rewrite that the Legislature repealed this year after opponents collected enough signatures to send it to the ballot. "I see no reason why any individual, whether it's a candidate themselves, a campaign operative, a party individual, myself, you, anybody, should be in possession of an extraordinary number of ballots," Republican candidate Michele Reagan said at an Oct. 7 debate. "It creates a system where there is an opportunity for fraud, and that is not acceptable." Democrat Terry Goddard agreed that banning mass collections should be considered, within limits. "I agree that what Sen. Reagan occasionally calls harvesting is wrong and whatever that means should be abolished," Goddard said, while warning that not all collections should be banned. "Let's look carefully before we jump, because the thing at stake is your right and my right to vote, and it seems to me that under every circumstance we ought to protect that right."

  • Arpaio's lawyers pan critique of investigations

    PHOENIX (AP) — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office says a court-appointed official's critique of the agency's investigation into alleged wrongdoing by some of its officers contains mischaracterizations. Arpaio's lawyers say in court papers Tuesday that the report alleges investigators failed to act on information provided to them while they examined shakedown allegations against a former deputy. It also says supervisors of the deputy, whose arrest led to the investigations, didn't take appropriate action against him. The report has not been released to the public. The lawyers say the document unfairly suggested the sheriff's department wasn't investigating allegations in good faith, and that the criticism centers on the fact that no criminal charges have been filed against officers. "Such a conclusion, especially given the genesis of this particular investigation, presumes the guilt of MCSO deputies," the attorneys wrote. The critique was made by Robert Warshaw, who was appointed to monitor the agency by a judge who ruled Arpaio's officers have racially profiled Latinos in its patrols. The judge asked Warshaw to investigate allegations against a witness in the profiling case, now-deceased deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz. Eighteen months after the profiling trial, Armendariz was accused of shaking down immigrants who are in the country illegally. Armendariz was arrested five months ago after investigators found driver's licenses, wallets belonging to other people, bags of evidence and more than 100 license plates at his Phoenix home. Another discovery at Armendariz's home involved an estimated 900 hours of videos taken from cameras mounted on his eyeglasses and dashboard that were supposed to be turned over in the profiling case. Armendariz told investigators he was innocent, and he implicated former colleagues on Arpaio's immigrant smuggling squad. After his arrest, Armendariz resigned and was later found dead in his home in a suicide by hanging, officials say. Warshaw's report on the investigation into Armendariz's allegations hasn't been publicly released. The sheriff's office has repeatedly denied requests by The Associated Press for updates on the investigations, and investigative reports and related documents sought through public records requests haven't been released. The attorneys who pressed the racial profiling case against Arpaio's office filed a response to Warshaw's report, but that filing is under a court seal. The American Civil Liberties Union, the driving force behind the profiling case, declined to comment on the filing by Arpaio's lawyers. The sheriff's office says in its latest filing that nearly 9,000 videos taken by officers during the course of their work have been collected in the investigation. It says the videos have generated 39 internal investigations. Arpaio's lawyers said Warshaw's criticism underscores the monitor's misunderstanding about the distinction between investigations that examine criminal allegations and those that focus on policy violations. The sheriff's office also said the monitor alleged that Armendariz's supervisors failed to take administrative action against him. Arpaio's lawyers said it already has an administrative investigation into the matter. U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ordered that a copy of Warshaw's report be sent to county and federal prosecutors. He set a Tuesday hearing to discuss the critique. Arpaio's attorneys have asked the judge to close discussions of the Armendariz investigations, while opposing lawyers said they should be open to the public.

  • Blackwater guards found guilty in Iraq shootings

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Four former Blackwater security guards were convicted Wednesday in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad, an incident that inflamed anti-American sentiment around the globe and was denounced by critics as an illustration of a war gone horribly wrong. The men claimed self-defense, but federal prosecutors argued that they had shown "a grave indifference" to the carnage their actions would cause. All four were ordered immediately to jail. Their lawyers are promising to file appeals. The judge did not immediately set a sentencing date. The federal jury found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder, the most serious charge in a multi-count indictment. The three other guards — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were found guilty of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun violations. The outcome after a summer-long trial and weeks of jury deliberation appeared to stun the defense. David Schertler, a lawyer for Heard, said, "The verdict is wrong, it's incomprehensible. We're devastated. We're going to fight it every step of the way. We still think we're going to win." However, one of those struck by gunfire in the shootings, Hassan Jabir, said in Baghdad that "at last we are hearing good news where justice has been achieved and Blackwater will receive their punishment." He said there are two bullets still inside his body, one in his hand and one in his back, which doctors have said it would be very risky to remove. The shootings on Sept. 16, 2007, caused an international uproar over the role of defense contractors in urban warfare. The State Department had hired Blackwater to protect American diplomats in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, and elsewhere in the country. Blackwater convoys of four heavily armored vehicles operated in risky environments where car bombs and attacks by insurgents were common. On the murder charge, Slatten could face a maximum penalty of life in prison. The other three defendants could face decades behind bars. The case was mired in legal battles for years, making it uncertain whether the defendants would ever be tried. The trial itself focused on the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others. During an 11-week trial, prosecutors summoned 72 witnesses, including Iraqi victims, their families and former colleagues of the defendant Blackwater guards. There was sharp disagreement over the facts in the case. The defendants' lawyers said there was strong evidence the guards were targeted with gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police, leading the guards to shoot back in self-defense. Federal prosecutors said there was no incoming gunfire and that the shootings by the guards were unprovoked. The prosecution contended that some of the Blackwater guards harbored a low regard and deep hostility toward Iraqi civilians. The guards, the prosecution said, held "a grave indifference" to the death and injury that their actions probably would cause Iraqis. Several former Blackwater guards testified that they had been generally distrustful of Iraqis, based on experience the guards said they had had in being led into ambushes. The four men had been charged with a combined 32 counts in the shootings and the jury was able to reach a verdict on all of them, with the exception of three against Heard. The prosecution agreed to drop those charges. Slough was convicted of 13 counts of voluntary manslaughter and 17 counts of attempted manslaughter. Liberty was convicted of eight counts of voluntary manslaughter and 12 counts of attempted manslaughter. Heard was convicted of six counts of voluntary manslaughter and 11 counts of attempted manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and attempted manslaughter carries a maximum seven years in prison. All three were also convicted on gun charges that carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison. Prosecutors said that from a vantage point inside his convoy's command vehicle, Slatten aimed his SR-25 sniper rifle through a gun portal, killing the driver of a stopped white Kia sedan, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia'y. At the trial, two Iraqi traffic officers and one of the shooting victims testified the car was stopped at the time the shots were fired. The assertion that the car was stopped supported the prosecution argument that the shots were unwarranted. Defense lawyers pressed their argument that other Blackwater guards — not Slatten — fired the first shots at the Kia sedan and that they did so only after the vehicle moved slowly toward the convoy, posing what appeared to be a threat to the Blackwater guards' safety. Once the shooting started, hundreds of Iraqi citizens ran for their lives. It was "gunfire coming from the left, gunfire coming from the right," prosecutor Anthony Asuncion told the jury in closing arguments. One of the government witnesses in the case, Blackwater guard Jeremy Ridgeway, had pleaded guilty to killing the driver's mother, who died in the passenger seat of the white Kia next to her son. After Wednesday's verdict, Liberty's attorney William Coffield said he expected to appeal. Among the grounds for doing so would be an issue involving the law under which the defendants were charged, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. Defense lawyers say that law should not apply because the guards were contractors for the State Department, not the Pentagon.

  • Probe: UNC academic fraud was 'shadow curriculum'

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, encompassing about 1,500 athletes who got easy As and Bs over a span of nearly two decades, according to an investigation released Wednesday. At least nine university employees were fired or under disciplinary review, and the question now becomes what, if anything, the NCAA will do next. Penalties could range from fewer scholarships to vacated wins. Most of the athletes were football players or members of the school's cherished basketball program, which won three of its five national titles during the scandal (1993, 2005, 2009). Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham wouldn't speculate on any possible sanctions. "We'll work with the NCAA and work through the report with them as part of our ongoing investigation," Cunningham said. "That's going to take some time." In all, about 3,100 students enrolled in classes they didn't have to show up for in what was deemed a "shadow curriculum" within the former African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department from 1993 to 2011, the report by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein found. Many at the university hoped Wainstein's eight-month investigation would bring some closure. Instead, it found more academic fraud than previous investigations by the NCAA and the school. The UNC case stands out among academic scandals at Harvard, Duke and the Naval Academy, said Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education who studies cheating. "I think the existence of fake classes and automatic grades — you might say an athlete track, where essentially you might as well not have the university at all — I think that's pretty extreme. I hope it's pretty extreme," he said. The scandal reached back to the final years of legendary men's basketball coach Dean Smith's tenure, as well as Mack Brown's time as football coach before leaving for Texas and John Swofford's stint as athletic director before becoming Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner. The NCAA reopened its probe over the summer. Cunningham said the school had no immediate plans to impose its own penalties as it did during an NCAA investigation into the football program that began in 2010. The school and the NCAA said in a joint statement they would review Wainstein's report "under the same standards that are applied in all NCAA infractions cases." They declined to comment on possible rules violations. The focus was courses that required only a research paper that was often scanned quickly by a secretary, who gave out high grades regardless of the quality of work. The report also outlined how counselors for athletes steered struggling students to the classes, with two counselors even suggesting grades. Several knew the courses were easy and didn't have an instructor. Chancellor Carol Folt wouldn't identify the terminated employees or those facing disciplinary review. "I think it's very clear that this is an academic, an athletic and a university problem," Folt said. Wainstein's report said it found no evidence of similar problems in other departments. In addition, Hall of Fame men's basketball coach Roy Williams and other current coaches said they were aware there were independent study courses offering easy grades, but they didn't know the classes were fake. Wainstein said he found no reason not to believe them. Faculty and administration officials missed or looked past red flags, such as unusually high numbers of independent study course enrollments in the department, the report said. "By the mid-2000s, these classes had become a primary — if not the primary — way that struggling athletes kept themselves from having eligibility problems," the report said. Unlike previous inquiries by former Gov. Jim Martin and the school, Wainstein had the cooperation of former department chairman Julius Nyang'oro and retired office administrator Deborah Crowder — the two people at the center of the scandal. Nyang'oro was indicted in December on a felony fraud charge, though it was dropped after he agreed to cooperate with Wainstein's probe. Crowder was never charged. It was Crowder who started the paper classes to help struggling students with "watered-down requirements" not long after Nyang'oro became chairman in 1992, according to the report. Though not a faculty member, she registered students for the courses, assigned topics and handed out high grades regardless of the work and also signed Nyang'oro's name to grade rolls. By 1999, in an apparent effort to work around the number of independent studies students could take, Crowder began offering lecture classes that didn't meet. After her retirement in 2009, Nyang'oro met requests from football counselors to continue the sham classes and graded papers "with an eye to boosting" a student's grade-point average, according to the report. He stepped down in 2011 as questions were raised. Beth Bridger, one of the former football counselors named in Wainstein's report, was fired Wednesday as an academic adviser for athletes at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. A school spokeswoman Janine Iamunno said it would not comment further. Bridger was hired there in January.

  • 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.

  • 'Red Death' musical set to works of Edgar Allan Poe

    Ghostlight Theatre will present “The Red Death: Musical Stories from Edgar Allan Poe.”The show is a new, contemporary musical based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Daniel Tenney, local composer and playwright, has taken four of Poe’s short stories and adapted them into a musical. Inspired by composers such as Steven Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown, Tenney’s version of the classic stories is at once spooky and poignant.“The Red Death” includes classic tales such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Masque of the Red Death,” as well as lesser-known works by Poe. The show is fun and scary, tragic and moving -- perfect for Halloween. “The Red Death: Musical Stories from Edgar Allan Poe” runs Saturday through Nov. 1.Tickets are $12 for general admission and $8 for students, and are available at showtix4u.com, the Ghostlight Theatre box office, 13541 W. Camino del Sol, Sun City West, or by calling 1-866-967-8167.

  • Symphony quartet offers preview at Rio Salado

    A sneak peek at the West Valley Symphony’s 2014/15 season and a performance by the symphony’s quartet awaits those who attend a free all-day community event offered by RISE Learning for Life, a part of Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center in  Surprise.Join maestro Cal Stewart Kellogg at 10 a.m. Friday at 12535 W. Smokey Drive, Surprise, for an overview of the upcoming season, including Great Early Romantics, the Holiday Season concert, Going Places, Romance is in the Air and Shall we Dance?The West Valley Symphony Quartet begins its performance at RISE at 1 p.m.RISE offers this community event annually to give the public a chance to experience classical music in an informal educational atmosphere. Because of the popularity of the event, persons planning to attend should RSVP at 480-377-4296.• The 26 classes scheduled at RISE include a look at the birth of the United States by retired history teacher Mike Dubin. The American Revolution class meets from 1-2 p.m. Tuesday.• Immunologist Dr. Enoc Hollemweuger discusses the basics of allergies, how they affect our lives and different approaches to treating and managing allergies at a RISE Learning for Life class beginning at 10 a.m. Oct. 29.

  • Art exhibit examines what is ‘Western’

    The Desert Caballeros Western Museum in historic downtown Wickenburg will host a solo exhibition by renowned artist Doug Smith.  Titled, “Is it Western?: Far from Somewhere, Paintings by Doug Smith,” this exhibition will incite dialogue about what it means to be “Western” and broadening perceptions of what is “Western” in the 21st century. The show is open to the public with paid admission and continues through Dec. 14.Born and raised in San Francisco, Smith was fortunate to have creative parents who recognized his talent from an early age and encouraged him to pursue his art. His mother, herself an accomplished impressionist painter, exposed him to the wealth of San Francisco’s art exhibitions as a youngster, introducing him to the masters in their regular visits to the city’s outstanding museums. By age 9, he had sold his first oil painting.Smith received his first formal artistic instruction at San Francisco City College as a fine art major. He then furthered his education at San Francisco Academy of Art University. At 19, he participated in his first group exhibition in the city’s Artist Cooperative Gallery.After service in the U.S. Army, Smith returned to San Francisco and joined a firm as a graphic designer. The company relocated to Southern California and he continued his training at the Art Center College of Design and the California Art Institute.Throughout his career in graphic design and art direction, Smith continued to paint and allowed his artistic “voice” to evolve. In 2000, he made the transition to focusing full time on his passion for painting.

  • 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.

  • Soured Apple, glass maker deal to remain secret

    PHOENIX (AP) — Apple Inc. has reached a deal with a synthetic sapphire glass maker that will allow details of contracts between the companies and the business problems that led GT Advanced Technologies to a financial crisis to remain secret. A Tuesday filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Hampshire shows a settlement that will allow sealed documents filed by GT's chief operating officer and Apple last week to be withdrawn and all copies destroyed. Apple hasn't commented beyond saying it was surprised by the bankruptcy filings and was working to retain jobs at the plant. GT is shutting down a new sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona, and laying off 724 workers. Apple advanced GT $429 million to outfit the plant under a contract announced last November.

Featured columns

  • 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.

  • OPINION: The Romney revival

    Run, Mitt, run.” That was the chant as Mitt Romney appeared at a rally for Joni Ernst, the Republican Senate candidate in Iowa. The 2012 GOP standard-bearer hears those words a lot as he campaigns around the country this fall, and they trigger two questions.Will he run? Can he win?“I’m not running for office,” Romney insisted in Iowa. And his wife, Ann, reiterated this week that the family was “done, done, done” with presidential politics.And yet. Romney really believed that he would win two years ago, and there have to be long days — and late nights — when the dream comes creeping back and won’t quite die. Remember the adage popularized by the late Mo Udall, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in 1976 against Jimmy Carter: “The only cure for presidentialitis is embalming fluid.”And Romney has gotten a lot of encouragement lately. In a Des Moines Register poll, he was the only Republican to lead Hillary Clinton in Iowa, a state Barack Obama won twice.More seriously, a huge vacuum is starting to emerge in what might be called the PEC sector: the Pragmatic-Establishment-Centrist wing of the Republican Party. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey wants to run, but his brand has been blemished by the George Washington Bridge scandal. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, seems gripped by a case of terminal indecision.

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