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Legislative roundup: service animals, higher education, texting and driving,

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The legislature hosted a number of special guests this week at the Capitol. Service dogs and owners patrolled the grounds and Senate building on Monday and Wednesday. A bill prohibiting teenagers from using wireless communication devices while driving passed a House of Representatives committee on Tuesday. Thursday was Arizona African-American Legislative Conference Day. Members of the Arizona Commission of African Affairs shared concerns and conducted a ceremonial session in the Senate that included a State of Black Arizona address. Presidents for the Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona met at a House higher education committee to discuss budget cuts and policy initiative. 14th Annual Arizona African-American Legislative and Leadership Conference The state established the Arizona Commission on African-American Affairs in 2010. Former District 27 Sen. Leah Taylor, D-Phoenix, sponsored the bill that established an office...

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Artists shine at the Tucson Gem Show

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Walking across any desert in the world, one could find rocks and fossils of many kinds, but every late January in one specific desert, some of the most dazzling and largest rocks–often with the hidden treasures of crystals inside–are found in the desert of Tucson. The Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase features 45 different shows held in large white tents and hotel rooms across Tucson. The event brought in $120 million to the Tucson region in 2014, according to Dan Gibson, the director of communications for Visit Tucson, and this year’s showcase expects an attendance rate of about 50,000 people. “It’s such a big deal for our community because it puts us on the map for two weeks,” Gibson said.  What makes the gem showcase unique is the people from many different cultures and countries who come to...

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Wineries lobby to loosen regulations as business booms

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SONOITA — Todd and Kelly Bostock are busy at work among empty boxes and wood barrels of wine. The two owners of Dos Cabezas WineWorks are bottling caseloads of wine in a small warehouse off Highway 82, where last year they produced more than 16,000 gallons of their products. A short drive away, dotted across the rolling landscape of Sonoita and Elgin, a dozen other wineries are at work with tasting rooms open to tourists visiting the areas. Dos Cabezas and the other wineries here are part of a burgeoning wine industry taking shape across Arizona — an industry that has been increasingly flexing its muscle as it lobbies to reduce regulations placed on its business. The latest effort involves legislation that would remove a requirement that larger wineries use a distributor to sell to their customers. Led by Sen....

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Rangers return: Volunteer officers bring back Old West

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Rounding the wooden barricade outside the Bird Cage Theater, the ranger stopped mid-strut at a call for assistance. “We’re stuck,” said a man in his 40s, motioning across the street to his gold SUV blocked in by cars, trucks and motorcycles on all sides. The ranger, Duty Sgt. Dan Fischer, and partner Jim Politi quickly crossed the street to inspect the situation. Fischer joked that the man should just drive straight over the motorcycle to get out and flashed a big smile under his grayed mustache. The rangers laughed, as Fischer stepped aside to radio the Tombstone Marshal’s Office. A minute later, red and blue lights flashing, Deputy Marshal Chris Robison pulled up to the scene and ordered the owners of two trucks behind the SUV to move their vehicles. Problem solved. Fischer and Politi resumed their four-block foot patrol. “And that’s how it works with...

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Lack of AP class funding in rural Arizona

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Many rural Arizona schools lack the proper funds to start or expand their AP programs, including Tombstone High School, which lacks any such classes, and educators say this can be a serious detriment to students preparing for college. “We used to want the kids to go to college and be successful,” said Andrea Overman, Douglas High School principal. “Now we have to think more globally… That’s where the value of the AP classes could be, that they really level the playing field for our kids in a small community.” More funding could help these smaller schools grow and maintain their Advanced Placement programs. In Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address, he proposed $6 million for incentives of college prep programs such as AP classes to help students prepare and succeed in college. Rural schools in Southeastern Arizona average about nine...

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Legality of new Tombstone gun ordinance disputed

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A new Tombstone city ordinance lets staged gunfights resume, but some question whether it violates established state gun laws. The gunfight performances Tombstone is famous for had been on a hiatus since an accident in October of last year. During Helldorado Days, one of the city’s largest events, a live round struck an actor from The Tombstone Vigilantes in the groin and a bullet fragment hit a nearby audience member. The actor forgot to check his gun beforehand and load it with blanks, instead of ammunition. Now, the shows have started up again after the City Council passed a new ordinance regulating the gun shows on Jan. 12. The key points of the ordinance state that performers must have an armorer load and check all guns with blanks, a physical barrier must be set up between the actors and...

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The big hole of Bisbee

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Left with a hole, what’s a town to do? Bisbee – with its tunnel, red rock, hippies, stairs, the Copper Queen Hotel, motorcycle geeks singing Fleetwood Mac, slag, the coffee roaster with dreadlocks – is here because of a mile-wide hole on the town’s edge. The city built quickly around a hill that mining tore open. Now residents live looking away from Bisbee’s ugly side, preserving what’s pretty, decorating a wasteland. Bisbee’s big hole, made up of three open-pit mines — Sacramento, Lavender and Holbrook — that began a century ago, is an eyesore but one of the town’s greatest attractions. Closed since the 1970s, and surrounded with a rust-colored fence topped with multiple layers of barbed wire, the big hole is 4,000 feet from east to west, 5,000 feet from north to south, and 850 feet at its deepest. The hole is a...

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Zika isn’t the only mosquito-borne disease to be worried about

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The Zika virus is taking one country at a time, and although the mosquito that carries the virus is present in Arizona, the mosquitoes here do not carry the virus. The mosquito-borne virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also the main vector for dengue and chikungunya, and has also been detected of carrying the West Nile Virus. Arizona is one of the states in the U.S. that the mosquito considers home, said Dr. Laura Adams, epidemiology field officer with the Arizona Department of Health Services. “We have healthy population of Aedes aegypti here in Tucson,” said Michael Riehle, an associate professor of entomology at the University of Arizona who researches and studies the mosquito. “Certainly if somebody is infected with Zika virus and comes into Arizona, our local mosquitoes can pick it up and transmit it.”...

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Native American artists break down stereotypes

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Consider the ubiquitous sepia portrait of an American Indian, donned in an elaborate headdress,  embodying a kind of displaced dignity. This image irks Will Wilson. The stereotypical depiction dates back to Edward S. Curtis, the celebrated photographer of the early 20th century. Curtis created an extensive body of photos intended to portray Native Americans as they actually were. Yet his sentimentalized lens captured the fantasy of Americans and arguably served to further displace indigenous cultures from the norm. Wilson, an indigenous photographer, combats this romanticism with his own collection of Native American portraits. His work subverts stereotypes, yet as a contemporary indigenous artist, Wilson himself defies stereotypes of the types of artwork that Native Americans “should” produce. He is part of a larger group of native artists that rejects the frozen ideals of Native American art as painted clay pots and...

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The uncharacteristic environment of the Rió Yaqui basin

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Nestled in the Rió Yaqui basin 19 miles east of Douglas, down Geronimo Trail, is an ecological wonder unknown to many. This unique area where Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico meet is the result of four vastly different ecological regions colliding. The Sierra Madres, Rocky Mountains, Sonora Desert, and Chihuahua Desert converge to form an uncommon wetland in an area where water is scarce. In 1982, the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge was established to help protect this oasis tucked into Arizona’s southeast corner. “The most unique thing about the refuge is the amount of water,” said Christopher Lohrengel, assistant manager of San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, “You don’t see that in Arizona outside of the Colorado River.” Small rivers and streams branching off the Rió Yaqui in Mexico provide this area with water. Due to the abundance of water, the...

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