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Valley & State

  • 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, 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.

  • 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.


  • Teacher tried to stop Washington state shooting

    TULALIP, Wash. (AP) — A newly hired teacher confronted a gunman and was being hailed as a hero on Saturday after a deadly shooting rampage in the cafeteria of a Washington state high school. First-year social studies teacher Megan Silberberger intervened in the attack Friday at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, teachers union president Randy Davis said. The teacher intercepted the gunman as he paused, possibly to reload, student Erick Cervantes told KIRO-TV. "I'm completely amazed by her actions and I feel for her," Davis told The Associated Press. "I don't know why she was in the cafeteria but I'm just grateful she was there." The attacker killed one girl on Friday and seriously wounded four others — including two of his cousins — before he died of what police said was a self-inflicted wound. However, it wasn't clear if the shooter committed suicide or if he accidentally shot himself in the struggle with the teacher. A school resource officer also ran to the scene, Davis said. The shooter was Jaylen Fryberg, a popular freshman at the school, a government official with direct knowledge of the shooting told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Students and parents said Fryberg was a member of a prominent family from the nearby Tulalip Indian tribes and a freshman who played on the high school football team. He was introduced at a football game as a prince in the 2014 Homecoming court. Fryberg left months of troubling messages on social media, and friends said he'd recently been in a fight over a girl. One of his tweets said, "It breaks me ... It actually does ..." The tight-knit Native American community on scenic Puget Sound struggled to cope with the tragedy. Davis said he had spoken briefly with Silberberger, who was traumatized. The Marysville School District released a statement from her. "While I am thankful and grateful for the support from everyone, at this time I am requesting privacy for myself and my family," Silberberger said. Students said the gunman stared at his victims as he fired. The shootings set off chaos as students ran outside in a frantic dash to safety, while others huddled inside classrooms. Lucas Thorington, 14, had known the victims and the shooter since middle school. "He had a good life. He was very well known," Thorington said Saturday. "I don't know what happened." Authorities said a .40-caliber handgun was recovered at the shooting scene. Three of the victims had head wounds and were in critical condition Saturday. Two 14-year-old girls were at Providence Everett Medical Center, and were identified by the facility as Shaylee Chucklenaskit and Gia Soriano. Andrew Fryberg, 15, was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a hospital official said. Providence said the next three days will be key in the girls' treatment. Soriano's family released a statement, saying they appreciated "your thoughts and prayers. Our hearts go out to the other victims and their families." Another victim, 14-year-old Nate Hatch, was listed in serious condition at Harborview, the hospital said. Family members told KIRO that Andrew Fryberg, Hatch and Jaylen Fryberg are cousins. Two other students were treated at the high school for minor wounds, authorities said. Witnesses described the shooter as methodical inside the cafeteria. "I heard six shots go off, and I turned and saw people diving under the tables," said 18-year-old Isabella MacKeige. "I thought, 'Run!'" Marysville-Pilchuck High School has a number of students from the Tulalip Indian tribes. The reservation juts into the eastern rim of Puget Sound, where a series of rocky beaches form its border. State Sen. John McCoy, a tribal member, said the community met in private Friday night and a prayer service was set for Saturday. McCoy said the shooter's grandmother was his secretary for about 15 years. "The family, both sides, are very religious," he said. "If I were to walk into their homes right now, they would probably be praying." McCoy said everyone is searching for answers. "What triggered him? That's what we need to find out," he said. "Because from all we have determined, he was a happy-go-lucky, normal kid."

  • Complex investigation follows killing of deputies

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — More than 100 law-enforcement officers from across Northern California responded without being asked after hearing that one of their own had been killed at the start of a shooting rampage, a sheriff's spokeswoman said Saturday. Federal, state and local officers eventually swarmed six separate crime scenes across a 30-mile region encompassing two counties, Placer County sheriff's spokeswoman Dena Erwin said. "It was an amazing response," Erwin said. "We don't call for those people, they just show up on their own because they know a fellow officer has been shot." The officers will all be questioned as part of the complex, ongoing investigation into the attack Friday that ended after two deputies were dead and two other victims were wounded. Investigators spent Saturday at the multiple crime scenes "trying to kind of sort through the chaos so we can methodically rebuild this," Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner said. Two suspects were questioned for hours as authorities sought a motive for the shootings that began when Sacramento County sheriff's Deputy Danny Oliver, 47, was shot in the forehead with an assault rifle at close range as he checked out a suspicious car in a motel parking lot. Deputies suspect the shooter was 34-year-old Marcelo Marquez of Salt Lake City, who was being held without bail on suspicion of two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of carjacking. His wife, 38-year-old Janelle Marquez Monroy, was in custody on suspicion of attempted murder and two counts of carjacking. The suspects have talked to investigators, Bonner said, but what sparked the shootings remained unclear. "'Why,' I guess, will remain a question for a long time," he said. "Why was his reaction so violent?" It was also unclear what brought the heavily armed suspects from Utah to California, Bonner said. There were no indications they had been sought by authorities. No attorneys were listed for either suspect in jail records. Krista Sorenson of Salt Lake City was confounded by the arrest of Marquez. He and his brother had mowed her lawn about four years ago. "They were just super nice, decent hard-working, trying to figure out how to make a living," she said. Oliver, a 15-year veteran of the department, left a wife and two daughters. After he was killed, the gunman shot Anthony Holmes, 38, of Sacramento at least twice, including once in the head, during an attempted carjacking. He was in fair condition. The attackers then stole a pickup truck and fled about 30 miles northeast into neighboring Placer County. Two deputies who approached the pickup while it was parked alongside a road were shot with an AR-15-type assault weapon and never had a chance to return fire, Erwin said. Homicide Detective Michael David Davis Jr., 42, died at a hospital 26 years to the day after his father, for whom he was named, died in the line of duty as a Riverside County deputy. Deputy Jeff Davis was treated for a gunshot wound to the arm. The two deputies are not related. Several dozen law enforcement vehicles, with lights silently flashing, escorted a hearse carrying Michael Davis' flag-draped casket to a funeral home as bystanders and law enforcement officials hugged, saluted and wiped away tears. "It's a nightmare for all of us," Bonner said. He recalled Davis as a well-liked investigator who once took it upon himself to organize a funeral for an abandoned baby. "He saw it, his heart ached, and he did something about it," Bonner said. "That's who he was." Davis' wife works as an evidence technician for the department and his brother is a sergeant. "Mike was quite a character," Erwin said. "He was very funny. He didn't take things very seriously, maybe because he was a homicide detective for so long." A search of Utah court records for Marquez shows a history of about 10 tickets and misdemeanor traffic offenses between 2003 and 2009. Those records list one speeding ticket for Monroy in 2009 and three small claims filings attempting to collect outstanding debts.

  • Poll: 2 of 3 Americans say IS threat is important

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Sixty-five percent of Americans now say the threat from the Islamic State group is very or even extremely important, and nearly half think the U.S. military response in Iraq and Syria has not gone far enough, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. Most want to see America's partners step up their contribution to the fight, Less than half, 43 percent, approve of the way President Barack Obama is handling the danger posed by the extremist militants. Greg Franke, 24, of Columbia, South Carolina, was among the 55 percent of those who disapproved. Franke, a 24-year-old assistant editor at a research library, said he thought Obama was too hesitant in responding to the militants, who have employed brutal tactics to swiftly seize territory. "I understand the need to be hesitant, but this was a group that was marching across parts of the Middle East, which is already unstable," Franke said. "I think it warranted a swift and more decisive response." "I also think that his declaration that U.S. troops would not be involved was premature," he said. "I don't want U.S. troops involved. But I don't think we need to close doors." A majority, 66 percent, favor the airstrikes the United States has been launching against the militants, yet 65 percent of those surveyed say Obama has not clearly explained America's goal in fighting the Islamic State group. The president met with his national security team on Friday to discuss the Islamic State and talk via video teleconference with U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Baghdad and consulates in Irbil and Basra. Here's a look at the poll: IS ENOUGH BEING DONE? Forty-six percent said the U.S. military response has not gone far enough — up from 40 percent in September. Fifty-six percent said the military response from countries that have joined the U.S. in the fight against Islamic State militants has not gone far enough. The U.S. and partner countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have been bombing Islamic State targets since August. "It shouldn't just be us. It shouldn't just be 'Oh, the United States is policing.' It should be everyone is there policing and everybody believes this is wrong and everyone — worldwide — is trying to stop this," said Kathy Robinson, 24, a Sterling, Virginia, woman who works at an information technology company. At the same time, she thinks the United States eventually will put troops on the ground in the region "just to make sure nothing starts back up — to keep the peace." Only 32 percent think Obama has done a good job in clearly stating U.S. policy against the IS group. More than six in 10 of them think it's either not likely or only moderately likely that the U.S. and its partners will achieve their goal in fighting IS. ___ ARE AMERICANS FOLLOWING DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ, SYRIA? While 47 percent of those surveyed said there's a very or extremely high risk of another terror attack inside the United States, just a third said they have been keenly following the news about the U.S. military action against IS. An additional 38 percent said they were following the action somewhat closely, and 31 percent said they were keeping up not too closely or not closely at all. ___ DO PEOPLE SUPPORT THE AIRSTRIKES? While Americans support the airstrike, when it comes to supporting the idea of deploying U.S. ground troops, respondents were more guarded. Thirty-seven percent said they opposed putting American forces on the ground, 33 percent favored the idea and 28 percent said they were neither for nor against it. Obama has said repeatedly that he has no plans to send ground troops to Iraq or Syria. However, 28 percent thought it was very or extremely likely that he would, and an additional 45 percent thought it was moderately likely. Just 24 percent said it was not likely. Michael Rainwater, 64, of Sammanish, Washington, doesn't particularly want to see U.S. troops sent in, but thinks they might be deployed at some point. "I think all of these things tend to escalate," he said. "You can't keep pouring fuel on the fire and expect the fire to get smaller. So every time we bomb or send in armed drones, you are creating more terrorists." He does not think, though, that the Islamic State is in a position to mount a 9/11-style attack against the U.S. Said Rainwater, a retired software company owner: "It is more of a criminal entity because basically what they are doing is kidnapping people for ransom, taking over oil refineries for the income." The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Oct. 16-20 using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,608 adults, and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for all respondents. Respondents were selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were given free access.

Featured columns

  • Protect privacy when browsing Internet

    Last week, we began to cover the topic of the ways to limit the risks of loss of privacy via browsing the Internet. This week we will continue by revealing some of the methods available to make our browsing more secure from spying that is a very real threat.We have all been told about the foolishness of some young (and not so young) people putting racy pictures of themselves on Facebook, posting personal information in text messages or revealing family information on Twitter. There is not much that can be done to protect people from “shooting themselves in the foot” short of abridging their rights to free speech.Our goal is to help the many innocent people who try to use the Internet for its abundant informational power. Just like in olden times, innocent people become victims of avaricious merchants and dangerous criminals when they leave civilization traveling alone. Unfortunately, much of the Internet is uncivilized.When you browse the Internet, just your searching for websites that can provide you with bargains or useful information is revealed. Merchants want to know what you are searching for. They want to know what you want to buy, what brands you like, how much money you are willing to spend and all related information. Criminals want to know where you live. where you bank, and your identity numbers that will allow them to take money out of your accounts by pretending to be you.Your IP address flows through the network from your computer, through your Internet Service Provider and many, many routers on the way to your targeted website. When you get to that website, the owner can create a cookie and leave it on your own computer to collect data on your browsing activities. Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask and others collect information about what you are searching for. Your IP address provides the start of finding where you are browsing from. By patiently collecting information that flows from you over the Internet to sites you visit can ultimately reveal who, what and where you are.Browsing anonymously is the only way to keep your presence away from people who want to know all about you. To browse anonymously comes down to two essential components of your system for connecting to the Internet,  

  • 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.

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