Families of the Fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots Are Not Getting the Answers They Need

Categories: News analysis

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Graham Smith
If anyone knows why the Granite Mountain Hotshots left a safe area on top of the Weaver Mountains west of Yarnell and descended into a box canyon that became the worst death trap in the nationwide history of such crews, it's Brendan McDonough.

The only survivor of the 20-member hotshot crew that perished in the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013, McDonough, 23, is in the unique position to have heard some, if not all, of the discussions between Granite Mountain Supervisor Eric Marsh and Captain Jesse Steed in the moments before Marsh, Steed, and the others died.

What McDonough heard could explain why the crew moved off the mountain and whether it was ordered to do so by fire commanders. But McDonough isn't speaking publicly, and two state-sponsored investigations into the tragedy have shed no light on what he heard over Granite Mountain's intra-crew radio channel.


For complete coverage of the aftermath of the Yarnell Hill Fire, visit our Special Reports page.

His silence has angered one widow who believes it's time for McDonough to share what he knows.

"The answers I've received from him are brief, and clearly he's been coached," Juliann Ashcraft writes in reply to an e-mail sent to 12 families who are plaintiffs in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Arizona Forestry Division, the Central Yavapai Fire District, and individual fire commanders.

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Innocents Hassled by the MCSO in MLB Caper

Categories: News analysis

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Matthew Hendley
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office last year initiated an intense traffic stop on an innocent Prescott Valley family while deputies were helping Major League Baseball chase a suspect in an alleged game-fixing scandal.

Plainclothes MCSO deputies went to Prescott Valley -- in Yavapai County -- at the request of the MLB to follow their suspect, although the game-fixing scandal turned out to be nothing. Nonetheless, MCSO deputies told the suspect's family they were all going to jail, and the suspect's brother was handcuffed during the family's run-in with the Sheriff's Office.

A Center for Investigative Reporting writer who covered the story that's in the current issue of Sports Illustrated tells us that one of the family members recorded the traffic stop, and the audio corroborates what's reported.

"These officers really scared those people," Lance Williams says. "His family didn't do anything bad; they were just picking up his car for him."

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Military Equipment Used by Police in Ferguson Also Found at Arizona Police Departments

Categories: News analysis

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MCSO
A tank used by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
There's a lot of discussion taking place about the militarization of police amid protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the local police department's controversial shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Peaceful protests have been met with police tear-gassing, aiming rifles at protesters, and arrests, according to reports. It's gotten to the point that even U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says he's "deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles [by police] sends a conflicting message" in the community.

The militarization of police has been an issue the American Civil Liberties Union has reported on well before this incident, and just a few months ago, the organization reported on "massive military-grade weapons caches" at police departments in Arizona.

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Arizona Attorney General Seeks to Bring Latest Abortion Battle All the Way to Supreme Court

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Matthew Hendley
Attorney General Tom Horne.

Attorney General Tom Horne wants to take a legal battle against Planned Parenthood of Arizona all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The two are fighting over a law passed by the Arizona Legislature in 2012 that would force physicians to follow the original FDA approval guidelines for a medication used in non-surgical abortions.

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Phoenix and the SCOTUS Ruling that Private Corporations Can Exercise Religious Beliefs

Categories: News analysis

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www.supremecourt.gov
East fa├žade of the Supreme Court Building. (Franz Jantzen)

The United States Supreme Court sided today with Hobby Lobby and other privately owned corporations that argued they should not be required to provide access to contraceptives in employee health plans -- as mandated by the Affordable Care Act -- if doing so violates their closely held religious beliefs.

The 5-4 split favors privately owned corporations' rights to sidestep the healthcare law because following it would infringe on their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. That law prohibits government from substantially burdening "a person's exercise of religious," and federal law defines a "person" as a corporation as well as an individual.

So there it is -- a very similar argument to the one made not long ago by Cathi Herrod, head of the Center for Arizona Policy.


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Charles Keating's Techniques Were Replicated by Those Who Helped Trigger the 2008 Financial Collapse

Categories: News analysis

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Dennis Brack/Newscom
Charles Keating Jr. at a House of Representatives hearing on the Lincoln Federal Savings and Loan scandal.
Charles H Keating Jr. is remembered not only as the most notorious figure of the savings & loan crisis that swept the nation in the late 1980s - and as the namesake of the infamous Keating Five political scandal - but also as the fraudster whose techniques were replicated by those who helped trigger the 2008 financial collapse and Great Recession.

Keating, who pleaded guilty to federal bankruptcy-fraud charges in 1999 after earlier state and federal criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, died March 31 at age 90. He served four years in a Tucson federal prison, where he (a competitive swimmer himself in his youth) watched on television as his grandson, Gary Hall Jr., won Olympic gold swimming metals during the 1996 Atlanta Games.

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Half-Baked ABC 15 Report Misses the Complete Story on Florence Cops

Categories: News analysis

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Former Florence police detectives Walt Hunter and Jarris Varnrobinson.
An ABC 15 reporter told viewers a story earlier this month about two former Florence detectives who'd botched cases so badly that the Pinal County Attorney's Office couldn't prosecute them.

Only no one has been able to cite what the cases were about.

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Anti-Medical-Marijuana Arizona Republic Eviscerated by Local Doctor

Categories: News analysis
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Bob Doran via Flickr


The Arizona Republic published a TKO of its editorial board this weekend, after the writers declared that the state's voter-approved medical-marijuana program was "one of the biggest cons around."

Dr. Gina Mecagni, a local emergency physician, simply annihilated the Republic's assertion that most medical-pot patients probably are fakers.

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How the Florence Police Department Compromised Public Safety

Categories: News analysis
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Illustration by Brian Stauffer


In the Town of Florence, criminal investigations and public safety have taken a backseat to police department politics.

This week, you can read part two of New Times reporters Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons' three-part series, "Florence Exposed."

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Bishop Thomas Olmsted Is Pursuing a Vendetta Against the ADL

Categories: News analysis

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Inga Poslitur
Bishop Thomas Olmsted kicked the ADL out of Phoenix Catholic schools and continues to pursue a hard-line stance even as Pope Francis softens the church's tone.
With the challenges and dangers that young students face today (online bullying, offline bullying, gossip, hate, and the increasingly common school shooting) programs like the Anti-Defamation League's "World of Difference" has arguably never been more important.

But Phoenix Catholic Bishop Thomas Olmsted disagrees.

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