Searchers in Mexico find, but release, vaquita porpoise calf

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Researchers trying to catch and enclose the last survivors of the vaquita porpoise species captured a calf but released it because it was too young to survive without its mother.

Mexico’s Environment Department said veterinarians determined the calf was too young and experts said it was showing signs of stress after capture. The experts with Mexican-led international effort known as VaquitaCPR still saw hope in the calf’s capture.

“The successful rescue made conservation history and demonstrates that the goal of VaquitaCPR is feasible,” said Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano. “No one has ever captured and cared for a vaquita porpoise, even for a brief period of time. This is an exciting moment and as a result, I am confident we can indeed save the vaquita marina from extinction.”

Lorenzo Rojas, the lead scientist on the effort, said “while we were disappointed we could not keep the vaquita in human care, we have demonstrated that we are able to locate and capture a vaquita.”

The U.S. Navy trained dolphins to help find vaquitas and research boats are searching their habitat, the Gulf of California.

It was unclear if the dolphins were even needed; the team said “scientists spotted several vaquitas using visual search methods and acoustic monitoring.”

The vaquita population has dropped to less than 30 because of illegal nets set for the totoaba fish, whose swim bladder is prized in China.

The team said several other vaquitas were sighted in the area where the calf was captured. The effort started Oct. 12 in the Gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortez, and will continue.

Once caught, the vaquitas are to be held in protected floating pens with hopes they will reproduce and could eventually be re-released into the wild.

Senate backs GOP budget in step forward for tax revamp

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans on Thursday muscled a $4 trillion budget through the Senate in a major step forward for President Donald Trump’s ambitious promise of “massive tax cuts and reform.”

The 51-49 vote sets the stage for debate later this year to dramatically overhaul the U.S. tax code for the first time in three decades, cutting rates for individuals and corporations while eliminating trillions of dollars of deductions and special interest tax breaks.

The tax cuts would add up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the coming decade, however, as Republicans have shelved fears about the growing budget deficit in favor of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rewrite tax laws.

“These are reforms that change incentives and drive growth, and we’ve never done that before,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

The White House hailed the bill’s passage, saying it “creates a pathway to unleash the potential of the American economy through tax reform and tax cuts.”

Divisions within the GOP indicate the process won’t be easy despite the political imperative.

The upcoming tax measure, always a top item on the GOP agenda, has taken on even greater urgency with the failure of the party to carry out its longstanding promise to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Republicans have said failure on taxes would be politically devastating in next year’s midterm elections, when control of the House and Senate are at stake.

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Bondsman warned teacher not to pay bail

PHOENIX (AP) — A bail bondsman tried to talk an Arizona teacher out of putting up cash for a convicted felon multiple times before she did and went missing shortly after, the man said Wednesday.

Tom Watson said he spoke to Cathryn Gorospe over the phone for several weeks before she decided to post bond for Charlie Malzahn, 27, on Oct. 6. Malzahn quickly became a suspect that weekend as authorities, family and friends searched for Gorospe.

Officials will use DNA testing to determine if remains found on private, rural property in Mayer are those of Gorospe, Flagstaff spokesman Cory Runge said.

The first time they spoke, he explained the bond process to Gorospe, and learned she only knew Malzahn for about a month and that they had gone on dates, Watson said.

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Ordinance changed to accommodate school district’s planned arena

BULLHEAD CITY — City Council members faced several contentious planning and zoning issues at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.

Postponed until after voting 6-1 in favor of the proposed sale of the Bullhead City River Regatta to Marnell Gaming, the council heard from members of the public on the proposed adoption of an ordinance to set sports facility height limits at 80 feet.

The proposal for the height ordinance change for the Colorado River Union High School District’s planned fieldhouse was sent to council with a negative recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission, while staff recommended approval of the ordinance, said City Manager Toby Cotter.

“In order for this building to be built and the practical implications of this bond measure the district is asking for, the height matters and they are designing it at 78 or 79 feet,” Cotter said.

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Charter Schools Widely Abuse Public Funding Study Finds

TUCSON (AP) — A report by an Arizona think tank found that most charter schools in the state abused public funding by engaging in business transactions that involved their owners, board members or their families.

The Grand Canyon Institute report indicated that 77 percent of all Arizona charter schools engaged in some form of related-party transactions, and that the state’s regulatory system failed to ensure that tax dollars given to the schools are primarily used for the education of students, The Arizona Daily Star reported on Monday.

The report is based on a three-year forensic audit of the charter schools’ finances, and it focused primarily on related-party transactions. The report defined these transactions as the schools spending tax dollars on non-competitive bids with companies that are owned by the charter operators, board members or their immediate relatives.

While the practices are illegal for public schools, they are legal for charter schools because they are not subject to competitive-bid laws.

If a charter holder is using tax dollars to do business with a family member, Arizona Charter School Association President Eileen Sigmund said it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re scamming taxpayers. She said offenders will be caught by the state charter school board.

One of the reasons charters are outperforming district schools is because they don’t have the bureaucratic waste due to government red tape around procurement practices, Sigmund added.

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Bullhead City Voices Disapproval of Roundabouts

BULLHEAD CITY — The Bullhead City Council — and most speakers at its meeting Tuesday night — wanted to send a message to state transportation officials considering roundabouts at several locations along Highway 95: Find another solution.

The council voted 7-0 to adopt a resolution voicing opposition to the circles, which are regarded as an alternative to traffic lights.

The vote came after City Manager Toby Cotter described several possible drawbacks to roundabouts and other changes being considered as part of a safety study being done by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The resolution said that the council agrees that some safety improvements are needed, but that “planning for roundabouts and medians has progressed without appropriate input from” local leaders and residents.

Besides roundabouts, the study also covers center medians on Highway 95, which would prevent traffic from crossing the roadway. Cotter said some medians being considered are up to a mile long.

“This would be the death knell for retail businesses on that strip,” said Ray Shanahan. “If we can’t turn left and our customers can’t exit our businesses left, we would have to shut our businesses down.”

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Hurricane Maria Smashes Homes, Flooding in Peurto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers Wednesday in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis.

Leaving at least nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria blew ashore in the morning near the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph (250 kph).

It punished the island of 3.4 million people with life-threatening winds for several hours, the second time in two weeks that Puerto Rico has felt the wrath of a hurricane.

“Once we’re able to go outside, we’re going to find our island destroyed,” warned Abner Gomez, Puerto Rico’s emergency management director. “The information we have received is not encouraging. It’s a system that has destroyed everything in its path.”

As people waited in shelters or took cover inside stairwells, bathrooms and closets, Maria brought down cell towers and power lines, snapped trees, tore off roofs and unloaded at least 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain.

Widespread flooding was reported, with dozens of cars half-submerged in some neighborhoods and many streets turned into rivers. People calling local radio stations reported that doors were being torn off their hinges and a water tank flew away.

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Mexico City Mayor Puts Earthquake Toll at 115

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The latest on a major earthquake that has struck Mexico (all times local):

11:35 p.m.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera says a total of 115 people have died in the capital following the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that shook the capital and nearby states.

That would bring the nationwide death toll to 245, based on an earlier federal government report counting 100 deaths in the capital and putting the overall number of confirmed deaths at 230.

Mexico City has suffered the highest death toll. But Mancera also said that two women and a man had been rescued alive from a collapsed office building late Wednesday, almost 36 hours after Tuesday’s midday quake.

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Church Burglary

The Bullhead City Police Department is hoping the public can help identify a man from surveillance photos who recently committed burglary at a church. On March 20th, the Potter’s House, located in the 2200 block of Kaibab Drive, reported that someone had entered the church sometime in the afternoon and stole a guitar. Police have since been able to obtain surveillance video of the suspect. He is described as a Hispanic male adult, possibly in his 30 – 40s, thin build, tattoos covering both arms and he was wearing a white tank top and jeans.

If anyone can identify the male pictured in the attached surveillance video photos, please call the Bullhead City Police Department at (928) 763-9200 or (928) 763-1999 after hours. Ask to speak with Detectives.

 

Accident at Fairway Village and 95

THERE WERE TWO MAJOR ACCIDENT SCENES ON HIGHWAY 95 THIS MORNING. THE FIRST ONE WAS AT RIVERVIEW AND 95 IN THE INTERSECTION. THREE VEHICLES WERE INVOLVED IN AN APPARENT HEAD ON COLLISION. THE SECOND ACCIDENT WAS AT FAIRWAY VILLAGE BLVD AND 95, JUST SOUTH OF LIPAN. A SOUTHBOUND VEHICLE LOST CONTROL AND HIT THE LIGHT POST HEAD ON.
NO REPORT ON INJURIES AT THIS POINT.