Saturday, April 18, 2015


¶lim¶Lines in the Sand

PHM1114Feat-2A rash of self-defense killings casts light on Arizona’s stand-your-ground law. Are we primed for a Florida-size controversy?

t first they thought the scratching at the door was a javelina. No such luck. Robert Verdugo, 23, his girlfriend Jessica Luna, 21, and Jessica’s sister Deanna, 24, soon realized the noise at 601 N. Fourth Street in Globe was caused by Scott Johnson, 25, a former high-school classmate. It was a hot, late night in September 2010.

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Coop De Grace

PHM PHMPF07 FPOHere’s something you know about political campaign road signs: They’re ugly as hell. Here’s something you might not know: You can turn them into chicken coops.

Greg Peterson will be happy to demonstrate. As longtime owner and operator of The Urban Farm in Phoenix, Peterson is always on the lookout for unsightly rubbish to neutralize and repurpose. And then it occurred to him: What could be more unwanted on November 5 than a “Vote for Andy Thomas” sign? Now Peterson spends every post-election Wednesday plucking these corrugated plastic eyesores off street corners Valleywide. “They make good siding and roofs, basically,” says the urban farmer. “They keep things dry... and they also make great [molds] for concrete.”

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NCUIRE-ing Minds

PHM1114Flash-3-NCUIREA one-of-a-kind program at ASU West gives undergrads the doctoral treatment.

“Undergrads researching treatments for cancer and Alzheimer’s – can you imagine it?”

Lauren Griswold, marketing and media relations manager for ASU West’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, says this as we walk toward a small classroom laboratory on  campus. We won’t have to “imagine” anything for long – inside the lab, a handful of students wearing purple latex gloves and white lab coats squint at color-coded data on computer monitors against the humming electrical backdrop of the refrigerators, which house human colon cancer cells they’re growing for experiments. Under the guidance of Dr. Peter Jurutka, the students are probing the potential of vitamin D for reducing the risk of colon cancer and mitigating the effects of Alzheimer’s. “By the time the students are leaving the lab, they have worked on their own projects,” Jurutka says. “They have learned a vast number of molecular... techniques, and they’re doing work that one would characterize at the level of a graduate student.” And yet none of the students have a bachelor’s degree.

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The Wallace Effect

PHM1114Flash-2-WallaceThe late Bill Thompson’s twisted humor pioneered today’s more edgy kiddie fare. Could there ever be another Wallace and Ladmo Show?

Until the very end, Bill “Wallace” Thompson was playing jokes. Irreverent, savagely funny jokes. The kind he turned into ahead-of-its-time comic art, as ringleader of legendary local children’s TV program The Wallace and Ladmo Show, and finally aimed at himself, subverting his own memorial service.

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PHMPF04Valley construction companies compensate for labor shortages with the little-known – and little-understood – H-2B work visa program..

At the height of the economic recession, a perfect storm hit the Arizona construction industry.

The economic downturn, the raids on local businesses by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and, in 2010, the passing of Arizona’s anti-illegal-immigrant measure SB 1070 compounded to cause a mass exodus from the Grand Canyon State of foreign construction workers, according to Raul Leon of Foreman, Inc., a company that helps U.S. employers find qualified guest workers. “60 percent-plus of the workers... were Latinos,” Leon estimates. “A lot of [them] left, and they went to other states that weren’t hit that hard by the recession.”

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Spit, Polished

PHMPF03A new lab at ASU studies saliva to unlock information on everything from stress to social bonding.

Dr. Douglas Granger sets a timer as I maneuver an oral swab shaped like a foam bullet beneath my tongue. “Can you feel it absorbing?” he asks.


Two rows of lab equipment away, a robot’s green probes pipette saliva samples into vials to be tested for cortisol. The samples might be from Nepalese babies, California sea lions, or subjects in any of the 85-plus studies underway here at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research (IISBR). Opened last year, this Arizona State University laboratory is an international hub for spit, flown in frozen from collaborating scientists in fields from sociology to immunology.

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Home Grown

PHM1014PF07It was a bullish NFL draft for former Valley prepsters last May, with three local alum snapped up in the first four rounds: Brophy Prep linebacker Trent Murphy (Washington Redskins), Chaparral offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (Tennessee Titans) and Canyon del Oro running back Ka’Deem Carey (Chicago Bears). The downside, if you want to call it that: Only one of the players, University of Arizona product Carey, kept his talents in the state when it came to picking a college football program.

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