Posts tagged with "Arizona"

Six cases of alleged Arizona voter intimidation are referred to DOJ

October 27, 2022

Six cases of alleged voter intimidation at drop box locations in Arizona have been referred to the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said on Monday, October 24, with early voting options open for nearly two weeks across the state, reports ABC News.

 “Voter harassment may include gathering around ballot drop boxes questioning voters, brandishing weapons, taking pictures of people voting, and following or chasing voters who are attempting to drop off their ballots—and it can all be considered voter intimidation. It is unacceptable,” Hobbs said in a release. “I will continue to forward reports received to law enforcement, and I urge law enforcement to take action to protect voters from ongoing intimidation.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland, asked on Monday about voter intimidation at Arizona ballot drop boxes, said, “The Justice Department has an obligation to guarantee a free and fair vote by everyone whose qualified to vote and will not permit voters to be intimidated.”

Five recorded complaints obtained by ABC News occurred between October 17 and October 22, outside ballot drop boxes at 501 S. 3rd Ave. in Phoenix and at the Mesa Juvenile Court, both in Maricopa County.

Most described an instance of groups of individuals loitering near the drop boxes, filming and photographing voters as they returned their ballots and in some cases, taking photographs of the voters’ license plates. One report described individuals dressed in “camo-clad gear” and photos from election officials show at least two armed individuals outside the Mesa drop box Friday, October 21.

“As we were getting up to our car, two individuals took pictures of our license plate and our car. I got out and asked what they were doing. They claimed they were taking pictures for “election security” and I took pictures of them to report them to the DOJ for voter intimation and harassment. As we were pulling out, they continued to film my wife, myself, and our car,” the complaint said

Early voting in the 2022 midterm elections began on October 12 in Arizona, where 402,000 early ballots have been returned so far, according to data compiled by the secretary of state from 15 county recorders. Aside from voters and credentialed government or party officials, individuals must stay at least 75 feet away from secure drop box locations, according to Arizona law.

“There’s a group of people hanging out near the ballot dropbox filming and photographing my wife and I as we approached the dropbox and accusing us of being a mile [mule],” another incident report, filed on October 17 at 6:40 p.m. at Mesa Juvenile Court said. “They took photographs of our license plate and of us and then followed us out the parking lot in one of their cars continuing to film.”

Accusations of being “mules” is in reference to a widely debunked, far-right film, ‘2,000 Mules,’ which falsely alleges that individuals hired by Democrats stuffed numerous drop boxes with potentially fake absentee ballots during the 2020 election.

Hobbs’ office in its release on Monday also referred at least one report of election worker harassment to law enforcement over the weekend after she and two other employees were sent a menacing and vulgar message: “Remember the French Revolution of 1799??….” it said.

 Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone told reporters on Monday, October 24, that his office also is working with the DOJ to identify which cases qualify as voter intimidation. Since voting began, he said his team has written two criminal reports and submitted those to the county prosecutor.

 “I think it’s undermining who we are as a nation, and I think that it’s self-serving in many ways. And what do I see now as the sheriff of one of the biggest counties in the nation, I see that every day I’m dedicating a considerable amount of resources, just to give people confidence that they can cast a vote safely and that is absurd,” he said.

Research contact: @abcnews

Legal experts say Trump admitted guilt at Arizona rally

October 11, 2022

While speaking at a rally in Mesa, Arizona, on Sunday night, October 9, former President Donald Trump effectively admitted to his own criminal behavior when he stole government documents, reports Raw Story.

“I had a small number of boxes in storage,” Trump told the audience. “There is no crime. They should give me immediately back everything they have taken from me because it’s mine.”

In fact, it is a crime, which is why the Justice Department, the FBI, a federal judge and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals have gotten involved in the issue.

Watching the video of Trump, legal experts noted that Trump’s comments are an admission of guilt that will likely be used in trial.

“This is what we call a summation exhibit,” said former FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann, who also served as a prosecutor under special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. “Proof from the defendant’s own mouth. And on video.”

“There is more than ample evidence to indict Trump for crimes listed in the FBI search warrant,” explained former special counsel Ryan Goodman. “The question will come down to aggravating factors for Garland DOJ to consider. Outrageous, open defiance of the law—like this—must surely rank high among those factors.”

Teri Kanefield, a former appellate defender, noted in Trump’s comment that he’d been saying over and over that the documents were his. But from his own lawyers replying to the Special Master, the ex-president said: “There is no question and, indeed there is broad agreement, that the matters before this Court center around the possession, by a President, of his own Presidential records.”

Research contact: @RawStory

Senate GOP super PAC books $141 million in TV ads

April 19, 2022

The Republican super PAC tied to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell  has reserved $141 million in television advertising across seven states—offering an early hint at what GOP leaders see as their path back to a majority, reports The Hill.

The Senate Leadership Fund said on April 15 that it had reserved airtime in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, three states where Democratic incumbents are fighting for re-election.

The PAC will air advertising in Alaska and Wisconsin to defend Republican incumbents; as well as in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, two states where incumbent Republicans are retiring.

The largest investment is reserved for Georgia, where Senator Raphael Warnock (D) is seeking a full term after winning a special runoff election last January. The Senate Leadership Fund will drop $37.1 million there, likely to bolster former NFL running back Herschel Walker (R), who still faces a Republican primary later this year.

The PAC plans to spend $14.4 million against Senator Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) and $15.1 million against Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada). It has reserved $27.6 million to defend retiring Senator Richard Burr’s (R) seat in North Carolina, and $24.6 million to secure retiring Senator Pat Toomey’s (R) seat in Pennsylvania.

The group has reserved $7.4 million for Alaska, where Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) faces a challenge from a candidate who has the backing of former President Donald Trump. That money will come after the August 16 all-party primary; the top four contenders in that primary advance to the November general election.

Senator Ron Johnson (R) will get a boost from the $15.2 million the PAC plans to spend in Wisconsin. Johnson will face the winner of the August 9 Democratic primary.

“It will be a battle for every inch, but we are putting everything we have into delivering a Republican Senate majority that will put a stop to Joe Biden’s worst policies,” the group’s communications director Jack Pandol said.

The group’s one notable omission is in New Hampshire, where Senator Maggie Hassan (D) is seeking re-election. Several Republicans are vying for the nomination to face Hassan in a primary that takes place September 13.

According to The Hill, the nine-figure ad buy is the largest initial purchase the Senate Leadership Fund has made. Two years ago, the PAC’s first round of television advertising amounted to $67 million; it raised and spent nearly half a billion dollars in 2020.

Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show the group has raised nearly $75 million already this year and ended April with $72 million in the bank.

Political groups can reserve advertising time even before they have the money to pay for it; they do not have to send money to the television stations that will air the ads until shortly before those ads run.

The Senate Majority PAC, the Democratic counterpart to the Senate Leadership Fund, had $36 million in the bank at the end of February.

Research contact: @thehill

These affordable bungalows hearken back to a charming 1900s real estate trend

March 23, 2022

On a formerly vacant city-owned lot in Tempe, Arizona, not far from the campus of Arizona State University, a rare type of housing development has just been built, reports Fast Company.

Unlike the abundant rental housing geared toward the college crowd—or the sprawling single-family homes filling subdivisions across the region—the new project eschews size and profit to offer something almost impossible to find: small homes oriented on a shared lot, surrounding a common courtyard, offered for sale at permanently affordable prices.

The 13-home project is an example of an old way of building, updated for the modern age. Twelve of the houses are identical 600-square-foot, lofted one-bedroom homes. The other is a single-story home that’s compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

All share a central green space, a 900-square-foot common room, and a communal kitchen. Priced for sale to those making less than 80% of the area’s median income, the homes are a throwback to a time when homes didn’t need to be big and expensive.

“The idea of doing a small group of homes around a central courtyard is really a historic way that America grew. And then we got away from it,” says David Crummey, project manager of Newtown CDC, the Tempe-based nonprofit organization that developed the project.

Bungalow courts, or cottage courts, were found in nearly every major city in the early part of the 20th century, but the market has gradually edged away from that compact form of housing. “With the consolidation of the mortgage market and the increase in the number of large subdivisions, small-scale development has really, really fallen off the chart,” Crummey says.

When it comes to for-sale housing that’s affordable, the bungalow court makes a lot of sense, he says. Without the need for an entire expensive lot, or the parking and street access of the typical car-oriented project, houses like these can be built at much lower cost.

For Crummey, whose organization typically does single-family home rehabs to sell to low-income first-time homebuyers, this so-called micro-estate project seemed like a way to do more with less.

The project began in 2015 as a student design exercise. Undergraduate engineering students at ASU were assigned to come up with ideas for housing on city-owned lots, and one project proposed turning this space into a tiny home village. Officials in the city saw the proposal and liked it enough to issue a request for additional proposals.

Newtown CDC pitched a design that prioritized efficient homes in order to keep prices low. It also made the homes part of a community land trust, a nonprofit entity that actually owns the land and creates a sale-like long-term lease of the home to keep its price far below the market rate. The purchasers get a good deal on the homes and share in the proceeds of any future sale, while the nonprofit

continues to steward the property and maintain the affordable prices.

Newtown CDC won the project, and the city donated the land. Crummey partnered with local architectural design firm coLab Studio, whose principal, Matt Salenger, lives in the neighborhood. He says the concept of creating micro estates immediately brought to mind the Tim Burton film Big Fish, which is set in a fictional small town that seems to be almost magically tucked away in a forest.

“The houses are aligned on a main street, but there’s no paving, just grasses and trees,” Salenger says. “David [Crummey] and I had a real connection about trying to make the landscape the thing that was first and foremost there.”

The project they built is reminiscent of that pavement-free community—with a large central open space lined with planters and trees, and small patio spaces between each home that lack any clear lines of ownership, encouraging more social interaction.

The homes themselves are also innovatively designed, with choices guided by keeping costs down while also providing comfortable living space. “Doors and glazing are one of the most expensive aspects of any building. So we limited it to one exterior door. There are four exterior windows. There’s only one interior door, for the bathroom, which is located under the stairs,” Salenger says. “We thought about every single inch.”

The homes have all been sold, each priced at $170,000, except for the ADA-compliant home, which was $210,000. Crummey says the homes were recently appraised at a value of $260,000.

“At the most expensive, it’s a $50,000 below-market sale,” he says. And as part of the community land trust, the homes will continue to be priced below market, no matter when the current owners decide to sell.

“These are unique houses,” Salenger says. “There’s nothing like it in town.”

Research contact: @FastCompany

Beverage startup aims to be ‘Snapple 2.0’

November 10, 2021

A debilitating digestive illness led to the launch of Halfday Tonics, a Philadelphia-based brand of canned tea beverages featuring prebiotic fiber. Founders Kayvon Jahanbakhsh and Michael Lombardo began developing the concept as college students several years ago following a severe bout of ulcerative colitis that hospitalized Jahanbakhsh for three months and sank his swim career, reports Food Business News.

Halfday was inspired by the pair’s favorite summertime refreshment, bottled or canned tea from such brands as Snapple, AriZona, and Brisk.

Jahanbakhsh eliminated these drinks from his diet to avoid flare-ups of his disease, which is triggered by high sugar intake, he said. The addition of inulin to homemade batches of iced tea aided his recovery and sparked the idea for the business.

“As I started to get better and better, I realized there’s a need for this,” he said.

An overwhelming majority of Americans fail to consume the recommended amount of dietary fiber per day. Many brands marketing digestive wellness typically target older shoppers, Jahanbakhsh said, citing Activia and Metamucil as examples.

Halfday was designed to appeal to Generation Z and millennials, who are more likely to seek lower-sugar beverages, Lombardo said.

The products are formulated with organic ingredients, including green or black tea extract, Jerusalem artichoke inulin, agave inulin, apple juice concentrate and lemon juice concentrate, plus stevia leaf extract. Varieties include peach green tea, lemon black tea and green tea with honey and ginseng. A seasonal flavor, cranberry black tea, is set to debut in November.

“There really hasn’t been iced tea innovation since Honest in the ‘90s and early 2000s,” Jahanbakhsh said. “We really liked iced teas as kids, even going into our adult years, but obviously over the age of 18, it’s pretty difficult to drink 40 grams of sugar in a sitting and feel good after.”

A serving of Halfday tea contains 8 grams of fiber and 3 to 4 grams of sugar. (A 12-oz serving of Snapple peach tea, by comparison, has 30 grams of sugar).

Halfday products are available on the brand’s website,, as well as at select specialty and natural foods stores and online grocers including Thrive Market and Misfits Market.

“We get reviews from people who always drank Brisk or Arizona, and they’re able to switch without making that sacrifice, which is really cool,” said Jahanbakhsh, who described Halfday as “Snapple 2.0.”

He added, “They can basically reduce their sugar consumption by 80% to 90% and still get that full satisfaction of a classic iced tea; and, on top of that, the digestive health benefits.”

Research contact: @FoodBusinessNews

Baby gear companies are taking matters into their own hands amid shortage of essential items

November 8, 2021

Supply chain issues are affecting nearly every industry, as the pandemic continues to cause manufacturing slowdowns, port congestion, and delivery delays—and baby gear like strollers and car seats is no exception, reports NBC News.

While most consumers have a rough “due date” for when they’ll need items for their newborn and can plan ahead, anything unexpected can happen—making availability of essential products that much more crucial.

“Strollers, car seats, they aren’t optional. These are products that customers literally cannot wait to buy when they need them,” said Amy Venzke, owner of Strolleria, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based baby gear store with an online presence.

Many of these items take on additional importance to consumers because they’re essential to keeping a baby safe and alive.

To minimize stress for consumers, baby gear retailers like Strolleria and Pish Posh Baby in Lakewood, New Jersey, are encouraging customers to do their research well in advance and buy ahead whenever they can. They’ve also changed their operations to combat supply chain issues.

Pish Posh Baby revamped its website to include an out-of-stock notification feature, so parents can be alerted as soon as something is available. It also takes some work off their plates because they don’t have to keep returning to a website to check for a product, according to Pish Posh Baby COO Charlie Birnbaum.

Pish Posh Baby also has been traveling to China to import products directly, which has helped cut out additional delays caused by manufacturers needing to store items in warehouses before releasing them to retailers.

Strolleria started offering customers the ability to preorder gear. These preorders aren’t for releases of new models; they’re for current models of strollers and car seats that are backordered.

“Instead of saying that this car seat isn’t available at all, we’re now offering presales, and customers are buying items with an expected future ship date,” Venzke told NBC News. “We don’t think customers want to be in a position of uncertainty.”

Her company has been monitoring global supply chains more closely and has been more proactive about forecasting availability and making purchases based on inventory reports from brands. Strolleria has also been stocking up its warehouse to prepare for future backorders, ordering gear for the next three to four months versus for just the next month.

But there are still issues. “Inventory will be fine and then basic items will be unavailable,” Birnbaum said. “It won’t just be an accessory; it’ll be a brand’s core item.”

Birnbaum said even though some companies stopped manufacturing certain items to focus on their key offerings, there are still times when a season-specific item such as a travel stroller will be unavailable for so long it misses its intended season. He said he anticipates that the issues customers faced with finding travel strollers over the summer will repeat themselves with stroller footmuffs this winter.

Among the products in short supply are the BabyZen Yoyo stroller; and the Doona stroller, which collapses into a car seat, Birnbaum said. Some customers are using social media to try to track down the most-scarce items.

“The entire experience of expecting a baby is overwhelming,” Venzke said. “[Parents] put in hours and days of research to find the perfect stroller and can get their heart set on one, so it’s very stressful and disappointing when it isn’t available.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Creepy crawlies: If you live here, prepare to see thousands of tarantulas

August 6, 2021

Catching an unexpected glimpse of a daddy longlegs spider in your home can make even folks who’d barely call themselves arachnophobes jump. A wolf spider sighting outdoors can frighten even the most intrepid explorers. And encountering a hairy tarantula can cause virtually anyone to freeze up.

Unfortunately for folks of one particular area of the United States, there’s about to be an influx of not just a few or a few hundred, but thousands of tarantulas in the very near future, Best Life reports.

Starting in August, Colorado—particularly the southeastern part of the state—will see a sudden uptick in its tarantula population.

The sudden influx of thousands of tarantulas, which typically begins between late August and September, according to the Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences (via The Gazette), is part of the arachnids’ annual migration.

For the Aphonopelma vogelae tarantula, more frequently found in the southwestern portions of the state, migration peaks in October.

But take heart: While seeing thousands of tarantulas descend on your area may be disconcerting, their presence is typically short-lived.

According to the Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences, following their migration, the tarantulas are active for a short period of time, but “all normally perish within a couple of months.”

And you won’t be the only one watching where you walk and sit. The Colorado-based tarantula migration isn’t the only major shift in habitats these furry arachnids may be making this year, however.

According to Christopher Vitek, PhD, an associate professor of biology at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley during their mating season between March and October, tarantulas frequently emerge from their usual habitats in states including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

While tarantulas are unlikely to do harm to most humans, it’s wise to give them a wide berth if you encounter one in the wild.

“Their venom is of no medical significance, and contrary to popular belief, nobody has ever died from such a bite; most people compare the bite to that of a bee sting and experience no lasting ill-effects other than mild to moderate pain and slight swelling at the site of the bite,” Brent Hendrixson, PhD, chair of biology at Millsaps College, recently told Best Life.

Hendrixson says that if you do find a tarantula somewhere it shouldn’t be—inside your home, for example—and don’t feel comfortable picking it up, gently coax it into a jar with a soft-ended object like a paintbrush and remove it from the premises.

Research contact: @bestlife

Trump orders advisers to ‘go down fighting’

November 6, 2020

As Election Day turns into election week, Donald Trump has delivered a simple message to his closest political and legal advisers as they began charting a plan to challenge results in several key states: Give them a court fight that “they’ll never forget.”

The president’s remarks, relayed by two people familiar with them, came as election results seemed trending Joe Biden’s way. And for Team Trump, it was meant as a clarion call to use every possible legal resource and bit of political organizing to help re-tip the balance of the scale, The Daily Beast reported.

Trump told his advisers that, even if Biden were to claw the presidency away from him, he wanted them to “go down fighting” harder than they ever had before, one of the sources with direct knowledge said.

Goaded by White House messaging, his base responded:

The Michigan Republican Party did not return a request for comment from The Daily Beast.

Trump’s legal team—including George W. Bush campaign veteran Mark “Thor” Hearne—asked a court in Michigan to halt absentee ballot counts because it alleged its observers had not been granted full access to the tally, and were not permitted to watch video footage of “remote and unattended dropboxes.”

It brought a similar suit in Pennsylvania, fighting to stop the tabulation on the grounds that its overseers had not been allowed within 25 feet of the counting effort.

Further, Trump’s lawyers filed to enter an ongoing Supreme Court case, hoping to convince jurists on the highest bench to overturn a state policy that would allow counties to count votes postmarked on Election Day and received as late as Friday. Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney and confidant of Trump’s, is overseeing the Supreme Court effort.

“Lawyer city,” Joe Grogan, formerly a top domestic policy adviser to President Trump, said, describing the situation on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s going to be really ugly.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Proud Boys deny sending threatening emails to Democratic voters in multiple states

October 22, 2020

Law enforcement officials have been notified that voters in multiple states have received personalized emails purporting to be from the Proud Boys—a far-right, neo-fascist white supremacist group. The messaging is filled with intimidating threats aimed at Democrats, if they do not change their vote to Republican, The Hill reports.

CNN and The Washington Post first reported that voters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Alaska, and Florida all said they received threatening emails warning them to vote for President Donald Trump in the upcoming election, adding that the mysterious sender claimed to have access to voter history and “will come after you” should they fail to vote for the president.

“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” reads one email obtained by the Post,. Dozens were reportedly sent, including more than 180 to students, faculty and staff of the University of Florida, a school spokesperson told CNN.

Chris Krebs, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency tweeted that the agency was “aware of threatening emails with misleading info about the secrecy of your vote.”

“This is what we mean by not falling for sensational and unverified claims. The last line of defense in election security is you—the American voter. So be prepared, be a smart consumer and sharer of information. Vote with confidence,” added Chris Krebs.

Elections officials in Alaska and Florida confirmed to CNN that they were aware of the emails, with Alaska’s Division of Elections telling the network that federal authorities had been alerted. Representatives with elections boards in Pennsylvania and Arizona did not immediately return The Hill’s requests for comment. A spokesperson for the FBI’s field office in Anchorage also did not immediately return a request for comment from the Post.

The leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, told USA Today and CNN in a statement that his group was not responsible for the emails, which appeared to have been sent from an email address affiliated with the group but may have been the result of spoofing software, one expert told CNN.

“No, it wasn’t us. The people [who sent the emails] used a spoofing email that pretended to be us,” Tarrio said. “Whoever did this should be in prison for a long time.”

“We have spoken to the FBI and are working with them. I hope whoever did this is arrested for voter intimidation and for maliciously impersonating our group,” he added.

Trump recently faced criticism after he demurred follow his prompting by Fox News’s Chris Wallace to disavow the group during the first presidential debate between him and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“Stand back and stand by,” Trump said during the contentious debate.

Research contact: @thehil

Editor’s note: According to multiple sources, U.S. officials on Wednesday night accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned that both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election.