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June 18, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

Around Arizona: Southern Exposure

  |   Video
  • We’ll take a look at big issues from the southern portion of Arizona with Tucson Weekly Senior Writer Jim Nintzel.
  • Jim Nintzel - Senior Writer, Tucson Weekly
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: environment, southern, exposure, around, arizona, issues ,

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Ted Simons: Every month we bring you up to date on issues south of the Gila in our series Southern Exposure. Tonight we look at a variety of issues including the flood of unaccompanied minors being transferred to Nogales. Here now is Jim Nintzel, senior writer for the Tucson Weekly joins us. Good to see you.

Jim Nintzel: Wonderful to be here.

Ted Simons: The whole country is watching what's happening here. The Nogales detention center, the border patrol Nogales placement center, what's the latest down there?

Jim Nintzel: They are still trying to sort out what they are going to do. They have about 1,300 unaccompanied minor of all ages. It's a real mess. To try to figure out what you do with these kids who are in this country. We had a piece on the weekly today an account from somebody from what’s called the border action knelt work in Tucson who had a tour of the facility. She was talking about how heartbreaking it was to walk around in this facility, which is really designed to house criminals, and seeing all these children in these different little cages essentially. You know, you have teen moms in there with their infant children trying to handle the stress of being here and next you'll have another federal department coming in to try to figure out how to take these kids and reunite them with family members here in the states.

Ted Simons: The reaction from southern Arizona residents now, what are they saying down there? Are we seeing protests? Are we seeing efforts from local leaders to try to take care of these kids? Good luck with that, they are in federal custody. What’s happening down there?

Jim Nintzel: Not so much protests but there's an effort among local officials to find ways to try to make their lives a little better. Find ways to make sure that they have the supplies they need. You have local nonprofits trying to gather materials for that. Make sure they are well-fed, well-clothed and will being taken care of.

Ted Simons: Is any of this fodder for the Barber McSally congressional race down there?

Jim Nintzel: Neither one has come out with a lot of conversation about this particular point at this juncture.

Ted Simons: We’ll wait and see. Nationally it seems like a huge story but there's a limit to what you can do because of the federal nature of the issue.

Jim Nintzel: Exactly. They have to figure out where do these kids go next. I talked with a state lawmaker who had toured the facility and he said what basically will happen they will try to find relatives here and put them into those households rather than trying to adjudicate them to the legal system.

Ted Simons: Let’s move on now to the Rosemont mine. What is the Rosemont mine, where is it planned to be located and what is the latest on that proposed facility?

Jim Nintzel: It's a massive copper mine that's proposed in the Santa Rita mountains, southwest of Tucson in a really beautiful, pristine area of southern Arizona. There's a lot of concern among our local officials about the impact of a mile wide open pit mine being opened up down there both on the water quality and the water supplies in southern Arizona as well as impact on tourism, impact on the state highway that all the trucks will be moving down. The local officials for the most part are opposed but it's a federal issue. The federal government is the one that has the role of approving or not approving the mine. It's very difficult for the federal government to say no to something like this, however the mine thought it would be in operation already. They said they would have their permits in place by the ends of this month. That’s not going to happen because now the Environmental Protection Agency has raised red flags about the impact on the waterways down there. The fish and wildlife service is raising red flags on the impact of endangered species. We have spotted jaguars, there's an ocelot in that area. There's a lot more hurdles coming up for the Canadian company that owns this mine to jump through and they have some problems because they face a hostile takeover. This is the first time they have tried a mine on this level, and there's another mining company in Canada that's trying to do a hostile takeover of this company. A lot left to be sorted out before this mine opens up.

Ted Simons: I know there's got to be someone down there for this thing. Jobs, economy; how much of an impact would a mile wide open copper mine make in the southern Arizona region?

Jim Nintzel: You do have the chamber of commerce, a handful of Republican politicians saying this is good for the community and they are fighting on behalf of it saying it will create thousands of jobs and a ripple effect will create thousands of jobs and be a boon to the economy.

Ted Simons: Can Rosemont keep amending their proposal to placate the EPA or Army Core of engineers? How far along in the process are we, how far in the process can you still go?

Jim Nintzel: They thought they would be done by now. They are not. They have had been amending it. They say these are just bumps in the road, they can continue to find ways to mitigate the damage they are going to do to the aquifer and eventually the federal agencies will say yes and opponents say that's not going to happen, the EPA is going to stop this thing. Whether this permit gets issued or not I expect lawsuits will be filed to either say it shouldn't have been issued or it should have been issued. I suspect the whole thing is going to court.

Ted Simons: There's a development planned for Sierra Vista put on hold by a judge. We talked about this in the past regarding water issues. Talk about this in particular the impact on the San Pedro River and this development in Sierra Vista. The judge made an interesting ruling.

Jim Nintzel: He did. The first time a judge has stepped in and said, you do not have this 100-year assured water supply that you need to show without causing significant damage to the flow of the San Pedro River, which is one of the last waterways that are still flowing in southern Arizona. There's great concern about whether or not all these new homes would cause such drainage to the aquifer that it would impact the flow of the river. That's also connects to Fort Huachuca. The fort has been working hard to try to conserve more water. They also depend on the continued flow of the San Pedro because the federal government wants to see that river keep going and if there's problems with that then you could have ripple effect to the fort where people are saying, let's not admissions to the fort or let's close the fort down in a worst case scenario because of the environmental damage.

Ted Simons: We should mention again, the curiosity here with the judge's ruling isn't so much the 100-year plan isn't met, you may have the plan but look what it is doing to a flowing, existing river.

Jim Nintzel: Right. I think that's a very unique case here in Arizona. We'll see where this goes.

Ted Simons: What about the reaction in southern Arizona? The San Pedro, we hear so much about it, it's a beautiful river, bird watching, wildlife. Is it a beloved area? Are people aware of what's planned down there?

Jim Nintzel: I don't think they are still aware in Tucson but in Sierra Vista they are. It's a flash point. There are people who support it because they say the economic activity is good for the community and there are people who oppose it because they are concerned about the environmental impact.

Ted Simons: Last question regarding the San Pedro River, is that kind of like a beloved area in southern Arizona? How do residents feel?

Jim Nintzel: It is definitely a beloved area. Very important again to the tourism industry, birdwatchers come down there; other eco-tourists come into that area, very similar in some respects to the debate over the mine.

Ted Simons: Before you go, the U of A is taking part in the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid mission. It's fascinating.

Jim Nintzel: Really incredible mission that the U of A managed to land, a $1 billion project they are in the process of building a spacecraft that will take off from earth, go up into the orbit around an asteroid, circle around it for a year and a half, then get up close to it, give it a kiss, blast it with some carbon dioxide, capture some of the fragments that come off of it in a capsule, send that back to earth. It will land in the Utah desert ten years from now and scientists will have a sample so they can find out more about asteroids.

Ted Simons: Scheduled to launch fall of 2016, hitting the asteroid like 2018. This is ten years from now we get results out of this thing.

Jim Nintzel: It is amazing when you think about all the math involved alone. Pretty tough stuff. I just find the U of A's contribution to the space program remarkable. This is another step in that direction.

Ted Simons: Remarkable. How much interest -- you go to Tucson you mentioned U of A, all anyone wants to talk about is basketball. Do they have close to the same level of interest in something like space missions?

Jim Nintzel: They do. Science is a huge thing in southern Arizona. They do these lectures with the U of A College of Science in the spring once a week and they fill up centennial hall to hear what the lecturers have to say. There is tremendous interest in science down there. This is going to be another feather in our cap.

Ted Simons: We got to keep an eye on the Sierra Vista development, on the Nogales detention center, and as far as Rosemont, that thing, again, that doesn't sound very good. They don't sound like they are in a very good position right now.

Jim Nintzel: I think they did not expect all these delays. There are some concerns among opponents of the mine or hopes among the opponents of the mine perhaps that the company will run out of money. They have had some real problems with cash flow. They managed to get another loan released recently that's given them more operating capital but they are on the edge financially.

Ted Simons: All right, Jim, always a pleasure, the latest from southern Arizona. Thank you so much.

Jim Nintzel: It’s a pleasure to come up.

Border Security Technology

  |   Video
  • The Phoenix Convention Center recently hosted the 8th Annual Border Security Expo. The two-day event attracted law enforcement, policy makers and vendors showing off their latest tools and technology. We’ll go beyond the border and show you how one company’s facial recognition software could soon appear in your favorite store.
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: technology, border, security, phoenix, expo, event, tools,

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Ted Simons: The Phoenix Convention Center earlier this year hosted the 8th Annual Border Security Expo. The two-day event attracted policymakers, members of law enforcement and a number of vendors. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Juan Magana visited the exhibit hall where it seemed no move went unnoticed.

Vendor: It offers night vision capability.

Vendor: We do people counting. Reverse flow detection. We count the individuals on a 15-minute increment.

Christina Estes: Among more than 100 companies showing off their latest tools --

Vendor: This is called the Dragon Runner 20.

Christina Estes: It was a small, quiet booth that really caught our eyes.

Kevin Haskins: We're showing the premier facial recognition software.

Christina Estes: Cognatech system is a German company with a powerful reach.

Kevin Haskins: It’s being used in airports, around the world. The camera captures your face and it's using pattern technology to look at this part of your face. Just above your eyebrow to just above your lip. There's patterns and contours within your face just like a fingerprint.

Christina Estes: From a single image Haskin says they can determine with a degree of certainty your race, gender and age within about five years. They can verify you're the person on your passport or driver's license or run your face through a watch list or suspect database. When it comes to more challenging pictures---

Kevin Haskins: Running recognition right now we still have enough from the face to come up with a hit. But that's generally not good enough.

Christina Estes: They put a 2D image into a 3D recognition level to generate facial characteristics.

Kevin Haskins: With that information -- we now have a match-up of suspect at this point.

Christina Estes: They collect location information too. If a person is showing up somewhere more often than usual Haskins says they can alert police.

Kevin Haskins: We're talking about facial recognition, not anything that a human can't do. We're just making it faster, quicker and more reliable.

Joe Battaglia: This is used to surveillance large areas of the border.

Christina Estes: New York-based Telephonics already has more than 20 truck-mounted systems along our southern border. This is their latest model.

Joe Battaglia: He's got maps of the local area on his computer. He can expand, he can zoom in on certain areas right down to a street level, down to a house level. He can actually see what's going on.

Christina Estes: The mast can reach 30-feet high with cameras that can track people ten miles away.

Joe Battaglia: We have found we have numerous international opportunities for this. As you well know, there are lots and lots of borders around the world with lots and lots of people that don't like each other.

Christina Estes: For those who don't like the possible invasion of privacy, Battaglia says --

Joe Battaglia: You can't have it both ways. The system is built to defend the people, and in order to do that you have to have knowledge of what's going on in the area. The only way you can do that is through some of the electronic devices that we have.

Christina Estes: In 1996, Swedish company Axis Communications became the first to release a surveillance camera that could transmit data through the internet.

John Merlino: The way it's used has to be purposeful. I don't know that it needs to be regulated. Certainly I wouldn't say that, but it has to be done in a way that respects people's privacy. If people can use technology not just cameras to make their environment safer; they are generally in favor of it.

Christina Estes: Safety is not the only selling point. Retailers are using it to save and make money.

Kevin Haskins: If the shoplifter comes in, security receives the alert. If it's a VIP, concierge or buyer's assistant may receive that notice.

Christina Estes: Businesses also like to break down the demographics so they can figure out who is shopping when and where they are spending the most time.

Kevin Haskins: I was asked where do you see this in ten years? I can't tell you where it will be in six months. The technology is so evolving, so advancing that with our company what we're doing I'm amazed six months from now what we'll be releasing.

Ted Simons: It says the company prefers to partner with universities to work with young minds that might help come up with the next technological advancement.

Ted Simons: Thursday we'll talk about a disputed report that suggests cap water users may face shortfalls. We'll get the latest science news from physicist Lawrence Krauss. That's Thursday evening, 5:30 and 10, right here on "Arizona Horizon."

Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer

  |   Video
  • Researchers have found a way to use an old treatment to extend the life of prostate cancer patients. Men who received a chemotherapy drug lived nearly 58 months versus 44 months for those not receiving it. The Mayo Clinic in Arizona was one of the sites for clinical trials for the drug study. Dr. Alan Bryce of the Mayo Clinic will discuss the treatment.
  • Dr. Alan Bryce - Mayo Clinic
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: medical, health, prostate, cancer, clinic, treatment, extend, life,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Researchers have found a way to use an old chemotherapy treatment to extend the life of prostate cancer patients. Clinical trials of the drug study were conducted in part at the Mayo Clinic here in Arizona. Dr. Alan Bryce is here now to discuss the treatment. Good to have you here. New life it sounds like for an old chemo drug?

Dr. Alan Bryce: Indeed. Very exciting development that was just announced earlier this month at looking at using one of our old standards in prostate cancer in a new way that has made it dramatically more effective than before.

Ted Simons: What is the name of the drug? How was it used before, how could it now be used to help people?

Dr. Alan Bryce: The drug is called Docetaxel. It was previously used very late in the course of prostate cancer; it was really reserved for patients far down the line. In that setting it was approved in 2006 with a survival advantage that is a life extension of only about two months. That was modest, clearly, it's not that much to get excited about, but it was the best we had at the time. What happened in the intervening years, in the last four years there's been a revolution in prostate cancer. Five new drugs have come on the market, hormone drugs, immune drugs, further chemotherapy drugs. They have also provided life extension on the order of two to five months and the old drug, Docetaxel, was pushed further back down the line. But there's a variety of scientific reasons why many of us who do research in this field felt that was a mistake that Docetaxel it really ought to be early in the disease course, so this study was designed to test that hypothesis.

Ted Simons: Why wasn't it early in the disease course earlier?

Dr. Alan Bryce: Part of it is the fairly natural bias people have against chemotherapy. We certainly understand it causes side effects; it's hard on the patient. It also required a change in therapy, mostly these patients would be managed by their surgeons and this required sending the patient to the oncologist. That transition is a certain barrier to entry certainly.

Ted Simons: You were talking before the program that in many cases prostate cancer patients never get to see the oncologist.

Dr. Alan Bryce: We find about 40% of prostate cancer patients who die of prostate cancer in the U.S. never receive this drug at all. In many cases it's because the conversation never really came up. So what happened now with this study is the chemotherapy was given at the beginning rather than at the end. What it ended up showing was that it extended life by over a year, just over 13 months.

Ted Simons: As far as trials are concerned, explain what was done, what was looked at and what was found.

Dr. Alan Bryce: So the study looked at taking this well established chemotherapy drug and giving it right in the beginning of treatment for metastatic prostate cancer in a setting where previously the standard of care was just do hormones. Take away a man's testosterone and that would usually work for a year or two. But what we did was we gave six cycles of this chemotherapy over a course of 18 weeks in combination with the hormone therapy, and then the chemo would end and hormones would continue. In doing that, the survival of all the patients was extended by over a year, but in the highest risk patients with the most metastatic disease the survival advantage was over 17 months.

Ted Simons: Was that a surprise?

Dr. Alan Bryce: It was tremendous. It was actually one of the key lectures of the oncology conference of the year. We were stunned by how dramatic it was, truly.

Ted Simons: This now is old enough to be a generic drug, correct?

Dr. Alan Bryce: Yes.

Ted Simons: Talk about how -- obviously industry wants the next biggest, the brightest so they will test the biggest and the brightest. You got some of these old generic drugs sitting out there doing a clinical trial on something that old, is that unusual?

Dr. Alan Bryce: That's another part of the challenge and an important piece of the story. Because this is a generic drug the only way a clinical trial of this size and this expense could be done is through the national clinical trials networks run by the national cancer institute. That whole system is under strain now because of budget cuts at the federal level, and so the biggest cooperative group in the country that Mayo Clinic is part of called the alliance has seen its 2014 budget cut by 40%, really threatening our ability to do these studies. In terms of the drug being generic, the course of treatment only costs about $9,000. The competing drugs are all somewhere in the range of to $60-100,000 for a course of treatment. So economically and in terms of benefit to the patient there is no comparison.

Ted Simons: With that in mind is there any attempt now to look at any other older cancer drugs and see, not only for the price but also for the results, there's something else out there?

Dr. Alan Bryce: Absolutely. We are always looking at newer ways to use old drugs. Repurpose or reposition them in the course of care. But there again, it really requires robust national clinical trial system to do that.

Ted Simons: Do you think this just -- your thoughts here, do you think that there are generic drugs just sitting out there waiting to be reborn, as it were?

Dr. Alan Bryce: Absolutely. We don't usually get drugs that provide--- or studies that provide this kind of dramatic response. But we constantly have studies of older drugs that are showing uses that they previously had not been established for.

Ted Simons: Reaction to this clinical trial and this study. What are you hearing?

Dr. Alan Bryce: Very positive. No question that this changes the standard of care in the United States. There's going to be an education process in terms of getting the news out so that physicians know about it and patients hear about it. But it's absolutely paradigm changing.

Ted Simons: Do you think, and again this calls for a little bit of opinion, do you think physicians are hesitant sometimes go back whether there's all the new stuff that's supposed to be newer and better?

Dr. Alan Bryce: There's always excitement in doing the new thing. And there's always more support in terms of funding to do studies with new drugs. So it's more challenging, frankly, to do studies with old drugs. I think there's a bias built into the system.

Ted Simons: You said it's an exciting time regarding treatment of prostate cancer. You said the last four, five years we have seen a lot of advancement. What have we seen?

Dr. Alan Bryce: Two new oral pills which act through hormones. We have seen a new immunotherapy drug. We can call it a vaccine like approach to attack prostate cancer. There's a new chemotherapy drug that comes after the one we're talking about here, and there's a new I.V. radiation drug that is injectable and that gets into the bones and attacks the cancer there. By comparison, from the 80's up until 2006, we had a total of five drugs approved. Now we have had five in four years. Really, the pace of change is tremendous in prostate cancer.

Ted Simons: That’s for folks -- are we talking prevention or just treatment once diagnoseD?

Dr. Alan Bryce: This is advanced disease, so men who have had the diagnosis and who have had the disease spread beyond the prostate.

Ted Simons: Interesting. All right, very encouraging results there. It's nice to see that something that's been around for a while has a new life.

Dr. Alan Bryce: Yes.

Ted Simons: Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Dr. Alan Bryce: Thank you.