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News for Southeastern Arizona, provided by the University of Arizona School of Journalism

Legislative Roundup – New Year, New Bills

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PHOENIX — The Arizona State Legislature started this week with Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address, followed by the reading of over 100 bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then finally the unveiling of the executive budget for fiscal year 2019. Doug Says No to Drugs and Yes to School Spending In his State of the State address, Ducey highlighted some of the goals of the state government for the upcoming year. He mentioned several issues such as opioid abuse, child abandonment, impaired highway driving — with a plan of action on how to deal with each of them. Details were light on what that would entail. He also pledged to increase education funding and restore money that was cut as part of the recession. “We can always do more for kids and...

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ACTing in fear of Islam

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Once a month, a Tucson library room fills with people who are very, very, very afraid. Of their neighbors. Their collective fear doesn’t have a specific face, but has a specific faith. Islam, and the radical elements allegedly “infiltrating” America, constitute an existential threat to the (mostly elderly) men and women who meet in this Tucson library room. They are the Tucson chapter of ACT for America, a group dedicated to preventing the takeover of Sharia Law that they claim is imminent. This claim has garnered them a designation as a hate group from the Southern Poverty Law Center – and caused a considerable amount of additional fear in the Tucson chapter. “Hopefully we can do this without Antifa coming to behead us all,” Barry Webb said. “They employ Nazi tactics, they have shut down speakers like us.” Webb...

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Drop the swastika, keep the hate

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The jackbooted, goose-stepping, swastika-bearing members of last century’s National Socialist Movement may have changed their look and ditched the Nazi insignias, but the devotion to Hitler’s ideals haven’t budged. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Events like the violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, have thrust a disparate group of white supremacists, Nazis, nationalists and the KKK into the national spotlight as an ill-defined “Alt-Right.” What many considered to be fringe elements from the backwoods are now found in cities and states across the country. One of the longest-running groups is the National Socialist Movement, an organization dedicated to the same ideology and political system as Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The Southern Poverty Law Center designates the NSM as a Neo-Nazi, white supremacist, hate group. Arizona has a local chapter of the NSM, and...

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Glenn’s War

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SIERRA VISTA — Glenn Spencer is a general fighting a one-man war. It’s a war that, according to him, the American government doesn’t want but one he is duty-bound to wage.  His battlefield is the border and his soldiers are drones, guided by seismographs. He has an almost-fanatical drive to develop a cheaper, more-secure system to “lock down” the U.S.-Mexican borderland. Spencer’s enemies are elusive, wily, and to him, alien. They are Latino border crossers, and whether they are children fleeing conflict, families seeking a better life, or suspected drug smugglers, it makes no difference to him. Spencer believes they constitute a threat large enough to warrant years of his life struggling to combat. Fifteen years into the project, Spencer spends his time fine-tuning a drone system capable of snaring crossers. He claims his combative stance and skepticism about...

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UA’s packaged-food labeling incorrect

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The saying “You are what you eat” only applies when you know what you are eating. If you buy food from the University of Arizona under its “Red & Blue Market” label, you can never be certain. That’s because the nutritional labeling – required by the Food and Drug Administration on every piece of packaged food – is commonly incorrect. Calorie content can be absurdly high, or the entries in the “percent daily value” section could be a significant part of a day’s recommended sugar intake – in one plastic cup of fruit. A small package of dried fruit and nuts claims to contain over 400 calories, with 25.1 grams of fat. A container of carrots, celery, and peanut butter is listed as having 616 calories, 50 grams of fat, and 25 grams of protein – despite having only...

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‘Pickle suits’ and putting on the gun

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NOGALES, Ariz — They wear “pickle suits,” ride horses, and read books to elementary schoolers. Being pelted with rocks is a daily hazard, as is occasionally being shot at. Make no mistake — being a part of the Border Patrol is not an easy job. On one hand, it’s hours of sitting in a car, watching a section of the border. On the other, it is dealing with potentially dangerous situations involving drug runners or heartbreaking scenes of desperate families in peril. This double-edged sword is just one facet of a deeply complex institution that guards nearly 2,000 miles of border between the United States and México. Hot-button issues such as immigration or the war on drugs, so commonly spoken about on the national stage, are a fact of life for olive-uniformed agents walking the fence or trudging through the desert. Agents...

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Cascabel rejects development

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CASCABEL —  A proposed residential community would mean big business for Benson but the people living north along the San Pedro River in Cascabelwant none of it. The Villages at Vigneto, sited just south of Benson, would potentially boost the population of the small town of 5,000 people to over 70,000 in the space of 20 to 25 years. The development has come under fire for the potential damage it could cause to the water resources of the area, chiefly to the San Pedro River and the habitats that rely on it. For the people living north of the city like Anna Lands and Alex Binford-Walsh, it means so much more than that. “We are really going to get squeezed,” said Lands. “The people from there are going to want to come here.” The area around Cascabel is very...

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House development challenges Benson, San Pedro River

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BENSON — The future of the 70,000-person residential community Villages at Vigneto lives or dies on a single decision by the Army Corps of Engineers, potentially dooming the San Pedro River or reversing the fortunes of Benson.  However, not a single person lives in the community, because it doesn’t exist just yet and the San Pedro and Benson are dependent on one big “if.” That “if” reaches much farther than the just the city limits or banks of the river, as this development south of Benson would make it the largest city in Cochise County and transform the area from a sleepy, rural county to Arizona’s newest housing goldmine. For those who see a change in fortune, it is a huge boon. For those who appreciate the status quo, it’s a travesty. The crux of the issue lies underground....

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A wall being built in Naco’s backyard stirs up emotions

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NACO, Arizona — Sonia Urcadez woke up one October morning to the sound of cement trucks lining the street in front of her house, kicking up clouds of dust that obscured the sunrise and her view of the San José Mountains.  It was 6 a.m., and 100 feet from her door, construction on a new border fence had just begun. The U.S. Border Patrol announced in January that the section of border fence in Naco will be replaced with a more modern barrier by June. That announcement was months overdue for the residents of Naco, who had been living with the disruptive construction since last October. Cement trucks and construction workers had been coming and going seven days a week as they prepared the work site for the removal of the old fence and the replacement of the new. Nobody living...

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