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

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Why late Edith Head’s doppelgänger will never leave Tucson

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Each Thanksgiving Day, one of Arizona’s “48 Most Intriguing Women” becomes a clown. But when it comes to her career, the 5-foot Tucsonan is anything but clownish. Susan Claassen’s energy, style and taste makes her an all-around class act. She not only runs Tucson’s Invisible Theatre, but she acts, writes and directs. “She’s not afraid of big projects,” said Molly McKasson, Claassen’s lifelong friend. “She’s willing and able to take on all of the work.” Claassen’s surreal physical resemblance to late Hollywood designer Edith Head changed her acting career forever. Years ago, she did a double take while watching a television biography of Head and knew there was a story to be told. In 2002, her one-woman show A Conversation With Edith Head was born and has been running ever since — earning her an Ovation Nomination, the Los...

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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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Oldest saloon in Arizona receives a makeover

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Outside and patio dining is becoming a new amenity in Tombstone, Arizona. Kim Herrig, owner of the Crystal Palace Saloon has known since taking over the saloon in 2002 that this was the perfect addition to the historical building. The Crystal Palace will be the only restaurant/bar in Tombstone to have outdoor and rooftop dining. The renovations being made will bring in more revenue, a second floor and deck is being added to the saloon. Construction began in June 2017, starting with the replacement of support beams. All construction should be finished by Thanksgiving, the 16-foot high ceilings make for extra difficulty with placing the mezzanine outside. The Crystal Palace will be the first restaurant/bar in Tombstone to have outdoor and rooftop dining. A second floor and deck is being added to the saloon. In June of this year...

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Vigilante justice paves a centuries long history for Tombstone

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A gunfight that happened in less than a minute in Tombstone on Oct. 26, 1881, left the town with an immortalized piece of history, and a place on the map. The shootout between Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, Doc Holliday against Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Claiborne became the picture of vigilante justice in the Old West. It became good vs. evil, cowboys vs. the law and a shootout in a soon-to-be washed up silver mining town. News of the shooting at the O.K. Corral reached far beyond the town of Tombstone. This less than a minute of western warfare spurred the potential of Tombstone to evolve into a tourist destination today. “A face down, gunfight between men on both sides, the law and the cowboys, there were very few facedown gunfights in the...

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Hunger persists in Cochise County

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Hunger gnaws at Cochise County citizens more than the average American. The poverty rate in Cochise County is 18.7 percent, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau compared to the national rate of 12.7 percent. This difference makes food banks and aid organizations increasingly important in Cochise County communities.  Walking around the town of Tombstone tourists see horse drawn waggons, wild west saloons and historic gunfight reenactments. They smell country air, dust, and sweet fudge from one of many gift shops, but they might not know that hunger lives here, too. With little opportunity for well paying jobs many in the Tombstone community go hungry. This becomes evident at the end of the town’s famed O.K. Corral gun show when the actor playing Doc Holliday asks for donations for the Starving Actors Fund.  Tombstone Community Food Bank, hidden behind...

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Arizona basketball nets big bucks, players shortchanged

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The University of Arizona profited more than $9.8 million on the play of 13 scholarship basketball players last year. The athletes earned a $36,000 scholarship and $1,500 every month for food and housing. Their work generated $22.7 million of revenue for the university. They received 4 percent. Critics say the pay is paltry and the ongoing under-the-table pay scandal involving Arizona basketball occurred because athletes are not paid a fair wage for their labors. The huge gap between profit and pay resurfaced last month when the FBI revealed a massive payoff scandal in college basketball that ensnared Arizona and three other universities. Payouts for future players with shoe company money — long common knowledge in college basketball — are now seeing the light of day. Scholars and labor experts call for a fair market value system that would end...

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How farms cope with a closed border

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With winter lettuce season starting in November, farms and the agriculture industry are rushing to find workers for harvest. A difficult task, made more difficult with the anti-immigration rhetoric coming from the current administration. For Arizona, the stakes are high, especially for the Yuma area, where roughly 90 percent of national lettuce and leafy greens are produced in winter. With the immigrant labor supply already drying up in the United States, farm operators have had to turn to controversial H2-A visas to import and employ temporary agriculture workers. A program that, as it stands, is not popular. “The farmworkers, especially H2-A guest workers, generally don’t have any bargaining power to demand a better wage,” said Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, a nonprofit migrant worker rights group based in Washington D.C. “If they want to come back in a...

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New weapon in war against climate change: Surprise! It’s a camera

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Last June, a jaguar named “Sombra” wandered in front of an isolated wildlife camera in the Chiricahua Mountains. Detecting motion, the camera began recording an infrared video. Sombra stopped in front of the camera. Crickets clicked in the darkness while the big cat looked around before wandering off. These wildlife cameras, often used by hunters to track game, change the way conservationists and biologists discover, monitor and view wildlife. The data collected over years of the National Park Service’s Inventory and Monitoring programs will provide substantial data for scientists to better understand the future effects of climate change. Data and footage from the cameras have been used in climate-change arguments, litigation and even spurred solutions such as the Oracle Road wildlife-crossing bridge in Oro Valley. Randy Serraglio, southwest conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, oversees the wildlife cameras...

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Test scores reflect education inequality in poor areas

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State test scores highlight educational inequality in rural areas with high percentages of poor students. On the 2016-17 AzMERIT test, 39 percent of Arizona students passed the English section of the test. Across the state, students with an economic disadvantage (qualifying for free or reduced lunch) tested nearly 10 percent lower on the AzMERIT test, passing at 28 percent. Homeless students tested almost 20 percent lower than the average; only two out of every 10 homeless students passed the test. As a result, counties with higher percentages of poor students came in further below the statewide average on the test. For example, in La Paz County, where 80 percent of the tested students qualified as disadvantaged, only 22 percent of students passed the exam. Vincent Roscigno, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University who has studied education inequality...

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UA valley fever research could save sick dogs

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Brinkley is only 1 1/2 years old. She takes six medications a day. One combats the infection in her bones. Three suppress her pain. One supplements her joints, and the last is an antibiotic that fights her additional health threats. Brinkley suffers from a severe case of valley fever, a disease that is crippling dogs all over Arizona. There is nothing that could have prevented Brinkley from contracting the disease, but research at the University of Arizona could change that, with a vaccine that would eliminate the threat of valley fever in dogs, possibly within the next five years. “We’ve had some good luck recently,” said John Galgiani, Director of the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence. “We have a (potential) vaccine that has been very productive in mice.” Researcher and veterinarian Lisa Shubitz said vaccine tests on dogs should...

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Drug trafficking in southeast Arizona declining but still national crisis

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Drug trafficking across the U.S. and Mexico border continues to be an epidemic, not just for Southeast Arizona, but the nation as a whole. Cochise County is one of the primary points of entry. Since 2013, six different drugs have been commonly smuggled into the U.S.: methamphetamine, powdered cocaine, marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin and oxycodone. According to the U.S. Border Patrol Tucson Sector, agents seized 727,367 pounds of marijuana last year; nearly 22 times the 32,608 pounds confiscated by Yuma’s sector. The Tucson sector haul accounts for more than half of the total amount of marijuana seized in the southern sector of the U.S. Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre, who has been with the county attorney’s office for 12 years and served as a drug and violence prosecutor for five years, said heroin and cocaine use is on the...

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Rural community theater’s across Arizona struggle to survive

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In a world with limited arts funding, community theaters across the state of Arizona struggle to sustain themselves. According to Arizona Commission on the Arts, in rural areas only 52 percent of students have access to arts education programs in their school. The value community theaters bring to students and schools is being completely diminished due to lack of funding. Over 20 nonprofit community theaters in Arizona look to Arizona Commission on the Arts, which is funded in part by National Endowment for the Arts, to help fund their programs. The agency released $2,354,500 in grants for fiscal year 2018. In 2013, Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Department of Education conducted an arts education census that revealed that out of the 2,261 schools in Arizona, only 91 offer theater. That is only 4.9 percent. “Fortunately, we haven’t...

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Suzanne Moody and her 23 year love affair with Chiricahua National Monument

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    Park Ranger Suzanne Moody has lived at Chiricahua National Monument for 23 years, and she finds something new in the park to fall in love with each day. “You would think after working here all these years I would have more than enough photos, but there’s always something slightly different,” Moody said in between snapping pictures, “This is a view I could never get tired of looking at.” Chiricahua National Monument in Wilcox, Ariz., was established by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 for its unique rock formations and the wide variety of plant and animal species. Per its website, Chiricahua is just under 12,000 acres, and the national monument attracts around 55,000 to 60,000 thousand people each year. The summer after Moody finished her degree in social work, she found an ad in Backpacker magazine for the...

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Cochise College joins nation’s top-ranked schools

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Who would have thought a small community college out of Cochise County would be named the second-best community college in the country. Cochise College has six collegiate teams, over 11,000 students and over 50 major’s to choose from. These power-house campuses have a lot of hard work and dedication that has now been proven over time. More than 700 community colleges all over the country were analyzed and ranked from worst to best conducted by WalletHub, a financial advising website that provides free credit scores online and financial advice daily. The community colleges were ranked on multiple factors: cost and financing, education, financing and career outcomes. J.D. Rottweiler, President at Cochise College since 2009, has seen the college grow in more ways than one in the last 10 years. “Cochise College has always had a solid foundation and board. I...

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Wine industry bubbling up fast in Arizona

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Toast this: Arizona’s wine industry grew 1,940 percent in 14 years. New wineries are bursting onto the map with vineyards and tasting rooms popping up statewide, concentrated in the southeast growing region. Arizona wine is making a name for itself and pouring onto the national scene from grape to bottle. In 2003 there were five wineries in the state, in 2011 there were 42 and now there are 102 active small wineries and vineyards across Arizona. According to a 2017 survey done by Northern Arizona University and the Arizona Tourism Office, the Arizona wine industry supports 640 jobs and has a statewide economic impact of $56.2 million, up from $37.6 million in 2011. Access an interactive map that shows all wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms here. The growing success is partly due to the climate. Southeast Arizona is one of...

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