Friday, April 29, 2011

Fires involving hoarders a growing problem in AZ

This Tempe Fire Department photo shows an apartment where firefighters discovered items accmulated by a hoarder. (Photo courtesy of the Tempe Fire Department)

Cronkite News Service

TEMPE – Firefighters had no reason to suspect anything but a house fire, but when three of them walked up to the front door, an explosion hit them with a wall of flame. Two were injured, including a fire captain burned on his face and hands.

It turned out that rooms in the house were piled high with newspapers and household items that helped the fire spread quickly. An older couple who live in the home were hoarders – people who accumulate items and sometimes animals to the degree that they overwhelm their homes.

There have been five hoarding-related fires in Tempe alone in the past six months, and offiicials and first responders call that a symptom of a rising problem as Arizona’s population ages.

Mike Reichling, a Tempe Fire Department spokesman, said the danger to first responders and occupants goes beyond potential fires and explosions.

“We go into these homes that have medical issues, and we have barely enough room to get to the patients; it delays our response,” Reichling said. “I’ve been in situations where there’s been only a little pathway and the materials were stacked from the floor to the ceilings, even in the attics, every closet, inside the ovens, inside the bathtubs.”

Kristen Scharlau, coordinator of Tempe’s Care 7 Program, which responds to crises involving residents, said that the comfort provided by hoarding behavior can be a symptom of larger mental health issues.

“The behavior is staying comfortable with their possessions and not having the ability to get rid of something because it causes them anxiety and stress,” she said. “Those people are really hesitant for any kind of change.”

Hoarding behavior can be triggered by abandonment, financial fears or emotional trauma. Without finding help or wanting to change, hoarding can lead to serious problems.

“It’s really hard to keep their home clean – they can’t get to all the surfaces to clean it,” Scharlau said. “It becomes a dangerous situation for their health and for the health of any pets they may have and also for any kind of responding agencies.”

Scharlau said recovery includes understanding, counseling and help with the overwhelming process of cleaning up.

Debbie Meyer became familiar with hoarding through her relocation business, Moving You Simply, which helps people downsize and organize their houses.

Meyer said she handles about 10 cases of hoarding each year, but she’s already seen five or six this year.

“We just did one the other day – she fell, can’t go back,” Meyer said. “Her friend let us into the house and the dust – it’s nasty, filthy.”

Meyer said she’s worked with clients of all income levels and backgrounds who’ve saved bags of diamonds, straw wrappers, live and dead scorpions, plastic bags, loaded guns and expired or rotting food.

“Nothing fazes me,” Meyer said.

Finding out the story behind each case is part of the experience, Meyer said.

“You’re not born to be a hoarder; something’s snapped in your life,” Meyer said. “People hoard because they’re fearful of the outside world.”

Irene Yurko-Goldberg contracted with Meyer to help a friend whose house was piled high with clothes and documents and had two refrigerators stuffed with rotting food. Each time she tried to help, the house just filled up again, and finally she called in Meyer when the friend fell and needed to move to an assisted-living facility, she said.

“I could never get her organized, but that’s all we ever did,” she said.

Scharlau said because change is difficult for hoarders, it’s important for friends, relatives and neighbors to learn about hoarding and how to get people the help they need.

Reality shows about hoarding are one way that the public is learning more about hoarding – and what they can do about it.

“It’s about recognizing the signs and the symptoms and knowing where to direct people,” she said. “There are so many people who can help.”

– Arizona Hoarding Task Force:
– American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:
– Clutterer’s Anonymous:
– International OCD Foundation:

Evidence is in: God is an influential football fan

As we head into that long secular stretch between Easter and Christmas, there is new evidence that the Lord really does work in mysterious ways.

It comes from the lips of outside linebacker Von Miller, selected as the second pick in the first round of the National Football League draft this week by the Denver Broncos. For you non-football fans, Miller played collegiately at Texas A&M where he amassed 27.5 sacks in his last two years – a feat that made him one of the most coveted football players available in this year’s draft.

A few days before the draft, Miller attributed his skills to his Maker, the Lord Almighty Himself: “My God-given ability is speed off the edge,” he said. “I can drop back into coverage and all that other stuff, too, but what God has blessed me with is pass rushing off the edge.”

Your first reaction is probably that Miller is just another dumb jock who babbles anything that comes into his head into a microphone. But I submit that this is something more, something much more. In fact, I believe this is the first definitive evidence that God is a football fan.

Not that we should be surprised. God is, after all, a guy, and what self-respecting guy doesn’t love America’s game?

In fact, He probably invented it. Or rather, created it. Along with such delightful creations as birds and flowers and wasps and tsunamis and women.

And why else would football at its highest level be played on the seventh day. On Sunday, you will recall, the Lord rested from his creative labors and declared that we mortals should forever do likewise.

That was well and good back when we had nothing but time on our hands. Nowadays, however, it’s tough to make people rest on Sundays. We lead a busy existence and simply taking off one day in seven is increasingly not an option. Stores are open , bars are open, lawns need mowing (unless you live in here in the Land of Crushed Granite) and Facebook never sleeps.

But in His infinite wisdom, the Lord has found a way to get the vast majority of American males to sit on their butts all day Sunday and into the evening – by inventing football. Is ours a clever God, or what?

And to make sure that these Sunday combats are sufficiently attractive to continually bring American maledom to a halt, God has to make sure the game, as played by professionals, is the finest in all the land. Hence he has to create a regular supply of superstars like Von Miller – to whom he has granted various superpowers, not the least of which is the ability to pass rush off the edge.

One naturally wonders if God has his own favorite team. The New Orleans Saints come to mind, but then so does Hurricane Katrina. Which would lead us to believe that either He has a unique sense of humor, or He plays no favorites.

On the other hand, our own Arizona Cardinals had hoped Miller would be available when they selected fifth in the first round. Lord knows, no pun intended, that the Cardinals have gone many moons without a player who could pass rush off the edge.

Alas, when the Cardinals selected this, Miller was already long gone.

Now I suggest to you that if God granted Von Miller the ability to pass rush off the edge, then He is much more directly involved in our affairs than we had heretofore believed. Following this logic, the Lord Himself must have denied the Arizona Cardinals the services of Von Miller, which would certainly suggest that the Cardinals jinx is divinely inspired.

So God may not have a favorite team, but it appears he has a least favorite team. Coupled with the fact that Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill is a notorious consumer of great quantities of ice cream, the message coming down to Cards fans from on high is simple and time-worn: Let them eat cake.

Royal wedding a jolly good late night show

The Royal Wedding went off without a hitch while most of us here in the Rim Country were asleep.  If you missed it, here's some of the coverage, including Google's graphic tribute.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Unabashed liberal examines political extremes

A good friend said to me, recently, “There’s someone you should meet, who strongly believes in a political philosophy quite different from yours. In fact, this person remarked to me that he would like to hear how you could possibly justify yours.” This sounded like a challenge to me, so after a brief moment of defensive posturing, I began a serious internal search for a proper answer.

The immediate problem I perceived was to try to establish the two differing philosophies allegedly at issue. Assumptions are usually risky, but for the sake of argument, I assumed that my “accuser” is somewhat of a Conservative by today’s model and that he perceives my beliefs to march under the Liberal banner.

First, I wanted to see if I could briefly but fairly identify the two philosophies in question. The terms Liberal and Conservative or, more commonly, Left and Right, are too cliched to be clearly identified these days. In fact, they seem as often to be empty epithets as reasoned positions. There are more polar positions, known as Far Left and Far Right, but these seem beyond any hope of reasonable debate. Therefore, I decided to only consider some of the most commonly accepted distinctions.

To begin, every country has some type of forum, tribunal, parliament or other established seat of power, which is influenced by the same ancient differing philosophies. In the American Congress, proponents of the Left and the Right won’t even sit together. The details may vary widely, but at the bedrock of decision-making lies a fundamental question of how humanity is seen and understood.

We can go back in history as far as the written word will take us. Beyond that, archeological evidence appears to confirm what the word indicates. It is well understood that Man is different from the other animals. Man exhibits something unique, which can be called soul. Within that extraordinary dimension are found such characteristics as appreciation, compassion, conscience, concern, pride, guilt etc. etc. Like DNA, these traits are present in all men, in varying degrees. They account for most of the remarkable achievements and, sadly, some of the worst disasters recorded by mankind.

From the beginning, mankind’s achievements have followed a trend line generally upward - making improvements in existing features or issues. It is not a straight line, but it persists in an upward trend. Man continually strives to improve his lifestyle – even his environment. Each generation searches for things “new and improved.” The great divide has always been over what constitutes progress and how best to achieve it. In this, we find the core understanding of what distinguishes a “Liberal" from a “Conservative.”

It appears that the great majority of mankind has always preferred to live in communities. The practical advantages seem obvious. The division of labor greatly enhances the possibility of bounty for all, and the presence of numbers provides for a common protection from would-be marauders. From the beginning, it seems to have been recognized that the best chance for an individual to succeed was to utilize the advantages found within a group. It also follows that individual achievements are embraced by the group when they have the effect of improving the group as a whole. As the group prospers, so does each individual to some degree. This, in turn, creates more incentive for individual initiative. The two are inextricably bound.

What, then, should be the role of individual initiative, and what are its best applications? A brilliant scientist may find a cure for a devastating disease, thus improving the health of the community. Keeping the cure to himself would make no sense. Surviving when the rest of the world is suffering would be unconscionable, plus simply not practical. It is, therefore, not only humane and compassionate to share the cure, it is completely pragmatic. He benefits along with everyone else. In another example, the brilliant industrialist Henry Ford would never have achieved his stardom much less his fortune had he not considered the financial restraints limiting his target market. Doing good can, and often does, achieve a pragmatic goal as much as a philosophical one.

Therefore, it should be easy to understand that there is a profound reason for individuals within a society attempting to find benefits for the society. There are strong pragmatic reasons. The individual is best served and protected as conditions improve within society as a whole. Ironically, Individualism has its best chance of fulfillment in a composite environment.

People who understand this best and are most inclined to practice its tenets are generally known as Liberals.

There is adequate evidence, though, that some individuals have been strongly inclined to live independent of any outside influence. Perhaps these individuals perceived an advantage in being able to move about freely while following herds of animals or changing crop conditions. Whatever their motivation, they seemed determined to decide their fate for themselves.

Even among Nomadic wanderers though, there are circumstances where community offers a better opportunity for success, if only temporarily. They may live individually, but they often recognize the advantages of getting together briefly to gather crops, herd animals, or perhaps even to learn new skills.

Undeniably, a strong emotional pull may exist, drawing some individuals to break free of all constraints and live with no boundaries, no obligations, no imposed conditions. Strong individuals with such yearnings settled America’s great west. Great explorers throughout history exemplified such traits. Catering to the masses must have seemed foolish, non-productive and overly sentimental to them. Given the right circumstances today, many are still confident of succeeding on their own just fine. Indeed, they firmly believe that all men could do so, and should. Enabling that process is anathema to them, however.

They brush off the advantages afforded them by society other than those of primarily utilitarian value. It would not be fair to characterize their philosophy as being indifferent to the arts, but they generally see no obligation to use society’s money to fund them. Ironically, once the most successful of these individuals reach their potential, they fully expect and greatly desire an advanced sophisticated society within which to enjoy the benefits of their efforts.

I think the most recognized term for this group would be Conservatives.

The overall conclusion through eons of time is that community has been generally preferred over total individualism. As a practical matter, it is more and more unavoidable. In general, it follows closely that communities and individuals often complement each other and each is benefited by advancements by the other. The most fiercely independent individual finds himself at a disadvantage if he does not avail himself of some benefits of a community. Conversely, society expects to be motivated by individual initiative and is even willing to promote and subsidize it. 

Conservatives and Liberals are both best served by containing each other to some extent while searching for some accommodation. Yin and Yang furnish centrifugal spin, preventing an overwhelming force from destroying either. Stability should never equal stagnation, however. Neither should the eternal trend toward beneficial progress be held back.

Finding ways to promote progress, ensure justice and benefit the common good is the work of Liberals, I believe. Perhaps the role of Conservatives should be to make sure it is done right.

That’s my position, and I’m sticking to it.

Obama releases long-form Hawaii birth certificate

Right wing conspiracy theorists and racists were proven wrong yesterday when President Barack Obama produced a copy of  his long-form Hawaii birth certificate (pictured above), putting to rest once and for all the ridiculous claim that he was not born in the United States. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, recent rantings by would-be presidential candidate Donald Trump led the president to finally say, "Enough."  Trump, of course, took credit for the release.  For the full story, which our local newspaper will not carry, see the front page of today's (April 28) Arizona Republic, or click here: The Arizona Republic is your best newspaper value. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PUSD Supt. O'Brien a finalist for Deer Valley job

Courtesy photo
Payson Unified School District Superintendent Casey O'Brien is one of four finalists for the vacant superintendent's job in the Deer Valley Unified School District. O'Brien, who was invited to apply for the position, apparently was promised his candidacy would be kept confidential.  The Deer Valley district is much larger than PUSD with 35,000 students.  PUSD has about 2,700 students. A decision is expected May 10.

Gov. Brewer signs GCC independence bills

Among the 33 bills signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday were SB1213 and SB1217, the independence and workforce money bills for Gila Community College.

“Community College District Alternative Formation” received strong support in Northern Gila County, and from GCC Board Member Tom Loeffler and Republican State Sen. Sylvia Allen.  Loeffler mobilized Rim Country residents to contact their elected state officials at several stages as the bills progressed.

While SB1213 allows the Gila Community College District to become independent from Eastern Arizona College at Thatcher, the GCC board could renegotiate its contract with EAC.  Eastern currently operates campuses in Payson, San Carlos and Globe under contract to the GCC district.

GCC is one of just two provisional community college districts in Arizona, which means it must contract with an accredited district like EAC and is ineligible for equalization funding for rural colleges.

GCC will now be allowed to seek approval from voters to become independent, at which time it would seek to become accredited – a process that could take several years.  As that process unfolds, GCC will still have to contract with EAC or another accredited community college district.

Loeffler and other supporters of independence believe a property tax increase will not be necessary for the first few years.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Local political groups join forces to support mine

(Editor's note: In a rare show of solidarity, local Democrats are joining with Republicans and the Tea Party at a special meeting to encourage release of the Environmental Impact Statement from The U. S. Forest Service in order to speed up the beginnings of two mining operations in Arizona. One of those, The Resolution Copper Mine, would employ about 300 Gila County citizens in a clean environment mine near Miami/Globe. The other is near Tucson. We can only hope these groups will also work together to achieve fair redistricting for northern Gila County and to protect Medicare and Social Security at the expense of tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations, and excessive defense spending. Here is the meeting notice:) 

All people who are interested in helping the Resolution Copper mine near Globe and the Rosemont Mine near Tucson get through the red tape are invited to meet on Thursday, May 5 at Tiny’s at 6 pm. This is the normal time for Tea Party to meet but this is for ALL people (all parties, no party, and independents) interested in helping Gila Co and AZ to gain great tax revenues to benefit our corner of the world. Information will be passed out by the CEO of Rosemont to show how we activists can assist. Why should Americans pay for so much imported copper?

For more information about the meeting, call Dan Adams 474-8161, Ed Blair 472-3021, Shirley Dye 468-1131, Jerry Foster 978-4031, Andy McKinney 951-0325.

Seniors rally to save Medicare, Social Security

(Editor's note: The following is from the Alliance of Retired Americans, whose contact information appears below. The Alliance is a nationwide membership organization organized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501 (c) (4) and dedicated to educating all Americans about and advocating on behalf of retirees and seniors.)

Last Friday, the U.S. House approved a draconian 2012 budget that ends Medicare as we know it, provides a roadmap for eliminating Social Security, and cuts $1.4 trillion from Medicaid over 10 years. Meanwhile, in the Senate, there is a major bipartisan initiative to raise the retirement age or cut Social Security benefits in other ways.

With Congress in recess until May 3, Alliance members are using this time to tell members of the House and Senate, the media, and supporters that Congress should keep its hands off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid! “Our goals are to ensure that: Social Security not be included in a deficit-reduction deal; Medicare not be turned over to insurance companies; the eligibility age for Medicare benefits not be raised to 67, from 65; and severe cuts to Medicaid be blocked,” explained Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

The Alliance is teaming with “Strengthen Social Security” and other groups with rallies, advertisements, and grassroots lobbying campaigns to defend Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security from the proposed cuts. Retirees across the country will be showing the effects of what diminishing retirement security legislation means to “real people” by dressing up in work clothes and demonstrating what it means to “Work ’Til We Die.”

This past Monday, New Hampshire Alliance members donned hardhats and crutches on Tax Day to tell Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) that his vote last week in favor of the plan of the House Budget Committee Chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) – a proposal which would replace Medicare with a voucher system and raise the retirement age – would keep people working much too late in life. A group of twenty retirees and workers using wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches gathered at the Manchester Post Office to challenge Guinta's vote. Then they marched to Guinta's office [] and gave his staff a long list of grievances stemming from the vote.

To learn about upcoming, similar Alliance events around the country, planned for next week, go to To see the “Don’t Make Us Work ’Til We Die” video from “Strengthen Social Security,” go to To see video of Rep. Ryan being booed at a town hall for defending tax breaks for the wealthy while suggesting major Medicare and Social Security cuts for the middle class, go to

Meanwhile, this from The Washington Post:

“Despite growing concerns about the country’s long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll [].

The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support. The Post-ABC poll finds that 78% oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to chip away at the debt. Only 34% of Americans say Medicare should be changed along the lines outlined in the Ryan budget proposal.

A separate Washington Post article, at, looks at the Ryan budget and the senior vote. In 2010, seniors turned out in big numbers, and Republicans carried voters over 65 by 21 points — by far their biggest margin among any age group. “The 2012 budget proposed by Rep. Ryan and passed by House Republicans on Friday would privatize Medicare and shift most of the entitlement’s future costs onto seniors,” the article states. The piece then questions whether the trend of seniors voting with Republicans can continue.

Alliance for Retired Americans
815 16th Street, NW Fourth Floor · Washington, DC 20006
202-637-5399 (main)
Join the

Monday, April 25, 2011

Algae shaking reputation as mere pond scum

Researchers first grow algae in the lab to find the optimum growing conditions - and then scale up to mass-produce it. (Photo courtesy of Joel Cuello)
An open pond system is one way to mass-produce algae for biofuels. (Photo courtesy of Joel Cuello) 

By Shelley Littin
NASA Space Grant intern
University Communications

It's green, it's slimy and it smells. It also abundantly produces lipids, sugars and sometimes hydrogen gas, all of which are sought-after sources for renewable energy. You may think of it as mere pond scum, but algae could be a highly productive biofuel crop in the near future.

More than 300 times as productive a source for renewable energy as corn, algae could be used to make biodiesel to power vehicles and industries – if it can be produced at a low enough cost to be feasible economically.

In a collaborative research effort between several departments, scientists and engineers at the University of Arizona are studying ways to optimize the production of biofuels from algae.

The challenge: How to use environmental factors to control the rate at which the algae grow and produce lipids to maximize production while also reducing the cost of resources needed to grow algae.

"Right now the cost of production still exceeds the value of the final product," said Joel Cuello, professor in the department of agricultural and biosystems engineering. "So the challenge research-wise is trying to lower the production cost while increasing algae productivity."

One way to lower production cost is to use treated secondary wastewater to grow the algae. The algae purify the water by absorbing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and at the same time eliminate the need to use costly fertilizers to supply the algae with nutrients.

"Wastewater has nitrates and phosphates that need to be removed anyway, so why not just feed it to the algae?" said Cuello.

Algae cells store fat as lipids, oil molecules that can be processed to make biodiesel. The researchers grow colonies of algae in flasks to test the effects of different environmental conditions on growth and lipid production.

Kimberly Ogden of the department of chemical and environmental engineering has a lab full of algae-filled flasks: "We grow the algae and then separate the lipid material that can be turned into fuel from the rest of the algae, which is mostly protein."

The goal, said Ogden, is to learn enough about the chemical structure of the oils to be able to process them into biodiesel with the same facilities currently used to process petroleum. Eventually algae oil could be blended with petroleum oil to make biodiesel.

"We use alternative water supplies and look at water recycling and reuse," said Ogden. "We don't want to use tap water – for one thing all the chlorine is probably not a good idea, and we don't want to be using the freshwater supplies."

One of the challenges is selecting a species that produces the right lipids at the right rate, said Mark Riley, professor and head of the department of agricultural and biosystems engineering.

"We can look at algae that grow very quickly, but they generally make very little oil. Or there are algae that grow really slowly, but they make a lot of oil. So the challenge is how to mix the two of those characteristics to maximize the amount of oil."

"One of the ways to try to stimulate the algae to produce a lot of lipids is to deprive them of one resource," said Riley. "The idea is to give them some sugar or a lot of sunlight, and then not give them nitrogen because they need nitrogen to make protein and they can't replicate unless they can make protein. What happens is the algae keep running photosynthesis and instead of being able to replicate they store all of those compounds inside their cells."

"Ideally what we want to do is control how the algae work so that they grow a whole lot, and then we say: ‘OK, you're done growing, now it's time to start making lipids,'" said Riley.

"We also look at life cycle assessment," said Ogden. "We look at the impact of the entire process on the environment, everything from the nutrients that the algae need, such as phosphate, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, through the actual processing. We're trying to understand how to optimize production from what we learn in the lab and apply that knowledge to methods for mass production of algae."

Obviously, if you want to produce enough biodiesel to power a truck, you're not going to get very far on a few flasks of algae.

There are two ways to mass produce algae: In outdoor open ponds or inside a container called a bioreactor.

The researchers are experimenting with the first option at an outdoor facility in Tucson, Ariz. However, controlling environmental factors becomes much more difficult with the larger-scale, outdoor operation.

"The water, the sunlight and the ambient temperature are all factors you want to keep in a fairly narrow range," said Riley. "One of the problems in these large ponds is just the temperature change from day to night. If the liquid gets too hot, then you kill the algae. If it gets too cold, then you decrease their rate of growth and their rate of metabolism."

The second option to mass-produce algae involves a bioreactor.

Cuello's lab developed a device called the accordion photobioreactor – which very loosely resembles the musical instrument – to provide a controlled environment for growing algae.

"A bioreactor is just a container or a vessel where you can control various environmental factors inside such as light, temperature and pH," said Cuello.

"So there's this long chain of events," said Riley. "We've got to grow the algae and then switch the metabolism to produce the lipids, and not just any lipids but the right lipids, then purify them and process them to make the biodiesel."

And algae don't just make lipids. Some species also are capable of producing hydrogen gas, another alternative fuel. Cuello is experimenting with one such species, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

Algae only produce hydrogen gas when they're not photosynthesizing. Photosynthesis yields oxygen, which inhibits the enzyme that catalyzes the hydrogen-producing reaction.

"In order to produce hydrogen gas the oxygen needs to be depleted or markedly reduced," said Cuello. "One interesting technology in this area was developed at the University of California, Berkeley, and that's essentially depriving the algae of sulfur."

Sulfur is a component of certain amino acids and proteins the algae need for photosynthesis. Depriving the algae of sulfur stops photosynthesis so that oxygen can't be produced and the algae instead will make hydrogen gas.

"That's a great idea and it works," said Cuello. "But it's cumbersome because you have to transfer the algae from a sulfur-containing medium to a non-sulfur-containing medium to produce hydrogen gas, and then back again to allow the algae to photosynthesize and recover."

On a quest for a more efficacious method, Cuello and his team came up with a way to make the algae switch between photosynthesizing and producing hydrogen gas using light. The researchers are able to turn parts of the photosynthesizing machinery on and off by exposing them to different wavelengths of light.

"I collaborated with professor Stanley Pau in the College of Optical Sciences, who is an expert on lasers," said Cuello. "We both thought it would be interesting if we could demonstrate production of algae using a laser as the light source because no one had done that before."

Cuello and Pau were able to grow algae successfully using lasers, which can be set to very specific wavelengths to control photosynthesis. "Bottom line, the method works," said Cuello.

With continuing innovations, both open ponds and bioreactors could be used to mass-produce algae in the near future. "I would think that probably it will take another five years for biofuel production from algae to become feasible economically," said Cuello.

The studies are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bio-Products and by local and national companies.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Religious hate crime perpetrated in Rim Country



On April 6, I built a Sweat Lodge on the third crossing on the East Verde River in Payson, with the permission of the U.S. Forest Service. The Sweat Lodge is a man-made structure in which we, as Native Americans, hold purification ceremonies. My relatives and I were preparing for a sweat on Easter weekend.

On April 20, I walked with a friend to the location for further preparations, to find my Sweat Lodge totally destroyed and burnt. I was devastated and saddened. This attack on sacred, religious, and cultural grounds affected me personally, individually, and collectively as a Native American faith community.

I called the Sheriff’s office to file a complaint. Deputy Johnson is investigating this religious hate crime. If you or anyone else has any information that would lead to the individuals who are responsible for the destruction of my Sweat Lodge, please contact the Sheriff’s office in Payson.

Lawerence Duncan

ADOT embraces role as environmental steward

PHOENIX, April 21, 2011 — As Earth Day celebrations take place across the globe this week, the Arizona Department of Transportation has made environmental stewardship a critical part of its mission every day.

ADOT is responsible for designing and operating projects that serve public transportation needs and to enhance community development, while preserving the environmental resources that make Arizona an attractive place for its residents and businesses.

To fulfill this commitment, ADOT has an Office of Environmental Services and an Environmental Planning Group, which consists of multidisciplinary professionals including biologists, archaeologists, planners, and noise, air quality and hazardous waste experts.

The Environmental Planning Group is focused on the evaluation of natural resources, socioeconomic issues and cultural resources during all engineering design and construction projects. The group provides assistance to ensure that each project complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and related environmental laws taking into account a variety issues, including water quality, air quality, noise impacts, historic and cultural resources, environmental justice and endangered species.

Examples of the positive strides ADOT has made in this area include the use of rubberized asphalt, the award-winning wildlife connectivity work in Northern Arizona and proactive efforts such as the Adopt a Highway program:

* Rubberized asphalt has been used to resurface highways and city streets in Arizona for more than 20 years. In addition to being more durable than regular asphalt, rubberized asphalt helps eliminate a major landfill disposal problem - used tires. Approximately 1,500 tires per lane are used for every mile of rubberized asphalt paving overlay applied at a depth of about one inch. Rubberized asphalt has the added benefit of being smoother and quieter, and was most recently applied last year on Interstate 17 north of Loop 101. More than 15 million old tires have found new life as a component in rubberized asphalt in Arizona. "Quiet Paving" is now under way on Grand Avenue and I-10 in the West Valley.

* Arizona is considered a leader in wildlife connectivity issues. ADOT and multiple agencies recently partnered to construct wildlife underpasses and elk crosswalks along State Route 260 and desert bighorn sheep overpasses near historic Hoover Dam on U.S. Highway 93. In addition to preserving wildlife, these specialized crossings protect drivers from crashes with some of the state's big game.

* Since 1988, ADOT's Adopt a Highway program has helped keep the state's roads clean through its volunteer and sponsor system. The litter abatement program collects nearly 135,000 pounds of trash a month, or about 1.6 million pounds (798 tons) of trash per year.

"After safety concerns, environmental stewardship is at the forefront of many of the decisions ADOT makes on future projects," said Todd Williams, director of the Office of Environmental Services. "We are striving to be environmental stewards and to help promote sustainability. Environmental excellence flows from cooperative planning, wise management of environmental resources, and taking responsibility for all actions that affect the environment. These practices promote sustainability, preserve environmental integrity, and prevent environmental harm to the human and natural environment."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Payson Town Council guilty of a misdemeanor?


At the Payson Town Council meeting held on the 21st of April, the Council took action which conflicted with Town Code - code that was recently amended by this same Council.

The code they violated had to do with the payment of water development fees. In the past, said fees had to be paid prior to construction. But last year, the town allowed for developers of multi-family developments and commercial developments to pay their fees over a 10 year period as long as they paid interest on the unpaid amount. 

Seems fair. But the council did not follow their own rules. They passed an ordinance that will allow a chain restaurant that wants to come to town to pay their fees over 10 years yet pay 0 percent interest. 

I am sure other locally owned restaurants will be happy that their water fees are being used to help a new restaurant come to town and unfairly compete for business. Wish other Payson residents and businesses got such a good deal.

Now the Council did not take this action out of ignorance. They actually discussed it, were aware of their actions and took it anyway! They even discussed that an interest of 0 percent actually complied with the requirement to charge interest.

One interesting thing is that in another section of our Town Code, any person found guilty of violating any provision of this Code shall be guilty of a class one misdemeanor…punishable by a fine of not more than $2,500 for individuals and not more than $20,000 for firms, entities, companies, corporations, or businesses and by imprisonment for not more than six months or by probation for not more than three years.

So if a Council violates their own code, are they able to be punished by same code?

Beware the 'middle ground' in budget debate

By Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog

21 April 11 - How debates are framed is critical because the "center" or "middle ground" is supposedly halfway between the two extremes.

We continue to hear that the Great Budget Debate has two sides: The President and the Democrats want to cut the budget deficit mainly by increasing taxes on the rich and reducing military spending, but not by privatizing Medicare. On the other side are Paul Ryan, Republicans, and the right, who want cut the deficit by privatizing Medicare and slicing programs that benefit poorer Americans, while lowering taxes on the rich.

By this logic, the center lies just between.


According to the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll, 78 percent of Americans oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to reduce the debt, and 72 percent support raising taxes on the rich - including 68 percent of Independents and 54 percent of Republicans.

In other words, the center of America isn't near halfway between the two sides. It's overwhelmingly on the side of the President and the Democrats.

I'd wager if Americans also knew two-thirds of Ryan's budget cuts come from programs serving lower and moderate-income Americans and over 70 percent of the savings fund tax cuts for the rich - meaning it's really just a giant transfer from the less advantaged to the super advantaged without much deficit reduction at all - far more would be against it.

And if people knew that the Ryan plan would channel hundreds of billions of their Medicare dollars into the pockets of private for-profit heath insurers, almost everyone would be against it.

The Republican plan shouldn't be considered one side of a great debate. It shouldn't be considered at all. Americans don't want it.

Which is why I get worried when I hear about so-called "bipartisan" groups on Capitol Hill seeking a grand compromise, such as the Senate's so-called "Gang of Six."

Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, a member of that Gang, says they're near agreement on a plan that will chart a "middle ground" between the House Republican budget and the plan outlined last week by the President.

Watch your wallets.

In my view, even the President doesn't go nearly far enough in the direction most Americans would approve. All he wants to do, essentially, is end the Bush tax windfalls for the wealthy - which were designed to be ended in 2010 in any event - and close a few loopholes.

But why shouldn't we go back to the tax rates we had thirty years ago, which required the rich to pay much higher shares of their incomes? One of the great scandals of our age is how concentrated income and wealth have become. The top 1 percent now gets twice the share of national income it took home thirty years ago.

If the super rich paid taxes at the same rates they did three decades ago, they'd contribute $350 billion more per year than they are now - amounting to trillions more over the next decade. That's enough to ensure every young American is healthy and well-educated and that the nation's infrastructure is up to world-class standards.

Nor does the President's proposal go nearly far enough in cutting military spending, which is not only out of control but completely unrelated to our nation's defense needs - fancy weapons systems designed for an age of conventional warfare; hundreds of billions of dollars for the Navy and Air Force, when most of the action is with the Army, Marines, and Special Forces; and billions more for programs no one can justify and few can understand.

If Americans understood how much they're paying for defense and how little they're getting, they'd demand a defense budget at least 25 percent smaller than it is today.

Finally, the President's proposed budget doesn't deal with the scandal of the nation's schools in poor and middle-class communities - schools whose teachers are paid under $50,000 a year, whose classrooms are crammed, that can't afford textbooks or science labs, that have abandoned after-school programs and courses like history and art. Most school budgets depend manly on local property taxes that continue to drop in lower-income communities. The federal government should come to their rescue.

To think of the "center" as roughly halfway between the President's and Paul Ryan's proposals is to ignore what Americans need and want. For our political representatives to find a "middle ground" between the two would be a travesty.

Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet," "Supercapitalism" and his latest book, "AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America's Future." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

All high country lakes open and accessible

Rory's Tip
by Rory Aikens

First order of fishing business, here's a link to our brand new 2011 Summer Stocking Schedule: Make your plans now, it's shaping up to be a great year.

The report has me smiling and dreaming about big trout dancing on the end of the line (especially for my youngest boy and for the grandchildren).

It's turning into a big fish year. First a 60-pound carp from Apache Lake. Then a 31-inch largemouth bass from Lake Pleasant. Now it's a 34-pound striper from Lake Havasu. The angler has submitted it for big fish of the year honors (see the Havasu fishing report below).

Stay tuned, more to come. I'm sure. This might be the year when fishing records topple.

As a matter of fact, a lot of big fish records tend to topple the year after a major runoff year. If you think about it, we just had two back-to-back years of great runoff (2009 and 2010) into our interior lakes. Plus there is the cohort from another record runoff year -- 2005. The class of ought-five will likely be busting lines and scales this year.

It looks like the crappie spawn didn't come off as expected (or touted). The timing was right -- mid April. There was a full moon Sunday with the requisite high tide. We didn't have any storms, plus a high barometer. Looked pretty good for those breeding perimeters. But it seems the water temperatures (especially the nighttime ones) didn't fall into the crappie biological criteria. Then there was a strong, warm wind Sunday night pushing warn water into the shallows, and at low tide, that warm water likely moved out, taking lots of bedding fish with it (theory at least). All in all, last week's crystal ball needs to be returned to the gypsies wandering in the constellation Pisces.

Since crappie only have a short spawning window, unlike bass with their prolonged spawn, conditions have to be just right, it can't be a crappie crap shoot. So send me your crappie spawn predictions and I'll put the winner in the report (and on Facebook). Sound good?

Let's shift to the high country for lots of great news. All our high country lakes are open and accessible, save one -- Bear Canyon Lake along the Mogollon Rim. It's our one snow-drift hold out this year. Last year it as Knoll Lake, it's kissin' cousin just down the famous Rim Road (FR 300). Knoll Lake is accessible from the west -- the Coconino National Forest side. From the east (Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest), there are snow drifts blocking the way past Woods Canyon.

But if you are planning to fish Woods Canyon, keep in mind you'll have a quarter-mile walk right now, at least until they repair the final stretch of road and the parking lot next to the store.

But both Willow Springs and Black Canyon lakes are both open, and anglers are catching some larger hold-over trout, you know, those pink-fleshed rainbows that have a salmon-like ambiance wafting up from the dinner plate. Just a touch of lemon . . . I have to change subject, my mouth is watering too much (missed lunch again).

Way cool news, especially for you fly fishers -- Carnero, Crescent and Lee Valley did not fish kill this winter. Hold-over brookies at Crescent will be a treat.

All roads to Big Lake are open (sounds like an old Bing Crosby and Bob Hope movie on Netflix). The store is open, and there are boat rentals available. This might be the only place in the high country right now to rent boats, although it seems there are kayak and canoe rentals at Luna Lake. Remember, the road from Sunrise to Big Lake is now paved all the way. This can be the time to hook into one of those huge cutthroat at Big Lake. Let us know if you catch one.

Beware of the 101 narrowing at Camelback Road

Weekend Valley Closures and Restrictions
April 22 - 25, 2011

It may be Easter weekend, but ADOT never rests. If you're headed down to the Valley for some holiday R&R, a good movie and dinner, or a sumptuous shopping spree, here's what the transportation folks want you to watch for:

Drivers should be aware of the following restrictions:

* Southbound Loop 101 narrowed to one lane at Camelback Road
* Eastbound Loop 101 narrowed to one lane overnight between 19th Avenue and Seventh Street
* Grand Avenue (US 60) narrowed to one lane in both directions next week (April 25-29) between 83rd and 99th avenues

Both GCC independence bills pass senate

Blog Readers:

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL WHO HELPED IN THE PASSAGE OF THESE TWO BILLS. Its been a long time coming and we are almost there.

The two bills passed the House yesterday and today they both passed in the Senate. Now on to the Governor. Please thank all who took the time to contact their legislator asking for support of GCC. While the bills are not all we hoped for they will allow us to become independent.

SB 1213 PASSED College Independence
SB 1217 PASSED Workforce development funds

Tom Loeffler
Board Member
Gila County Community College

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Marine Corps Band will play at scholarship gala

You are cordially invited to attend the

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation 
Arizona Awards Dinner

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Scottsdale, Arizona

Featuring a performance by the U.S. Marine Corps Band

Cocktail reception 6 p.m.
Dinner & Program 7 p.m.

For more information, call Michelle Marini
602.274.1988 Office
520.404.9443 Mobile

Corporate chameleons just painting faces green



EARTH DAY is the day when the chickens dance and sing, proclaiming the beauties of nature, and the day the foxes that guard the chickens dance and sing, celebrating the blind gullibility and stupidity of the chickens.

Like ARBOR DAY, EARTH DAY has become a day of pretending that “all is good on Planet Eden.” On Arbor Day, the foxes line up before the cameras of the media, sprig and shovel in hand, pretending that the sprig will make up for the thousands of beautiful ancient trees that will be destroyed that very day.

EARTH DAY has become an even greater event that deceives the public into believing that corporate America has changed colors from brown to green. Why else would EARTH DAY events be sponsored by big oil, big military/industrial, big power, big chemical, and big automotive?

In actual fact these corporate chameleons paint their faces green, and paste on their toothy plastic smiles for the media and the gullible public, while their millions of corporate slaves go glibly about their jobs of destroying our air, our water, our forests, our soil, and ultimately our future.

It is their day now and thus the name should be changed to EARTH KILLERS DAY in order to expose the almost total emasculation of the environmental movement. The EPA has been sold to polluters by the POLITICAL WHORES that now seem to control America. Even the greatest destroyer of America the Beautiful? in history, the Army Corps of Engineers, has joined as sponsors of the EARTH DAY folly.

America has never been in graver danger. We have allowed dirty corporate money to purchase the loyalty and allegiance of those whom the people have elected to protect us, our children, and future generations from harm.

We are constantly bombarded with fear-mongering politicians, into focusing on terrorists living in caves on the other side of the world, while the most dangerous terrorists are our own eco-terrorists, the immoral mega-corporations and their political hacks that are hell bent on destroying our forests, our streams, our wetlands, our health, and our future as a viable nation.

George H. Russell
American Patriot

UA graduate started college when she was 13

Natalie Nevarez graduated from high school not only with a diploma but also with an associate's degree from Arizona Western College. Today, the UA student has already earned an undergraduate degree in communication but is pursuing another in psychology. (Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)

By Monique Padia
University of Communications

April 19, 2011 - Natalie Nevarez, a University of Arizona student who intends to pursue a graduate degree in affective neuroscience, has had much success in achieving her college education. She started college at age 13 and, by 19, had earned a bachelor's degree from the UA.

Natalie Nevarez started college when she was 7-years-old – not as a student, but as an interpreter.

Nevarez's Spanish-speaking mother had begun taking college classes in English, then geology, math, education and other subjects in their Southern Arizona town. But being a Spanish-speaker, she needed the help of her daughter in understanding the English-only instruction.

"Seeing her move on from a low-paying job as a migrant worker to a stable job as a teacher showed me how much an education really paid off," said Nevarez, a University of Arizona junior.

Nevarez said she later began to wonder: If I am helping my mother and others in the class, why should I have to wait to work toward my own college degree? I can begin earlier.

This eventually led Nevarez to begin her studies at Arizona Western College at age 13, earning an associate's degree and a high school diploma four years later. She then transferred to the University of Arizona, earning an Arizona Assurance scholarship in the process.

"I still feel like I got the high school experience, but even when I was in high school I was already looking way beyond it," Nevarez said.

And once Nevarez arrived at UA, because she was already ahead in her education, she was able to work on two degrees instead of a double major.
She is now pursuing a UA undergraduate degree in psychology, having already earned a bachelor's in communication last year at age 19.

For her, the move from communication to psychology came through her involvement with the UA's Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program, a program that prepares undergraduates for graduate studies and supports them along the way.

"I wanted to better understand interpersonal relationships and relational dynamics. I had an interest in learning about why people might feel compelled to stay quiet in certain situations," Nevarez said, discussing why she is now focused on psychology.

"As opposed to wanting to learn about communication and why people communicate, I wanted to understand why people choose not to communicate," said Nevarez, who is expected to graduate in May 2012.

But Nevarez isn't all academics all the time.

She also keeps busy through her involvement in the Communication Honors Program, Sigma Lamda Gamma and Community Justice Board.

"I've always loved to be involved and see it as my responsibility," she said. "I've found that it is the easiest and most natural way to create friendships with faculty and other members of the UA community, which is something that I love to do."

Still, Nevarez has found time to do independent and guided research on social anxiety, co-authoring a paper, "Family of Origin Environment and Adolescent Bullying Predict Young Adult Loneliness, in the Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied."

Kevin Coe, an assistant professor in the UA's communication department who is one of Nevarez's professors, said it is "her focus" that makes her stand out as a student.

"Starting college so early is challenging on a variety of levels, but it has clearly worked out very well for Natalie, which is a testament to her maturity," Coe said.

Nevarez, who intends to pursue a graduate degree in affective neuroscience and wants to become a professor, said the support she's received from the communication department and McNair program have guided her to where she wants to go.

Said Nevarez: "I feel like overall I have become a more well rounded person and have become better prepared for college."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reader proposes 2011 Congressional Reform Act

(Editor's note: This thing is all over the Internet, but in case you haven't seen it we think you should.)

This has nothing to do with whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971...before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

I'm asking each addressee to forward this to a minimum of twenty people on your address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011
1. Term Limits.
12 years only, one of the possible options below:
A. Two Six-year Senate terms
B. Six Two-year House terms
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately.  All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12.
The American peopledid not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message.  Maybe it is time.

This has nothing to do with Republican or Democrat has everything to do with your kids and grandkids!

(Thanks to an alert reader, we offer you the following "corrections" from Truth or

The "Congressional Reform Act of 2011" is not a real bill in Congress but it is a passionate plea for change on behalf of concerned citizens hoping to get the word out across the World Wide Web.

We do not know who wrote this email other than a concerned citizen who wanted to change Congress. This call for citizen action first appeared on the Internet shortly after the 112th Congress was sworn in on January 5, 2011. Days later it began moving through the World Wide Web like wild fire.

The writer of the email is apparently passionate about his recommendation but failed to give any directions as to where all these forwarded emails could be sent to do any good.

We found some of the claims from the list to be inaccurate:

Congressional representatives are exempt from paying into Social Security - Fiction!

Elected representatives are not exempt from paying into Social Security. We have findings posted in a related eRumor.

Congressional representatives are above the law- Fiction!

Congressional representatives are not above the law. Here are some recent examples of those who have been caught, tried and convicted:

In early January 2010 former GOP Congressman Tom Delay was sentenced to 3 years in prison after being found guilty for his participation in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.

James A. Traficant, an Ohio Democrat, was expelled from Congress after being found guilty of bribery and racketeering. Traficant served seven years behind bars in a Minnesota prison and was released in 2009.

Congressional representatives are exempt from Health Care policies- Fiction!
Congressional representatives are not exempt from the healthcare reform law.

Congressional representatives have been voting themselves cost of living pay raises- Fiction!

Cost of living salary increases for congressional members have been automatically generated in the past, but some members have been known to voluntarily opt out of it. Members of Congress have not gotten a raise in pay in the last 2 years while the US has been facing hard economic times. Also, the 111th Congress, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, voted to stop the automatic pay raise for the last two consecutive years. President Obama signed the last bill into law on May 14, 2010, which will affect congressional pay raises in 2011, according to a May 14th article by the congressional newspaper, The Hill. The article also said, "The base pay for House and Senate lawmakers is $174,000, though leaders earn a higher salary. The cost-of-living increase would have given lawmakers a $1,600 raise in 2011. By rescinding the increase, lawmakers saved taxpayers $850,000 for next year."

Linda Ronstadt's music collection acquired by UA

Linda Ronstadt helped Nelson Riddle celebrate his award from ASCAP for his music contributions at a 1984 event. (Photo by B. Vartan Boyajian)

By Ingvi Kallen
UA School of Music

April 18, 2011 - The University of Arizona School of Music has announced the recent acquisition of the Linda Ronstadt Collection. The collection contains orchestrations, memorabilia and photographs.

Many of the manuscripts were written by bandleader Nelson Riddle and add to the UA's already extensive collection of mid-20th Century American music.

Ronstadt was one of the defining and most musically diverse icons of her generation. After attending the UA briefly in the 1960s, she left Tucson and moved to California to pursue her interests in music. She joined a folk-rock trio, the Stone Poneys, and within a few years had a hit album.

Ronstadt then embarked on a solo career, which over the course of the 1970s produced a number of chart-topping records in country and rock 'n' roll.

The 1980s marked a significant change for Ronstadt's career. Instead of following public expectation, she rebelled against the mainstream pop establishment and crossed into a number of unexpected musical genres.

She explored opera through Puccini's "La Boheme" and Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates and Penzance." She even recorded an album of traditional Mexican music called "Canciones de Mi Padre."

What surprised critics the most was her decision to record a series of studio orchestra albums that celebrated the traditional pop music of the 1950s. This music that was once championed by artists such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and subsequently was overturned by the rock 'n' roll generation of the 1960s.

When asked why she chose to sing material that was not in fashion in the 1980s, Ronstadt responded, "The songs were better than anything that was being written at the time. My feeling is that was the zenith of American popular song."

She also explained her reason behind the gift of these papers to the UA. She related to the existing Nelson Riddle Collection at the UA School of Music and "the fact that I'm a native of Tucson, Ariz."

The UA School of Music holds many prominent American music collections, such as those of Artie Shaw, Jo Stafford, Les Baxter, as well as Nelson Riddle.

For more information, visit or contact Keith Pawlak, music curator, at 520-626-5242 or

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to protect yourself against Medicare 'gaps'

By David Sayen
Regional Administrator
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Your Original Medicare insurance covers a wide variety of health services, from flu shots to inpatient hospital stays to hospice care. But it doesn’t cover everything, and it doesn’t cover all your out-of-pocket costs.

Many services covered by Original Medicare require co-payments, coinsurance, or deductibles. But you can purchase supplemental insurance to cover these “gaps” in Medicare. Such insurance is called, appropriately, Medigap. Some Medigap policies also cover certain benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t, like emergency care in a foreign country.

You have to pay for Medigap yourself, and it’s sold through private insurance companies. You can buy it only if you have Original Medicare, not Medicare Advantage.

Every Medigap policy has to follow Federal and state laws designed to protect you. Medigap insurance companies in most states can only sell you a “standardized” Medigap policy identified by letters A through N. Each standardized policy must offer the same basic benefits, no matter which company sells it.

So beware when you’re shopping for a Medigap policy: Cost is usually the only difference between Medigap policies with the same letter sold by different companies.

And there can be big differences in how much various insurers charge for exactly the same coverage.

Here are some of the costs a Medigap policy may cover:
· Medicare Part A (hospital) coinsurance and hospital costs for up to 365 days after Medicare benefits run out;
· Medicare Part B (doctor’s charges) coinsurance or co-pays;
· Blood (first 3 pints);
· Part A hospice care coinsurance or co-pays;
· Skilled nursing facility coinsurance;
· Part A and Part B deductibles.

Medigap policies generally don’t cover long-term care (like care in a nursing home), vision or dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses, and private‑duty nursing.

The best time to buy a Medigap policy is during your Medigap open enrollment period. This period lasts for 6 months and begins on the first day of the month in which you’re both 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B.

Why is this important? Because during open enrollment, an insurance company can’t refuse to sell you any Medigap policy it offers due to any health problems you may have. Nor can you be charged more based on your health status.

In some cases, however, an insurer can refuse to cover your out-of-pocket costs for pre-existing health conditions for up to 6 months. After 6 months, the Medigap policy will cover the pre-existing condition.

And remember, for Medicare‑covered services, Original Medicare will still cover the condition even if the Medigap policy won’t cover your out‑of‑pocket costs. But you’re responsible for the coinsurance or copayment.

A few other points to keep in mind:
· You must have Medicare Part A and Part B to buy a Medigap policy.
· Plans E, H, I, and J are no longer for sale, but you can keep these plans if you already have one.
· A Medigap policy only covers one person. If you and your spouse both want Medigap coverage, you must each buy a separate policy.
· Any standardized Medigap policy is guaranteed renewable, even if you have health problems. This means the insurance company can’t cancel your policy as long as you pay the premium.

Although some Medigap policies sold in the past cover prescription drugs, Medigap policies sold after January 1, 2006, aren’t allowed to include prescription drug coverage. (If you want such coverage, you can join a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, offered by private companies approved by Medicare.)

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Trust Territories. You can get answers to your Medicare questions 24/7 by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or online at

Clear majority want taxes raised on the rich


How does the vast majority of U.S. citizens feel about the budget deficit and how to resolve it?  The results of a national McClatchy-Marist poll reveal that Americans overwhelmingly want to raise taxes on the wealthy and leave Medicare and Medicaid alone.

On raising taxes on incomes over $250,000, 64 percent are in favor with 33 percent opposed.  Breaking it down further, Democrats approve 83 to 15 percent, Independents approve 63 to 34 percent, but Republicans oppose raising taxes on the wealthy by a margin of 54 to 43 percent.

Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid are opposed 80 to 18 percent.  Even conservative voters oppose the cuts 68 to 29 percent.

Cuts to defense spending are opposed 54 to 44 percent.  But college graduates favor cutting defense spending by 63 to 36 percent, while non-college gradulates oppose it by 61-36 percent.

The question we see as a result of the poll:

Why do voters support Republicans who clearly support the rich when it's neither their preference nor in their best interests?

And the answer suggested by the poll:

The rationale to support politicians who do not have our best interests at heart comes from somewhere other than the brain.  Which once again brings up that very scary issue of the dumbing of America.

Are we too stupid to make the right decisions under a democratic form of government?  Are all the cuts to education finally taking their toll?

And what is the inevitable result of such a consequence: we lose our freedom.

You can read the entire poll story in today's Arizona Republic by clicking on

Better yet, you can pick up a hard copy of the Republic in town today.  Or, by calling 1-800-332-6733, you can have the Republic delivered to your home seven days a week.

Isn't there more to this world than stories about apprehending the "pranksters" who spraypainted "Seniors 2011" on the sidewalk?  We clearly need a better informed electorate.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On tax day, here's a list of corporate freeloaders

(Editor's note: We borrowed this from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders website, and we have a question for the Tea Party: Why aren't you outraged about this?)

Exxon Mobil, Bank of America, GE and other giant corporations paid no U.S. taxes despite billions in profits. In fact, they pocketed big IRS refunds.

It's a scandal, Sen. Bernie Sanders told colleagues on Wednesday. As congressional leaders and the White House haggled over how many billions of dollars to cut spending on programs for working families, Bernie tried to broaden the debate. He compiled a top-10 list of tax-dodging corporations.

"Maybe we have to reduce that deficit not simply on the backs of working families, low-income people, the children, the sick, the elderly. Maybe, maybe we might want to call for shared sacrifice. Maybe Exxon-Mobil and some of the large oil companies might be asked to pay something in taxes."

10 worst corporate income tax avoiders

1) Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings. (Source: Exxon Mobil's 2009 shareholder report filed with the SEC here.)
2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion. (Source: here, ProPublica here and Treasury here.)
3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS. (Source: Citizens for Tax Justice here and The New York Times here. Note: despite rumors to the contrary, the Times has stood by its story.)
4) Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009. (Source: See 2009 Chevron annual report here. Note 15 on page FS-46 of this report shows a U.S. federal income tax liability of $128 million, but that it was able to defer $147 million for a U.S. federal income tax liability of $-19 million)
5) Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year. . (Source: Paul Buchheit, professor, DePaul University, here and Citizens for Tax Justice here.)
6) Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction. (Source: the company's 2009 annual report, pg. 112, here.)
7) Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department. (Source: Bloomberg News here, ProPublica here, Treasury Department here.)
8) Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury. (Source: Paul Buchheit, professor, DePaul University, here, ProPublica here, Treasury Department here.)
9) ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2006 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction. (Sources: Profits can be found here. The deduction can be found on the company's 2010 SEC 10-K report to shareholders on 2009 finances, pg. 127, here)
10) Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent. (Source: The New York Times here)

Time to renew OHV decals at MVD or online

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department has partnered with the Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) to provide off-highway vehicle (OHV) Decal renewal notices to OHV owners in Arizona.

“The Department saw the OHV Decal renewal program as a way to better serve the OHV community of Arizona,” said Jimmy Simmons, Game and Fish OHV Program Manager. “MVD was unable to provide this service for the thousands of OHV users in the state, so the Game and Fish Department saw this as a much needed and necessary use of OHV Decal funds.”

Renewals of the OHV Decal can be done at any MVD office, any MVD third party service provider or online at Tip - If you have a “street legal” vehicle always renew your OHV Decal first to assure you get the registration discount.

As of Jan 1, 2009 all vehicles that are made by the manufacturer for use over unimproved terrain and weigh 1800 pounds or less are required by law to display the $25 OHV Decal.

As of July 1, 2009 all vehicles in Arizona that are larger that 49 cc are required to at least be titled.

Arizona does allow for OHVs to be registered or “Street Legal,” and if those vehicles meet the two requirements of made for use over unimproved terrain and weigh 1800 pounds or less they too are required to obtain the OHV Decal. The benefit to registration participants is that with the OHV Decal they receive free registration and a reduced vehicle license tax (VLT) of less than $6. Remember always renew your OHV Decal first to assure you get the discount.

Dollars from the OHV Decal program are being used to increase awareness of safe, ethical and responsible OHV use in Arizona, creating new educational programs like the online OHV class offered on the Game and Fish website, and to put 7 new OHV law enforcement specialists in the field. Four officers are already patrolling and three more will complete academy training in late 2011 and be in the field in Jan. 2012.

For more information about the OHV Decal program, places to ride or OHV safety go online to

The Department reminds OHV users that the OHV Decal should not be confused with registration and that renewals for both the OHV Decal and registration will most likely happen at different times.