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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dry winter likely to make for bad wildfire season


Charred remains of trees are all that is left in some areas just beyond the Big Lake Recreation Area in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona following last summer’s Wallow Fire. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Brandon Quester)

By JESSICA TESTA
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – In the dry highlands of Arizona where Jeff Andrews manages wildfires, it’s shaping up to be another white-knuckle summer.

“Things are looking pretty bleak,” said Andrews, deputy fire staff officer for Prescott National Forest. “We had a good amount of rainfall in November and December, but January and February have been dry. It’s going to have a pretty significant impact on the fire season.”

It’s a similarly grim outlook for Don Muise, Andrews’ counterpart in the Coconino National Forest.

“I’ve been burned before by trying to make predictions,” Muise said. “But things aren’t lining up to be much better than last year.”

Predicting a fire season isn’t easy, but one of the biggest indicators is winter rain and snow, Muise said.

Snowpack covering the San Francisco Peaks in Coconino National Forest is at about 60 percent of what it normally is, while rainfall levels in the Verde Valley are about 50 percent of normal.

April, May and June are predicted to be the worst for forest fires, the officers said. The fire season typically begins in March – when most of the fires are human-caused – and ends with the monsoon season in August.

The summer of 2011 saw fires consume nearly 900,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in Arizona. The Wallow Fire alone burned through more than 538,000 acres over six weeks in eastern Arizona, making it the largest in state history.

“There’s always going to be a fire season in Arizona,” Andrews said. “What we don’t know is how long or how severe it’s going to be.”

After precipitation, wind patterns can help predict the strength of the fire season.

Wally Covington, executive director of the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University, said there’s a likelihood of very windy, dry conditions through July.

“If ignition occurs on a high-wind day, you’ll get a fire that keeps going until it runs out of fuel,” Covington said.

The Wallow Fire began on such a blustery day, Covington noted.

“Those big fires have become the norm,” he said.

Covington said the Payson-to-Winslow corridor, the Sedona-to-Flagstaff corridor and the Prescott-to-Grand Canyon forests are especially vulnerable to fires this year.

“It’s a race right now. The agencies are trying to work together to try to prevent these fires and protect towns and protect critical watersheds,” Covington said. “It’s a race I’m not sure we’re going to win.”

If conditions get drier through March, the forests may be forced to close part of their land off to the public, Covington said.

There are successful treatment methods, such as trimming or applying prescribed burning to forests, but it can takes years for treatment plans to be developed and approved and years to treat enough land to make a difference.

“You can’t prevent today’s fires by thinning trees today,” he said. “You prevent next year’s fires by thinning trees today.”

Preventing wildfires:

Don’t:
• Park your vehicle on dry grass.
• Pull burning sticks out of a fire.
• Use appliances inside a tent

Do:
• Keep stoves, lanterns and heaters away from combustibles.
• Only smoke if permitted and if there is a 3-foot clearing around you.
• Inspect your site upon leaving, and leave campsite as natural as possible.

Source: Smokeybear.com

West's current water practices not sustainable

John Sabo, director for research development and senior sustainability scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, leads a group of scientists from about a dozen universities who are using the latest technologies to chart the plight of dwindling water supplies in the American West. 

They have found that current water practices are not sustainable, and many dramatic initiatives will be needed to correct the current unsustainable path the West is on.

Among those on the team are several researchers from Pac-12 schools, including Stanley Trimble of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Michael Campana, of Oregon State University. Glenn MacDonald, director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, also is involved in the research.

Sabo and his colleagues applied the best available tools to data on water, soil, salt, dams, fish and crop yields. Some of their primary findings are these:

• Currently, the desert Southwest uses the equivalent of 76 percent of its total surface water to support its population. This will rise to 86 percent with a doubling of urban population (expected in 50 to 100 years). Sustainable balance for the region is achieved when 40 percent of total surface water is used.
• Salt accumulation, which results from the application of large quantities of water to grow drought intolerant food crops on desert farmlands, has likely caused about $2.5 billion in reductions in crop revenues in the Western United States.
• The water footprints of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are the top three in the United States. The footprint of Los Angeles alone is larger than the seven largest eastern U.S. cities (including New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.)
“California is arguably the most important farmland in North America,” Sabo said. “But the water needed to support California agriculture (which is exported as food products to the rest of the country) is at odds with healthy populations of freshwater fish like salmon.

“Can we have salmon and tomatoes on the same table? Something will have to give.”
In an opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 1, 2011, Sabo explained that balancing freshwater needs for farms, cities and ecosystems, in a region that is already chronically water stressed, will present difficult lifestyle choices.

Reclaimed water is central to the solution in cities, since half of all household use is for landscapes and much of the remainder is used to flush toilets, he said. Conversion of farmland under flood irrigation to a more efficient drip or center pivot application would save a substantial volume. The cost to farmers would be high, however.

“This cost would likely be passed on to consumers at top eateries and farmers markets in terms of higher food prices,” Sabo said. “The solution is tiered water pricing and increased water tariffs at home.

“We should expect to pay more for water in cities as they grow. This revenue should then be earmarked for financing startup costs for irrigation efficiency, reclaimed water systems and to buy back water for ecosystems.”


Sabo is an associate professor in the ASU School of Life Sciences. He and his team are part of a working group funded by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis housed at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Scientists from Stanford and the University of Arizona also have been invited to participate.
Written by Sarah Auffret and Skip Derra

Monday, February 27, 2012

Health reform law covers pre-existing conditions

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced that the new health care law’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) program is providing insurance to nearly 50,000 people with high-risk pre-existing conditions nationwide. The Department released a new report demonstrating how PCIP is helping to fill a void in the insurance market for consumers with pre-existing conditions who are denied insurance coverage and are ineligible for Medicare or Medicaid coverage.

“For too long, Americans with pre-existing conditions were locked out of the health care system and their health suffered,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Thanks to health reform, our most vulnerable Americans across the country have the care they need.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, in 2014, insurers will be prohibited from denying coverage to any American with a pre-existing condition. Until then, the PCIP program will continue to provide enrollees with affordable insurance coverage.

PCIP is helping individuals like:

· Randy Morales, of Mi-Wuk Villlage, California (Tuolumne County), a small business owner. Randy and his wife Judy had dropped their individual health insurance policies a few years ago because of the cost. In the fall of 2010, Randy was diagnosed with invasive squamous cell cancer in his throat. Uninsured and uncertain of how to pay for treatment, Randy called HIAS looking for coverage options. The call specialists told him about the PCIP program in California, and he was able to enroll in time for coverage to take effect so he could have necessary surgery. After 35 radiation treatments and seven rounds of chemotherapy, in October 2011 Randy was told he is in remission. He estimates that his treatment cost more than $135,000, and there’s no way he could have paid for that out of pocket. He continues to receive follow-up care every six months and finds the program to be very user-friendly.

“When I was diagnosed, I was told it was stage 4d. Stage 4e is dead. And to come back from that diagnosis where I was told to get my life in order to where I’m sitting here in remission is a total 180 degree change in my mindset. PCIP was a life saver,” Randy said.

· Gail O’Brien of Keene, New Hampshire who is now getting help with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatments and is responding very well.

· James Howard of Katy, Texas who is grateful for the coverage the PCIP program is providing to treat cancer and says that without it, he would not have been able to continue receiving care.

In many cases, PCIP participants have been diagnosed with and need treatment for serious health care conditions such as cancer, ischemic heart disease, degenerative bone diseases and hemophilia. As a result of the new law, PCIP enrollees are receiving health services for their conditions on the first day their insurance coverage begins. Their critical need for treatment, combined with their lack of prior health coverage has led to higher overall per-member claims costs in state-based PCIPs of approximately $29,000 per year, which is more than double the per member cost that traditional State High Risk Pools have experienced in recent years.

Enrollment in PCIP has seen a nearly 400 percent increase from November 2010 to November 2011. PCIP enrollment is anticipated to trend upwards of 50,000 enrollees within the coming month.

People who enroll in the PCIP program are not charged a higher premium because of their medical condition. Program participants pay comparable premium rates to healthy people in the individual insurance market. By law, premiums may vary only on the basis of age, geographic area and tobacco use.

PCIP provides comprehensive health coverage, including primary and specialty care, hospital care, prescription drugs, home health and hospice care, skilled nursing care, preventive health and maternity care. The program is available in 50 states and the District of Columbia and open to U.S. citizens and people who reside in the U.S. legally (regardless of income) who have been without insurance coverage for at least six months, and have a pre-existing condition, or have been denied health insurance coverage because of a health condition.

The Affordable Care Act directed the Secretary of HHS to carry out PCIP either directly or through a contract with a state or nonprofit entity. In 27 states, a state or nonprofit entity elected to administer PCIP, while HHS operates the program in the remaining 23 states and the District of Columbia.

The new report can be found at: http://www.cciio.cms.gov/resources/files/Files2/02242012/pcip-annual-report.pdf

For more information, including eligibility, plan benefits and rates, as well as information on how to apply, visit www.pcip.gov and click on “Find Your State.” Then select your state from a map of the United States or from the drop-down menu.

The PCIP call center is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time. Call toll-free 1-866-717-5826 (TTY 1-866-561-1604).

Canyon fuel break will protect Pine from wildfire

Payson, Ariz. (February 22, 2012). During the Arizona wildfire season in 2011, nearly 2,000 fires scorched more than a million acres. Only Texas and New Mexico suffered more acres damaged by wildfire last year.

The recent Wallow Fire, at 500,000-plus acres, which burned in eastern Arizona last year, clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of both property treatment and fuel breaks in reducing fire intensities.

A study completed by the US Forest Service concluded that prior fuel treatments were instrumental in providing the critical edge firefighters needed to successfully fight the Wallow Fire, protecting lives and property and enhancing firefighter safety.

Payson Ranger District fire officials have worked steadily since 2001 to create and maintain fuel breaks in the area.

They recently partnered with Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc. (PSFR), a community-based, nonprofit group committed to wildfire mitigation, with plans to thin 77 untreated acres south of Pine. When PSFR raised enough funds from the private sector to complete only about half of the project, district officials stepped in to augment their funds in order to complete the project.

The Arrowhead Canyon Fuel Break will be instrumental in mitigating the ever-present wildfire danger posed by the mouth of two canyons that lead directly into the community of Pine.

“Reducing the heavy fuel loading in this area is necessary to diminish the threat of wildfire to the town of Pine,” emphasized Jeremy Plain, Payson Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer.

"PSFR and the Payson Ranger District fire specialists have an enviable history of partnership dating back to 2005 when PSFR successfully raised private sector funds to provide desperately needed maintenance on the 711-acre fuel break surrounding Pine and Strawberry," observed Mike Brandt, Project Manager for Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc.

"The PSFR group has since seeded the break with native grasses, built a log ramada as a showcase for forest products and treated 225 privately-owned acres which adjoin the break, further enhancing its effectiveness. Additionally, another 200 acres of private land at the mouth of Pine Creek Canyon, long cited as one of the most hazardous areas in the country, will be completed this year."

"At the end of the day, however, partnerships will never replace individual responsibility,” observed Brandt. "Taking steps to reduce wildfire risks includes individual property owners practicing Firewise techniques to protect their property, as well as communities building and maintaining effective fuel breaks.”

For further information about the Pine-Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc., please contact Mike Brandt at 928-476-4272.  For further information about the district fuels program, please contact the Payson Ranger District administrative offices at 928-474-7900 or visit the Tonto National Forest Website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/tonto.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do you save at warehouse stores? Probably not

   LIVING ON A DIME   

By Tawra Kellam
Gazette Contributor

Are Warehouse Stores Wearing Out Your Wallet?

Do they save you money or just create more work?

People constantly ask me, “Can you really save more money at warehouse stores?” I usually answer, “Not any more so than at other stores.” I have checked prices at various stores on many different occasions and factoring everything in, I haven't found any exceptional savings at warehouse stores.

Here are some tips from LivingOnADime.com to help you decide if a warehouse store is for you:

Do your homework and compare prices. Buying in bulk is not always cheaper. You can really save by checking and comparing prices. I was at Costco one day where there was a display of two Clorox one gallon bottles for $1.98 AFTER rebate. I stood there amazed as people frantically grabbed this “great deal.” I knew I could get that same Clorox for $.98 a gallon at my regular discount store and I didn’t have to mess with a rebate, pay postage or lug two gallons of Clorox shrink wrapped together to my car.

Don’t buy impulsively just because it sounds like a good deal. Say you can get 12 bottles of sunscreen for a great price. Think it through before you buy. If your family only uses one bottle of sunscreen a year, that means you will be storing sunscreen for 12 years, not to mention that most of the sunscreen will expire long before then.

In most homes, one quarter of the food people buy gets thrown away. If your family of four eats pancakes once a week, that gallon of syrup is going to last you a VERY long time. You might also consider that unless dry goods and freezer items are very carefully stored, they will go bad or get bugs in them. Remember to buy the size that is appropriate for you.

You need to be very well organized to buy in bulk. Finding places to store everything and then carefully keeping track of what you have is critical if you want to use it all before it spoils.

Most people usually spend more than they originally planned on things they don’t need. This never saves money. We taste samples and so often end up buying. If this is you, be careful. Maybe sampling is a bad idea (unless you’re making lunch of it)!

If you have a small or average sized family, you will probably save as much shopping for sales at your regular grocery store or discount store. The key is to do the math and evaluate your practical needs. You have to decide for yourself if buying at warehouse stores actually saves you money or just creates more work.

Tawra Kellam is the publisher of the website http://www.LivingOnADime.com and the author of Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 in debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Is Bible bill an intrusion into the classroom?

By Kellie Mejdrich
Arizona Sonora News Service

Arizona’s legislators want Bibles in the classroom, but state teachers could find themselves punished if they bring other texts into public and charter schools.

Teachers could have their licenses revoked if they bring any supplemental books into the classroom that aren’t pre-approved by the district and posted on a website for parental view.

Many teachers say these bills are an intrusion into the classroom where local principals and school boards should keep control.

But many legislators ended up arguing the Bible elective was necessary to address lower standards and morals in the public school system.

Terri Proud, R-Tucson, primary sponsor of H.B. 2563 touted the Bible’s academic significance as a basis Western literature. The debate ultimately boiled down to a philosophical view on the text itself.

“In our own society we've kind of lost American culture,” Proud said. “We need to go back to our heritage and how it's influenced so much in our culture.”

Rep. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, agreed.

“We have lost somewhere along the line morality,” Crandell said as he explained his vote in committee. The elective would provide “the opportunity for those communities that would like to take (the Bible) on to use as a tool to get back to some of the basics they think are important.”

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, agreed. He is concerned that the bill might open a “Pandora’s Box” for teachers because other religious texts will probably have to be given equal rights in the classroom, he said.

“I believe we have lost a part of our soul by taking religion out of our classrooms,” Fillmore said.

These bills could step on constitutional rights, opponents argue.

Currently, Arizona law requires the school board to “exclude from school libraries all books, publications and papers of a sectarian, partisan or denominational character,” state statute says. But if the bill were to pass, an exception would be included for the Bible as well as any materials for this elective course.

Disciplinary action over religious preaching in the classroom would also be softened—from the outright revocation of a teaching license, to providing teachers immunity from liability as long as they teach the class “in good faith.”

That leaves other faiths and those without faiths unfairly excluded, said Serah Blain with the Secular Coalition for Arizona.

“Because the course specifically teaches only the Christian Bible and other sectarian partisan or denominational materials continue under the Arizona Revised Statutes to be excluded from public schools, the existence of the course itself represents a bias against religious minorities and nonbelievers, whose traditions have also contributed to and continue to contribute to western culture,” Blain said.

Anjali Abraham of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona agreed that introduction of the Bible as a state-sanctioned religious text to the exclusion of others was a serious violation of constitutional rights.

“In designing a curriculum to familiarize students with recorded history of the bible, schools are going to have to decide what counts as recorded history and our concern is that invariably means embracing a particular religious viewpoint or a couple of religious viewpoints and then as a consequence rejecting others and that's a real First Amendment problem,” Abraham said.

Abraham added that the lenient language for chastising preachy teachers as well as the establishment of a specific Bible course to the exclusion of other texts was problematic.

“Our concern in setting up a separate course independently dedicated to Bible study, there’s the potential to go from neutral discussion to religious instruction. And our feeling is that the shaping of a child's religious and moral views is really the responsibility of the parents and family, not any particular governmental body,” Abraham said.

But Proud stressed the Bible was just more important to Western culture than other texts.

“Had the Muslim community or the Buddhist community or whatever, had they influenced our society as much as this book has, then that’s what I would be passing right now. But that hasn't been the biggest influence,” Proud said.

Regardless of the legislative opinion on necessity for the course, the actual course requirements—that the history, contents, influence, and literary style and structure of the old and new testament be taught in one elective—is simply “an absurd curriculum,” said Prof. John Ulreich, who has taught English at the University of Arizona for 41 years. He teaches two courses on the Old and New Testaments—a semester each.

“The person who writes this doesn't know anything about the subject,” Ulreich said. “We should not allow legislatures to prescribe curricula.”

Ulreich, who said he’s absolutely in support of the teaching of the Bible to students before they get to college, said the way the bill is written will accomplish nothing.

“Studying it, learning it, is a good thing, I’m all for it,” Ulreich said. “Any school that wants to undertake that challenge I would be glad to advise. But what the legislature is proposing, it’s just not workable. It’s more like cramming stuff into their heads.”

The claim that teaching the Bible would improve morality was also a moot point, he argued.

“The Bible teaches you whatever you want to learn. You want to learn that men should dominate women? You can find it in the Bible. You want to believe that god hates gay people? You can find it in the Bible. You can also find places in both testaments that tell us that the fundamental spiritual and moral obligations are to love God and love our neighbors,” Ulreich said. “The Bible can be inspiring but it offers rich examples of very bad behavior. People who believe that the bible is all good for you, just haven’t really read the Bible.”

Ulreich added that in a time when teachers are already financially strapped, he doubts that a school could come up with the appropriate training to teach a course like this—especially when other electives that dealt with controversial material, like ethnic studies, were so easily obliterated by angry parents.

“High school administrators these days are very timid,” Ulreich said. “They’re going to be attacked by legislators who are hostile to the very idea of education. They’re not going to want to mess with this thing.”

But legislators are trying to keep other speech out of the classroom, and threaten revocation of licenses for teachers engaged in “uni-partisan activities” in the classroom, using FCC-defined obscene language, and bringing in books not pre-approved by the school board.

Sen. Lori Klein, R-Anthem, introduced the bills relating to partisan doctrine and pre-approval of books as part of a package of legislation aimed at quashing “political indoctrination in the classroom, by specifically a lot of the La Raza teachers,” Klein said when these bills were introduced in committee, referring to recent controversy the now-defunct ethnic studies program at Tucson High.

S.B. 1202, for example, would prohibit teachers from using any “partisan doctrine” or “uni-partisan activities” in the classroom or during extracurricular activities. The initially prohibited “partisan books” entirely, but was later watered down to “using partisan doctrine.”

If an individual teacher is found in violation of the law, the district itself could lose up to 10 percent per month of state aid until the school board is found to be in compliance, something that left the Arizona School Boards Association in opposition.

Janice Palmer, an ASBA lobbyist, said without a definition of what “partisan” and “uni-partisan” are, and with up to 10 percent of funding being held hostage, there could be serious impact to schools and teachers.

Sen. David Lujan, D-Phoenix, was also alarmed by the bill’s language.

“I think that the language that we have here is so broad you're going to stifle the educational environment and stifle the kid's ability to learn,” Lujan said. “As it is now, it really could send a chilling effect to teachers in the classroom who are teaching whatever subject if their livelihood is going to be put in jeopardy for being deemed for teaching partisan activity.”

Democratic senators argued all these restrictions characterize a legislative intrusion into the classroom where issues should be left to local control—especially in the case of teacher use of obscenities.

“Let it be dealt with on a local school district level,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. “I don’t think this is appropriate for the legislature.”

Sen. Lori Klein’s bills, S.B. 1202, S.B. 1203, and S.B. 1205 await approval from the full senate. The Bible elective class bill, H.B. 2563, has passed the full house and awaits a hearing in the senate.

Mejdrich is a senior at the University of Arizona and is the Bolles Fellow this semester covering the Legislature. The fellowship was named to honor former Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles who was assassinated in the line of duty.
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Friday, February 24, 2012

No such thing as free, independent individual







COMMENTARY:
GEORGE TEMPLETON

By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist

Shoes
“You won’t know me, or understand my blues; until you have walked awhile in my shoes.  Until you have read every line in my face; until you have stood awhile in my place.  You won’t know me, until you have carried my load; and struggled along this old dusty road.”  We elect people who support the party instead of the public and who desire power instead of deserving it.  We entertain ideas that reinforce our preconceived notions.  We focus on reality as it relates to us.  Our identity becomes independent of context, focusing on individual freedom as “the solution” instead of mutuality.  We look at the world and don’t see the same thing.  We don’t attempt to read between the lines.  We encounter a world of brief tweets when only a focus on the details can save us from “us versus them.”  Only when we realize that both stories are essentially true can we have respect for more than one version of reality.  We take our own side instead of entertaining several viewpoints.  Our polarization results from failing to recognize the breadth of beliefs and experiences of the demonized “them,” and we think it is patriotic to behave in this way.  The rise of “people” corporations and super-packs testify that the solitary individual lacks power and influence.  It’s human nature to bond with those who are like us and share our beliefs, but it divides us, furthering misunderstanding.  We believe that we are right.  To force our way, we will revise the Constitution and call justices to defend unpopular decisions before the House.  We say, “Our way or no way” not realizing that conflicts are constructively resolved only by adaptation, participation, and becoming.

More Freedom
Greater individuality means becoming different from one another.  It convolutes our relationships and tears down the commonality that is the foundation for communication.  Trivial laws increasing freedom for “you” don’t set “us” free.

SB1065 cancels dog leash laws if the owner carries an insurance policy.  My Cairn terrier, on a leash in my yard, was attacked by a Saint Bernard.  With my dog in its jaws, it raised its head and began to shake it to tear flesh.  I tried to kick the huge dog but missed.  It was too fast.  I punched down but quickly realized that standing I could not hit hard enough.  I dropped to my knees and punched it in the gut.  The big dog grunted and spit my terrier out.  Growling, it turned to attack me but in the process took another hit on the nose.  It turned and ran.
HB2211 would undo the law that requires cyclists to come to a halt at stop signs if they are above the age of 16.  Driving home from work, I hit a cyclist who ran a stop light.  The experience was deeply upsetting.

World View
Do we need politicians to outlaw inappropriate classroom language and magazines that treat partisan issues like climate change and evolution?  How about fines for overweight Medicaid patients, and the severely mentally ill who miss appointments and weekly drug testing for welfare recipients?   Insinuations that promote paranoia serve only the politicians who create laws in order to inflame, divide, and fool us.

Unintended Consequences
Unions negotiate over fair treatment, not just wages and benefits.  SB 1485 would make collective bargaining for public employees illegal, but our governor has a bribe.  She would give them a raise if they relinquish their right to arbitration.  We extol the virtues of free enterprise and that the worth of anything is determined by what you can get for it, but then we don’t see that it is hypocritical to enslave public employees.  It’s coercion, not Romney’s “God given natural rights that are America’s soul.”

Arizona Republicans have outlawed ethnic studies curriculum favored by Hispanics.  Now we have a bill to provide an elective high school course on the Bible in American culture.  For centuries, the world of Islam was in the forefront of human achievement and was the world’s leader in art and science.  Will they teach Islam’s contributions to our civilization?  How about teaching finance, fiscal responsibility, or probability and statistics?

The Republicans loudly proclaim “no amnesty” when they deport the innocent American children of illegal immigrants.  The Clear Act (HR100) would build 20 additional detention facilities for them.  Republican bill SB1407 chooses only to measure how empty the glass is and no wonder their data supports how immigrants in our schools “hurt” us.  They don’t consider the costs of creating a hidden uneducated underclass or the contributions made by the parents of these children.

Anxiety
In Clarence Glasrud’s 1960 book The Age of Anxiety, he writes that man is “beset by a multitude of problems in all great areas of human concern, so that he feels cut off from every source of philosophical certainty and anxiously unsure  of this way…"  We have become anxious about unemployment, about the threat of socialism, about the Iranian Atomic Bomb, about the breakdown of the family, about racial tensions, about cancer …, about keeping up with the Joneses.  So we sit in our upside-down houses staring out at a future that promises only aggravation of our present problems.  And the words of Melville’s Captain Ahab grow increasingly haunting:  “Dammed, most subtly and malignantly dammed, Dammed in the midst of Paradise!"

Fairness
Social scientists claim that the more unfair any society is the worse off everyone, rich and poor, becomes.  During the Bush years we gave over a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the wealthy.  Today our universities grant 100 business degrees for every physics degree.  The loss of domestic manufacturing has caused the average American wage to remain flat over the last three decades when it should  have increased by 60% had it kept  pace with the economy.  The top 1 percent garners 23 percent of the nation’s total income and some have salaries exceeding 100 million dollars per year.  They would have to squander more than $274,000 every day non-stop year round to spend that.  Do you think that it would destroy their incentive to pay a little more taxes?

We discovered that the limited government heroes of capitalism did not practice what they preached when Bush authorized 1.632 trillion dollars in economic stimulus packages and 800 billion dollars in fighting two wars.  Worse yet, brilliant executives in failed firms that were bailed out by the public gave themselves multi-million dollar bonuses.

Theory X or Y
Are we good or bad, trustworthy or irresponsible, greedy or generous, desiring to participate and contribute or avoiding reality?   Is it an illusion that competition and self-interest in a free-market economy are the fundamental human urges that most efficiently create the greatest good, prosperity, and individual happiness?  Is our mindset the cause of the crises that threaten to destroy us?  Our gutter politics is acknowledged to be highly contagious and effective.  Positive emotions lead to cooperation and progress while negative emotion does the opposite.  They say it’s all about jobs, but it’s much more than that.  America’s future is not about the problems we face but rather about how we respond to them as we decide on the kind of world the future will be.  Cooperation, not competition, will determine our success.   We are not predatory, self-serving, solitary individuals separate from the rest of the world intent on winning our way regardless of the consequences to others.  Wholeness and social connection drive the progress of society.  There is no such thing as the free independent individual.  We depend on each other.

Do we believe that people on welfare are inherently lazy avoiding work?  Will helping those who are less fit hurt the greater society?   We can “fix” health care if we leave illegal immigrants and the poor to die on the hospital steps.  Would this help to purge the system of “undesirables” and make the bitter medicine of social support more tolerable?

We know that we can’t believe anything a politician says, but can we trust them?  Trust is a necessary condition for participation and cooperation.  Trust is a two-way street.  The bottom line is that we have to trust one another but that only gets us to first base.   Risky goals are needed to overcome great challenges.  Trust does not come from demonizing your opponent.  A theory holds that distrust is a consequence of simplistic ideology.  A 1968 government book holds that the way to win an election is to enlist the forces of religious and constitutional fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism, egalitarianism, and patriotic moral nationalism.  Candidates are instructed to never say anything that a third grader would not understand and to keep the message shorter than 30 seconds.  The world is not so simple.  We know that, and consequently we do not trust those who “pull our leg.”

Reformation
It’s time to recognize a broader definition of who we are.  Only this builds collective pride.  We have the opportunity to continue the progress of the last four years, to embrace a future with real freedom instead of coercion, and to stop trying to legislate morality.  It is only when Congress demonstrates a greater shared understanding and connection that uniting our nation to excel, as we know we can, will happen.  Our president is not an extremist.  It is the Republican Party that has moved so far out in right-field that it is no longer in the ballpark. 
 

We know why Brewer declined hearing invite

According to an article in today's (Feb. 24) Arizona Republic, AZ Gov. Jan Brewer is likely to decline an invitation to appear at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security in April - a hearing that would allow her to defend SB1070, the state's tough immigration law.

Why would she decline this opportunity?  We can think of two perfectly good reasons:

1.  She knows the bill is indefensible.
2.  She can't talk.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

TCCA presents American Spirit on Feb. 28

 NASHVILLE, Tenn. –  Award-winning show producers, Matt Davenport Productions, will present their newest touring show, “American Spirit,” at the Payson High School Auditorium in Payson on Tuesday Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.

Initially inspired by the ten-year anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, the “American Spirit” show concept developed by writers Matt Davenport and Scott Seidl has evolved into a montage of the moments, memories and music that embody the “American Spirit.”

More than a patriotic show, this fully costumed and choreographed production show, with a cast of 10 performers, will take the audience down memory lane through eyes of a slightly befuddled Mayor of Hometown, USA remembering the American Revolution, Civil War, Jazz, Broadway, Spirituals and more - America’s heroes on the battlefield and ball field rubbing elbows with entertainers and politicians alike.

“I saw something in my friends and neighbors that I recognize as uniquely American in the days and weeks after that infamous day; we wanted to put that pride - that shared history - at center stage,” says Mr. Davenport. Matt Davenport Productions has produced award-winning box office success across the United States since 1992.

The production will feature a soloist from Payson High School and members of the Payson Choral Society.  Concertgoers are encouraged to show their own “American Spirit” by wearing red, white and blue attire to this unique event.

Single tickets are $35 as available. Children and youth, grade 12 and under, will be admitted free when accompanied by a ticket holding adult. For more information visit the association website at www.tccarim.org or call 928-478-4363 or 928-474-4189. 

The Tonto Community Concert Association is committed to bringing quality entertainment to the Rim Country through an annual concert series and support of the fine arts in Payson schools. This series is intended as an enriching cultural experience for the people of Payson and those in surrounding communities.  Live On Stage, Inc. provides acclaimed, affordable entertainment attractions and support services to an American community of concert presenters. For more information, visit www.LiveOnStage.biz.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

With Babeu, AZ has most gay candidates in US

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is the fourth openly gay or bisexual candidate seeking a congressional seat in Arizona this year. (Cronkite News Service photo by Travis Grabow)

By DUSTIN VOLZ
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON - Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu’s weekend confirmation that he is gay makes him the fourth openly gay or bisexual candidate seeking a congressional seat in Arizona this year.

Experts say that appears to be more than in any other state in the country, where they count a total of just about a dozen openly gay candidates currently running for Congress.

In Arizona, gay or bisexual candidates are now vying for three of the state’s nine congressional seats.

“It’s pretty unusual,” said Donald Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas. “As a percentage, I can’t think of another instance where it’s been so high.”

Despite its conservative credentials, Arizona has deep libertarian roots that may help explain the number of openly gay public officials who feel free to run for office there, experts said.

Babeu, a Republican, has appealed to those libertarian sentiments in demanding that voters should judge him on his record and not on his personal, private life.

The comments came in response to a Phoenix New Times story Friday that claimed Babeu had threatened an ex-lover, a Mexican man, with deportation.

In a news conference this weekend, Babeu said the article’s claims “are absolutely, completely false, except for the issues that refer to me as being gay. Because that’s the truth: I am gay.”

He refused to back out of the race for the newly drawn congressional 4th District, which includes Prescott and most of Yavapai County. Republican primary opponents in that conservative-leaning district include U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Flagstaff and state Sen. Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City.

Babeu joins three state lawmakers – all Democrats – who are openly gay or bisexual and running for Congress this year in Arizona. Rep. Matt Heinz and state Sen. Paula Aboud, both of Tucson, are running in District 2; former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix, who has said she is bisexual, is running in the new District 9.

But Arizona has a long history of electing openly gay candidates, said Denis Dison, spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect gays to public office.

“Arizona has a conservative reputation but it also has a history with openly gay candidates at the local and state level,” Dison said. “Once those barriers are broken, people get bored with the topic and it’s less of an issue.”

Currently there are four openly gay members of Congress. All are Democrats and all hail from states that were blue in 2008: Colorado, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

But Haider-Markel, whose 2010 book “Out and Running” analyzes the impact of gay and lesbian political representation in the U.S., said Arizona “is a little bit unusual historically because its openly gay candidates have just as often been Republican as Democrat.”

Former Rep. Jim Kolbe, a Republican, won re-election in 1996 after coming out as gay following his vote in support of the Defense of Marriage Act. Kolbe, the second openly gay Republican in Congress, held his seat until he retired in 2007 after 11 terms.

Still, Babeu faces unique challenges for an openly gay candidate, Haider-Markel said. Most gay Republicans are moderates who win in districts that lean Democratic, he said, but the sheriff is running in a strongly Republican district and is known for his conservative positions on issues such as border security.

“For someone to be running for an open seat, openly gay and Republican, they really have the odds stacked against them,” Haider-Markel said.

For that reason, a Babeu victory could be a “landmark” moment for the gay community, Haider-Markel said.

“It would give gay Republicans a real hope that they could successfully run for office in places they had not considered before,” he said.

Blig wine roundup is this weekend

We want to make sure that there is still room left for your reservation to stay at the fabulous Cherry Creek Lodge for our first annual Wine Roundup weekend.

Package 1 - Full Weekend
The Cherry Creek Lodge is providing 5-Star accommodations for Friday evening Dinner with Pleasant Valley wine, chocolate fountain dessert buffet, wine pairing, & fun. On Saturday afternoon we will have wine tasting and fun; casual sessions on wine bottles & glasses, wine etiquette & pairing, wine trivia, and wine making equipment. Saturday evening will be a delicious 4-course dinner and dessert paired with wine by Pleasant Valley Winery. Full Sunday morning breakfast. Only $198 per person, $389 per couple.

Package 2 - Saturday afternoon wine tasting and fun and Saturday evening dinner, wine, and dessert. $42.50 per person, $80 per couple.

For information and reservations, please contact the Cherry Creek Lodge at pete@cherrycreeklodge.com or 928 462-4029. To see the gorgeous Lodge and grounds, and view the many activities offered, please visit cherrycreeklodge.com.

Reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke

By David Sayen
Gazette Contributor

Heart disease and stroke have reached epidemic levels in our country. Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans; stroke is the fourth leading killer. One of every three deaths in this county is caused by cardiovascular disease.

That’s why Medicare is helping to lead the Million Hearts campaign, a national initiative that aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years. Because February is also American Heart Month, I wanted to tell you what Medicare is doing to help fight this serious public health problem. And what you can do to fight it, too.

Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common one in the United States is coronary artery disease, which can trigger heart attack, severe chest pain, heart failure, and irregular heartbeat. Genetics, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and lifestyle factors such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise can contribute to heart disease.

Stroke is a brain attack that occurs when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked. This can be caused either by a blood clot or by a burst blood vessel in or around the brain. Lack of blood flow during stroke can cause portions of the brain to become damaged, often beyond repair.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare recently began covering new preventive health services to help people with Medicare reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.

Starting this year, Medicare will pay for one face-to-face visit each year so that Medicare beneficiaries can discuss with their care providers the best ways to help prevent cardiovascular disease.

The visit must be with your primary care provider, such as your family practice doctor, internal medicine doctor, or a nurse practitioner. And it has to take place in settings such as your primary care provider’s office.

During the visit, your doctor can screen you for high blood pressure and give you advice on how to eat a healthy diet. The idea is to empower people with Medicare to make heart-healthy lifestyle changes.

Medicare also now covers counseling to help people with Medicare lose weight if they’re obese. An estimated 30 percent of the men and women with Medicare are obese.

If you’re obese based on your body mass index, you’re eligible for face-to-face counseling sessions with your primary-care provider for up to a year.

In addition to the above services, Medicare pays for counseling to help people with Medicare stop smoking and to manage diabetes, which is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The good news is that most major risk factors for heart disease and stroke are preventable and controllable. These factors include inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, and high cholesterol.

What can you do to reduce your risk? A good first step is talking to your doctor about your heart health and getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Many other lifestyle choices—including eating healthy, exercising regularly, and following your doctor's instructions about your medications—can help protect your heart and brain health.

Ask your doctor, too, if taking an aspirin each day is right for you.

For more information about the Million Hearts campaign, and about Medicare’s healthy-heart and other preventive health benefits, go to www.Medicare.gov.

If you’d like to check your 10-year risk of heart attack or dying from coronary heart disease -- and what you can do about it – go to the American Heart Association’s website, at www.heart.org. In the search box, type “heart attack risk calculator.”

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Trust Territories. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Free Applicance Disposal Day
by ECC

Saturday, March 3rd is Gila County
Appliance Disposal Day

Free appliance disposal
at the County landfill

Buckhead Mesa Landfill (Payson)

Phone: (928) 476-3350 Hours

Hours 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday - Saturday

Closed on Sundays and Holidays

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An ode to aging we can all relate to

(Frank Sullivan is a former All Star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and a friend of Gazette Columnist Noble Collins. He was a teammate of the revered Ted Williams, among others. Frank has an engaging writing style and has experienced far more adventures than baseball alone. In coming weeks it will be a pleasure to share his many ups and downs with Gazette Blog readers.)


I asked an older friend once, “When will I know I am old?” He said it was easy to tell by spitting. He said, “When you are young you spit over your chin, and when you are old, you spit all over it.”

I don’t do a lot of spitting these days because of that test but I am here to tell you getting old is sure getting old. But of all things, I find it more interesting that I thought it would be. It ain’t all good, but it is interesting.

After what I consider to be one of the most exciting and rewarding travels on this earth, I am not ashamed to say, “I damn near did it all.” And I did it during a time when unthinkable things happened. Surely, the past 82 years were some of the most incredible gains in man’s ability to make dreams a reality. Walk on the moon! Satellite television and global positioning systems that tell us how to get where we want to go. Dick Tracy wristwatches can’t hold a candle to what we carry around everyday like it was supposed to happen. It goes on and on. I mean the only thing old I am still stuck with is my handy old toilet plunger and me. The plunger doesn’t look like it will make another day, but I intend to give the year a go despite the trauma of losing the plunger and all the good times we had together.

It’s interesting to try and remember all the times I stood on the mound and said to myself, “This is the moment the game will change unless you shut them down!” And now needing that same resolve I find myself running a quart low on self discipline and I am running a quart low on effort. There is this sort of melancholy feeling that comes over me every late afternoon suggesting I didn’t try hard enough to make the day better. Lord knows it’s true, but I don’t seem to have the will to make it better.

I shrug it off a lot because having only one eye and no depth perception limits what I can do physically to a great extent, but I am easily steered off a project with that one thought. I even allow myself to think, “You’re old! What do you expect?” One excuse after another and the next thing I know is my night time raid on the refrigerator has me into the strawberries instead of a drink of cold water.

The nights are incredibly interesting with the dreams. The menu lists good and bad but I am never allowed a choice. After a good dream the morning is much more palatable than after a bad one as can be expected, but the ones where I am wanting to get word to my mother and father that I am trying to get home and can never remember the phone number is hard to swallow. I’m sure it is the result of my time in the military and the following years of being a baseball player in the summer and a boatman in the winter and having the time of my life doing it. But I always felt slightly guilty about not being home for them and my sister Carol.

I think it is interesting that I have found that waking in the night, other than for needed bladder relief, requires a steadfast drill of getting out of the bed and coming here on the computer before the train of thought gets on a bad track. Funny how that bad track will drag you down to the extent you feel all is lost until the first light of dawn and, upon getting up, it’s all gone! It’s as if I just spent a big chunk of my life for nothing? I just ruined a good night with negative thoughts? So it’s up and out of the sack if my brain snaps awake in the night as it is wont to do.

I find it also interesting that I was talked into allowing a publisher to make a book out of some of my writings by the publisher himself. I find it interesting everyone that has read it seems to be pleased with it but I can’t seem to sell it in the east where I thought it would be at least a nice Christmas gift to a snow bound Red Sox baseball fan.

And how come I get so much pleasure from writing, especially since I was such a lousy English student.

Interesting too is my absolute need to have something to look forward to start the next day. I find at this age damn near anything will do and, in that regard, standing upright is good for starters. And besides keeping me in spending money my every morning recycle pick up from seven places nearby has really been the ticket.

Most interesting to date is that a week ago I started the quest to lose weight again. Now let’s see if I can come up with the resolve to do it. From my present 260lb weight (the heaviest I have ever been) it will take a 20lb loss to allow me to crow but then will come the real challenge to get down to 235lbs. Being married to a gourmet cook is certainly an obstacle, but she certainly would rather sleep with a old dog than sleep with an old hog wouldn’t she? So the onus is on her too.

I’m trying to get the nerve up to tell her. Or better yet, you tell her.

(Editor's note: Frank Sullivan has written a book called "Life is More than 9 Innings - Memories of a Boston Red Sox Pitcher," a unique collection of stories covering a lifetime of memories. Frank's 10-year Major League Baseball career is the source of a fascinating insider’s look at the sport of baseball and some of the legendary players of the ‘50s and ‘60s including Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Sam White and many more.   As the title implies, there are many more stories to be told including his early years growing up in California, Army service during the Korean War, and 43 years of life in Hawaii on the island of Kauai.

Put together in a very readable short story format, each account stands on its own as a captivating tale told by a master storyteller. Along with its wonderful collection of photographs, the book is a storehouse of memories to be savored and enjoyed by sports fans and casual readers alike.

Frank Sullivan is a Red Sox Hall of Fame pitcher who is now on the way to becoming a Hall of Fame storyteller. This delightful book not only covers his professional career and many of the great players of that era but also has many delightful human interest tales of life away from the playing fields.

"He details the ups and downs of a baseball career at a time when there wasn’t expansion of the leagues and free agency was not a part of baseball terminology. A really enjoyable, fun book for everyone."
— Dick Bresciani, Vice President, Boston Red Sox 

Copies of the book can be ordered directly from Frank autographed or with a salutation for $23, including shipping.  

Order from:
Frank Sullivan
P.O. Box 1873
Lihue, HI 96766