Monday, February 20, 2017

T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch: Bless, Keep and Protect Our Free Press

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 12:30 PM

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Since the election, I have feared the mainstream press would collapse under the weight of Trump's endless onslaught. Instead, it has dug in its heels and held its ground. It could have normalized our aberrant new political order, accepting the presidential campaign as a variation on a standard political theme, treating Trump's continual lies and outrages as the growing pains of an eccentric newbie trying to learn how to be president, acting like his agenda fits neatly under the headline, "Elections have consequences." But it hasn't. From the New York Times, to the Washington Post, to papers in other major cities, to the Associated Press which supplies most of the national stories in the Star, to principled conservative writers who are horrified at what they're witnessing, journalists have striven to show the reading public how unusual, how outlandish our present situation really is. CNN, to my surprise, has responded to constant Trumpian attacks by stepping up its coverage of the White House, and MSNBC, especially in its evening shows, has zeroed in on the day's events and spotlighted why we need to remain concerned and vigilant. Even Fox has spoken occasional truth to power.

In much of the daily news and in many magazines, truth telling is trumping Trumpism. Facts are still facts, and diligent, whip-smart investigative journalists are digging to see what facts they can uncover beneath the facts we already know. It's not a perfect process. It's flawed, messy and many-headed. But that's what unfettered journalism is all about, and it's what authoritarian leaders hate and fear, and do everything they can to suppress.

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Cinema Clips: XX

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 11:15 AM


Four women direct short films in this horror anthology.

Most notably, Annie Clark of the band St. Vincent (My hero!) makes her film directorial debut with a segment called The Birthday Party, where a frantic mom (Melanie Lynskey) panics when she finds a corpse just before her child’s birthday. The segment looks great, is acted well, and features some great sound and St. Vincent music.

As a piece of horror, it’s a bit of a failure (it’s more jokey than horror), but the segment does show that Clark can direct performances and pull together the technical parts. It’s just not scary.

Things get creepier in an Evil Dead sort of way with Don’t Fall, where some desert campers come into contact with demonic forces after seeing some sketches on a stone wall. There isn’t much of a story to the segment, but the scares come fast and furious once somebody gets possessed.

The other segments (The Gift and Her Only Living Son) deal with starvation, parenthood and the antichrist, and they also have their moments. Nothing in this anthology is groundbreaking, but there’s enough here to warrant watching if you are a horror or St. Vincent fan.

Mordecai Needs a Home

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 10:19 AM

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Hi, I’m Mordecai!

I’m a handsome 1.5-year-old big boy and I need a new home! I was found as a stray and brought into the care of HSSA by a good Samaritan.

I love meeting new people and am very silly. I weigh over 70 pounds, so I’m looking for a home that is able to give me ample space, exercise time and daily love!

Don’t forget that you can bring your current dogs over to HSSA Main Campus to do a doggy meet and greet and make sure that everyone gets along.

I need a home, but if you aren't looking to adopt you can still help homeless pets like me by donating to HSSA's fund to build a new home!

They are asking people like you to help them raise 3 million dollars! Click here for more information about the new shelter and how you can help today!

Hope to meet you soon and stay tuned for a picture later on today of my brother Truman!

Lots of love,
Mordecai (836780)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Death in the Arizona Borderlands

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 5:06 PM

Since 2001, thousands of migrant have died in the desert of the U.S.-Mexico border. Activists, professionals and migrants talk about the continuing humanitarian crisis in the Arizona borderlands.


TUSD Board Meeting Scheduled For Tuesday, Feb. 21. Only One Item on the Agenda

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 3:14 PM

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A special TUSD Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21, with only one agenda item: a discussion of the possible firing of Superintendent H.T. Sanchez and General Counsel Todd Jaeger. It's a bit more complicated than that—you can read the agenda here—but that's the gist of it.

The same item was on the February 14 agenda, submitted at the last minute by newly elected board member Rachael Sedgwick, but it was pulled before it was discussed in the open meeting. On Feb. 21, it is the agenda, period, unless other items are submitted. And Mark Stegeman has joined Rachael Sedgwick in requesting it.

After the last board meeting, I wrote that I wasn't sure if Sedgwick put in the earlier item on her own, but I suspected she did. This time, however, it's clear she has Stegeman with her, an experienced, thoughtful, strategic board member who knows how to dot his "i's" and cross his "t's." I expect the item will be discussed and voted on.

We'll see what happens. We could get a drip, drip, drip of information over the next few days, or not. I certainly wouldn't lay odds that Sanchez will have his job after the meeting; then again, I'm not a betting man. But you never know. These things have a habit of taking odd, unpredictable turns.

Stay tuned. I know I will.

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TUSD Sideshow

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Tucson Unified School District's newest board member Rachael Sedgwick stirred controversy by adding an agenda item to Tuesday's regular TUSD Governing Board meeting.  The item, bringing Superintendent H.T. Sánchez's job into question, will be heard at a special meeting next Tuesday. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • Tucson Unified School District's newest board member Rachael Sedgwick stirred controversy by adding an agenda item to Tuesday's regular TUSD Governing Board meeting. The item, bringing Superintendent H.T. Sánchez's job into question, will be heard at a special meeting next Tuesday.


The TUSD Superintendent’s job is still at risk, although discussion of it was absent from Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The crowd of more than a hundred people cheered at the beginning of Tucson Unified School District’s regular board meeting when the controversial item was removed from the agenda. For an hour and a half, one after the other, community members stood at the podium to thank Superintendent H.T. Sánchez and commend the work he’s doing with the district.

Nonetheless, a special meeting has been called for Tuesday, Feb. 21, where the question of Sánchez’s job will be back on the agenda, according to Rachael Sedgwick, the board’s newest member.

At the Feb. 14 meeting, 20 people spoke in support of the superintendent and three in opposition.
Community member Brian Flagg said Sánchez is present at school events and people like him.

“He brings his family, he hangs out, and he talks to people until the last person leaves—and he does it in Spanish,” he said. “I think the guy’s got real popular support.”

On Tuesday, the board received more than 75 emails in support of the superintendent and two in opposition, according to Board members Adelita Grijalva and Kristel Foster. Supporters of Sánchez include Michael Varney, President of the Tucson Metro Chamber, and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
Sedgwick, who put the item on the agenda, would like to see Sánchez make some changes but says it’s apparent he’s not open to working with her.

“It’s really not about firing H.T.,” she said. “It's really is about exploring the different opportunities and giving him a choice.”

She would like to see the board create a performance plan to assess progress the superintendent makes with the district. In particular, Sedgwick is concerned with enrollment numbers, standardized testing scores, AP scores, graduation rates and drop-out rates.

Sedgwick also thinks Sánchez spends too much time at the Arizona Legislature.

“The superintendent’s job is really not to be lobbying the legislators in Phoenix,” she said. “I believe the superintendent does not visit the schools very often and that it means that we, as a district, have sort of lost sight about the reasons that TUSD exists.”

Sánchez could not be reached for a response.

Sedgwick says she has the backing of Board member Mark Stegeman and that Board President Michael Hicks is open to discussion.

Other board members think bringing the superintendent’s job into question right now distracts the board from more important things and opens them up to possible legal problems.

“What we’re doing here is a side-show circus,” Grijalva said. “If I’m a parent of a kindergartner or someone who’s coming from a charter school and looking for a middle or high school for my child, why would I pick TUSD? Because all I see in the headlines is this drama.”

Foster says terminating the superintendent with no backup plan is a dangerous decision, and putting that option suddenly on the agenda is not the way to solve a problem.

“We’re, right now, in the middle of a legislative session, trying to advocate on behalf of public education,” Foster said. “This shows absolutely no understanding of what we do as public officials that represent a school district.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cinema Clips: The Salesman

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 4:58 PM


Writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s (A Separation) latest involves Ermad (Shahab Hosseni), a teacher and part time actor in Iran forced to leave his home when it becomes uninhabitable. He moves to a new place on short notice with his wife, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), while they are both in the middle of a run for Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

Things go badly when Rana leaves the door to their new apartment open and is attacked after someone thinking they were visiting the previous tenant enters. The film then becomes a slow burn mystery as Ermad, a normally mild-mannered man, unravels a bit (but only a bit) as he tries to figure out who the attacker is. Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of this film is Ermad’s relative coldness towards his wife in the aftermath of the attack, a move that makes her even more of a victim. It’s hard, and painful, to watch, but Hosseni and Alidoosti make it very compelling and real. It’s also a story that is far from predictable.

The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2017 Oscars. It stands a very good chance of winning.

TUSD Superintendent Firing Update: Nothing To See Here, Folks (For Now).

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 1:14 PM

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The agenda for TUSD's Tuesday board meeting included an action item to look at firing Superintendent H.T. Sanchez and General Counsel Todd Jaeger. The item was pulled from the agenda. No action. Nothing to see here folks. But this isn't the last time we'll witness an attempt to oust Sanchez. It was a preview of coming events.

I'm only going to indulge in a general discussion of the situation. There's so much heat and so little light on both sides of this battle, it's impossible for me to sort out fact from fiction or determine the difference between cause-and-effect and random incidents. The fighting is fierce, filled with leaks, rumors, accusations and strange bedfellows.

So, just a few comments.

I think Sanchez should stay. [Open The Comments Floodgates!] He's done a decent job as superintendent—admirable in some instances, less admirable in others. Based on my 30 year-plus career as a public school teacher and a student of education around the country, I have no reason to think another superintendent will do a significantly better job steering this difficult district filled with the kinds of problems facing most large, ethnically diverse urban areas. More likely, the district's loss of continuity would do more harm than good.

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Staff Pick

OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS 2017: ANIMATED

Catch all of this year’s Oscar nominated short films on the big screen! Predict the winners and… More

@ Loft Cinema Thu., Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Feb. 26, 2 p.m. 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.

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