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War Is Hell

Pat Tillman, the former ASU standout who gave up his career with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was killed in an Afghanistan firefight last week.

"He represents everything that's beautiful and magnificent about Americans," said U.S. Sen. John McCain. "He left a lifestyle and a financial status that's the envy of all of us to serve his country without fanfare, without publicity, and (he) paid the ultimate sacrifice."

Earlier this week, Marine Lance Cpl. Robert Paul Zurheide Jr. , the first Tucsonan killed in combat in Iraq, was laid to rest at South Lawn Cemetery.

Meanwhile, Tucson journalist Russ Kick got national attention after he posted 288 photos of flag-draped coffins containing U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq on his muckraking Web site, thememoryhole.org. (Motto: "Rescuing Knowledge. Freeing Information.") Kick, author of 50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know, got the photos through the Freedom of Information Act, which awoke briefly from its Bush-induced coma to release the photos. Pentagon officials, who have refused to allow the media to photograph the coffins, because it might remind people that soldiers are dying overseas, said giving the photos to Kick was an oversight and it would return to its standard policy of stonewalling.

McCain said he disagreed with the Pentagon policy.

"I want us to be sensitive to the privacy and the feelings of the families, but I think the American people have a right to know this if they want to." McCain added that he thought it was wrong for Pentagon contractor Maytag Aircraft Corp. to fire a civilian woman and her husband after she released a photo of coffins to a Seattle newspaper.


Homeland Insecurity

Congressman Jim Kolbe, who is facing a re-election challenge in the Republican primary from state Rep. Randy Graf, continued his high-profile efforts to show he's doing something about Arizona's leaky border. Kolbe joined with "good friend" Sen. John McCain for a news conference at the University of Arizona to reiterate that the two lawmakers were supporting the Border Security and Technology Integration Act. The legislation would direct the Office of Homeland Security to study the northern and southern U.S. borders to look for areas where terrorists might sneak in--which, given the current state of the border, seems to be just about anywhere. The legislation would also provide funding for electronic aerial and ground equipment to watch for illegal border crossers as part of a pilot program.

At the news conference, Kolbe expressed disappointment that the Bush Administration had slashed more than $100 million in federal funding in the current fiscal year to states to help cover costs of incarcerating illegal aliens who commit crimes. This year, the White House has again proposed eliminating the funding.

Meanwhile, First Christian Church Pastor Robin Hoover, president of Humane Borders, says his group will have 48 water stations in the desert by May 1. Last year, the group managed 41 stations during the hot summer months, supplying more than 15,000 gallons of water between October 2002 and September 2003 at a cost of $107,000, including $25K from Pima County. Hoover hopes county supervisors will provide at least as much this year, arguing that saving the entrants' lives also saves money for the county coroner, local hospitals and other local outfits.

"Some people holler it's controversial, but to me, it's a no-brainer," says Hoover.

Of the 27 migrants found dead since Oct. 1, only four have died from heat exposure, according to Border Patrol spokesman Charles Griffin. During the same period, the Border Patrol has apprehended 272,892 illegal immigrants in the Tucson Sector.


Goodbye, Giant Earthworm!

The Center for Biological Diversity released a report estimating that 114 species have gone extinct since the creation of the Endangered Species Act, including the Oregon giant earthworm, the sylvan hygrotus diving beetle and more than a dozen snail species in Hawaii. Of the 114 creatures and plants that are no longer with us, 81 percent never made the endangered species list, although efforts were made to include many of them.

Brian Nowicki, a conservation biologist with the center, said that once species get protection, they tend to survive and sometimes even recover. But those that don't make the endangered species list tend to go the way of the dinosaur.

"Listing delays and extinctions have plagued the Fish and Wildlife Service for 30 years, but the Bush administration has pushed the crisis to an unprecedented level," said Nowicki. "It has virtually shut down the listing program, placing an average of just nine species on the list per year."

The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect a total of 326 species, according to Nowicki.

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