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Paving Over Differences

The Pima County Board of Supervisors agreed to fund six major road improvements inside Tucson city limits, ending--for now--an ongoing squabble between the two jurisdictions. City officials had accused the county of backing out of a deal struck before voters approved a 1997 road-bond package, while county officials maintained that city had failed to come up with its share of the funding for the projects.

The projects include extending Alvernon Way over the Rillito River with a new bridge, and building an overpass to carry Kino Boulevard over 22nd Street. The plan would also widen River Road between Campbell Avenue and Alvernon Way; South County Club Road between 36th Street and Irvington Road; West Valencia between Interstate 19 and South Mission Road; Broadway Boulevard between Euclid Avenue and Campbell; and Houghton Road between Speedway Boulevard and Golf Links Road.

Missing from the list of improvements was 22nd Street, which was the project that pissed everyone off in the first place, when supervisors voted to spend the money on residential streets instead of the planned widening of 22nd.

The projects are scheduled to be completed during the next decade.


Final Salute

Army Reserve Sgt. Tina S. Time was killed last Monday, Dec. 13, when her vehicle crashed near Cedar, Iraq. Time, a 22-year-old American Samoan who attended classes at Pima Community College, was the first female soldier from the Tucson area to die in Iraq.

Later in the week, Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Lucero was laid to rest at South Lawn Cemetery, on Saturday, Dec. 18. Lucero, 19, was killed by an explosion in Iraq's Al Anbar Province west of Baghdad on Nov. 27.

In related news, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld got hammered by politicians and pundits following reports that he hadn't taken the time to personally sign letters of condolences to the family members of fallen soldiers. Rumsfeld announced he would be signing future missives.

President George Bush stood by Rummy, telling reporters earlier this week that he was "doing a really fine job."

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that the Army National Guard's recruiting numbers were roughly 30 percent below quota since Oct. 1. The lack of recruits evidently stems from the realization that rather than spending one weekend a month doing some cool training at a nearby military base, they'll be putting their lives on the line for a year or more in a hellhole like Iraq or Afghanistan.

Break out the checkbook, taxpayers: National Guard officials also say they need $20 billion to replace equipment that's been used in the war effort.

With fewer than six weeks remaining before the January elections, Iraq remains a violent and troubled mess. Last Sunday, Dec. 19, at least 66 people were killed when bombs exploded in Karbala and Najaf. In a separate incident, three election workers were dragged from their cars and gunned down in a Baghdad street.

Responding to the ongoing violence, Bush was critical of Iraqi security forces and said he didn't expect the country's political process to be "trouble-free."


Snake Bit

The litigious Center for Biological Diversity announced it was petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Tucson shovel-nosed snake under the Endangered Species Act. Conservation biologist Noah Greenwald said the snake, once common in the region, was falling prey to expanded development

"The Tucson shovel-nosed snake is in trouble and needs the safety net provided by the Endangered Species Act," Greenwald said.

Greenwald added that the Center for Biological Diversity had filed a 60-day notice to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to act on a petition to list the Mexican garter snake as threatened or endangered. Greenwald said the lack of action was typical of the Bush administration.

"President Bush has shown a complete disregard for the nation's wildlife and natural resources," said Greenwald. "Funding for endangered species protection needs to be dramatically increased."


Curtains for Certain

UApresents, still reeling from the financial turmoil exacerbated by the disastrous staging of Hairspray, cancelled five upcoming shows: performances by Laurie Anderson, the Beijing Modern Dance Company, the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, Dawn Upshaw and Richard Goode, and the Kronos Quartet. That's showbiz!

In other UA news, relatively few tortillas were hurled at this year's winter graduation ceremony, in which 2,959 students earned undergrad degrees and 755 were awarded master's degrees, according to UA officials. Students may have been intimidated by the medieval maces that faculty are now wielding during the ceremony.

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