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Desperadoes

Beware when you cross the border! The University of Arizona Police Department last week warned students planning spring-break trips to Mexico that the U.S. State Department recently advised that "violent criminal activity all along the U.S.-Mexico border has increased as a product of a war between criminal organizations struggling for control of the lucrative narcotics trade all along the border."

The State Department advisory noted that the "wave of violence" has been mostly aimed at fellow drug dealers and criminal justice officials, but that Americans have recently been killed and kidnapped in the border region.

"The majority of the thousands of U.S. citizens who cross the border each day do so safely, exercising common-sense precautions such as visiting only the legitimate business and tourism areas of border town during daylight hours," the advisory added. "It is strongly recommended that red-light districts and neighborhoods where street drug dealing occurs be avoided."

In the wake of the warning, Mexican officials hurried to assure U.S. travelers that the warning was overblown, even as gunfights in Sonora continued to make headlines last week.

The Range joined with a party of quasi-men to brave the danger on a trip to Nogales last week to cash in a winning bet from last month's Jets-San Diego game and to place Super Bowl wagers. Working our way past the phalanx of guides willing to lead us to the nearest strip club, we journeyed on foot to Casino's Race and Sports Book, where we enjoyed a few cold cervezas and some complimentary shots of what appeared to be really cheap vodka while examining a short list of potential propositions on the game.

Where, we wondered, were the oddball props? Like whether there would be more than three coaches' challenges? Or whether time remaining on the clock at the second-half two-minute warning would be over 1:58? Or how many times Donovan McNabb would puke?

Disappointed with the available options, we asked if there were more props to bet on, only to receive the standard answer when someone in Mexico doesn't want to say no: "Maybe tomorrow."

Unwilling to spend the night, we went with the props available to us, only to get crushed on every wager on Super Sunday. Easy come, easy go!


Ballot Bust

Representatives of several organizations, including the Coalition to Defeat Proposition 200, the NAACP and the Pascua Yaqui tribe, held a press conference earlier this week to blast the U.S. Justice Department for giving pre-clearance to the changes in voting law established by Prop. 200, which was passed by 56 percent of Arizona voters last year.

Speakers at the conference complained that the new requirement that people show proof of citizenship to register to vote would kneecap registration efforts, and that forcing voters to show ID at the polling place would have a chilling effect on turnout.

An effort to get Joseph Rich, the Justice Department official who approved the changes last month, on the phone to see if he'd reverse his decision was first thwarted by technical difficulties--the cell phone was having trouble picking up a signal in the downtown library's basement--and then by a secretary who sent the call to voice mail, which was full.

Isabel Garcia of Coalición de Derechos Humanos said voting rights remained an issue in an ongoing lawsuit by the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund challenging Prop. 200.


Misstate of the Union

President George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address, promising to reform Social Security, secure the southern border and rein in federal spending--all of which seems as likely as an earlier SOTU that promised a trip to Mars and a hydrogen car in every garage.

Earlier this week, Bush delivered a proposed $2.57 trillion federal budget that omitted the costs of his Social Security reform, tax cuts and ongoing war efforts. The Bush budget trims domestic programs such as Community Development Block Grants, education initiatives and money given to states to cover the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens. Hey, it's worth it if Brad Pitt gets a tax break!

Meanwhile, citizens around the nation are posting photos and letters of apology to the world at www.sorryeverybody.com for allowing Bush to be re-elected. Residents of other countries have responded with www.apologiesaccepted.com , where they're posting their own photos and messages assuring us that not all Americans are hated around the world.

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