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MONDAY, MAY 26

SEEING IS BELIEVING: Sen. John McCain celebrates Memorial Day with a stinging attack on Sen. Barack Obama, saying the Democratic presidential hopeful hasn't been to Iraq to see just how easy it is to stroll through a charming shopping bazaar, as long as you have a security contingent of more than 100 soldiers and a few Blackhawk helicopters overhead.

TUESDAY, MAY 27

WHERE R U? ROTFLMAO!: Up at the state Capitol, an effort by Democratic lawmakers to amend a bill to create a fine for sending a text message while driving survives a number of wacky challenges from Republican Sen. Ron Gould, but the debate gets halted when Senate President Tim Bee and other Republicans decide they need to meet with President George W. Bush, who is in town to raise money for John McCain's presidential campaign. An effort to continue the debate later is derailed when not enough senators return to the chamber later in the day.

SHELLACKED: The Tucson Sidewinders endure the worst loss in the team's history when they lose 23-2 at home to the Las Vegas 51s. The 51s scored 21 runs in the first five innings, and Sidewinders catcher Matt Morgan, who now has 0.00 ERA on the season, takes the mound in the ninth after Tucson uses four pitchers in the game.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 28

BILL COMES DUE: Judge Michael Miller orders Pima County to pay a portion of legal bills run up by attorney Bill Risner in his battle to gain the release of electronic records related to counting votes. Miller awards Risner roughly $228,000 and admonishes Risner for not keeping better records. Risner, who was representing the Pima County Democratic Party, had requested $316,000.

THURSDAY, MAY 29

PUMPED UP: The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas climbed another 11 cents in Tucson, to $3.653, according to the weekly survey by AAA Arizona. The auto outfit notes that Tucson has the lowest average price in the state.

FRIDAY, MAY 30

WISE GUY?: UA guard Nic Wise announced he would stick around the basketball team for his junior year. Wise's statement: "This is where I want to be. I trust Coach Olson, and he wants me to be a leader--the captain--next season, and that's what I'm going to do."

SATURDAY, MAY 31

OUT!: The UA softball team misses the chance to win a third consecutive Women's College World Series title when they are eliminated from the tournament after losing to the Alabama Crimson Tide, 5-1. The Lady Cats went 41-19 on the season.

OUT OF THIS WORLD: The Discovery space shuttle launched from Cape Canaveral, commanded by Mark Kelly, husband of Southern Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The shuttle includes replacement parts for a malfunctioning toilet aboard the International Space Station.

SUNDAY, JUNE 1

SAFE!: The UA Wildcat baseball team beats Kentucky, 5-3, to advance to the NCAA super regional tournament. Arizona must face Miami at 7 pm. Friday, June 6.

DATELINE MARS: WHAT'S UP WITH THE PHOENIX?

The plucky Phoenix Mars Lander has been transmitting data back to mission control here in Tucson since it landed over Memorial Day weekend. The science team, headed up by Peter Smith of the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab, spent its first week developing a 360-degree mosaic photo of the landscape around the spacecraft with the help of the Surface Stereo Imager, a high-tech camera aboard the Phoenix. With that work done, the camera can now begin taking more detailed, high-resolution photos.

The team has set aside one area next to the Phoenix as a "nature preserve" that they will leave untouched, and they're designating another area as more of a "Superfund site" where they plan to do the first collection of soil samples with the robotic arm this week.

Scientists are doing a detailed map and analysis of the area, giving rocks and other features names like Sleepy Hollow, Humpty Dumpty and King's Men. "For naming rocks, you might think that scientists would go with A1 and A2 and B3 or something, but that is so dull," says Smith, who adds that the team will have to stick with folk tales that were established before copyright laws kicked in.

Meanwhile, the robot arm is moving and has reached out to scoop its first pile of Martian soil. It has also snapped photos of what appears to be ice underneath the lander. Smith explains that the icy patch was uncovered when the soil was stirred up by the landing thrusters of the Phoenix and says the discovery is a good sign for the mission, because it suggests the ice is close to the surface. The science team hopes to use the robot arm to deliver samples of the ice to onboard labs that can analyze the Martian water.

"If we hadn't been able to find ice near our landing site, we would have missed the opportunity to study climate history and the preservation of organic material," says Smith. "This is really a gleeful day for me. Right away, within the first week, we know just how deep this ice is."

The Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer's mass spectrometer gizmo was on the fritz. Smith says the Phoenix team is hard at work at resolving the problem: "Nobody thinks it's more than a little hiccup."

Find out more at The TW Blog or at the UA's Phoenix Web site, phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/index.php.

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