Friday, January 30, 2015

Sneak Peek: "Zona Politics" Talks Prez Race 2016, US-Iran-Israeli Relations, McCain's 2016 Battlefield, McSally's Border Bill and Much More

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 5:00 PM

Zona Politics Eps.16 from Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel on Vimeo.

This week on Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash and former Pima County Democratic Party chairman Don Jorgensen talk about what the GOP's recent winter meeting means for the 2016 race, whether John McCain will face a primary challenge, why the border bill co-sponsored by Congresswoman Martha McSally got pulled this week and much more. Tune in at 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning on KGUN-9 or catch an early view by watching online above.

New Bill Would Establish an Industrial Hemp Study Committee

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 3:30 PM

State Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, a Democrat from Yuma, has introduced a bill asking for the creation of an industrial hemp study committee to examine the economic opportunities associated with the industry and to review actions the federal government and other states regarding hemp.

The one-page bill, SB 1225, lists the people who should be a part of this study committee, including two members of the state Senate appointed by the Senate president, two members of the state House appointed by the speaker, the director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture, and the dean of the UA's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. There would also be representatives of a statewide farm association.

This committee would have to look into the benefits of establishing a hemp industry here in Arizona, and then present their results on or before Sept. 1, 2016.

One of the gubernatorial hopefuls, Americans Elect candidate John Lewis Mealer, used the hemp industry as one of the platforms to improve the state's economy should he had been elected. During his campaign last year, he reinforced his support for the "trillion-dollar" industry. Mealer actually owns an automobile company, where he hopes to incorporate car panels made from industrial hemp one day.

Also, industrial hemp research is mentioned in the Agriculture Act of 2014, or the Farm Bill. A section of the law authorizes university institutions or state departments, where hemp is legal, to grow hemp for research purposes. Hemp hasn't been grown in the U.S. since 1957, according to the advocacy group Vote Hemp.

Arizona lawmakers pushed for a bill last year that would have given hemp farming the green light here, but that didn't survive. It was voted down by the Senate Judiciary Committee February 2014.

This one will likely not survive either in our very conservative state Legislature. Although, it should not be blown off, since the hemp industry could bring good money here. You can create a lot of things from it, from oil to shoes.

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Feds to Start Accepting DACA Requests Under New Guidelines Mid-February

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 2:00 PM

  • Courtesy of

Immigrants who came to the U.S. before they were 16 years old and have lived in the country continuously since Jan. 1, 2010 can start applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals under its new set of rules starting Feb. 18.

In November, President Obama expanded the deferred action program to undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and resident children (who have no criminal background, among other requirements), relieving about 5 million of them from deportation and granting them work permits with what's been now referred to as DAPA.

Also among his immigration actions were changes to DACA, which expanded the number of people eligible for the program.

When Obama first issued DACA in 2012, the requirements were to have entered before turning 16, to have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007 and to have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, in order to apply for the two-year, renewable program. Thanks to Obama's immigration action, there is now no age restriction to apply, you can re-apply for the program every three years, and you have to had lived here continuously since January 2010. 

Don't send your application before Feb. 18, because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will not take them. (Their website has not updated this information, by the way. They still list the old guidelines.)

Among the requirements to qualify are having no criminal background, being in school or having completed high school or have a GED. The application fee is $465.

If you need help with the process, visit Scholarships A-Z Facebook page. They often have DACA clinics, where they help you apply.

As for parents, they won't be able to start applying for deferred action until mid-to-late May, according to USCIS.

For more information, visit this page.

On Jan. 16, the U.S. House passed a bill that tied both funding for the Department of Homeland Security and killing Obama's deferred action programs. 

The Tucson Weekly's Jim Nintzel said this about that on Jan. 22's The Skinny:
Congress passed a spending plan for the department, but tied it to two amendments: One, sponsored by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), would prohibit federal funds from being spent to assist with the Obama administration's expanded program providing deportation relief from up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, while the other, sponsored by Congresswoman Martha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), blocked federal funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has sheltered undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as children from deportation.

The Southern Arizona congressional delegation split along party lines, with Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva and Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick voting against the bill and Congresswoman Martha McSally voting for it.

McSally said she voted for the funding package because it served as the first step toward improving border security.

She added that she supported blocking the Obama administration's executive action on immigration because it "set a dangerous precedent that threatens the very constitutional principles and separation of powers on which our country is founded. It's critical that Congress, as the direct representation of the people, stand up for those principles."

But McSally was one of 26 Republicans who voted against the Blackburn amendment that targeted the DREAM Act kids.

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At Indianapolis' Carpe Diem Charter School, You Can Seize the $100

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 12:30 PM

  • Courtesy of Shutterstock

A story about an Indiana charter school doesn't sound relevant here in Arizona, except that the school is a branch of a Yuma charter much loved by conservative "education reform" advocates and much touted by our previous Ed Supe John Huppenthal.

Carpe Diem charter in Indianapolis wanted to increase its enrollment mid year, before the deadline to determine the school's attendance, which determines the school's per-student state funding. So it decided to give a $100 gift card to anyone who refers a student who enrolls.
You've already given your child(ren) the best gift possible - a quality education. Now please join us in recruiting students like yours who can also start 2015 out great. . . . For each new student you refer that enrolls at Carpe Diem Meridian, we'll give you a $100 Marsh gift card!
It seems the school's strategy of handing out fliers to parents at day care centers, TV and radio appearances and two open houses wasn't enough to do the trick.

Paying for references to charters is legal in Indiana
. I'm not sure how the law goes in Arizona, but I'm guessing it's OK here too. Ann-Eve Pedersen, my cohost on the cable access show, Education: The Rest of the Story, did a story in 2013 about a $100 charter school bribe advertised in a flier given out to students as they walked out of her son's school at the end of the day.

Carpe Diem is a "blended learning" school which began in Yuma and has been opening branches in other states. Here's why the reformers/privatizers love the "blended learning" model so much. It has students parked in front of computers in little cubicles half the day working on computerized lessons, and they spend the rest of the day with teachers. The average student-to-teacher ratio is twice that of most schools: about 50-to-1. That means less money spent on teachers — no way businesses can make serious money on teacher salaries — and more money spent on computers and online curriculum — Ka-Ching! The Indianapolis school lists five teachers for its 240 students.

The proponents of the "blended learning" model point out that students at the Yuma school made tremendous gains in their math and reading scores. And they did, one year. The problem is, there was reason to believe the tests might have been altered by a staff member or two. Excess erasures — a wrong answer erased and a right answer bubbled in — are a sign of possible cheating, and some student tests at the school had about seven times the state average of wrong-to-right erasures. After that was pointed out,  student scores dropped significantly over the next few years.

My understanding is, good charters are supposed to attract students because of their quality as the invisible hand of the marketplace separates the good schools from the bad. If a school needs to resort to a very visible hand offering a $100 referral reward, you've got to wonder if it's really offering the kind of education parents are looking for.

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Borderlands and Zona78 Are Joining Forces on a Beer Dinner

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 11:04 AM

click image What are those Zona78 chefs cooking up for the Borderlands collaboration? - ZONA78 / FACEBOOK
  • Zona78 / Facebook
  • What are those Zona78 chefs cooking up for the Borderlands collaboration?

It's almost Arizona Beer Week, which mean you've likely been sifting through the schedule of planned events to plan a full week of local brews, collaborations, seminars and more. Chances are you're probably getting pretty excited about the inaugural Tucson Craft Beer Crawl on Saturday, Feb. 21 that will take attendees around to some of downtown Tucson's best spots for a pint.

While letting all of that sink in, you can get in the Arizona Beer Week spirit on Saturday, Jan. 31 by heading to Zona78 for a beer-paired dinner collaboration with Borderlands. Here's what the team has in store:


The four-course beer dinner is $40. You can make your reservation by calling 888-7878 and then head to Zona78, located at 78 West River Road, tomorrow at 7 p.m.

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Arizona: "Big Mo" in Education?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 9:00 AM

  • Courtesy of Shutterstock

The AZ Capitol Times has an op ed, Arizona has ‘Big Mo’ in education. Not if by  "Big Mo," he means "Mo Money" that would give teachers the resources they need to maximize the education they give their students. The only momentum we have is digging ourselves deeper and deeper into an educational hole.

The op ed is written by Glenn Hamer, President and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Hamer is building on Senate President Andy Biggs' statement that we need to pretend Arizona's schools are doing great so we can convince businesses to move here.
[Biggs] said Arizona provides “a good education,” though it may have “a ways to go.”

“But if you want to consistently say to business: ‘Hey, you know what? We have a crappy education system,’ you’re not helping the state, you’re not helping our education system, and you are hindering our economy."
Because, I guess, businesses don't do their own research when they relocate, so if the Chamber of Commerce and Andy Biggs say everything's wonderful with our education system, the business folks will say, "That's great," then they'll pack up their U Hauls and haul on over here.

Here's some of cheerleader Hamer's evidence that proves how great we're doing.
According to Quality Counts, Arizona is 4th in the nation in closing the reading gap among students who qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch. We’re 8th in the nation on fourth-grade math achievement gains. We’re 16th for eighth grade reading gains. These academic gains are more than just a blind squirrel finding a nut. We’re doing something right.
The problem is, Quality Counts gave Arizona's education a D+ overall. I checked the report to make sure I had that grade right, but I really didn't need to. Diane Douglas mentioned it in her State of Education speech. Oops.

Hamer, honest guy that he is, admits we're not perfect.
Of course, we can do better. But rather than simply criticize, our leaders should be working to accelerate improvement. A good start would be to embrace the types of reforms touted by Gov. Ducey, ensuring that all students, regardless of neighborhood, have access to our best public schools.
Sure, let's follow Gov. Ducey's lead in education, which was given a well deserved pounding in media outlets around the state. Great idea.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

150th Birthday of "The Nation" Will be Celebrated in Tucson in March

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 6:00 PM

  • Courtesy of Shutterstock

The magazine, The Nation, has been around for 150 years, created, according to its website, "by anti-slavery abolitionists four months after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln." The magazine is doing a victory lap with birthday celebrations around the country, and it's landing in Tucson during the 2015 Tucson Festival of Books, March 14 and 15. Tucson is the second of 15 cities where the celebration is touching down.

Here's the schedule of talks and events.

• Katha Pollitt, “Reclaiming Abortion Rights” March 14, 11:30 am
• John Nichols, Katha Pollitt, Lee Fang, and Congressman Raul Grijalva, “The Nation: 150 Years of Ideas” March 14, 4 pm (Live on CSPAN)
• John Nichols, Lee Fang, Mark Leibovich, and Mickey Edwards discuss “The Future of Politics” March 15, 1 pm
• Noam Chomsky in conversation with John Nichols, March 15, 4 pm 
• Exclusive, one-night, March 15 regional premier of Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple’s documentary, Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation followed by talk-back with John Nichols and others.
The magazine will have a booth at the book festival, and will also be putting on an investigative reporting workshop and a poetry workshop.

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Jeff Flake Among Bipartisan Group of Senators Who Want to Kill Sanctions for Traveling to Cuba

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 5:00 PM

The streets of Havana, Cuba. - COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Courtesy of Shutterstock
  • The streets of Havana, Cuba.

Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake is among a bipartisan group of senators who sent a letter to President Obama saying they are committed to expand trade and travel between the U.S. and Cuba. They argue lifting sanctions and modernizing other policies between the two countries could help create change in the communist island. 

From a statement by Flake:
Our hope is that changes to the current trade and travel relationship will advance our goal of bolstering the vulnerable private sector and increasing entrepreneurship while decreasing the role of state-controlled enterprises,” wrote the Republican senators.
With the significance of your recent announcements related to Cuba, we look forward to Congress turning its attention toward modernizing U.S.-Cuba policy to the benefit of U.S. citizens and the Cuban people alike. Congress must play an integral role in reforming our policy toward Cuba.
Flake traveled to Cuba in November for a three-day trip with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and when he returned he announced his approval for fixing trade and travel ties.

Also last year, Obama said he wanted to rebuild a relationship with Cuba after more than 50 years. But the trade embargo and other policies can only be reversed by Congress. 

Read the letter Flake and others sent to Obama yesterday.

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Staff Pick

Arizona State Museum’s Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest

This permanent, ongoing, exhibit explores the origins, histories, and contemporary lifeways of ten Native American culture groups… More

@ Arizona State Museum Ongoing, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 1013 E. University Blvd.

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