Thursday, July 30, 2015

It's Been a Bad Week for Facilities Detaining Migrant Families

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 1:31 PM

COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of Photospin

The reputation of some immigration detention facilities is getting worse—way worse.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus and Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee held a forum Tuesday on family detention, where there were testimonies from immigrant women who were detained, and a former lead social worker at one of the Texas detention centers (all making some serious allegations) and two experts who spoke about the psychological, developmental and legal implications of family detention policies. 

Here's the video from the forum, if you are interested:


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream
A few days prior, a federal judge in California ruled that the detention of children and mothers caught crossing the border illegally is in "serious violation of a longstanding court settlement, and that the families should be released as quickly as possible," according to an article by the New York Times. The ruling from Friday found the two detention centers the Obama administration opened in Texas last summer fail to meet the "minimum legal requirements of the 1997 settlement for facilities housing children," and that migrant kids had been apprehended in "widespread deplorable conditions."

The Obama administration now has until Aug. 3 to show the federal judge why they shouldn't be held up to standards for detaining migrant children per the 1997 legal settlement. This case could potentially end family detention.

Earlier this week, the LA Times published an article on pro-bono attorneys for immigrants detained at the two largest immigrant family detention centers—located in Texas—alleging they were "locked out" of the detention centers after they raised concerns that officials at were forcing immigrant mothers the lawyers represent to sign legal papers without being able to consult their attorneys. 

Here's an excerpt from the LA Times article:
On Monday, four national immigration lawyers groups working at the two newer, larger detention centers south of San Antonio in Dilley and Karnes City, Texas, sent a letter to U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement demanding it “account for the cascade of due process violations and detrimental practices.”

The groups that wrote to ICE include Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and the American Immigration Lawyers Assn. (AILA). They jointly provide legal services to mothers and children detained at the Texas detention centers through the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project.

CARA lead attorney Brian Hoffman said that in recent weeks, staff and volunteers have witnessed ICE officials “coercing women into accepting ankle monitors, denying access to legal counsel and impeding pro bono representation, along with mass disorganization and confusion in implementing the new release policy for mothers who fled violence and who are pursuing protection in the United States.”

Gillian Christensen, ICE press secretary, said the agency would review the claims and "respond directly to AILA."

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We've Broken the Record for Most Best of Tucson Votes

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 9:52 AM

It's okay to drink on Thursday nights if you're celebrating. - BIGSTOCK
  • BigStock
  • It's okay to drink on Thursday nights if you're celebrating.

You guys are the best. Over at Weekly HQ, we've been pretty excited about the upcoming Best of Tucson® issue. About once a day—sometimes way more than that—I've been looking at the survey results, watching over how many ballots are cast and cheering on my favorite finalists.

Checking in this morning, I saw we had beaten last year's record number of votes. Hell yeah, Tucson! Thanks for voting!

Unfortunately, that also comes with a record number of uncompleted ballots. This year, we've got nearly a thousand not-quite-submitted forms. Not sure if yours is one of those left in limbo? Head over to the ballot, log in with the exact name/email combo you used the first time around, and be sure you vote in at least 30 categories. Then, hit the submit button. Email me (chelo@tucsonlocalmedia.com) if you need help accessing your ballot. 

You've got until the end of the day this coming Sunday, Aug. 2, to start, finish, or completely redo your ballot. At midnight, your computer will turn into a pumpkin. Or something. Go vote.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Yes, The Dentist Who Killed Cecil the Lion is an Asshole but PETA is Going Too Far With This 'Execute Him' Thing

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 12:49 PM

COURTESY OF PETA
  • Courtesy of PETA

I don't understand what the Minnesota dentist, Walter James Palmer, gained from killing, beheading and skinning Cecil the lion. What a useless investment of $50,000 (that's allegedly about how much this guy paid to kill Cecil). 

CNN reported that the dentist and his guides—a professional hunter and a land owner, both residents of Zimbabwe— lured Cecil out of the Hwange National Park with a dead animal on top of a vehicle to then shoot him on private land. First, Palmer shot Cecil with a crossbow and 40 hours later shot him with a gun.

(Palmer says he was relying on the guides to ensure a "legal kill." Here's a good recap of it all by CNN.)

Palmer's two guides were recently released from jail on a $1,000 bond each, and could reportedly face 10 years in prison. According to CNN, Zimbabwe officials want to speak with Palmer, and he has said that he'll cooperate with any investigation. "Although, he said in his statement that he had yet to be contacted by officials in the U.S. or Zimbabwe," the write up says.

Well, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals thinks extradition and execution are viable punishment options.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk issued this statement:
Hunting is a coward’s pastime. If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.

To get a thrill at the cost of a life, this man gunned down a beloved lion, Cecil with a high-powered weapon. All wild animals are beloved by their own mates and infants, but to hunters like this overblown, over-privileged little man, who lack empathy, understanding, and respect for living creatures, they are merely targets to kill, decapitate, and hang up on a wall as a trophy. The photograph of this dentist, smiling over the corpse of another animal, who, like Cecil, wanted only to be left in peace, will disgust every caring soul in the world.
Yes, this guy is a dick and a reminder of greedy, ignorant tourists who go to foreign countries expecting to eff things up, disrespect what's sacred, and expect to pay their way out of any trouble. But PETA just took this conversation into the depths of the dark side (and reaffirmed PETA critics on the thought that they are a bunch of nut jobs) suggesting to hang the dude. I think extradition (after all, he killed an animal that was living in sanctuary) and a nice stay in a Zimbabwe prison should teach Palmer a lesson or two. Unfortunately, it'd be unsurprising to hear that, aside from public shame, he won't suffer any other repercussions.

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AZ Republic Targets Tuition Tax Credits

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 10:47 AM

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The AZ Republic recently published at least six articles and columns about Arizona's Tuition Tax Credit program, and there may be more coming. Reporter Alia Beard Rau deserves credit for being at the forefront of the Republic's work on the issue. For anyone who wants to dig deeper into the issue, I link to the Republic pieces at the end of the post.

Tuition tax credits are sometimes referred to, accurately, as backdoor vouchers. An Arizona taxpayer "contributes" money to one of the state's private School Tuition Organizations which give out private school scholarships, then the taxpayer gets 100 percent of the "contribution" back in the form of a credit on income taxes. "Contribute" $1,000, pay $1,000 less in state taxes. The result is, the taxpayer foots the bill. It's a private school voucher program by another name. Like the more recent Education Savings Accounts, aka Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, aka Vouchers on Steroids, tuition tax credits are carefully crafted to get around the state constitution's prohibition against using state funds for religious education. If, unlike me, you like private school vouchers, you probably like the programs. If you think the tax credits are a good idea because they help poor kids go to private schools, well, they help rich kids go to private schools too. These programs continue to grow, with the goal, stated by many Republican legislators, of offering vouchers to every student in the state.

The longest and most comprehensive piece in the Republic is Arizona private-school families cash in on state's tax-credit program, which includes a great interactive map that shows every Arizona private school that receives the tax credit money and how much they get. The others focus on specific issues.

I could go on almost endlessly about tuition tax credits as I have in the past, mainly on Blog for Arizona when the topic was first spotlighted in 2009. I won't, especially since the Republic has done a good job exploring the topic. Instead, I'll focus on a few issues I think are especially interesting.

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Final Chapter of Pinhead

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 3:30 PM

NEW WORLD PICTURES
  • New World Pictures

In the vast and twisted world of the horror gene there is a diverse and potent selection of ingredients to induce a nightmare. From slashers, to the supernatural, to creature features, zombies and all things beyond the grave, horror is a creative insight into the subjective nature of fear. Hell can look and feel like a lot of different things. Most of the monsters and ghoulies and people that scare us do so because they want, will or are currently trying to eat, maul, sacrifice or vamp us. Or else, they represent something inside in the dark bowels of human nature that frightens us of one another.

In the proud and spooky hall of genre icons, one big bad shines out for his kind of intellectual way of enjoying our sweet sufferings.

Pinhead, of Clive Barker’s horror-novel-verse and the Hellraiser film series, has been a staple of horror since he first stepped into this dimension in the 1986 novella, “The Hellbound Heart.”

After watching the rock star of the Cenobites completely tear souls apart with ripping hooks, chains and painful flesh removal throughout his long residency in books, films and comics, it’s hard to remember he was once just a couple of sentences.

Barker has always been open about his own surprise at the Pope of Hell’s journey to fame. He really hadn’t intended “Pinhead” to become a big star but he has sure been living with the monster all these long years. Pinhead was a bit of a puzzle box himself for his creator, Barker becoming synonymous with him above all his other works. ("Books of Blood" is a close second.)

Now, 25 years later, Barker has written one final Pinhead story, the last of the sadomasochistic hell priest in his erotic, twisted canon. “The Scarlet Gospels,” Barker’s long awaited new novel, left readers in a living Hell waiting years for him to write the long promised death of Pinhead. Released May 19, the novel marks Barker’s return to adult fiction and is the first sequel he has actually ever written to his original novella.

In a May article with Rue Morgue magazine, Barker spoke about his long promised plans of killing off his iconic and defining character.

Continue reading »

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Development Proposals for the Ronstadt Transit Center Making Progress, Is Everyone Really OK About It Though?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 2:00 PM

COURTESY OF CAPLA.ARIZONA.EDU
  • Courtesy of capla.arizona.edu

Phase II of development proposals for the Ronstadt Transit Center downtown were unveiled last week during a public meeting. Despite what we may have read or heard, not everyone is a fan, though. 

Development plans bring fear of gentrification. We've already seen long-time Tucson characters like The District (and others) shutter over high-as-hell rent. While growth is good, watering down the diversity that is downtown Tucson will birth harsh resistance from critics. 

Local homeless advocate and one of the heads behind the Tucson Bus Rider Union Brian Flagg wrote a quick reminder on the blog Voces de Casa Maria that not all is good in the RTC-development-front:
I feel bad because I was stupid enough to allow a reporter to take my words out of context and misrepresent me (“Early Reactions to Ronstadt Plan Positive” Arizona Daily Star, 7/27/2015, http://tucson.com/news/blogs/road_runner/early-reactions-to-ronstadt-plan-positive/article_bd1028a0-55ff-5c75-828e-9ed345103ec4.html) I should have known better. I should have been more disciplined.

He quoted me to the effect that both plans were fine with me.

What I told him was that I would be most happy if both plans disappeared from the face of this earth because ultimately they both mean more gentrification (the process by which those with capital invest in lower income places, gradually making them more yuppie and white, while lower income folks get displaced).

I told him that largely because of the actions of the Tucson Bus Riders Union the City Council has declared that the transit footprint, the transit function, at the Ronstadt would not be reduced. So that became a bottom line for both development plans. I told him how we at the Bus Riders Union see this as a struggle to make it so that bus riders, many of which whom are low income, are not gentrified out of downtown.

I was also clear that the Peach plan was much more conscious of the needs of bus riders and that the Alexander plan seemed much more concerned with historic preservation. I told the reporter that making bus riders enter the center through turnstiles (the Alexander plan) was obnoxious and a mechanism for social control.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik mentioned the meeting on his weekly newsletter, saying the development will be a "benefit to the entire Tucson area, not just downtown."

He, other city leaders and the public got to hear about two proposals—one from the firm Alexander/Campbell and another from Schwabe/Swaim—that include retail, housing and the transit portion. The Alexander/Campbell plan has a cost of about $50 million, while Schwabe/Swaim say it'll cost more than $170 million. Both groups mentioned they'd involve local designers, as we all hope they should.

Kozachik says both would require "some level of public funding involvement, but only the Alexander/Campbell team identified what that would be and at what level." (Any public funding for either one of the proposals would have to be OK under the Arizona Constitution's Gift Clause.)

At the meting, residents handed the development teams a series of questions that should be answered in the next 30 days. There will also be final recommendations from the committee selecting the team that will take on the project. After that, a winning proposal will be chosen, which Kozachik says should come by the middle of next year. 

"This is a big economic opportunity for the region. Six years ago, the City was on the cusp of making a very bad economic decision: building a luxury hotel and using the City’s General Fund as the backstop of the financing. We avoided that mistake, and now we have a chance to take this huge step in the right direction," he says. 

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Arizona Has Lowest College Completion Rate In the Nation!!! (Or Not.) A Lesson in Reading Results

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 12:30 PM

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION
  • Photo Illustration

A Cronkite News story headline screams, "Arizona posts lowest college completion rate, highest default rate." An Associated Press headline is equally dire: "Report: Arizona tied for lowest college graduation rates nationwide." To give Cronkite News its due, after its headline grabs you with its partial truth, the article does a good job of breaking down the overall completion rate to show that our public universities graduate a higher percentage than the national average. The very short AP article, after listing the Arizona four year college completion rate at 29 percent, ends by saying "Education Secretary Arne Duncan said graduation rates are especially low, and default rates are especially high when it comes to for-profit schools." What does that sentence mean exactly? It doesn't say, no further explanation. Oh, and AP says the 29 percent figure represents students who graduate in four years. Wrong. It's the percentage of students who graduate within six years. Oops.

So let's go to the U.S. Department of Education report fact sheet that both articles draw their figures from and see how it breaks down college graduation and college loan default rates. Colleges are separated into three categories: Public, Private and For-profit. (Since it doesn't specify, I have to assume that "Private" means nonprofit, since "For-profit" colleges are also private, by definition.) Arizona's 29 percent, six-year graduation rate lumps all three types of colleges together, putting us at the bottom of the heap alongside Alaska. Looks like bad news for Arizona. But when we look at the public college graduation rate separately, it's 57 percent, just above the national average of 55 percent. Meanwhile, Arizona's for-profit college graduation rate is 23 percent, well below the 32 percent national average. You can attribute much of that rate to University of Phoenix, which has students from all over the country, yet all of them count here because they're attending an "Arizona college." The abysmal graduation rate of University of Phoenix's 213,000 students drags our numbers way, way down.

Then there's the student loan default rate. Arizona's is the highest in the nation at 18 percent. But not so fast. Our public college default rate is 9 percent, the national average for public colleges. Our for-profit default rate is 19 percent. That happens to be the national for-profit average, but since University of Phoenix is the largest for-profit college in the nation, its default rate has a larger-than-normal impact on Arizona's overall rate.

We have plenty to criticize about our public education system here in Arizona, but let's not criticize our public universities' graduation and student loan default rates by mixing them in with the results from Huckster U University of Phoenix.

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City of Tucson Hosting Special Day in August to Reduce Backlog of Arrest Warrants

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 11:20 AM

COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of Photospin
The city of Tucson is going to host a special day next month to try to tackle a backlog of more than 40,000 arrest warrants—most stemming from failure to appear in court.

These warrants total about $120 million in uncollected fines, City Councilman Steve Kozachik says on his weekly newsletter. 

On so-called Warrant Day—happening Saturday, Aug. 8—people with a warrant can head to the Tucson City Court, 103 E. Alameda, and work on a plea agreement and/or a payment plan to pay off any fines, which doesn't mean you're off the hook, according to Kozachik. Whatever charges a person may have will still be on that person's record and the person can still be taken to jail if the charges are not cleared.

"However it works out, though, you won’t have to drive around worrying about getting busted if you’re pulled over, and the city will be able to finally clear the debt from its books," he says. 

If you think you might have a warrant on your name, check out the City Court website, www.tucsonaz.gov/courts, and click on the “see if you have a warrant” link.

Warrant Day is an all-day event.

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Staff Pick

Patronato Christmas at San Xavier Concerts

Evening concerts with the Tucson Boys Chorus and the Sons of Orpheus raise funds for The Patronato,… More

@ San Xavier del Bac Mission Tue., Dec. 10, 6-7:30 & 7:45-9 p.m., Wed., Dec. 11, 6-7:30 & 7:45-9 p.m. and Thu., Dec. 12, 6-7:30 & 7:45-9 p.m. 1950 W. San Xavier Road.

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