The Range

We're No. 1!

In news that's sure to please the recruiting team at the Chamber of Commerce, a survey by Sperling's BestPlaces placed Tucson at the very top of the list of "Worst Large Cities for Crime." Sperling officials put much of the blame on a high larceny rate.

"Tucson has one of the highest property crime rates in the country, especially larceny," noted the report. "On the bright side, Tucson has a low murder rate."

In related murder-rate news, three people were killed in three shooting incidents on Saturday, March 20, according to Tucson Police Department officials. Bullets starting flying around 2 a.m. when Anthony Andrew Steele was shot at a Catalina Foothills get-together, where party favors included alcohol, drugs and guns. Later in the day, cops found suspected gang member Ruben A. Coronado, 19, shot dead at around 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Mission Tierra Apartments in the 5500 block of South Mission Road. Police have arrested Monica L. Gallardo, 25, Jesus M. Keifer, 21, and Charles B. Espinoza, 20, charging all three with first-degree murder, drive-by shooting and the rather wordy crime of discharging a weapon at an occupied structure in furtherance of a gang. Still later, at 11:30 p.m., cops responding to a report of shots fired found William L. Clayton, Jr. , 24, of the 7700 block of East Speedway Boulevard, dead in a desert lot at East 31st Street and South Park Avenue.

A fourth shooting on Saturday afternoon at a mobile home near Park and Valencia Road left three men wounded, and two in critical condition. Police found a "large quantity" of marijuana inside the trailer, according to TPD officials.

On Monday, March 22, officers responding to yet another report of shots fired found an unidentified adult male who had been shot. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The shooting was the 19th homicide within the city limits in 2004, according to police spokesman Marco Borboa.

Beating the Bush

Arizona Sen. John McCain was dampened after getting in the middle of the ongoing pissing match between President George W. Bush and presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry. Making the rounds on morning gabfests, McCain told the NBC's Today show that despite Bush campaign talking points, he didn't believe Kerry was "necessarily weak on defense" and complained that both campaigns were far too negative. Bush strategist Karl Rove immediately called columnist Bob Novak to suggest McCain might be a member of an al Qaeda sleeper cell.

Meanwhile, big crowds across the globe protested against the United States on the first anniversary of the ongoing Iraq war, including a rally in Tucson. On Sunday, Richard Clarke, a White House fixture dating back to the Reagan administration, appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes to complain that Bush was pressuring him to find a reason to bomb Iraq the day after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. In a new book, Against All Enemies, Clarke says the Bush administration "launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide."

Vice Presidential cyborg Dick Cheney, broadcasting from an undisclosed location, popped onto Rush Limbaugh's radio show to announce that Clarke "clearly missed a lot of what was going on." Especially in those energy policy meetings.

Cat Scratch Fever

Bowing to public pressure, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission abandoned plans to kill at least three mountain lions in Sabino Canyon. Instead, Game and Fish officials announced plans to tranquilize the cats, airlift them out with a helicopter and relocate them to a fenced facility in Scottsdale. Officials estimated the hunt could cost upward of $6,000 a day, especially if the pumas continue to prove as elusive as Osama bin Laden. Environmentalists complained that cougars won't survive captivity and urged wildlife officials to scare the cats back up Mount Lemmon by playing really loud Metallica, or tag them with collars in order to track their movements to determine if they really represent a threat to humans. The Range recommends a compromise: Make them into Nerf lions by removing their claws and teeth, and put 'em back in Sabino.

One and Done

The UA Wildcats blew a 14-point lead en route to a 80-76 first-round loss to Seton Hall in the NCAA tourney. The Range won $18.15 by taking the Pirates and three points at a Nogales sportsbook. Attention, degenerate gamblers: There's still time to get in bets on pre-season baseball across the border.