The Range

Raise 'Em!

To the dismay of business owners across the state, Arizona's new minimum wage kicked in with the new year, guaranteeing employees at least $6.75 an hour if they don't earn tips. Nearly two-thirds of voters approved the statewide increase last November after unions and the Democratic Party put the question on the ballot.

Some critics of the law have complained that it didn't provide a loophole to allow organizations that train developmentally disabled individuals to pay workers less than minimum wage, but state officials say that's no problem--they'll just ignore that provision.

We note that refills on our 540-ounce Carl Jr.'s soda bucket have increased from 75 cents to a buck in the wake of the increase.

Double Trouble

If you had Saddam Hussein in your 2006 death pool, you picked a winner! The butcher of Baghdad was apparently hanged last week, with shaky camera-phone footage of the execution popping up on the Internet within hours.

The supposed execution didn't fool Tucsonan Dick Fojut, who has been sending us e-mails ever since American troops allegedly pulled Saddam out of his spider hole with the shocking revelation that the United States was parading one of Saddam's doubles, not Saddam himself.

"America's major 'news' media are obediently parroting the Bush administration (and puppet Iraqi government) claim (that the real) 'Saddam' has been sentenced and hanged--carefully ignoring the ... contradictory facts," according to Fojut's e-mail.

Among the contradictory facts: Saddam's wife and mistress have both said that the man on trial was one of Saddam's doubles; and the Saddam on trial had bad teeth, while the real Saddam had a perfect smile.

We'd just like to issue a posthumous congratulations to the bogus Saddam for his outstanding method acting throughout the trial--think of how much easier it would have been to have him sit in the dock and appear sorry for what he'd done! Though we'd imagine that if we'd been on trial, we'd have raised the whole double thing as our defense rather than be hanged. If, indeed, the whole episode wasn't just an elaborate charade--just like the moon landing!

Other good picks for the 2006 death pool: Former U.S. President Gerald Ford, who died at age 93 at his California home; and the hardest working man in show business, James Brown, died on Christmas day at age 73 after a trip to the dentist went terribly awry.

Surge Protection

Speaking of Iraq: Sen. John McCain's push for more troops may be gaining some momentum, with President George W. Bush considering sending more soldiers to the chaos-ridden nation in a last-ditch effort to establish some sort of security so that the average Iraqi citizen might go about his day without being blown up in a marketplace explosion. Bush is expected to reveal his secret plan to win the war before his State of the Union speech later this month.

But The Associated Press brings us the news that some American troops now in Iraq say that more soldiers won't do much good, because the United States can't pick sides in the growing sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

"Nothing's going to help," Sgt. Josh Keim told the AP. "It's a religious war, and we're in the middle of it. It's hard to be somewhere where there's no mission, and we just drive around."

Punch Drunk

Thuggish boxer Mike Tyson fell victim to Arizona's roving DUI squads last week in Scottsdale, when he was pulled over after leaving a nightclub. Tyson, who is continuing to spiral the drain, was pulled him over after he nearly rammed a police SUV, according to The Associated Press. Cops found two bags of what appeared to be cocaine in Tyson's back pocket and said the former heavyweight champion was wiping white powder from the dashboard when they approached the vehicle.

In other sports news: The Arizona men's basketball team showed they were ballers after opening conference play with twin wins last week over California and Stanford at McKale Center. The Cats beat Cal 94-85 on Thursday, Dec. 28, and made catnip of Stanford on Saturday, Dec. 30, defeating the Cardinal 89-75. Following the wins, forward Ivan Radenovic was named Pac-10 player of the week. Radenovic averaged 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game and shot 61.9 percent from the field in the two games.

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