The Range

Trust No One

J. Fife Symington III, the former Arizona governor who resigned after being convicted on fraud and other charges in federal court in 1997, popped back up in the news last week when he announced that he was one of many who believed that a UFO really did fly over Phoenix 10 years ago. In March 1997, Maricopa County residents said they saw something in the sky that became known as the Phoenix Lights.

"I suspect that unless the Defense Department proves otherwise, that it was some form of an alien spacecraft," Fife told CNN last week.

Wonder if "To Serve Man" is among the required texts at the Arizona Culinary Institute he helped launch?

We're not sure if Fife just wants attention, if he's punking the media one last time or if he's gone 'round the bend, but we're reasonably sure the Defense Department already did prove otherwise when they said the Phoenix Lights were flares from a squadron of A-10 jets. Conspiracy theorists can feel free to pile on at this point.

In related news: The French government opened all of its UFO files to the public last week. Mulder it out yourself at (if the Web site's not overloaded).

Speaking of spaceships: The Range was terribly disappointed by the season finale of Battlestar Galactica last Sunday, March 25. Much as we love the show, the creators totally fumbled the trial of Gaius Baltar. We weren't too keen on the revelation of who the final five Cylons were, either. Here's hoping for a better Season Four, even if we have to wait until January 2008.

Law Review

That U.S. attorney scandal just keeps growing and growing and growing, with Arizona Democrats trying to get to the bottom of why Paul Charlton was fired as U.S. attorney for Arizona.

Last week, Arizona Democratic Party Chairman David Waid sent out a letter to Sens. Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter calling for an investigation into whether Charlton was forced out because he began investigating Republican Rick Renzi.

"Through subpoenaed White House e-mails, we have learned that our U.S. attorney was placed on the White House's now infamous 'black list' soon after initiating the investigation into Renzi's alleged corruption," Waid wrote. "The investigation into allegations of bribery and vote-selling by Congressman Renzi has since remained out of the public eye and no progress has been reported. The investigation raises deeply disturbing questions about behavior that is potentially criminal and absolutely undermines the confidence of Arizonans in their federal government."

Congressman Raúl Grijalva followed up with a letter to the White House demanding that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales be canned.

"Mr. Gonzales has lost the confidence of the American people and is no longer credible in this post, which requires him to serve, above all, the law, the Constitution and the American people, not the White House's political agenda or you personally," Grijalva wrote. "The highest law enforcement officer in the land must be beyond even the appearance of impropriety, and Mr. Gonzales, clearly, no longer meets this minimal standard to hold the office."

Courtside Action

The trial of Ronald Bruce Bigger, the alleged hitman in the October 2004 murder of Dr. Brian Stidham, continues in Pima County Superior Court. Prosecutors say that Bigger was hired by Dr. Bradley Schwartz, who was convicted last year of conspiring to kill Stidham, his former medical partner.

Lourdes Lopez, the onetime girlfriend of Schwartz and a former county prosecutor who now does defense work, testified last week that Schwartz was bipolar, a diagnosis that didn't come up in Schwartz's own trial. Still, we can't say we're surprised by the revelation.

Lopez, who told investigators after Stidham's murder that Schwartz often talked about wanting to have Stidham killed, has her own legal problems; the State Bar of Arizona has recommended that she lose her license to practice law for a year, although the Supreme Court has yet to make a final call in the case.

Bigger's trial is expected to continue for several more weeks.


What is up with those crazy gas prices? The price per gallon has jumped up to more than $2.62 a gallon, according to AAA Arizona.

The spike inspired Gov. Janet Napolitano to complain in a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman that Arizona gas prices had jumped 42 cents a gallon in the last month. Napolitano called on Bodman to launch an investigation into the refining industry to "shed light on the high number of refinery-maintenance issues experienced recently and help consumers understand why they are being forced to pay record prices so far in advance of the traditional summer season. The drivers in my state and across the nation are justifiably frustrated with the most recent price surge."

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