The Range


READ HIS LIPS: Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign releases a statement attacking Democrat Barack Obama as a tax-raising Democrat. This will likely be a daily occurrence for the next five months.


ANY IDIOT CAN SEE THE BUILDINGS WEREN'T BROUGHT DOWN BY A PLANE: State Sen. Karen Johnson takes to the Senate floor to call for a new investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying that it's obvious to her that New York's World Trade Center was brought down by pre-planted explosives, not by any foreign terrorists who flew planes into the buildings--if, indeed, those were terrorists who flew planes into the buildings.

The Mesa Republican says she's found tremendous support since she began questioning the government's official story. "Despite the media's outrageous attacks on my sanity, intelligence and patriotism, the e-mails and phone calls to my office have been 95 percent supportive of my request for a new investigation," Johnson says. "I've been amazed, really, to see just how overwhelmingly the public rejects the official reports, not only of the 9/11 Commission but also those by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)."


BADGES? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' BADGES: The Arizona House of Representatives votes 51-1 to prohibit the state from participating in the implementation of the federal REAL ID Act, which sets national security standards for driver's licenses and other IDs used for getting on planes or making transactions at federally licensed banks. Supporters of the state bill say that the federal requirements are the first step toward some sort of national ID card.

The vote sends the state bill to Gov. Janet Napolitano, who has proposed the creation of an optional ID card that would meet the REAL ID Act requirement.


PAIN AT THE PUMP: Those gas prices just keep going up, up, up! The average cost of a gallon of unleaded in the city of Tucson hit a new high of $3.825, according to AAA Arizona's weekly survey. While the price is up 10 cents compared to last week, it's still lower than the state average, $4.046, and the national average, which climbed past $4 a gallon for the first time this week.


BALANCED AGREEMENT?: Have we reached a state budget breakthrough? House Minority Leader Phil Lopes appears on Arizona Illustrated to say he's "optimistic" that a deal is coming soon: "We've had a couple of good days."

Lawmakers must approve a spending plan before the end of the fiscal year on June 30 to prevent a state-government shutdown.


MAKING THE CIRCUIT: A who's-who of the arts scene was spotted at Etherton Gallery during the opening of Core Memory: A Visual Survey of Vintage Computers, a show of photographs by Mark Richards. Among the luminaries on hand: Timothy Archibald, former Tucson Weekly and Phoenix New Times photographer and the genius behind the book Sex Machines; Max Cannon of "Red Meat" fame; and painter Joe Forkan, in town now that spring classes at Cal State Fullerton have wrapped up. Richards' show of photographs of the guts and circuits of early computing machines continues through Aug. 30 at Etherton's main downtown gallery, 135 S. Sixth Ave.

GOOD NEWS ON THE VANISHING TUCSON BEAT: The morning daily, which earlier reported that the De Anza Drive-In might be near its final curtain, informs us that a deal to buy the property appears to have fallen through, meaning that the open-air movie complex isn't likely to be torn down to make room for more places to shop.


ELSEWHERE ON THE VANISHING TUCSON BEAT: The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that Tucson baseball fans are just too apathetic to support a Triple-A baseball team. The Tucson Sidewinders are moving to Reno at the end of the season, ending four decades of minor-league baseball fun for our burg. Sidewinders GM Rick Parr tells the paper: "Tucson is lethargic. But they've always been that way with certain things, and that's just the way the community is."


When we last checked in with the Phoenix Mars Lander, some clumpy soil was clogging the screen on a little oven that was waiting to cook up a few grains for analysis.

A few days and a bit more juggling later, some grains finally fell into one of the eight ovens in the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer, which is slowly heating the sample up. Results next week? Maybe!

The robotic arm has been chewing up the Martian landscape, transforming two trenches--known around the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab as Dodo and Goldilocks--into one larger trench now known as Dodo-Goldilocks, which is about 3 inches deep. The big mystery: What's that strange white stuff they've found under the surface?

Meanwhile, the Phoenix team has been using the onboard microscope to learn more about the soil, which shows some signs of volcanic origin. Tom Pike of Imperial College London described himself as "absolutely gobsmacked" by the resolution of the images being returned from the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer.

For more, visit the Phoenix Mars Mission Web site.

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