The Range


ANOTHER IDIOT WITH A GUN: An 8-year-old kid who is playing in his grandparents' back yard is shot in the head by a neighbor. The boy is taken to the hospital in critical condition. Police arrest Jonathan J. Muniz, 18, who was firing off a rifle in his backyard and reportedly told witnesses: "Hey, watch me scare these kids," according to media reports.


OUT OF GAS: The company that operates Wildcat Mitsubishi files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to the Sierra Vista Herald. The company's owner, Beau Johnston, tells the paper that the filing was the result of a "downward turn in the economy" and had nothing to do with a splendid investigative report by the Arizona Daily Star that revealed a variety of sleazy operating practices that left The Range wondering why anyone in their right mind would purchase a car from them. Various government investigations into the operations of the car dealerships in Tucson and Sierra Vista are underway.


NO RAISE FOR YOU! A stingy Gov. Janet Napolitano says voters should reject a $6,000-a-year pay raise for state lawmakers, according to Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Napolitano, who has clashed with GOP lawmakers since being elected in 2002, says the economy is so weak that "it's not a good time" for raises. Lawmakers now earn $24,000 a year.

NO VOUCHER FOR YOU! Attorney General Terry Goddard rules that the Arizona House of Representatives can't use funds in a reserve account to pay for a voucher program for disabled and foster children. The program, which has been ruled unconstitutional by the Arizona Court of Appeals, was not funded in this year's budget.

"I know this is an emotional and personal issue for the families who have received these scholarships in the past, and I appreciate their frustration," Goddard press-released. "But the law is clear. The speaker of the House of Representatives has no power to spend these funds for these scholarships, or for any other purpose, without going through the appropriations process."


COKE IS IT! The University of Arizona inks a 10-year agreement to sell Coca-Cola products on campus. This is evidently a big deal, as Dan Adams, UA associate vice president for student affairs, press-releases: "We're excited to welcome Coca-Cola to the UA community and look forward to collaborating with our new partners to create exclusive programs to help enhance campus life for our students." Adds Sharon Byers, who has the unwieldy title of vice president for national programs and regional assessment management for Coca-Cola North America: "We're ready to kick off an exciting and mutually beneficial relationship with the UA and make Coca-Cola part of the Wildcat tradition." She then redundantly adds: "This agreement marks the beginning of an exciting and mutually beneficial relationship with the UA students, staff and faculty." Given that these are made-up quotes to begin with, can't they come up with something snappier?


SAILING THE SANTA CRUZ: The Pima County Board of Supervisors has a special meeting to straighten out staff confusion regarding the designation of the Santa Cruz as a "navigable stream." The designation has important legal dimensions that are way too complex to explain in this short space, but some county staff had been pushing to de-list sections of the river to make it easier to build roads or something.

MAYOR'S MURDER PLOT: The East Valley Tribune brings us the news that the estranged wife of Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman claims her husband plotted to kill a rival on the Gilbert City Council.

Michelle Berman told police that her husband had studied Councilwoman Linda Abbott's jogging route with a plan to run her down with his truck after he lost a 1993 council race. Berman has said she was physically and mentally abused by her husband. Steve Berman's lawyer released a written statement that blamed his wife's allegations on "her long-term and verifiable addiction to prescription painkillers."


COLD BEER AND HOT LEAD: A beer run turned into a shootout when an armed clerk chased down two men who swiped some cold suds at the Coronado Market, on Stone Avenue and Fort Lowell Road. The two men, age 31 and 17, started backing up their vehicle toward the clerk, who started firing at the car, but did not hit anyone. Nearby police pursued the car and apprehended the beer thieves, according to police.


SLOW NEWS DAY: The Range enjoys a leisurely day by the pool rather than pursuing the news.


The scientists over at the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab tell us the plucky Phoenix Mars Lander stayed up all night for the first time earlier this week to coordinate with an orbiting satellite overhead on an experiment involving the Martian atmosphere.

Michael Hecht, lead scientist for Phoenix's Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, said the experiment has allowed scientists to "see some changes in soil electrical properties, which may be related to water, but we're still chewing on the data."

The Phoenix is also growing ever closer to the day when it will test a sample in the easy-bake oven aboard the robotic lab.

The Phoenix team announced this week that they've fully opened a door on the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer and will soon dump a sample of Martian soil and ice into the TEGA. Although the TEGA has seven remaining chambers for testing, the team remains concerned that a short circuit in the device could mean that the next test will be the last one.

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