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Wet Work

UA space camera helps find water on Mars

Congrats to the team running the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab's HiRISE, the camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that played a key role in this week's NASA announcement that water appears to be flowing seasonally on Mars.

HiRISE is under the command of UA professor Alfred McEwen, who has been overseeing the camera's mission since it started sending back images in 2006.

For the last four years, HiRISE has been shooting time-lapse photos of dozens of different areas that show a repeated pattern of dark streaks running down gullies.

The "recurring slope lineae," which can be that are hundreds of meters long, appear in warmer weather, leading scientists to suspect that they might be subsurface water percolating to the surface.

Using the MRO's imaging spectrometer, which can detect different mineral signatures on the planet's surface, McEwen and his team were able to determine that the dark streaks contained hydrated minerals. In layman's terms, they are likely to be salty and wet streams.

NASA's announcement came on the same day that a group of eight scientists, including McEwen, published the results of their findings in the science journal Nature Geoscience.

The lead author was Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Tech, who first began studying the streaks while working on the HiRISE project as a UA undergraduate in 2010.

"We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration," Ojha said. "In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks."

Thanks but No Thanks

Local clinics say McSally's plans to transfer Planned Parenthood money to them isn't feasible

After voting last week to cut off all federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, Congresswoman Martha McSally was one of 11 freshmen who signed onto a letter opposing a government shutdown over the issue.

But McSally's office has declined to say whether she still supports shutting off funding for Planned Parenthood in the future.

McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak told the Weekly last week that McSally had pushed to include a provision in the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2105 to move the funding that now goes to Planned Parenthood to other community health centers, such as El Rio Clinic.

But Tara Plese, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Alliance of Community Health Centers, says the organization—which represents community health centers across the state, including El Rio—doesn't see McSally's plan as viable.

"While we really appreciate the support we're getting from both sides of the aisle, we just want to make it clear that we don't want to take funding from any other healthcare organization," Plese said. "We don't think it's the right approach to do that."

Plese was reluctant to criticize McSally's proposal but said the idea of sending Planned Parenthood dollars to community health centers is questionable.

"Quite honestly, I think the assertion that health centers are going to pick up the slack because we're going to get a little bit more funding is probably not accurate," Plese said. "Because the way that the health system works, we need our partner organizations working in tandem to be able to adequately deliver these services and one of those organizations is Planned Parenthood. We really rely on them to pick up a lot of the slack for those areas that we cannot cover."

Plese said part of the problem is that El Rio doesn't have enough obstetricians and gynecologists to handle the additional patient load. On top of that, many people choose to use Planned Parenthood to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases because the organization offers anonymity and some of those who are getting tested for STDs don't want their primary-care doctors or insurance companies to know they may have caught an STD.

"They want the anonymity," Plese said. "It's a privacy issue and they don't want that to show up on their explanation of benefits."

Plese said that Planned Parenthood clinics "exist for a reason."

"They are filling a gap in services that our community health centers and other primary care providers are not able to fill," Plese said.

Asked about the concerns that community health centers expressed about taking Planned Parenthood funding, Ptak said that McSally "is passionate about ensuring women, especially low-income women, get access to birth control and reproductive health care. She visited El Rio twice as a candidate, and toured the El Rio birth center since being elected. Her focus is on producing the best outcomes that ensure women have adequate access to care in the community."

"When Rep. McSally was informed this legislation was going forward for a vote in the House, she engaged her colleagues and House leadership to ensure any funds suspended for a year would be diverted and increased to other health centers," Ptak added via email. "Our office also engaged off the record with officials at community health centers in the district for their input and feedback‎. Over recent weeks, Congresswoman McSally has been helping lead an effort to avoid a government shutdown. Moving forward, she is focused on pragmatic, achievable solutions that will preserve women's access to health care."

Ptak did not say whether McSally supported cutting off all funding for Planned Parenthood in the future.

City Hall Showdown, Part 3

Catch a televised debate between Ward 4 candidates

The Tucson Weekly and Tucson Local Media are teaming up with KXCI-FM to bring you Tucson City Council debates on Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel. The final round will feature five-term Democratic Councilwoman Shirley Scott facing Republican challenger Margaret Burkholder in the Ward 4 race. It airs this Sunday at 8 a.m. on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on broadcast, DirecTV and the Dish Network and will also air at 5 p.m. Sunday on KXCI, 91.3 FM.

You can find earlier debates at zonapolitics.com.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast systems and Channel 58 on broadcast, Dish and DirecTV. This week's guests include Citizens Clean Elections Commission Executive Director Tom Collins and Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation Executive Director Demion Clinco. The show also airs at 5 p.m. on KXCI, 91.3 FM.

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