Saturday, November 29, 2014

valleyNews

Help on Hold

Arizona's 2-1-1 crisis hotline seeks solutions to its alarming dropped-call rate.

As a light on his phone flashes, indicating an incoming 2-1-1 Arizona call, Andrew, a former firefighter who suffered a career-ending injury, dons his headset. A middle-aged woman in Phoenix has received a shutoff notice from APS, and even in early fall, the temperature hovers in the triple digits. Andrew asks for her ZIP code and surfs a database of 3,000 human services agencies in the state. Identifying the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the organization to which 2-1-1 most often directs clients, he navigates a map of baffling block-by-block conference boundaries to pinpoint the chapter that can issue the caller a utility voucher.

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Potash Stash

A mundane mineral could put Arizona on the international farming map.

As strategic materials go, potash isn’t particularly sexy. The crop fertilizer resembles tiny shards of rust-colored glass, and farmers once made it by soaking ash from burned-up plants in a pot. It’s also used to make beer. Another fun fact: Potash helps to grow more and healthier crops. As the world population expands, it’s no wonder this drab-looking mineral is in demand. And Arizona is said to be sitting on a hoard around Holbrook potentially worth $1 trillion.

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Acquiring Minds

Thunderbird School of Global Management proposes a for-profit alliance amid vocal alumni dissent.

Since 1946, the Thunderbird Field flight tower has been a beacon of the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Alumni remember the tower as they reminisce about earning business degrees at the institution U.S. News & World Report frequently ranks as the world’s best international business graduate school. Today, the tower also puts a figurative exclamation point on the debate between the school and some alumni who object to its proposed partnership with Laureate International Universities.

Read more: Acquiring Minds

¶lim¶Lust in the Dust

PHM0214 LUST1Led by a cadre of steamy-prose-penning authors, the Valley is fast becoming a romantic fiction hotbed.

When Valley writer Kris Tualla published her first historical romance novel in 2010, she knew even the icy-eyed, steel-chested Norse ravagers in her book, A Woman of Choice, would struggle for attention in a sea of 10 million other romance novels vying for a spot in an Amazon.com shopping cart.

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Gaucho Marks

Two Valley towns formed an unlikely bond while trying to "best Western" each other in a publicity blitz.

What's more Western? Having a big bronze statue of a cowboy on a bucking steed in the middle of an asphalt roundabout, or bringing a half-ton buffalo named "Harvey Wallbanger" to a town council meeting and getting your spurs stuck in dung?

Such burning questions need not burden Scottsdale or Cave Creek anymore. Turns out, they're both Western in their own ways, and there's no need to shoot it out with paintball revolvers or sue over slogans. But for a hot high-noon minute last fall, there was a whole lot of huffin' between the two towns over Scottsdale's trademarked title, "The West's Most Western Town." In the end, Cave Creek got its own slogan, Scottsdale got a laugh, and both towns agreed to forge a future alliance to discuss "real" issues.

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Raiders of the Lost Art

The majority of Arizona’s museum collections reside in storage. What argosies of art and artifact are concealed in their basements?


There’s a painting hanging in the basement of the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tucson. It alone adorns a muted mustard-yellow brick wall facing rows of six-foot-high racks overflowing with old leather saddles and myriad basement bric-a-brac. Viewed from afar in the musty storage space, the framed landscape painting could be any granny’s dime-store attic art, but look closer, and you’ll see the signature of late Tucson artist Maynard Dixon, whose original oil paintings of the American West typically fetch prices in the mid-to-high six figures. This piece is a one-off Dixon did for a friend. In other words, there could be a small fortune on the wall.

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Docudrama

A controversial film by two Valley brothers follows famous atheists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss on a global mission for reason.

Got God? Most Americans do. According to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey, roughly 80 percent of the population defers to some sort of deity. So a film that follows famous atheists on tour espousing the virtues of science is bound to ruffle feathers.

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