Sunday, January 24, 2021

Posted By on Sun, Jan 24, 2021 at 10:11 AM

The big movie event in Tucson this week would be The Loft Cinema Sundance Film Festival event featuring Open Air Cinema presentations of this year's festival qualifiers. For more details on that event, go ahead and click right here.

In addition to the festival, The Loft Cinema has their usual weekly offerings of streaming films, one of them highlighted below.

Roadhouse Cinemas and Harkins Tucson are both featuring a fine film (currently available for streaming simultaneous with its theatrical release) starring Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck and Jason Segal. This one came out of nowhere to wow me, and here's my review.

Film Review: OUR FRIEND
Now playing at Roundhouse Cinemas and Harkins Tucson



Based on a true story first published in an Esquire magazine article, Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck and Jason Segal wow in a film about love, friendship, death and survival.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite directs what turns out to be a brutally honest, heartbreaking and schmaltz-free examination of a family going through the inevitable loss of their mother and wife (Johnson) to cancer, and the friend (Jason Segal) who puts his own life on the back burner to help through the crisis.

Johnson, a million miles away from her 50 Shades days, is breathtaking as Nicole Teague, a mother of two who is dealing with the horrible disease, married to her sometimes distant (very much due to his traveling journalist job) husband Matt (Affleck). Matt Teague is the one who wrote the article this movie is based on.

Johnson and Affleck make a convincing couple in good times and bad, with both giving performances that rank among the best of their careers. Segal, who has seemingly given up on comedies for the time being, delivers a wonderfully sentimental performance as their dedicated friend who becomes an honorary member of the family when times get bad. He doesn't abandon the situation when things get truly devastating.

It's an ode to bravery in the face of dying, to the truest of loves shared between a couple facing such peril, and the friendships that bind forever. This movie earns its tears in a way that is truthful and heartening.

PSYCHO GORMAN
Now streaming, via the Loft Cinema



Filled with fun practical special effects, lots of gruesome head-ripping, and a surprising amount of heart, Psycho Goreman is the latest genre gem from Canadian writer/director Steven Kostanski (The Void, Manborg, Leprechaun Returns).

Friday, January 22, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 1:14 PM

click to enlarge “While we are pleased to see these numbers trending down, we are still experiencing uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in Arizona. The state continues to lead the U.S. with the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the country," Banner Health’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said at a press conference Jan. 22. - BANNER HEALTH
Banner Health
“While we are pleased to see these numbers trending down, we are still experiencing uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in Arizona. The state continues to lead the U.S. with the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the country," Banner Health’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said at a press conference Jan. 22.


Banner’s top clinical leader began a press conference Friday with a message Arizonans haven’t heard in a long time.

“Positive COVID-19 cases are on the decline nationally and locally here in Arizona,” said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the chief clinical officer of the state’s largest hospital system. “The positivity rate in Arizona, though still very high, has declined slightly from its peak the last week of December and COVID hospitalizations have been going down since Jan. 11.”

However, she said it's not time to let up on coronavirus mitigation efforts.

Arizona holds the country’s highest transmission rate at 96 cases per 100,000 population, according to CDC data. She also said COVID-19 patients account for 62% of the state’s hospitalizations.

“While we are pleased to see these numbers trending down, we are still experiencing uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in Arizona,” she said. “The state continues to lead the U.S. with the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the country.”

On Friday, Arizona passed the grim milestone of 12,000 COVID-19 deaths.

“Knowing that we have lost 12,000 Arizonans to COVID-19 weighs on our hearts and minds each and every day,” Bessel said. “My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones to COVID. We are going to battle this virus every day in our hospitals and we are committed to saving as many lives as we can.”

According to Bessel, bouncing back from the ongoing surge in cases will take much longer than it did during the summer surge, and she estimates the state won’t reach pre-surge hospitalization levels for another 10 or 11 weeks.

State hospitalizations are 700% higher than they were on Nov. 1, while the number of patients on ventilators has increased by 1,000%, Bessel said.

Banner hospitals will resume some elective surgeries

Due to the slight decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Bessel announced Banner will resume some elective surgeries on Monday.

While some surgeries will continue to be delayed based on capacity, outpatient surgeries and procedures that require no more than a one-night stay and no care in the ICU will resume.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 12:43 PM

click to enlarge Nice tie, cowboy! - GAGE SKIDMORE
Gage Skidmore
Nice tie, cowboy!

State lawmaker and weird-uncle-you-desperately-avoid-at-family-gatherings Mark Finchem has always been one of the nuttier lawmakers at the Capitol since his election to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2014, what with his bills to make gold legal tender, his links to far-right organizations like the Oath Keepers and the Coalition of Western States, and his peculiar fashion choices.

But Donald Trump’s loss in the presidential race last November has led the Oro Valley Republican to buy a first-class ticket on the crazy train. He led the day-long meeting at a hotel near the Capitol in December that featured Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani laying out numerous crazy theories that were unsuitable for actual courtrooms, including the notion that Biden’s win was illegitimate because Arizona is home to 5 million undocumented immigrants (which would mean 5 out of 7 Arizonans are undocumented, but OK).

Finchem, who was on hand for the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in D.C., cheered on the storming of the U.S. Capitol. He tweeted a photo of the rampage with the comment: “What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.” Of course, it didn't take long for Finchem to blame Antifa for the disgraceful display of his fellow "patriots" during the D.C. rampage.

Finchem’s D.C. adventures have led to an ethics complaint at the House (which probably won’t go anywhere).

But you won’t read any more tweets from Finchem. As reported by the gang at Arizona Capitol Times, this week, in solidarity with the now-banned Trump, Finchem deleted his Twitter account after tweeting a promise to boycott Lowe’s after the Lowe’s hotel chain canceled a fundraising event for Sen. Josh Hawley. “This is what Hitler and Stalin did, what next camps? Ovens?” Yes, we all know it’s a slippery slope from canceling an event reservation to the Holocaust.

Giving up his 55K or so followers, Finchem has moved over to the right-wing Twitter knock-off Gab, where his new handle is AZHoneyBadger, presumably because he considers the fierce creature a spirit totem or something. (In case you’re not familiar, a hysterical YouTube clip of a narrator goofing on honey badger footage with lines about how “honey badger doesn’t give a shit” went viral a few years back.)

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES VIA CRONKITE NEWS
Christian Petersen/Getty Images via Cronkite News

PHOENIX – In the midst of a week in which three of his team’s games were postponed in accordance with the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton overheard a statistic from coach Monty Williams that particularly unsettled him.

“Coach made a valid point that I think we were last in points in the paint in the league,” Ayton said. “So that opened my eyes up a little bit.”

Through his team’s first 11 games, Ayton was effective with his statistical output, averaging a double-double at 12.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game on 56.6 percent shooting. But as a former No. 1 NBA Draft pick in his third season with a group that has high expectations to qualify for its first playoff berth since the 2009-10 season, Ayton can no longer be just sufficient in the eyes of his coaches and teammates. He has to be dominant.

In the Suns’ first two games against the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets this week, Ayton took charge of that demand and controlled the interior on both ends of the floor. He averaged 22.0 points and 16.5 rebounds while shooting a combined 18-of-29 (62.1 percent from the field) in those contests and became Phoenix’s second player outside of Shawn Marion to post at least 25 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in the last 30 seasons during its 109-103 win over Houston on Wednesday night.

“I mean, this is the type of player I am as a whole,” Ayton said after the Suns’ win over the Rockets. “I mean, this is no surprise to me, to be honest.”



Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 10:27 AM

click to enlarge This bud's for you! - BIGSTOCK
BigStock
This bud's for you!

Harvest Dispensary became the first Tucson-area dispensary to start selling recreational marijuana yesterday, with long lines forming outside the midtown outlet at 2734 E. Grant Road.

Harvest's opening came after the Arizona Department of Health Services gave the go-ahead last week for recreational cannabis sales to begin, letting dispensary owners know adult-use recreational sales can move forward as soon as licenses are approved and dispensaries are set up to handle both aspects of the market.

Applications for adult-use sales began on Jan. 19, but were restricted to existing medical marijuana establishments that qualified for early applications. The language of Proposition 207 that legalized cannabis use for adults over the age of 21 gave AZDHS two months to review and approve applications. As of Wednesday, Jan. 21, there were 62 applications for so-called “dual-licenses.”

Most cannabis advocates and those following the process expected sales to begin in late-March or early April, but with last week’s announcement, the door opened for an accelerated timetable.

Several other local dispensaries have also been authorized for recreational sales, including Green Med/Purple Med, Prime Leaf and Nature Med. But some of those dispensaries are not yet ready to start recreational sales, as there are several barriers to immediately opening up adult-use sales, not the least of which is the current state of the coronavirus pandemic still raging through the state.

Aside from that, some dispensaries might run into space and inventory issues and will need to have new operating procedures and dual point of sales systems to deal with differing tax rates and cost structures.

There is also a looming staffing shortage, as dispensary employees will now have to have multiple certifications to work in the industry.

“For us, it’s COVID—public and employee safety,” said Brian Warde, co-owner and CEO of Prime Leaf in Tucson. “Realistically you could have 150 people in line and might see over 1,000-plus patients a day most the days.”

Just from the standpoint of current patient patronage, that means to properly social distance Prime Leaf would need the equivalent of three football fields of space to accommodate the patient load. Warde says he is also waiting for inoculations for his employees that realistically won’t happen before March.

“Managing the inventory and workflow to ensure medical patients don’t run out of what they need, is also a big consideration,” he said. “We want to give patients what they have come to expect, and not allow the adult-use market to alter our patients’ experience. So slow rolling it to make sure we are in the best possible position to meet everyone’s expectations.”

This post has been updated.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 9:23 AM

With more than 8,000 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases surpassed 708,000 as of Friday, Jan 22, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 858 new cases today, has seen 94,697 of the state’s 708,041 confirmed cases.

A total of 12,001 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,571 deaths in Pima County, according to the Jan. 22 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in the last week but still remains far above the peak levels of the summer’s first wave. ADHS reported that as of Jan. 21, 4,495 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. The summer peak of 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients was set on July 13; that number hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27, or about one-tenth of the current count.

A total of 2,007 people visited emergency rooms on Jan. 21 with COVID symptoms, down from the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. That number had previously peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.

A total of 1,054 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Jan. 20. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22.

Most school districts delaying return to the classroom; Marana will resume hybrid instruction Monday

As the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County continues to reach dangerous levels, most public school districts in the Tucson area are pushing back previously set dates to resume in-person hybrid instruction.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is recommending all counties commit to virtual learning for students with online classes and some onsite support services.

ADHS made its recommendation based on three key benchmarks: cases per 100,000 individuals, percent positivity and hospital visits for COVID-like illness. All benchmarks are currently in a state of substantial transmission throughout the state.

In Pima County, ADHS data shows 8,983 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the population and a 12.3% positivity rate of the virus as of Jan. 21. The most recent data available on the state health department’s school benchmarks website shows hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses at 14.8% as of Jan. 3.

While most districts remain in remote learning models, Catalina Foothills has remained open for in-person learning since Oct. 26. The Marana Unified School District anticipates returning to hybrid instruction on Monday, Jan. 25.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 7:00 AM

WASHINGTON – In one of his last acts as president, Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned two Arizonans, including former Rep. Rick Renzi who was convicted of extortion, racketeering and other charges while representing the 1st District in Congress.

click to enlarge Rick Renzi - OFFICE OF THE HOUSE HISTORIAN
Office of the House Historian
Rick Renzi

The pardons – including one for Scott Connor Crosby, a one-time bank robber who supporters say has turned his life around – were among 73 pardons and 70 sentence commutations Trump issued Wednesday morning.

Renzi’s pardon was called for by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, and a slew of former House members who cited Renzi’s family and his service to constituents while in office in urging clemency.

Gosar did not respond to a request for comment on Renzi’s pardon Wednesday. But others criticized the flurry of pardons, which included former Trump associates, as “offensive, but not surprising.”



Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 1:30 PM

We know that the allegation that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen somehow is a massive fraud and a lie. But many of those who say it, also know it is a lie. They do not mean to convince anyone, they are sending a message to those who believe as they do. They are sending a coded message: a racist, white supremacist message. That message is that the election was stolen from white Americans because minority American voters participated.


Joe Biden won the election fairly and by a wide margin. But Joe Biden lost the white vote. Therefore, to those who believe that non-white Americans are not fully Americans — who do not deserve the vote, do not deserve power, do not deserve to share in American Democracy — Joe Biden did not win fairly. They believe that Joe Biden is not theirPresident.

This is what the election lie truly means: because minority voters gave Joe Biden the Presidency, Joe Biden did not fairly win the Presidency.

Because the lie of the stolen election is nonsensical, without factual foundation, and provably and demonstrably false, it makes the perfect signal to others that the teller believes that minority Americans are not legitimate participants in democracy. Thus this lie becomes a perfect dogwhistle of racist convictions.

The lie is not an assertion of an "alternative fact", it is an assertion that the only legitimate power is white power.

 

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 12:17 PM

click to enlarge When will we hear all that noise in the hallways again? - COURTESY TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Courtesy Tucson Unified School District
When will we hear all that noise in the hallways again?

As the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County continues to reach dangerous levels, most public school districts in the Tucson area are pushing back previously set dates to resume in-person hybrid instruction.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is recommending all counties commit to virtual learning for students with online classes and some onsite support services.

ADHS made its recommendation based on three key benchmarks: cases per 100,000 individuals, percent positivity and hospital visits for COVID-like illness. All benchmarks are currently in a state of substantial transmission throughout the state.

In Pima County, ADHS data shows 8,983 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the population and a 12.3% positivity rate of the virus as of Jan. 21. The most recent data available on the state health department’s school benchmarks website shows hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses at 14.8% as of Jan. 3.

While most districts remain in remote learning models, Catalina Foothills has remained open for in-person learning since Oct. 26. The Marana Unified School District anticipates returning to hybrid instruction on Monday, Jan. 25.

As of Jan. 21, the state health department is recommending all school districts remain in remote learning models. - THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES
The Arizona Department of Health Services
As of Jan. 21, the state health department is recommending all school districts remain in remote learning models.

Amphitheater

Originally set to return to a hybrid model on Jan. 19, Amphitheater Superintendent Todd Jaeger announced in a letter to families on Jan. 4 that remote-only learning would continue until a Feb. 1.

After the county health department said it would not be able to provide guidance until it receives more data, Jaeger said he plans to announce an official return date decision Friday.