News From Home

For our recent arrivals, a summary of big stories, events and news you can use from your home state.

LOS ANGELES The L.A. Times reports that District Attorney Steve Cooley let the Newhall Land & Farming Co. off the hook after he bungled an investigation into the rich developing firm, which was accused of plowing under acres covered with a rare flower to keep environmental concerns from stopping a new housing development. But you already knew that, because you're still reading the Times every day online like your life depended on it. The alternative is just too frightening. You've never really recovered from the first time you came across what passes for a local newspaper in this burg and wondered: "Why is the Bakersfield Californian being distributed in the nation's sixth largest metropolis?" But then you realized sweet Jesus! the Arizona Republic is what serves as the major daily around here. And if anything tells you that Phoenix hasn't shaken off its roots as the Des Moines of the Desert, it's the lame section of the Republic called "News From Home." See, this time of year lots of folks from such garden spots as North Dakota and Indiana climb into their Winnebagos and head for Quartzsite, a godforsaken spot in the desert 125 miles west of here. But it fills up fast, and the rest of the geezers come here and drive down our freeways with their blinkers on and no clue how to get home from the Indian casino. But heaven forbid our winter visitors shouldn't hear about the results of a school district election in Minot or who won the spelling bee in Muncie while they're here.

MAYBERRY Goober's still pumping gas, Floyd the barber still hasn't come out, and Barney still can't get laid. But Aunt Bea's quilt won first prize at the county fair, so everyone's getting shit-faced.

MORELIA Under a new program initiated by governor Lazaro Cardenas Batel, elderly poor residents of Michoacán not covered by social security or other programs will receive a monthly basket of fresh and processed food. But really, the only thing that counts is that the folks back home are grateful for the money you've been sending, and for the good news about how much better life is on this side. And it really is, even if some of the crazy white people call you an "alien" like you dropped out of the fucking sky to clean up their bathrooms and build their homes and prepare their food. Let's see them make the walk across the desert and then try to survive on the kind of wages you eke out a living on. These white bastards build golf courses in bone-dry desert and drive eight-mile-per-gallon $50,000 Hummers and they blame you for wasting the state's resources? What a country.

BETHLEHEM The Israeli government announced a plan to seize land in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem and build a security wall to protect religious pilgrims. You'd like to keep track of the project, worrying that it might spark even more violence in your war-torn homeland. And if you lived in an American city with a real newspaper, it wouldn't be very difficult to get news from home, since the rest of the world considers what's happening there to be pretty friggin' important. But it's frustrating, the way you have to scan the Republic every day, hoping for the occasional, microscopic wire story on developments in the Middle East (or just about anywhere outside the U.S., for that matter), while you have to sift through all the happy news about bake sales in Peoria and roadside good Samaritans and what a helluva guy that Alice Cooper is.

SEATTLE The Seattle Times reports that the Sea-Tac region is getting so cosmopolitan, even a town like Bellevue, with a population of 109,000, has a surprisingly large number of foreign-born. You knew, moving to Arizona, that you'd be coming to a less heterogeneous place. But it shocked you to learn that moving from the 24th largest city in the country, which has two competent and competitive dailies, to the sixth largest city, you'd find such a sad excuse for a newspaper. It might not be so irritating if the Republic wasn't congratulating itself all the time for coverage that other daily newspapers consider the bare minimum of responsible journalism. Leave it to the Republic, for example, to classify stories about the state's governor and the Legislature as innovations (both were entries in the Republic's ongoing genius marketing scheme "100 More Reasons to Wish You Got the New York Times at Home"). It makes you shake your head. Does this misguided publication not understand that, as the paper of record around here, it has to cover the governor and the Legislature?

BROOKLYN The Times revealed that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft personally overruled local federal prosecutors, who had recommended against seeking the death penalty in the less-than-airtight case of a Jamaican immigrant accused of a July 2000 killing on Linden Boulevard. And it can't help but strike you as almost quaint that your old hometown could get so worked up about the prospect of executing someone without a moral certainty of his guilt. That is, now that you're in a state where, if the feds didn't at least maintain some sort of control, shoplifters would get electric probes attached to their genitals and car thieves would be shot on sight. But you figured you could handle Arizona's frontier mentality when you arrived as long as you had some life line to what was happening in the world's more interesting places. Then you started reading the Republic, and realized that you weren't part of its target demographic the mentally retarded. Years of reading better newspapers hadn't prepared you for front-page stories of major national or international importance ending only a few paragraphs after they begin. What's with that! You've never seen that before, certainly not in the Times, which continues important stories somewhere inside the newspaper. Instead, the Republic cuts off the crucial stuff so it has plenty of room for inane features that explain to newcomers, again and again, such local phenomena as Valley Fever, or how "Saguaro" is pronounced, or what Alice Cooper thinks when he lines up a putt. But for some reason, the Republic never gets around to the one question newcomers actually ask the most. The answer? NO, our governor is not a lesbian. No, no, no, no. She's made that abundantly clear in her interviews, and it doesn't matter what you think, there just isn't a shred of evidence to the contrary.

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