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Bombs Away!

Congrats to the engineers at Raytheon, who designed the new 155mm Excalibur XM982 missile that the U.S. Army used to take out a leader of al-Qaida in Iraq last week. After hearing that Abu Jurah--described in an Army press release as the "top target for al-Qaida in Iraq south of Baghdad"--was having a lunchtime meeting with 14 colleagues in a house in Arab Jabour on July 14, the Army blew the house to pieces with two of the precision-guided missiles, which are accurate up to 20 feet. Several men who attempted to escape with wounded colleagues in a sedan were then blown up by an AH-64 Apache helicopter, while others who sought shelter in a nearby home found themselves the targets of two GPS-guided, 500-pound bombs dropped by a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

In other war news: Democrats in the U.S. Senate tried to pull an all-nighter to move legislation that would have pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq, but the effort was blocked by GOP lawmakers.

Also last week: Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the recent military surge was not producing much of a result, according to The Associated Press.

"If there is one word I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq--on the streets, in the countryside, in the neighborhoods and at the national level--that word would be 'fear,'" Crocker said.

Despite the Iraqi government's failure to achieve benchmarks, U.S. military officials told The Associated Press that the troop buildup needed to continue for another year. The New York Times reports that a new classified plan calls for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq at least until 2009, with "localized security" achieved in Baghdad sometime next year. Hey, what's the rush?


Show Business

Attention, business owners! Worried that the new employer-sanctions law is going to cause you trouble, because the federal Basic Pilot Program that checks whether a worker is legally in the United States may not be all that accurate?

Don't worry one bit. Arizona House Speaker Jim Weiers watched the recently revamped system in action earlier this week and declared: "It's clear that businesses will be able to easily use the Basic Pilot Program for all new hires. Most queries come back within three to five seconds, and employers are given the green light."

We're not sure Jack Camper, the president of the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, is buying it. In his bombastic appearance last week on Arizona Illustrated's "Reporters Roundtable," an animated Camper declared: "That's an onerous bit of legislation. ... It could have a devastating impact on businesses' ability to do three things: make a profit, create jobs and provide people with a lifestyle."


Bounced Checkpoint

Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva fired off a letter to Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, protesting plans for permanent Border Patrol checkpoints on Southern Arizona highways.

Grijalva cited a 2005 Government Accountability Office report that stated there was no conclusive evidence that a permanent checkpoint was effective at deterring smugglers.

"Community members and leaders have actively approached me regarding the permanent checkpoint," Grijalva wrote. "These communities are not adverse to security. However, they have seen the impact on their traffic and livelihood, and have witnessed firsthand the inability of the checkpoint to minimize unauthorized immigration."

Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who also represents some of the border highways, says that her efforts to block permanent checkpoints were thwarted in the Senate.

Giffords is waiting for local stakeholders to issue a report next month on options for a checkpoint on Interstate 19 before deciding how to proceed to the next step.

"How best can we take this technology, and how do we realistically deal with this change in policy?" Giffords says. "There has been no money appropriated for a permanent checkpoint, and the Border Patrol has agreed not to move forward until we get the feedback from the community."

Grijalva also asked Vice President Dick Cheney to testify in front of the House Natural Resources Committee on his role in bypassing the Endangered Species Act in the development of a 10-year water plan for the Klamath River, which runs in Oregon and California. An estimated 77,000 salmon died in 2002 as a result of the plan.

"We'd like him to come chat with us about that," Grijalva says. "He'll turn us down, but ... "

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