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The Skinny

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Island Fever

Sen. Jeff Flake supports the Obama administration's push to normalize relations with Cuba

Many congressional Republicans were quick to condemn the Obama administration's move to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and push to end the half-century of economic sanctions imposed on the tiny communist island. Arizona Sen. John McCain, in a joint statement with his pal Lindsey Graham, said the move was "about the appeasement of autocratic dictators, thugs, and adversaries, diminishing America's influence in the world."

"We agree with President Obama that he is writing new chapters in American foreign policy," the two senators said in a joint statement. "Unfortunately, today's chapter, like the others before it, is one of America and the values we stand for in retreat and decline."

But Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who has long argued for better relations with Cuba, supported Obama's decision.

"I don't often agree with President Obama, but he was right to begin the process of normalizing relations with Cuba," Flake said in a prepared statement. "For over 50 years, the policy of isolating Cuba has failed to achieve any democratic reforms. It has, however, succeeded in giving the Castros a convenient excuse for the failures of socialism."

Flake added that the decision was "about freedom. Engagement isn't going to turn Cuba into a model democracy overnight, but as we've seen around the world, it will certainly be an improvement over the status quo. Government control over the island will be lessened by increased American contact and commerce, and these changes will provide a boost to those who will actually make change in Cuba—the Cubans themselves."

Speaking of Cuba: Tucson author Tom Miller last week found his book, "Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Casto's Cuba," named as one of the best books on Cuba by The New York Times and the Daily Beast.

"Miller's fun and engaging story of his eight months on the island introduces readers to the country's intellectual elite, criminals, and ordinary citizens," wrote William O'Connor. "National jokes about Castro, food, and the embargo are shared as he tells the story of the people on receiving end of the U.S. and Cuba's policies. It also focuses on some of the nation's success, such as its health care."

Tis the Season

Help out a nonprofit before the year is over

As the year draws to a close, so does your opportunity to make a tax-deductible contribution to one or more of the many nonprofits that work to make Southern Arizona a better place.

The Weekly gave you some ideas about worthy nonprofits that could use your help a few weeks back, but given the impending end of the year, we figured it couldn't hurt to remind you about these important agencies.

And keep in mind that in many cases, a donation not only gets you a federal tax deduction that lowers your tax bill; it also gets a dollar-for-dollar credit on your state tax bill. Here's how it works: You give up to $200 (or $400 for a married couple filing jointly) to a charity that aids the working poor. Then you get the money back next year when you file your taxes. It's a way of directing some of your taxes directly to the nonprofits that help those in need. And those nonprofits need all the help they can get these days.

The Community Food Bank, which serves struggling families in Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham and Greenlee counties, is facing a steady demand from hungry people at the same time that donations have slowed a bit. Plus, through the end of the year, some generous supporters have agreed to match donations, so your check will automatically be doubled.

Besides cash donations, the Food Bank takes in nonperishable foods at collection points all over town. And if you ever feel like volunteering, you can sort and pack food boxes.

Call 622-0525 for details on donating, or visit communityfoodbank.com.

The Primavera Foundation continues its work to help out families that are down on their luck through emergency shelter, but it also works hard to get people into homes they can own, provide rent assistance to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place and provide job training and employment opportunities.

To make a contribution to Primavera, call 623-5111 or go online to www.primavera.org. Drop off warm clothes, blankets, toiletries, housewares and food between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 702 S. Sixth Ave.

If you're interested in helping out with teens who are living on the streets, consider a contribution to Youth on Their Own, which helps hundreds of teens who can't live with their parents. Make a donation by calling 293-1136.

There are plenty of other worthy candidates out there, including Emerge!, a nonprofit that offers shelters and support for victims of domestic violence (795-8001); the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (sacasa.org); the Educational Enrichment Foundation, which helps out Tucson Unified School District schools (325-8688); Habitat for Humanity (326-1217) and the Red Cross of Southern Arizona (319-3673).

Find a complete list of eligible agencies and more details about the working-poor tax credit at www.azdor.gov.

In addition to the charitable tax credit, you can also give $200 (or $400 per couple) to a public or charter school and get the money back on your taxes, so consider that as well.

And, of course, there are a few nonprofits out there that don't qualify for the tax credit, but we think you ought to consider a contribution to them as well, because they make this town a better place (and you still get a tax deduction—just not a dollar-for-dollar credit):

• The Rialto Theatre Foundation, which has had a great year that included the opening of R Bar, a very, very red tavern that serves up a spectacular drink called the Rialtor. Become a Rialto member by calling 740-1000, or visiting rialtotheatre.com. You'll be given discounts on tickets, drinks and more.

• The Loft Cinema continues to be our own cinema paradiso where every week is a film festival. Support them with a membership that includes discounted tickets and free popcorn. Details: 322-LOFT or loftcinema.com.

• KXCI FM 91.3 Community Radio continues to be an oasis of independence on Tucson's FM dial with shows like Al Perry's "Clambake" and Kidd Squidd's "Mystery Jukebox." Become a KXCI member and get a T-shirt, CD or other swag. Details at 623-1000 or KXCI.org.

• Access Tucson has seen sharp reductions of support from the city of Tucson, but remains a place where Tucsonans can make their own TV shows and learn the tricks of the TV trade. Give them a donation via accesstucson.org.

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" airs every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week's show features a look back at the top political stories of 2014 with former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton and attorney Jeff Rogers, the former chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party.

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