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Lowell's Pluto Discovery Telescope gets spiffed up

After a year of intensive restoration work, Lowell Observatory’s Pluto Discovery Telescope is ready for its close-up.

Nearly every part of the 90-year-old instrument and accompanying dome has been refurbished, from the trio of 13-inch lenses to historic wooden shutters that open up to the stars.

With everything now complete, the telescope is working as well and is looking even better than it did when Clyde Tombaugh used the instrument to pick out distant Pluto 88 years ago, observatory staff said.

“It’s a beautiful telescope,” said Ralph Nye, part of the restoration team. “This is the way it should look.”

The public reopening of the Pluto Discovery Telescope is set for this Saturday.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Ralph Nye stands on an observing ladder behind the Pluto Discovery Telescope at Lowell Observatory. Over the past year, Nye led a group that completely restored the instrument and the building that houses it.

Work began early last year when a crane reached into the telescope’s white dome and lifted out a 7-foot, 350-pound tube, counterweights, and giant steel mount. Since then nearly every part of the telescope and the dome has been redone. The team removed, cleaned and reused everything down to nuts, bolts and screws — almost nothing needed to be replaced, said Peter Rosenthal, who also worked on the telescope.

The work also came in on time and met the project’s $155,000 budget with a few bucks to spare, Rosenthal and Nye said.

The thorough process was similar to what Lowell’s restoration team did on the Clark Telescope in 2014 and 2015. The Pluto Discovery Telescope itself needed less work, but the dome was in worse shape than the Clark’s, Nye said.

The team needed 40 tubes of caulking to seal up the exterior stone wall and they hand-brushed moisture-resistant coating on the rocks. The dome’s leaky tin siding required a new vapor barrier, and windows that were dry rotted and falling apart were replaced with custom glass and hardwood frames, Nye said.

Inside the structure, workers patched and repainted the dome’s stucco interior and restored the rotting wood shutters with panels that were custom cut, then stained and beat up a bit so they didn’t look too new, Nye said.

While the telescope’s lens system is of exceptional quality, everything else was kind of cobbled together and built in-house because the observatory was on a tight budget, Nye said.

When they ripped up the carpet, for example, they found tin can tops covering holes in the floor, he said. The carpet had so much dirt in it that they had to wear masks when they were carrying it out the door, he said.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Peter Rosenthal fits a large glass plateholder to the back of the newly renovated Pluto Discovery Telescope. The plates were used to take exposures of the sky.

The goal was function over form, Rosenthal said.

“I don’t think they cared about things (like looks) back then, they just wanted it to work,” he said.

Known as an astrographic camera, the telescope’s three lenses focus light onto a single glass photographic plate. Each image requires an exposure time of almost an hour, which would have been a chilly experience for Tombaugh on winter nights because the dome’s shutters have to be open to the sky, Rosenthal said. As a young observatory assistant, Tombaugh took the exposures, then scrutinized the glass negatives using a Zeiss blink comparator. On Feb. 18, 1930, he pinpointed Pluto — observatory founder Percival Lowell’s “Planet X.”

Now that restoration is complete, Nye is looking to put the Pluto Discovery Telescope back into use. He wants to be the first to use it to take color photographs. If they turn out well enough, he envisions enlarging the images and selling them in the bookstore, Nye said. Plus, a telescope that gets regular use will be better maintained than if it’s just sitting there “gathering dust,” he said.

Peter Rosenthal, left, and Ralph Nye, right, talk about the features of the Pluto Discovery Telescope that the pair helped restore. The telescope was completely stripped down to its component parts which were cleaned, repainted and restored to their original condition before being put back together. The restoration work included the dome that houses the historic instrument.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A setting circle on the Pluto Discovery Telescope, which had its numbers worn off was restored with fresh paint and new vinyl numbers. Peter Rosenthal discovered tiny punch marks in the metal of the ring to indicate each mark so that even with the old paint and numbers worn off they could be accurately replaced.

Lawsuit claims censorship as ASU caught up in Israel boycott controversy

PHOENIX -- Claiming censorship, attorneys are claiming that Arizona State University is illegally blocking a Muslim academician from speaking on campus because of his political beliefs.

The lawsuit filed in federal court here says the university won't allow Hatem Bazian to speak on campus about the "boycott, divest, sanction'' movement aimed at pressuring Israel to change its policies, particularly in regard to Jewish settlements on the West Bank. That's because Bazian won't sign an agreement certifying that he will not engage on a boycott of Israel.

That agreement language comes directly from a 2016 state law that bars state and local governments -- and publicly funded universities -- from doing business with any firm that won't do business with Israel.

ASU, for its part, is calling the whole issue a "misunderstanding.''

Spokesman Brett Hovell said while the university is complying with the law, it does not believe the certification requirement applies here. And he said the most recent version of the form for speakers does not contain that language.

But attorney Gadeir Abbas of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Defense Fund, told Capitol Media Services that the requirement is clearly spelled out in the contract that Bazian was asked -- and refused -- to sign.

Now CAIR is asking U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi to issue an injunction to block ASU from enforcing the provision ahead of Bazian's scheduled April 4 appearance.

More significant, the lawsuit ultimately wants Tuchi to void enforcement of the law at all levels.

The new lawsuit is the second legal challenge to the statute.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit last year after Flagstaff attorney Mik Jordahl was told he needed to sign a similar form forswearing any boycott of Israel as a condition of maintaining his contract to do legal work for the Coconino County Jail District. Jordahl, who is admittedly a supporter of the BDS movement, said he should not be forced to choose between his First Amendment right of protest and his ability to perform services for government agencies.

That is also the basis for the new lawsuit.

"Boycott activity is a hallowed tradition in America,'' Abbas said, citing the Boston Tea Party, the Montgomery bus boycott of the civil rights movement, and the boycott against companies doing business in South Africa before it abandoned its policy of apartheid. "It's a very strongly protected constitutional activity.''

There's also a political issue here.

The 2016 law and subsequent events come against a backdrop of the question of the Israeli settlements in what the Palestinians called the "Occupied Palestinian Territories.'' Some elements of the Israeli community refer to that same area as Judea and Samaria, the Old Testament names for what is now the West Bank, in an effort to show a biblical claim to the area.

Bazian, a lecturer and adjunct professor at the University of California Berkeley, chairs American Muslims for Palestine. He also is a cofounder of Students for Justice in Palestine and, according to the lawsuit, a leader in the BDS movement in the United States.

Abbas said that the Legislature, in deciding to adopt the 2016 law "chose to categorically take Israel's side in this international conflict.''

Hovell said ASU does include the requirement that those who contract with the university that they agree not to engage in a boycott of Israel. But he said this contract was with a student group.

"Student groups are not public entities,'' he said.

"It was a simple mistake that the ASU form containing the certification was used,'' Hovell said. "The certification was not needed.''

In the meantime, though, Abbas said CAIR will continue to pursue the litigation and seek a court order affirming Bazian's right to speak on campus despite his refusal to sign the contract that was sent to him.

An aide to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who was named in the new lawsuit, declined to comment.

But Brnovich, in defending the state against Jordahl's lawsuit, said Arizona lawmakers have a legal -- and he contends moral -- right to ensure that companies receiving public funds do not discriminate based on national origin, even if it is only Israel that is getting singled out for special protection.

"When you have a close ally of the United States, where you have a key trading partner to the state of Arizona that has been under, quite frankly, constant attacks since 1948, I think the state does have a role,'' he said. "I think we do have a right to say, 'We stand with Israel.' ''

Law would require schools to notify parents about bullying

ALBANY, N.Y. — Richard and Christine Taras knew their soft-spoken son had been picked on by a school bus bully. But they were unaware of the more extensive torment Jacobe endured in school hallways until the day the 13-year-old middle schooler killed himself with a hunting rifle.

"Dear Mom and Dad, I'm sorry but I can not live anymore," Jacobe wrote on a sheet of lined notebook paper in 2015. "I just can't deal with all the bullies, being called gay ... being told to go kill myself. I'm also done with being pushed, punched, tripped." He signed off, "I LOVE YOU."

"We had no idea of the extent or the seriousness of what was going on," Richard Taras said. "My son didn't tell me and the school didn't pass along the information they had."

Nearly three years later, Richard and Christine Taras of Moreau, 40 miles north of Albany, are pushing for a New York law that would require schools to notify parents if their child is being bullied. Known as "Jacobe's Law," the measure unanimously passed the state Senate last week but has an uncertain fate in the Assembly.

At least eight states currently have laws requiring that schools notify parents when their child is being bullied or is bullying other kids. But such policies have come under attack from LGBT advocates who argue that schools officials could inadvertently be put in the position of outing gay, lesbian or transgender pupils to their parents. And such students may avoid reporting bullying to officials for fear of having their parents told.

"While it's important for parents to be aware if their children are being bullied in school, it's also imperative to remember that LGBTQ students may not be out to their family or may not have supportive families," said Ikaika Regidor, director of education and youth programs for GLSEN, a national organization focused on safe schools for LGBTQ students.

Civil rights groups say it is a violation of students' privacy rights when authorities disclose their sexual orientation to their parents.

In 2001, a successful wrongful death lawsuit was filed after a Pennsylvania high school football player committed suicide when police officers threatened to tell his family he was gay. A federal court in Philadelphia ruled that the U.S. Constitution prohibits governments from delving into the sexual orientation of Americans.

Those concerns have at least one state rethinking its law.

In New Jersey, known for having some of the strictest anti-bullying statutes in the nation, state education department officials have suggested stepping back from automatic notification and instead requiring schools to consider incidents on a case-by-case basis before contacting parents.

"There are laws that restrict what school officials can tell a parent about anything the official has discovered about the student's sexual orientation or gender identification," said Bob Farrace, spokesman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "Where notification might lead into that conversation puts the official into a very difficult spot. We just need to make sure laws are reconciled."

The Education Commission of the States says many states require that school districts develop policies around parental notification of bullying, but only a few explicitly outline those requirements at the state level.

Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin have statewide requirements for parental notification of bullying, although timing of notification varies. In Louisiana, a parent must be notified before any student under 18 is interviewed about a report of bullying. In Connecticut, parents must be notified within 48 hours after an investigation of bullying is completed.

Other states require schools to develop local policies on parental notification. They include Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

In New York, every school district is required to develop a code of conduct addressing bullying and discrimination. It must include provisions setting circumstances and procedures for notifying parents of code violations.

Cynthia Gallagher, an official with the School Administrators Association of New York, said the organization hasn't taken a position on the proposed parental notification law. "It might seem like an area that should be clear cut, but it's not for us," she said, citing the quandary an official faces when bullying is related to sexual orientation.

Richard and Christine Taras contend that the rural South Glens Falls School District failed to protect their son from bullies who made fun of him for being a Boy Scout, among other things. A year after he died, they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the district in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County. Since it's still pending, school officials declined to comment on his case.

Jacobe's bedroom remains as he left it, filled with things showing his love for the outdoors — a mounted deer head, a tree painted on the wall above the bed, a miniature canoe on the dresser.

"Jacobe was the kindest soul you could meet, with extremely good manners, empathy and people skills," Richard Taras said. "For someone like that to decide to take his own life, it's hard on so many levels. You feel like you didn't protect them."

Chris Pizzello 

Frances McDormand accepts the award for best performance by an actress in a leading role for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" at the Oscars on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Campaign 2018: Even dozen vying to succeed Jeff Flake in U.S. Senate.

It’s an even dozen vying to fill the U.S. Senate seat from Arizona being vacated by Jeff Flake. Following are some thumbnail profiles:

Joe Arpaio- Republican

Arpaio served six, four-year terms as Maricopa County Sheriff before being recalled by voters in 2016. He is known for his controversial immigration raids, making prisoners wear pink underwear and his tent city jail during his term as sheriff. In 2015, he was convicted of contempt of court for defying court orders to stop racially profiling Maricopa County residents. He was later pardoned by President Donald Trump. According to his website, Arpaio says he is running for U.S. Senate to support Trump and his agenda.

Craig Brittain – Republican

According to his campaign website, Brittain is a “technology entrepreneur, election influencer, free speech activist, journalist and CEO.” According to a Federal Trade Commission press release, Brittain was one of the founders of the website “IsAnybodyDown?” which allowed people to anonymously upload nude photos of people along with their personal information. The site was investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and later taken down.

According to his website, Brittain is running on a platform to provide immediate private care for veterans and removing U.S. troops from locations and wars around the world. He is also campaigning to end all taxation in the U.S., a balanced federal budget, and unlimited freedom of speech. He would also allow individuals to opt out of paying for any government program they don’t wish to participate in. He would also end “gun free zones,” create a national open carry law, decriminalize marijuana and treat drug addiction as medical issue.

Christian Diegel-Republican

According to his website, Diegel is a retired Air Force major who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s a certified financial planner with Edward Jones in Scottsdale. He states on his website that the “U.S. Senate needs a shake-up.” He states that he is a conservative who believes in limited government and a strong national defense.

Michelle Griffin-Republican

According to her website, Griffin has been a software consultant, banking executive and quality control officer for Humana Healthcare. She has a doctoral degree in Organizational Development from Benedictine University in Illinois.

She is campaigning on a platform to improve education by increasing teacher pay and funding community colleges. She also wants to reform the healthcare system by reducing the cost of medicine and reforming the system that allows patients to leave against medical advice. She also wants to improve the Department of Military Affairs and make it easier for veterans to transfer to civilian life.

Martha McSally-Republican

McSally is currently Arizona’s District 2 representative to the U.S. House of Representatives. She lives in Tucson. She was elected to the House in 2012. She is a decorated retired U.S. Air Force colonel. She is one of the first women to fly in combat and command a fighter squadron in combat.

According to her House website, she is in favor of immigration reform that would reduce the number of people who overstay their visas, make it easier to deport criminals and removed federal funds from sanctuary cities. She would also expand the green card system for skilled workers, create a guest worker program, build a wall along the southern border and hire additional border patrol agents. She would also support renewing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

She supported a bipartisan effort by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to reduce the cost of healthcare. She also supported an increase in defense spending.

Nicholas Tutora-Republican

According to his LinkedIn profile, Tutora is a life coach and pharmacist. According to his Twitter profile, he moved to Phoenix from New York City and is a supporter of President Donald Trump. His campaign website doesn’t appear to be working.

But he spoke with local radio show host Jeff Oravits in November and told Oravits that he would like to reform the healthcare system in the U.S. and revamp the U.S. tax code.

Kelli Ward-Republican

Ward is a physician from Mohave County. She ran for and won a seat in the Arizona Senate in 2012. She challenged U.S. Senator John McCain for his seat in the 2016 primary and lost. She is a supporter of President Donald Trump.

According to her website, Ward supports immigration system reform, including building a wall along the southern border. She also supports repealing the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate and replacing it with a system that would offer tax credits to pay for health insurance. She supports reducing the number of income tax brackets to three, cutting corporate tax rates and abolishing the inheritance tax.

Deedra Abboud-Democrat

According to her website, Abboud is a Phoenix attorney and founder of the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership. She has served as the director of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Arizona chapter of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation.

She supports a single-payer healthcare system, more funding for education, the separation of religion and state, net neutrality and reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. She also supports immigration reform to keep families together and protections for gay, bisexual, transgendered community.

Bob Bishop-Democrat

According to his website, Bishop is a pilot, small business owner, investor and innovator. He built the “world’s smallest jet” in 1976 and a completely solar powered house in 1999. He lives in Tucson.

He supports Medicare for all, work with the NRA for reasonable gun control measures and forcing credit card companies to meet Arizona’s usury law of no more than 10 percent interest. He also supports tax reform, immigration reform, education and an end to professional guardianship fraud.

Chris Russell-Democrat

Russell is an Army veteran and lawyer from Sierra Vista. According to his website, he believes in working with both sides of the political aisle. He education reforms like higher pay for teachers, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, Medicare for all and a balanced federal budget.

He also supports simplifying the immigration system and preventing the mentally ill and those with a history of violence from gaining access to guns.

Richard Sherzan-Democrat

Sherzan is a retired administrative law judge from the Arizona Department of Economic Security. He lives in Mesa. According to the Iowa Legislature’s website, Sherzan served one term in the Iowa House of Representatives. He has a law degree and served in the U.S. Army. He has lived in Arizona for about 30 years. Sherzan doesn’t appear to have a website. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 but dropped out of the race.

Kyrsten Sinema-Democrat

Sinema is a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving Arizona’s 9th District, which covers south and east Phoenix, Tempe, south Scottsdale, west Mesa and part of Chandler. She was elected to the position in 2012. She also served in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2004 and the Arizona Senate in 2010. According to a story from NPR, she is the first openly bisexual member of Congress.

According to her congressional website, she served as a social worker for many years. She has doctorate degree from Arizona State University. She has also served as a lawyer and an adjunct professor. She is a supporter of reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, supporting small business, making college affordable, tackling funding for anti-terrorism and parental leave.

Campaign 2018: Four Democrats vie to oppose Gov. Ducey

In the race for governor, four Democrats have stepped up to unseat Doug Ducey, who has decided to run for another four-year term. The group of challengers includes two names familiar in the world of Arizona politics and two faces that are new to the campaign trail.

Among the better-known Democratic candidates is state Sen. Steve Farley, who has served in the Legislature since 2007 and is an artist and graphic designer. University education professor David Garcia has also been on the ballot before. Garcia narrowly lost to Diane Douglas in the race for state schools superintendent in 2014.

Education has been a central issue for both candidates and they have fired at Ducey and the Republican-controlled Legislature for failing to put enough money into the state’s schools. Factoring in inflation, the state is putting about $1.1 billion less into schools per year than it was before the recession.

In a previous debate both candidates said they would focus on rolling back corporate tax cuts and loopholes to get more public dollars for education. They want to increase teacher pay and strongly oppose the expansion of the state’s school voucher program, an issue that will be on the ballot as a voter referendum in the fall.

The other two Democratic candidates would bring a much different background to the governor’s office. Kelly Fryer is head of the Southern Arizona YWCA in Tucson and told the Arizona Daily Star that as a woman who is gay and who works with underrepresented groups, she has a different perspective than the other candidates. She said the Ducey administration hasn’t done enough to help some of the state’s most-vulnerable populations.

Gold Canyon resident Fareed Baig was born in India and raised in Pakistan before he became a U.S. citizen in 1998. The semi-retired healthcare and mining lobbyist wants to eradicate poverty in Arizona and proposes to save $1 million per day by paroling 50 percent of the prison population.

For his part, Ducey has emphasized his accomplishments in boosting education funding, including his work on and support of Proposition 123 that taps the state land trust to help increase state funding to schools by about $3.5 billion – or 8 percent -- over the next 10 years. At the beginning of the year he also rolled out a budget proposal that includes $100 million for schools’ capital needs and another $300 million to fund other areas of K-12 schools. Ducey has stuck to a ‘no new taxes’ pledge and recently called a special session to roll out opioid legislation.