Thursday, December 30, 2010

Shelter from the Storm

A homeless man lays on his mattress on the floor at Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) in Phoenix Wednesday. 

Phoenix was hit by a winter storm Wednesday that brought heavy rain and unusually cold temperatures, it is the first day of what is expected to be a week of below normal temperatures. Morning lows by Friday are expected to be 15-20 degrees blow normal, normal lows for Phoenix are in the 40's but by Friday are expected to be in the 20's. Weather like this hits the homeless especially hard and shelters like CASS work hard to meet the increased demand. A spokesman for CASS said they expected to fill all of their regular shelter spaces and most of their overflow spaces every night for the next week. 

In addition to the cold weather CASS has seen demand for the services increase sixfold in the last three years as the Phoenix economy has slid into recession and the foreclosure crisis cuts through the community like a scythe. Many CASS clients now are the "new" homeless - people who used to have homes but lost their homes in the bad economy. 

There are more photos from CASS in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

There Goes The Neighborhood

Word broke over the weekend that Bristol Palin, America’s most famous unwed mother and spokesperson for teen abstinence (of the Palins of Wasilla, AK) bought a home in the Phoenix suburb of Maricopa. She bought this McMansion for herself and her son, Tripp. Two people in a 3,900 square foot, five bedroom, 2.5 bath and three car garage home in a town that was ground zero for America’s foreclosure crisis. She paid $172,000 cash for the home. It was built in 2006 and cost about $330,000 then. The original owners were foreclosed on and Palin bought it from North Dakota investors who picked it up cheap.
Maricopa was a small farming community until the late 1990's when land speculators starting buying up the farms and turning them into subdivisions. Maricopa’s agricultural roots are still evident. You can smell the manure perfumed air of nearby dairy farms from the front yard of Chateau de Palin. Growth in Maricopa boomed from 2002 until 2008 when the recession, foreclosure and banking crisis hit.  Since then it has had one of the highest foreclosure rates in the United States. Now investors are starting to buy foreclosed homes in Maricopa, anticipating the end of the foreclosure crisis. Homes in Maricopa are now selling for about less than half of what they cost in 2006. Bristol Palin has not commented publicly on the purchase and has not said if the home is an investment or if she plans to live in it. Now rumors are swirling that Bristol plans to attend Arizona State University later this year.
There are more photos of Palin’s new home in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Prayer for a Dream

It was an interesting weekend in the US Senate. First a bunch of old rich white guys voted against the DREAM Act, effectively killing it, then the same bunch of old rich white guys voted in favor of ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ending discrimination against homosexuals in the US military. Now it looks as though Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show, has shamed the Scrooge like Senators into reconsidering health care for 9/11 first responders. 

Two for three ain’t bad unless you’re in the group that supports the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act, which has been kicking around in Congress for almost 10 years, provides a path to citizenship for children brought to the US by their parents as undocumented immigrants. In Arizona alone, there are thousands of young people, law abiding high school students who were brought to the US by the parents when they were kids - some as infants, others as toddlers or elementary school age. Many don’t speak Spanish anymore (most, but not all, are from Latin America, including Mexico) and most have no recollection of their home country. In the eyes of the law they maybe criminals but they committed no criminal acts. They can hardly be held responsible for the actions of their parents when they were babes in arms. 

The DREAM Act stipulated that undocumented children must 1) have no criminal record, 2) graduate high school and 3) either go to college or join the military before they can apply for residency and citizenship. At one point, when John McCain was touted as a mavericky independent, McCain was an outspoken supporter of the DREAM Act. Then the country tacked a little to the right and McCain tacked a lot to the right and campaigned against the DREAM Act. In other words he flip-flopped. He was for the bill before he was against it. 

This evening there was a prayer service for the DREAM Act. About 100 people were there. I went expecting a funeral like atmosphere. This was the last best chance for the DREAM Act to pass and it didn’t. The incoming Republican dominated, Tea Party influenced, congress will almost certainly not pass it. But rather than a funeral for a DREAM, it was a celebration of the DREAM. A vow to continue the fight and energize Latino voters across the country. 

There are more photos from the DREAM Act prayer service in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Presidential Musings

Tis the season of the political memoir. First it was Sarah Palin stopping in Phoenix to stump on behalf of her latest tome. Today it was former President George W. Bush’s turn, hawking his memoir, Decision Points. Thousands of people, including a handful of men in uniform, showed up to get the ex-Commander in Chief’s autograph. One of the soldiers stood at attention and gave the ex-President a salute, which Bush returned. 

About 2,000 people stood in line, some for more than 5 hours, to get Dubya’s autograph in their book. I was surprised by the turnout - when his presidency ended in January 2009, most people were happy to see him go. Now it appears that a lot of folks are viewing the halcyon days of his administration through rose colored glasses. Or they just want a copy of his book. 

There are more photos of the book signing in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Mission of Mercy

A woman has her blood pressure checked during patient screening at a Mission of Mercy mobile medical clinic in central Phoenix.

A Mission of Mercy provides an essential service in Phoenix and the other communities it serves. The volunteer doctors and nurses that work with MOM bring free medical care to people who either don’t have health insurance or can’t afford health care. 

As Arizona’s economy has continued to swirl into recession, Mission of Mercy has seen their patient load skyrocket. Patient visits have more than doubled since 2008, and earlier this fall MOM opened their first clinic in Avondale, on the west side of Phoenix, in one of the Phoenix suburbs hit hardest by the collapse of the real estate market. 

I’ve been a photojournalist for almost 30 years. It seems like in the last three years most of what I’ve photographed is the collapse of the “American Dream” and the third worldization of America. The rich have gotten significantly richer while the working and middle class have seen their salaries stagnate or go down (in real terms, adjusted for inflation). It amazes me that a country that 40 years ago could put a man on the moon and today can find the resources to fight two wars far from our shores still can’t find a way to get health care to those who most need it. 

Mission of Mercy, and organizations like it, are providing the social safety net for more and more of our citizens. 

There are more photos from the Mission of Mercy clinic in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Haitians Vote Today

A woman walks past election posters for Jude Celestin, considered the leading candidate in Haiti’s Presidential election. Amidst the rubble of the earthquake and still raging cholera epidemic Haitians voted today. 

Some of the presidential candidates wanted to postpone the elections because of the ongoing chaos wrought by the earthquake and now cholera. Public security is still iffy, the presence of about 12,000 “blue helmets” or United Nations peacekeepers and police help keep the gangs in check. (During my trip to Haiti earlier this month, I had to hire a “security detail” to watch my back while I photographed the cholera epidemic in the Cite Soleil slums, this is the first time I’ve ever had to hire bodyguards to work.) 

People started voting Sunday morning and by late afternoon most of the candidates (12 of 19) were already calling for the nullification of the election because of widespread vote fraud. It was reported that people were not able to find their polling places in Port-au-Prince and that demonstrations were breaking out in some parts of the capital. The Los Angeles Times called it “chaos.” 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fear of Government Groping

About 30 people, including the gentleman above, picketed the entrance to Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix Wednesday to protest against the Transportation Security Administration’s use of relatively new body scanner x-ray machines and more aggressive, intrusive “pat downs” for people who either decline or fail the body scans. The protest was prompted by a customer who allegedly warned a TSA agent not to “touch his junk.” 

There were supposed to be protests across the country but they largely fizzled out. In Phoenix, a few people picketed the concourse and a few more picketed the front of the terminal. The protesters didn’t delay any flights or cause any backups at security checkpoints. But the semi-nude ones did amuse some travelers. 

There are more photos from the “opt out” protest in my archive or available fromZUMA Press.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oops, She Did It Again

Sarah Palin has penned another tome. Less than a year after “Going Rogue” broke into the best seller ranks, the reality TV star, ex-governor, FOX News commentator and losing Vice Presidential candidate released her latest, “America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag.” 

She kicked off her book tour at the Barnes & Noble store in Desert Ridge in north Phoenix. Hundreds of people lined up to get Palin’s autograph. Photographers were given a few minutes to make photos Palin but reporters weren’t allowed to ask questions nor did she make any comments for the media. 

There are more photos of Palin in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Waiting for Treatment

Women and their children wait in line for treatment at a Medecins Sans Frontieres(MSF - Doctors Without Borders) cholera treatment center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Cholera is a scourge that has claimed millions of lives in just the last 200 years. It originated on the Indian subcontinent thousands of years ago and spread to Russia in the early 1800‘s. From Russia it spread to the European mainland and North America. Cholera is spread by contaminated water and inadequate sewage treatment. The last major cholera outbreak in the US was 1910-1911.

Cholera can kill a healthy person within hours. The disease causes uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhea, the sudden dehydration brings on shock and rapid electrolyte imbalance. Death follows. Despite the savage nature of the disease, cholera is almost ridiculously easy to prevent and treat.

Water treatment and sound sanitation practices prevent the disease. The cholera bacterium is killed by chlorine bleach and boiling. Treating cholera in a patient requires little more than a course of antibiotic treatments and rapid rehydration, frequently through IVs. 

A disease that kills so many is thoroughly understood and easy to stop.

Now cholera has come to Haiti. Many public health specialists have been predicting an epidemic of water borne diseases since the earthquake last January. For 10 months there were none. Then in October reports of a budding cholera epidemic started coming out of rural northern Haiti, near a Nepali United Nations Peacekeepers’ base. Disease detectives determined that the strain of cholera in Haiti more than likely originated in South Asia. Many Haitians immediately blamed the Nepali troops but the official source of the disease hasn’t been found.

The disease has spread across Haiti and into neighboring Dominican Republic. More than 1,300 Haitians have died from cholera in just six weeks. In Port-au-Prince, which has yet to recover from the earthquake, cholera victims have been left in the streets. The UN is reporting that a shortage of hydration supplies and body bags is slowing efforts to contain the epidemic. 

It would seem that a disease spread by contaminated water and poor sanitation would be right at home in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. But that’s not the case. Up until last month, cholera hadn’t been seen in Haiti in at least 100 years. Now the fear is cholera will be in Haiti forever.

I was in Haiti working on a story about an earthquake survivor for the Arizona Republic. I worked on the cholera story in my downtime. There are more photos of the cholera epidemic in my archive

Monday, November 15, 2010

On The Campaign Trail

Terry Goddard, Democratic candidate for Governor of Arizona, takes a call from a reporter in the kitchen of the Wyndham Hotel in downtown Phoenix on election night. 
I love election season. Some photographers love sports playoffs, others prefer to cover crime and hard news stories. For me it’s elections. This year, I “embedded” with Terry Goddard’s campaign for a story that ran in today’s Arizona Republic. Both his campaign and his family were incredibly gracious and gave me unfettered access. 
The premise was a look at the campaign from the inside. It’s something I’ve done in the past for the Republic - embedding with both sides with the understanding that I was there as a photographer to keep a visual record of the campaign and that I would not share confidences I heard from one campaign with the other. It’s always worked well for me. This year the Republic approached both Goddard’s campaign and the campaign of his Republican rival, Jan Brewer. 
Goddard instantly, and without hesitation, said yes. Brewer, instantly and without hesitation said absolutely not. 
Goddard was frustrated by Brewer’s refusal to debate him. She turned down almost all requests from organizations like the AARP for joint appearances. She wouldn’t campaign in the traditional sense and distanced herself from local media (although she made several appearances on national FOX News). It was as frustrating for me, as a journalist, to cover a campaign that seemed to be run by a mysterious man behind a curtain, as it was for Goddard to campaign against. But despite the campaign run by his rival, whether it was a good campaign or bad campaign or a non campaign, this simply wasn’t the year to be a Democrat, especially in Arizona. Goddard lost by about 13 points. Statewide, the Democrats were shellacked. They didn’t win any statewide offices and their presence in the state legislature will be greatly reduced. 
Arizona, once a reddish purple state (Democratic governor and attorney general, four of eight congressional seats held by Democrats, Republican controlled legislature, two GOP senators) is now a fiercely, raw meat, red state. All statewide elected officials are Republican, both senators and six of eight in congress Republican and overwhelming GOP control of the state legislature. 
There are more photos from the campaign in my archive. I have a multimedia piece on the campaign on Documentary Podcasts page. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Get Your Goat Meat Here

Ibrahim Swara-Dahab skins a goat before butchering in his shop south of Phoenix. He owns the Goat Meat Store. Swara-Dahab came to the United States from Somalia in 1998. He has built a thriving business as a Halal butcher and provides freshly butchered goats and sheep killed following the precepts of Muslim tradition. 
His business is a microcosm of immigrant America and caters not only to Muslims in the Phoenix area but also to refugees and immigrants from Africa and Asia. While I was there he had customers come in from Liberia, Sudan and Bhutan. His small butcher shop is on the Gila River Indian Reservation, about 100 yards from the Phoenix city limits and doesn't have either running water or electricity, which means no refrigeration. All of his meat is butchered on the spot and sold fresh to his customers. 
There are more photos of the goat meat butcher in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marking the End of Buddhist Lent

The start of the rainy season in Thailand also marks the start of the monks’ rain retreat or the start of what’s popularly known as “Buddhist Lent.” It’s a three month period when the monks stay on their temple grounds meditating and praying. The monks don’t leave the temple in the mornings to make their rounds, instead the people bring food, candles (to harken back to time before temples had electricity and to provide spiritual illumination) and daily necessities to the temple. 
Ok Phansa Day marks the end of Buddhist Lent and falls on the full moon of the eleventh lunar month - Oct 23 in 2010. In Thailand, the day is marked by thousands of people visiting temples and making vast donations to the monks. 
At Wat Pa in Chandler, about 100 people, Thais and Westerners, brought rice and Thai delicacies to the monks, who led the people in chants and prayers. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Looking for a Leader

Several hundred Tea Partiers gathered at the Arizona capitol in Phoenix today to greet the Tea Party Express and demand lower taxes, reduced government spending, the repeal of health care reform (but don’t touch government provided medicare) and the end of “Big Government,” however that is defined. 
The “surprise” speaker was Sarah Palin, who quit as the governor of Alaska halfway through her first term. She was toting Trig, her youngest son. The Tea Partiers talked a lot about the gains they’re expecting in the national election, from Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell in Delaware, to Sharron “the second amendment remedy” Angle, in Nevada, to Joe “unemployment is unconstitutional but I’ll take some” Miller in Alaska the next Senate could have some interesting characters making laws for our nation. 
Most of the speakers blasted the “Lamestream Media” for being in the tank for President Obama, but only one radio reporter had the temerity to ask Palin a serious question when he asked her if Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s decision to curtail ACCCHS for patients on transplant lists was at all like using Death Panels. Palin refused to answer the question. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Remembering Daniel

A woman holds up a candle during a candlelight vigil and protest at the Phoenix police department this evening. 
A week ago Daniel Rodriguez got into an argument with his mother at their trailer home in Phoenix. His mom called 911 and the Phoenix police department dispatched two officers. 
According to court documents and an account in the New Times, Rodriguez, who was unarmed, struggled with the officers. When Rodriguez objected to the officers’ presence in his trailer, one of them, Robert Chrisman, allegedly held a gun to Rodriguez’ head and said, “I don’t need no warrant motherf@@*er.” Rodriguez struggled with the officers, Chrisman used a Taser on him, which put Rodriguez on the floor of the trailer. When Rodriguez got up, Chrisman pepper sprayed him in the face. Then Chrisman apparently turned and shot Rodriguez dog, which had been barking but not attacking or biting, which angered Rodriguez. 
The second officer tried to calm the situation and Rodriguez tried to leave on his bicycle but Rodriguez and Chrisman continued to argue. Chrisman then allegedly shot Rodriguez “three or four times” from about three feet away. Chrisman has been arrested on felony assault charges. 
The Latino community is incensed by Chrisman’s actions. They want the officer charged with murder. They are holding nightly vigils and protests at the Phoenix police headquarters. Monday night about 300 people attended the protest. 
There are more photos of the protest in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dancing for the Virgin

The Phoenix Catholic Diocese marked today as the Day of the Rosary with a large prayer service downtown. The celebration started with a procession to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Queen of the Americas. The procession went from Immaculate Heart Church to the Convention Center. About 500 people participated in the procession.  
There are many photos of events honoring the Virgin in my archive. More photos from today’s procession are available from ZUMA Press

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's All About the Kids

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (center) walks around the parking lot at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix Monday morning accompanied by a bunch of kids and hospital staff. Their short saunter was to mark Brewer’s declaration that October 4 would be Arizona Child Health Day.  
Brewer became Arizona’s governor in 2009 when President Obama asked then Governor Janet Napolitano to be his Secretary of Homeland Security and is running for governor in her own right. Napolitano is a Democrat, Brewer a Republican. Napolitano stood up to some of the extremists in Arizona’s GOP controlled state legislature. Brewer has not (she signed SB 1070). When Arizona’s budget hit the crisis stage, Brewer looked for cuts everywhere and settled on some social programs, like All Day Kindergarten, and KidsCare, the state’s popular health insurance program for uninsured and under insured children
The irony was not lost on the reporters at the event. Their first question for the Governor was about the irony of hosting a children’s health event while curtailing children’s health insurance. Brewer didn’t have an answer for the question, instead choosing to criticize her opponent for politicizing children’s health insurance. Another irony considering Brewer has staked part of her campaign on politicizing and opposing President Obama’s health care plan. 
There are more photos from the event available in my archive or from ZUMA Press.